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Barbecue Secrets

Recipe of the Week: Planked Saffron Halibut with Avocado and Tropical Fruit Salsa

Jul 29, 2011

Makes 4–6 servings

This unusual recipe from my friend Mike the fishmonger, which I’ve adapted for the plank, pairs the intense flavor of the spiced halibut with a cool tropical salsa. Substitute snapper for halibut for a stronger flavor. Cuban-style Black Beans and Rice go very well with this, so I’ve included the recipe at the bottom of this post.

For the fish:

1 plank (cedar or fruitwood), soaked overnight or at least 1 hour

four 6 oz | 175 g halibut fillets

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp | 5 mL ground cumin

1/2 tsp | 2 mL turmeric

pinch saffron threads, crumbled

pinch cayenne pepper

1 lime, cut in half

extra virgin olive oil


For the salsa:

1 batch Tropical Fruit Salsa (see recipe below)


Prepare the salsa and set it aside.

            Season both sides of the fillets with salt and pepper. Combine the cumin, turmeric, saffron, and cayenne in a bowl and sprinkle the rub lightly over the fillets. Squeeze the lime halves over the fillets and drizzle them with a little olive oil. Marinate the fish for 15 minutes.

            Preheat the grill on medium-high for 5–10 minutes, or until the chamber temperature rises above 500°F | 260°C. Rinse the soaked plank and place it on the cooking grate. Cover the grill and heat the plank for 4–5 minutes, or until it starts to throw off a bit of smoke and crackles lightly. Reduce the heat to medium-low.

            Place the fillets on the plank and cook the fish for 15–20 minutes, or until the fish has an internal temperature of 135°F | 57°C. Remove it from the grill and tent it lightly in foil. Let it rest for 2 or 3 minutes.

            Serve the fillets topped with a dollop of salsa.


Tropical Fruit Salsa

Makes about 3 cups | 750 mL

This perfect summer salsa is great on grilled fish or beef. No matter where or when you eat it, you’re instantly on a sunny vacation.

2 cups | 500 mL diced tropical fruit (any combination of mango, papaya, kiwi, pineapple)

2 just-ripe avocados, pitted, peeled, and coarsely chopped

3 Tbsp | 45 mL chopped cilantro

3 Tbsp | 45 mL chopped red onion

1 jalapeño chile, seeded and finely chopped

2 tsp | 10 mL fresh lime juice

pinch sugar

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Let the salsa stand, covered, in the fridge for
about an hour.

Cuban-style Black Beans

Makes 6–8 servings

This dish, along with some white rice, is a great accompaniment to planked meats, particularly those with Southwestern and barbecue flavors. It also goes great with ham and eggs. 

1/4 cup | 50 mL olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1 Tbsp | 15 mL dried oregano

1 tsp | 5 mL ground cumin

two 19 oz | 540 mL cans black beans,

rinsed and drained

3/4 cup | 175 mL chicken stock or water

11/2 Tbsp | 20 mL cider vinegar

1 tsp | 5 mL sugar

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, oregano, and cumin, and sauté the mixture until the vegetables start to soften, about 5 minutes.

            Add about 1 cup | 250 mL of the beans and mash them with the back of a fork. Add the rest of the beans, the stock or water, and the vinegar. Simmer the beans, stirring them often, for about 15 minutes, or until the mixture thickens. Stir in the sugar. Season the beans with salt and pepper and serve.