Pan Seared Halibut with Carrot Purée and Asparagus: Allergy Testing

My longest-time readers will know that much of my life seven years ago, was consumed with managing Son’s numerous severe food allergies.  It was a time of my life that I changed a lot of who I was as a mom and as person in the kitchen.  I became fanatical about reading labels, I restricted foods that came into the house, I refused to go out to eat or to even eat in other people’s homes (unless they were on my mental approved list of people that would be able to avoid cross contamination) and all in all, ran my life around #3’s allergies.  As time has passed, many of the allergies have gotten much better, and about every two years or so, I subject him to a round of food allergy testing, which is at best, tedious and nerve wracking.

As all three of my kids have some sort of allergy, (#1 has environmental, #2 is allergic to peanuts, #3 has both food and environmental) I decided to get them all tested this year, as it has been nearly two years since our last round of testing.  I called the office and asked them to book me the appointments, preferably all three on the same day, same time, to which they denied my request (because they wanted me to focus, as a mother, on each individual child’s treatment) and instead offered me the next best thing – same time of day, but different days.  I sighed inwardly and signed up to be in their office for three consecutive days to test the children.

It’s all very straightforward, this allergy testing thing, and as I’m an old pro, I went in, prepared my list of questions, and then attempted to prepare each kid for the uncomfortable sensation of being uncontrollably itchy for 30 minutes. When #1 did it, I had all three kids with, and it was a slow kind of twisted torture, having #1 lying down, and trying to keep her from flipping out over her itchy back, while #2 and #3 bickered and fought with each other about ridiculous things such as which chair was theirs.  I made the conscious decision, after a series of head-banging-into-wall-inducing moments, to leave two kids at home the following day.

Testing severe food allergies is often this strange cocktail of pessimism and hope.  If you’ve tested enough times, and there hasn’t been much change, then what you expect is very little, and yet at the same time, there is that tickle of hope in the back of your mind, that yes, this time, things might be better.  For Son, in the past three rounds of testing, since he was 3, there has been no improvement in his allergies, and he’s outgrown nothing new.  I was hopeful that this time, egg and maybe even mustard would be allowed into his diet, but as I watched his back swell up and welts rise, I knew that once again, there wasn’t a change this time, and that we were continuing with the same vein of allergies – no milk, no egg, no peanuts, no nuts, no seeds (except sesame seeds).

I won’t lie.  I was desperately hoping that at least milk or egg was no longer an issue, but when results came back showing that I’d still need to manage those foods in his diet, I reminded myself that having a kid with allergies has made me a far better, and far more creative and experimental cook in the kitchen. I decided to play around with  a fish dish I saw in Suzanne Goin’s A.O.C. Cookbook  which I found inspiring and exciting.  The result was a simple to make, almost a restaurant worthy dish that Son loved, and both Daughters gobbled up and declared was their favorite dish of all time.  When I took my first bite, there must have been some look on my face, because Daughter #1 asked me, “Do you think you’re the best cook in the world?”  I stated, “YES!”

I’ve written the recipe below in order that it needs to be accomplished, and although it may sound fussy (carrot purée what?) don’t let it daunt you.  Prepare everything as I’ve ordered it in the recipe and you’ll find yourself with a delicious fish dinner in under an hour.

Pan Seared Halibut with Carrot Purée and Asparagus
(Adapted from the A.O.C. Cookbook by Suzanne Goin)
Serves 6

2.5 to 3 lbs halibut fillet, cut into 6 to 8 portions
zest of one lemon
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

2 lbs carrots, peeled, cut into ¼ inch rounds
¾ cup olive oil
1 onion, diced
salt and pepper

1 lb thin asparagus, cut on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces
1 cup sliced spring onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons butter, or vegan butter option (like Earth’s balance)

In a large pot fitted with a steamer basket, steam carrots for 20 minutes, until nice and tender.  Remove from heat.  (can be prepared ahead of time.) In a heavy pot, over high heat, add ½ cup olive oil and onion.  Season with 2 teaspoons of salt and a nice helping of fresh ground pepper, and cook onions for about 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add carrots and cook for another 8 minutes, stirring and scraping, and allowing carrots to become caramelized.  Using an immersion blender, or food processor, add ¼ cup more olive oil and puree until olive oil is incorporated and carrot is smooth.  Season if necessary.  Set aside until fish and asparagus are completed.

While carrots are steaming, carefully dry fish pieces with a paper towel, absorbing any excess moisture on fish.  Season fish with salt and pepper on both sides as well as lemon zest.  Heat large saute pan over high heat for 2 minutes, add oil and carefully fish in pan.  (You may need to do this in two batches.) Cook on high heat, one side of fish for 4 minutes, and then carefully flip fish, lower heat, and cook on the second side for 4 more minutes. Fish is ready when it begins to flake nicely and is almost entirely opaque.  Remove from pan and prepare asparagus.

Heat large saute pan over medium heat for 1 minute.  Add olive oil, spring onions, asparagus, ½ teaspoon salt, pepper.  Cook for 2 minutes then add butter (or vegan butter) and 1 tablespoon of water.  Continue tossing until vegetables are nice, green and tender.  Taste for seasoning.

Plate your meal, by placing carrot puree on the bottom, asparagus next, and then a piece of fish on top.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Printable recipe

Dinner.  Served.  For all.

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