Summer sauce: This fish dish highlights the season's tomato harvest
What a wonderful time it is when sun-ripened tomatoes come into season, as they are right now during the heart of summer.
Sure, you can find tomatoes -- even heirloom varieties of all colors, shapes and sizes -- in the market throughout the year, thanks to hothouse agriculture and international shipping. But tomatoes that have grown locally under the warm sunshine and have made just a short journey to your food store or farmers market will always taste better, be juicier and simply look more naturally beautiful than those you buy during autumn, winter or spring.
Of course, it makes sense to enjoy those seasonal tomatoes at their freshest, sliced or chopped to make all sorts of salads that seem to miraculously capture the season in every bite. The Italian caprese salad, with mozzarella, fresh basil and fruity extra-virgin olive oil, is the quintessential example, but I know you will let your imagination run wild.
When I cook with summer tomatoes, I always make sure that the recipe treats them with the respect they deserve, highlighting their essence in a way you just can't do when the ingredient isn't at its very best. That's why I'm often tempted to make just a simple tomato butter sauce, which I find to be a perfect vehicle for distilling the vegetable-fruit's sweetness and body. As long as I'm doing that at the stove, I'll also put in a little quick time to cook fresh white fish fillets that have a mild flavor and firm, yet tender texture that makes a suitable partner for such a fresh seasonal preparation.
Widely available halibut fillets make an excellent choice for this recipe, and you could also substitute striped bass, cod, haddock, flounder or any other white fish fillets you like. Cooked on the stovetop in a buttered casserole, with some chopped shallots and white wine, the fish cooks in just a few minutes and is then transferred to a heated plate to keep warm while you add to its cooking liquid a reduced juice of fresh tomatoes, reducing the mixture further and then enriching it with some butter and cream.
That sauce sounds sumptuous, doesn't it? And to make sure you don't miss a delicious drop, there's one final element to the dish: fresh pasta, which forms a base on which you serve the fish and its sauce. All that's left to add is a glass of well-chilled dry white wine, and you have the finishing for a casual yet elegant summer dinner.
HALIBUT FILLETS WITH TOMATO BUTTER AND FRESH PASTA
8 medium-sized, firm but ripe red tomatoes
1/2 pound (250 g) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus extra for greasing