‘New Rules’ Dinner of Pan-Seared Fish and Salad


If you read my Philacatessan blog, you know that I have just embarked on a fascination with celebrity chef Christopher Kimball’s latest cookbook “The New Rules.”

The other night, I cooked a delicious dinner using some of his recipes and techniques. When my husband took a bite and said, “This could be a $40 dish at a fancy restaurant,” I knew I was on to something. The beauty of this meal was that the preparation was pretty simple and quick; start to finish it took about 40 minutes. Not bad for a Tuesday night.

In addition to the dishes below, I served a simple roasted cauliflower, but it also would be great with rice, pasta, potatoes or bread to soak up the delectable sauce.

Pan-seared fish with chili-walnut sauce
Pan-seared fish with chili-walnut sauce (Photos by Keri White)

Pan-Seared Fish with Chili-Walnut Sauce

Serves 4

Kimball’s version of this dish calls for salmon. I used halibut on the recommendation of my fishmonger, who said it was top quality and super fresh that day.

Should you opt for salmon, see the note following the recipe as the cooking method is slightly different. My filets were relatively thin, about 1 inch, but if you have thicker cuts, cook the fish for longer at a medium versus medium-high temperature.

The original recipe called for mustard seeds (which I did not have), and fennel (which I do not like), so I tweaked it slightly for my personal preferences, substituting turmeric in the spice mixture and prepared mustard for the sauce.

The origins of this sauce hail from Georgia (the country, not the state). Given the results, I shall continue to explore their culinary traditions.

For the fish:

  • 4 filets halibut (or your preferred fish)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil such as grapeseed, vegetable or canola

For the sauce:

  • ¼ cup walnuts
  • ¼ cup roasted red pepper (use jarred or make your own)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped jalapeno (or less if preferred)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup chopped tomato
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard

In a small bowl, mix the salt, turmeric and coriander. Sprinkle it on the fish, reserving about half of it for use in the sauce. Set the fish aside for about 30 minutes.

Make the sauce: In a blender or food processor (a mini works well with this quantity), mix all the sauce ingredients, including the remaining spice blend, until relatively smooth. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until glistening. Place the fish in a skillet, cover and cook for 3 minutes. Flip the fish, cover and cook for another 2 minutes.

Remove the fish from the skillet, set it on a plate and cover it to rest. (The fish will continue to cook a bit during this stage.)

Pour the sauce ingredients into a hot skillet and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes; it will cook down and thicken a bit. Pour the sauce over the fish and serve immediately.

A note on salmon: Kimball suggests using salmon for this with the following technique: Place the salmon in a hot skillet, flesh side down, and immediately reduce the heat to medium. Cook, undisturbed, for 4-6 minutes until golden brown. Flip and remove the pan from the heat. Cover the pan and let it sit for about 5 minutes. The fish will continue cooking during this phase.

Tomato herb salad
Tomato herb salad

Tomato Herb Salad

Serves 2-4

This fresh, bright dish can be used as anything from a salad to a side to a condiment. While summer’s spectacular tomatoes are a fond and distant memory for now, high-quality cherry or grape varieties are generally available in markets.

Kimball uses shallots for this, but I didn’t have any on hand, so I used red onion. It worked out just fine.

  • 2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed, (discard larger solids)
  • Scant ¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
  • ¾ cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • ½ cup chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the tomatoes and ½ teaspoon salt. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice, remaining salt, pepper, garlic and onion. Set aside.

When ready to serve, pour the lemon juice mixture and olive oil onto the tomatoes; toss. Add the herbs and toss again. Serve immediately.


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