Halibut with Saffron-Tomato Sauce and the Brave New World of Selling Books Deconstructed

Halibut with Tomato-Saffron Sauce

A friend recently asked what was my favorite spice. That’s like asking which of my kids I preferred. A cold analogy, granted, but hey, savoring well-prepared food has been a primary life-enhancer for me, the therapies of cooking a gift. Since herbs and spices are vital to cooking, it stands to reason I’d contemplate such a question with gravity.

Resist the temptation to shake the pan as the golden crust forms.

Resist the temptation to shake the pan as the golden crust forms.

I suppose that if  locked in a closet, my thumbs subjected to pillywinks, I’d confess saffron to be my favorite spice.  And, being the most expensive, sought-after spice in the world, in the past it was a seasoning that I used miserly. Until I discovered Trader Joe’s saffron at half the cost of other grocery store brands.

I understand USA grocery store saffron doesn’t compare to what’s available in the Middle East, but let’s table that discussion for a later blog. The Trader Joe’s saffron, I’m sure, turns over very quickly and all agree that freshness is paramount. As well, it imparts the lovely yellow color you see in the photo. Although it may not have the intensity of a Grade A Iranian Red, it does deliver saffron’s inimitable lovely flavor. Next week I’ll poke around some of our Middle Eastern and Indian markets to compare.

(BTW: The words herbs and spices are often used interchangeably but, according to the Spice Island website, herbs are the leafy portion of the plant and spices are from any other portion of the plant used–think berries, such as  peppercorns; roots, such as ginger; and flowers; such as saffron. So now you know.)

Last weekend was officially the last weekend of summer. Local tomatoes are dwindling in the markets, but they are still to be had. The following recipe reflects my passion for three favorite treats: saffron, local summer tomatoes, and halibut.


A picture of Simmer and Smoke’s “pages read” graph.

Note to authors, wanna-be authors and Kindle Users: Last month I published Simmer and Smoke on Kindle and, as luck would have it, the publication coincided with their introduction of KENP, Kindle Edition Normalized Pages. In the past, authors were paid a flat fee when their book was sold or borrowed from the Kindle library or Kindle Unlimited, even if only 1 page was read.


The book’s kindle sales and” total pages read” sales for September so far.

In July, Kindle changed book borrowing payout to an engagement model; authors are only paid for each page read. That makes sense, er–cents. (Authors are paid by the penny.) Why should an author be paid if the reader loses interest after the first few pages? The graph is updated as pages are read by customers who borrow your book.

July and August sales won’t be analyzed due to biased data; friends and family were guilted into buying the book (-: But at this writing, since September 1st, over 80,694 pages of Simmer and Smoke were read in the library. Sounds like a lot, but my 360 page paperback is a 655 page Kindle read so really only the equivalent of 123 books were completely read in 24 days from the library. But that plus 356 Kindle editions purchased, and 57 paperbacks sold equates to  536 books in some form or other were sold since Sept. 1st. (Southern Poverty Law Center receives 10% of profits made.)

Feeling grateful, I’m reducing Simmer and Smoke to $.99  one day next month on Kindle, You will be the first to know.

Back to that halibut…

Recipe: Halibut with Tomato-Saffron Sauce


  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1/8 cup lemon juice plus 1/3 cup fish stock
  • 2, 8 ounce halibut fillets (2-inch thick)
  • White flour as needed
  • Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped shallot
  • 1 large, ripe tomato, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons capers


  1. Stir saffron threads in lemon juice. Lightly season fleshy side of halibut with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Dust top and bottom of halibut fillets with flour, shaking off excess.
  2. Heat heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, or enough to generously coat bottom of pan.
  3. Pan fry halibut, flesh side down, until golden brown, about 5 minutes, depending on thickness of fillet, adjusting heat as necessary so fish sizzles but does not smoke and burn. (Do not shake pan as fish fries; you want a crisp brown crust.)
  4. Meanwhile, with a spatula, flip fish when flesh is golden, and cook, skin side down, until halibut is just opaque in the center, an additional 4-6 minutes. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
  5. While skillet is hot, deglaze with lemon-saffron mixture, whisking continuously 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium and stir in butter, garlic and shallot. Cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until shallots are transparent, then stir in tomatoes and capers and heat an additional minute.
  6. Spoon sauce over halibut and serve.

NOTE: Rice or orzo pasta would be the perfect accompaniment to mop up the savory sauce.

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.


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