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Grilled Halibut with Herb Pistou and Walnut Butter

Zesty nut butter and bright herb sauce are the perfect accompaniments for meaty halibut.

  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 4

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  • 4 skinless halibut fillets (about 5 ounces each)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 walnut halves, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 juniper berries, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced serrano ham
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • Pinch of fennel pollen
  • 16 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for grilling
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 1 cup watercress, leaves and tender sprigs only
  • 1/2 cup baby arugula
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Set the fish on a platter. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup of salt with the sugar and pat it over both sides of the fillets. Let stand for 30 minutes. Rinse the fish and pat dry.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the walnuts over moderate heat for about 3 minutes, until golden. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool. Stir in the butter, juniper berries, orange zest, ham, lime juice and fennel pollen. Scrape the nut butter onto a sheet of wax paper and spread to a 3-by-6-inch rectangle; wrap in the paper. Refrigerate until firm.
  3. Put the garlic in a small saucepan, add cold water to cover and bring to a boil. Drain. Repeat this process 3 times, reserving 2 tablespoons of the final water. Transfer the garlic and reserved water to a blender. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the grapeseed oil and puree until smooth. Scrape the garlic puree into a bowl.
  4. Add the watercress, arugula, parsley, basil and dill to the blender and pulse until finely chopped. With the machine on, pour in the remaining 1/4 cup each of olive oil and grapeseed oil and puree until smooth. Add the Parmigiano, lemon zest, lemon juice and the garlic puree and pulse to combine. Season the pistou with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl.
  5. Light a grill or preheat a grill pan and brush it with olive oil. Brush the fish with olive oil and grill over moderately high heat, turning once, until cooked through and lightly charred, 6 minutes. Spoon the pistou onto 4 plates and top with the fish. Unwrap the butter and cut it into 4 rectangles. Place the butter on the fish and serve.

Make Ahead

The pistou can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. The butter can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Serve With

Heirloom tomato salad.

Suggested Pairing

Oregon’s keystone grape, Pinot Noir, tends to overshadow all the rest, but the state is having success with white varieties too, like Pinot Gris. The wines have great acidity but are full-bodied and superb with substantial fish dishes like this one.

Contributed By Photo © Con Poulos Published July 2012

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