This recipe for Fennel and Grapefruit Salad with Marlin Steak has been sitting in my computer for some time now. I’d like to say that it was all part of a master plan but the truth is that my blog was all wonky and wouldn’t let me upload images so I’ve had to postpone until I could figure out the issue. Now, I know what you’re thinking; salad is not your first choice for a winter meal. Well, it’s definitely not mine either. Personally, I crave warm, hearty bowls of something braised and stew-y. Preferably made with heaps of tender, fall-off-the-bone meat and mountains of softened root vegetables in a thick, rich and flavourful sauce. However, there is something to be said for wintery salads like this Fennel and Grapefruit Salad with Marlin Steak.
Especially true when considering the inflated cost of lettuce varieties during the winter months in Toronto. I was at the grocery store in hopes of gathering veggies for a quick and easy salad that I could throw together for a last-minute, weekday dinner. When I got to the produce section my jaw nearly dropped. Sitting on the shelf was a small, pale, bruised and utterly sad-looking head of iceberg lettuce being sold for a whopping $4.50!!! What? Madness! Three or four paces over, some beautiful, bright, crisp fennel was calling my name for a mere $1.50 each. Not bad at all considering how dense and hearty a bulb of fennel is and the fact that it has far more uses than a head of lettuce. Fennel is great roasted, braised, grilled and even raw. I often serve fennel as crudités when people come over. Most people are unfamiliar with it so it’s nice to see their surprise when they take their first bite and ponder what they just put into their mouths. When raw, it has a pleasant, mild, sweet, anise flavor (like a subdued liquorice, for the uninitiated). Shave it finely with a Japanese Mandoline or a very sharp knife and you have a great replacement for lettuce in the winter. Fennel, unlike lettuce, is in peak season between fall and early spring. So feel free to get in while the getting’s good. Which is exactly what I did here before heading home. But not before gathering a bit of fresh citrus.
As much as I would like to take full credit for the amazing pairing of fennel and citrus, I must admit that the recipe you see before you is an adaptation. Fennel and Orange salad is a classic dish that has been made in any number of variations. However, my spin on the dish replaces oranges with grapefruit, which plays nicely with the sweetness of the maple syrup in the vinaigrette (not a huge fan of sweet salads – which is what you end up with when using orange and maple syrup together). I also like to add a lean protein and since I’m not a fan of chicken breast, I decided to go with a wild, deep-sea fish – in this case marlin. If you can’t get your hands on marlin, you can substitute mahi-mahi or swordfish. Fresh-water white fish like pickerel or halibut would also work nicely here. The end result is an excellent lunch or dinner that you can throw together in under 15 minutes.
Give it a go and let me know what you think in the comments below.
Shaved Fennel and Grapefruit Salad with Marlin Steak
(Serves approx. 2)
2 – 4-6 oz boneless, skinless marlin steaks (substitute mahi-mahi, swordfish or other deep-sea white fish filet)
1 bulb fennel – finely shaved with fronds reserved
1 ruby red grapefruit – peeled, segmented and core reserved for juice
1.5 tbsp ghee
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp lemon juice
1.5 tsp whole-grain mustard
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Fresh parsley – for garnish
Salt and pepper – to taste
For the Salad:
- Using a knife, trim the uppermost tops of the fennel bulbs, reserving the fronds for later. Cut the bulb in half and remove the lower core by cutting into the fennel in a v-shape. Using a mandoline (I recommend this one) or very sharp knife, shave the fennel into very thin slices. Take your time with this step as the texture of the fennel will be unpleasant if cut too thick. Arrange the shaved fennel on a serving plate.
- Using a small knife, trim the top and bottom of the grapefruit. Then, with the grapefruit resting flat on a cutting board and working from top to bottom, cut around the contour of the inner fruit. Be careful to only remove the outer peel and pith, leaving the fruit intact. Once peeled, hold the grapefruit in one hand over a small bowl. Guide your knife along either side of the inner membranes and cut toward the center until a v-shaped segment is freed. Continue until all segments are removed. Arrange the segments evenly overtop of the fennel and set aside.
- Squeeze 2 tbsp of the remaining juice from the grapefruit into the bowl you’ve been working over (this will be the bowl you make the dressing in) and discard any seeds that may have fallen in. To the grapefruit juice, add 1 tbsp maple syrup, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1.5 tsp whole-grain mustard, 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper. Whisk everything until emulsified – set aside.
- Preheat a cast-iron skillet over med-low heat with 1.5 tbsp ghee.
- Meanwhile, rinse the marlin steaks under cold water, pat dry with a clean towel and season with salt and fresh-cracked rose peppercorns (substitute black peppercorns if unavailable).
- Once the cast-iron skillet is hot, gently lay in the marlin steaks. Wrapping a damp cloth around the handle, slightly tilt the cast-iron skillet (approximately 15-20 degrees) towards yourself so that the melted ghee pools at the bottom of the skillet. Using a large spoon, baste the marlin steaks with the melted ghee. Continue to baste and cook the fish for 2.5 minutes.
- Carefully, using a very thin spatula, flip the fish and continue with the basting process for another 2-2.5 minutes.
- The fish is ready when it is slightly springy to the touch and firm yet moist in the middle. Transfer to a cutting board and slice on a bias against the grain of the muscle. Arrange the slices of fish overtop of the fennel and grapefruit and drizzle the salad with all of the vinaigrette. Garnish with reserved fennel fronds and a few sprigs of fresh parsley and serve immediately!