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It’s a common weeknight dilemma: Dinnertime rolls around, and you can’t decide whether you should be productive and cook dinner, or throw up your hands and head to your favorite neighborhood restaurant. It’s a difficult choice; your better side urges you to save money and add to your cooking repertoire -- but your lazy side just wants a fancy meal without the work.
The simplest solution to this dilemma is compromise. Baked halibut and marinated eggplant sounds (and tastes) like a spiffy restaurant meal, but it’s actually very easy to make. So go ahead: You can make the right decision and enjoy a restaurant-worthy meal. Then feel free to pat yourself on the back.
Serves 4, with leftover fish
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons loosely packed cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 medium-size cloves garlic
3/8 ounce fresh peeled ginger (a 1- x 1/4-inch piece), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
4 small Chinese eggplants (2 to 3 ounces each)
1 1/2 pounds halibut or cod
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon chopped chives
We're assuming you have salt and pepper, canola or olive oil, and butter. If not, be sure to add those to your list, too.
1. Prep the eggplant marinade: Combine tamari (or soy sauce), cilantro, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger in a blender. Blend the mixture until it’s smooth.
2. Prep the eggplant: Take the leaves off the eggplants, then prick each one a few times with a fork. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise, and add three deep diagonal slashes (in both directions) on the inner side of each eggplant. Then place the eggplants skin side-down on a 9- by 13-inch microwave-safe dish. Spoon 1 1/2 teaspoons of the marinade over each eggplant half, making sure to rub the marinade into the eggplant enough so that it runs into the cuts. Turn the eggplant skin side-up and pour the remaining marinade into the dish. Set the eggplant aside to marinate for 45 minutes.
3. Prep the fish: Heat your oven to 400° F. Remove the skin from the fish and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Spray a baking dish with a bit of canola or olive oil, and then put the fish in. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium-sized bowl in the microwave. Mix the bread crumbs and butter together until the crumbs are well coated, then sprinkle them evenly over the fish.
4. Bake the fish: Put the fish in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes for 1-inch thick fillets, or 30 minutes for 1 1/2-inch thick fillets. You’ll know it’s done when the fish flakes when pulled gently by a fork. Sprinkle with chopped fresh chives.
5. Microwave the eggplant: While the fish is still cooking, turn the eggplants skin-side down, and tightly cover the dish with a lid or microwave plastic wrap. Cook at 100% power in a high-power microwave oven for 10 minutes. Prick the plastic to release the steam, then remove the dish from the microwave and uncover.
6. Plate the fish and eggplant, and serve.
Photos by Mark Weinberg and James Ransom