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Halibut and watermelon? Chef bridges distinct fares

Floyd Cardoz is the executive chef of Tabla restaurant in New York, where he mixes traditional Indian spices with everyday fare. In celebration of Father's Day, Floyd and his two sons prepare halibut with watermelon curry.
/ Source: TODAY

Floyd Cardoz is the executive chef of Tabla restaurant in New York, where he mixes traditional Indian spices with everyday fare. In celebration of Father's Day, Floyd and his two sons, 14-year-old Peter and 10-year-old Justin, prepare halibut with watermelon curry.

Halibut on watercress with watermelon curry

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

For the curry

  • 4 pounds seedless watermelon
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or cayenne
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely minced peeled ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Sea salt
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice

For the lime relish

  • 2 limes
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons finely sliced chives

For the fish

  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Six 6-ounce, skinless halibut fillets, ¾- to 1-inch thick
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 3 cups loosely packed watercress, touch stems discarded (about 6 ounces)

DIRECTIONS
Cut enough watermelon flesh into 1/2-inch cubes to yield 3 cups of fruit and set aside. Put the trimmings (but not the rind) in a blender along with the rest of the melon (coarsely chopped) and any juice from the cutting board. Blend until smooth to make watermelon juice. (You should have about 3 cups.)

Grind the coriander seeds with the Aleppo pepper in an electric coffee/spice grinder.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy 1-quart pot over moderate heat until it shimmers and cook the cumin seeds, stirring constantly, until fragrant and a couple of shades darker (about 30 seconds). Reduce the heat to moderately low and add the garlic, ginger and ground spices. Cook until the garlic is softened and fragrant (about 2 minutes), stirring constantly so that the garlic doesn't color. Add the turmeric and cook for a few seconds longer, stirring. Add the watermelon juice and boil over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups (about 15 minutes). The curry can be made up to this point, one day ahead, then chilled and covered. Season the curry with salt and lime juice.

Remove the zest from the limes with a zester (be careful not to include any white pith) and put in a small bowl. Immediately add the olive oil, then stir in the cilantro and chives.

Cut the sections from the limes as you would from a grapefruit, then cut the sections into thirds. Squeeze out any remaining juice from the membranes into the zest mixture and stir in the lime sections.

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Season the halibut with salt and pepper. Heat 1/4 cup of the canola oil in an ovenproof 10- to 12-inch skillet over moderately high heat until it shimmers and add half of the halibut. Cook the fish, without turning, for about 1 1/2 minutes. Turn the halibut upside down and transfer to a baking sheet with sides. Cook the remaining fish in the same way and transfer to the baking sheet. Roast the fish on the baking sheet in the middle of the oven for 2 to 4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, or until firm and just cooked through.

Meanwhile, reheat the watermelon curry over low heat and keep it warm.

Heat the remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a 3- to 4-quart pan over moderately high heat and sauté the reserved watermelon cubes, stirring, until warm, about 2 minutes. Add the curry and continue to sauté until warmed through, stirring carefully so that the watermelon cubes don't fall apart (1 to 2 minutes longer). Season the curry with 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste, and the lime juice.

Arrange the watercress on a platter and spoon the curry over it. Top with the halibut and lime relish.