This will be a particularly long post because today’s post is more about technique and flavor. Also, while this meal may not be the prettiest meal I have ever posted it was absolutely delicious. It was cooked on a rock, too, a salt rock that is. Now, some of you are wondering how you can cook a piece of protein on a salt rock. Well, read further and find out. 🙂
Part of the joy I get from cooking is not only trying different foods and flavor combinations but also from learning/trying different techniques. Each different technique provides unique results. For instance, grilling gets you a nice crust on the outside while keeping the inside juicy and with the flavor of the char from the grill. Caramelizing onions yields a soft, succulent texture with a deep brown color while bringing the natural sugars to the front thereby lending a sweetness to the dish. Frying provides you a crunchy, crisp exterior but a soft, juicy inside because the technique seals the exterior and locks the flavors inside the food. Now Baby Lady knows I love to play with my food and try different techniques; so, for Christmas several years ago she bought me a large block of Himalayan salt, aka pink salt. We love to use it, especially with fish.
This salt rock is 9 x 9 x 2 which is the perfect size for cooking food. Anything thinner will 1) crack and 2) not retain sufficient heat to cook your food. Once heated, however, the salt block retains an amazing amount of heat for a considerable length of time. Now, if you have never cooked food on a salt block, it’s pretty neat. Because you are cooking on a rock of salt, you don’t need to season your food. The salt from the salt block is transferred to the food as it cooks providing wonderful flavor. Also, it does not make the food salty. It provides just enough salt. Because the salt block retains heat for a considerable length of time and it is portable, you can actually place the salt block on a trivet with a cloth underneath and cook your meat tableside to the delight of your friends. It’s quite a presentation.
The other technique we used last night was roasting broccoli and garlic. Sautéing or steaming veggies yields a tender, mild and sweet flavored veggie. Roasting vegetables, however, makes them more robust. You still get the tenderness but with a little singe around the edges, resulting in a crispiness with a more intense, nutty flavor with a little sweetness from the caramelization of the natural sugars in the veggies that results from roasting. Also, roasting is remarkably easy. It’s the technique of putting something in the oven and walking away for a while. It really does’t get much easier than this. All you need is a little salt, pepper, olive oil, heat and surface area. Surface area is probably the most critical thing although heat also makes a difference. For instance, the higher the temperature you roast your vegetables, the more singed they become and the quicker they roast. As pointed out in Roasted Cauliflower with Red Chile, Cilantro & Lime, slow roasting allows the food to absorb the seasoning while it becomes tender with a nice touch of brown color, a little sweetness from the caramelization of natural sugars and a little singe from the process. The higher the temperature the less the natural sugars will caramelize but the crispier the result will be. Also, higher temperatures may not provide sufficient cooking time to provide a tender vegetable. Adjust your heat and time however you prefer.
With surface area, the more surface area you have in contact with the roasting pan and the hot air of the oven, the more caramelization you obtain because it’s the exterior of the food that gets the most intense heat. If you pile the food on top of each other, the result is little to no caramelization and sogginess. This means 1) lay the food out in a single layer and don’t pile them on top of one another and 2) how you cut your vegetables really matters. Obviously smaller pieces will have more exposed surface area relative to their insides than big chunks. Also, elongated shapes will have more surface area than a cube. Simple, isn’t it? Now let’s give it a try.
For the Roasted Poblano Pesto
- 4 Poblano chilies, roasted
- 1 head garlic, roasted
- 1-1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (“pepitas”), toasted
- 1-1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup Water
- 2 lemons, zested and juiced
- 1 lime, zested and juiced
- Salt, to taste
For the Garlicky Roasted Broccoli
- 2 heads garlic, roasted
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
- 2 large broccoli crowns
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
For the Striped Marlin
- 3 Striped Marlin, roughly 12 oz each
- Himalayan salt block
- Crushed red chile flakes for color and a little kick 🙂
For the Roasted Poblano Pesto
Roast the garlic. To do so, get a small container just big enough to hold the garlic (I use a ramekin). Peel away the outer layers of the garlic bulb skin, leaving the skins of the individual cloves intact.
Using a knife, cut off 1/4 to a 1/2 inch of the top of cloves, exposing the individual cloves of garlic.
Place garlic head in ramekin. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp of olive oil and the leaves of 3 sprigs of fresh thyme.
Cover with foil.
Place in a preheated 400 F oven and roast for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and uncover.
Voila! The garlic is now mellow, creamy, and nutty in flavor. You can toss it with pasta, spread it on toast or bread, make compound butter, etc. It’s uses are limitless.
While the garlic is roasting, roast, peel and seed the chiles. For step-by-step detail on roasting chiles go here.
Put pepitas in a food processor.
Pulse the pepitas until you have a mealy texture.
Add chopped chilies, cilantro, lemon and lime zest, and garlic.
Pulse until smooth. Now, scrape down bowl and, with motor running, slowly add oil until emulsified. Add the lemon and lime juices and process. Taste and adjust salt as needed.
If you want a thinner consistency, add a little more water and process. Check your seasoning again. This will give you a bright yet earthy pesto that will work beautifully with seafood, pork or chicken, not to mention pasta. 🙂
For the Garlicky Roasted Broccoli
Preheat your oven to 350 F. Cut your broccoli into long, slender pieces. Drizzle with olive oil, place in a pan and season with salt and pepper.
Place broccoli in oven and roast for 35 minutes, turning twice.
While the broccoli is roasting, remove the roasted garlic cloves using a cocktail fork.
When you have removed all the cloves from 2 heads of garlic, place in a plate and mash.
Add softened butter and mash again to blend the garlic and butter together to make a compound butter.
When the broccoli is finished, remove broccoli from pan and place in a serving dish.
Add compound butter and toss. Allow butter to melt.
For the Striped Marlin
Before roasting the broccoli, you need to start the process of heating the salt block. To do so, place the salt block over low heat and heat for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes increase the heat to medium heat and heat an additional 20 minutes.
If you get the salt block too hot too quickly, it will crack. Also, you cannot use an oven because it, too, will cause the salt block to crack.
About 8 – 10 minutes from the broccoli being ready, remove the salt block from the heat and put on a trivet or baking rack (I use a baking rack) with either a towel or a pan underneath to catch the drippings. Place the striped marlin on top of the salt block and cook for 3 – 4 minutes, depending upon how done you like your fish.
Turn fish over and cook an additional 3 – 4 minutes on the other side.
Put marlin on plate and place a scoop of pesto on top of the marlin. Plate the garlicky roasted broccoli on the side and enjoy! We certainly did and it doesn’t get much better than this. You get the nice salt from cooking on the salt block with the earthy brightness from the pesto and the robust, nutty flavor of the roasted broccoli served with the roasted garlic. This is a wonderful dish we hope you will try.
11 thoughts on “Cooking on a Rock: Striped Marlin with Roasted Poblano Citrus Pesto and Garlicky Roasted Broccoli”
Very interesting post! I had never heard of cooking on a salt block before. I roast veggies all the time, including cauliflower, but had never considered its green cousin. Thanks for all the ideas!
Hi Stefan. Thanks for dropping by and the comment. We like to roast all kinds of veggies (except carrots because Baby Lady hates cooked carrots :o). Roasting veggies adds such depth of flavor and character. As for the salt block, we saw it on an Iron Chef episode and thought it would be fun to try. We don’t do it often but we always enjoy it when we do, primarily with seafood because the seafood cooks so quickly. Nonetheless, you can do it with steaks and boneless, skinless chicken breasts, as well.
Beautiful pictures & presentation. I love the technique for roasting the garlic in the covered ramekins and believe it or not (I do happen to own) a Himilayan salt block but have only used it thus far for during tomatoes and some seafood occasionally but never for grilling.
I’m very inspired now to try something new, thanks for the inspiration!
Hi Alice! Thanks for the very nice compliment. You are very sweet. I think you will get a kick out of grilling on the salt block. Just make sure it is at least 2 inches thick because the high heat will cause it to crack if it is too thin. The salt block flavors the meat so nicely as it cooks on top of it. The only real drawback with the salt block is that salt inhibits the Mallard effect so whatever you cook on top of it will not brown or give you that nice crust that typical grilling will provide. If you do try it, let me know what you think.
Fantastic post. I love the garlic roasting approach. I just got home from France with 18 kilos of Lautrec Pink Garlic for family and friends. I will be doing this roasting.
Thanks for dropping by and your nice comment. If you like garlic you need to check out the post on Tacos de Pescado al Mojo de Ajo (Fish Tacos with Garlic Salsa) – https://remcooks.com/2012/02/10/tacos-pescado-al-mojo-de-ajo-fish-tacos-with-garlic-salsa/. It’s like a garlic confit with a smokey, spicy element and one of the best dishes I have ever eaten, bar none.
This is SO COOL, what a great presentation serving it on the salt rock!! And I’m totally in-love with that poblano pesto… Send some to BA!!
Thanks so much for your nice compliment. Hope your business is doing well. I saw it was featured in the news recently. Congrats!
Gracias, Richard!! Things are swinging full speed! 😀