A crust of crushed green pumpkin seeds fragrant with mild ancho chili adds crunch to moist fish fillets. Go for a firm, white fish such as black cod (a.k.a. sablefish), striped bass, gray snapper or pacific halibut. This recipe works best with fillets between ½ to 1 inch (1 to 2.5 cm) thick to keep the fish moist without over-browning the crust. The addition of cilantro, lime, jalapeños and avocado adds oomph to the tartar-style sauce, and the sauce’s creaminess contrasts the crunch of the seed crust nicely.
AVOCADO TARTAR SAUCE
1 ripe avocado
¼ cup (60 mL) mayonnaise
2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped cilantro
1 tsp (5 mL) grated lime zest
2 tbsp (30 mL) fresh lime juice
1 to 2 tbsp (15 to 30 mL) finely chopped drained pickled jalapeño peppers
1 cup (250 mL) raw green pumpkin seeds
2 tsp (10 mL) ancho chili powder (or 1½ tsp/7 mL regular chili powder)
½ tsp (2 mL) salt
¼ tsp (1 mL) pepper
2 tbsp (30 mL) approx., virgin cold-pressed seed or olive oil
4 white fish fillets or pieces, each 6 oz (175 g)
1. Scoop avocado into a bowl and mash with a fork until slightly creamy with some small chunks. Stir in mayonnaise, cilantro, lime zest, lime juice and 1 tbsp (15 mL) jalapeño peppers. Taste and season with salt and more jalapeño as desired (but keep in mind that the flavour will get hotter as the sauce sits). Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 1 day.
2. Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil.
3. Combine pumpkin seeds, chili powder, salt and pepper in a small food processor and pulse until seeds are chopped but not ground. Add 1 tbsp (15 mL) oil and pulse to incorporate. Add more oil, pulsing to combine, as necessary just to moisten seeds enough that they hold together when you pinch a clump.
4. Rinse fish and pat dry. Place skin-side down (or skinned side, if skinless) on prepared baking sheet. Press seed crust on top.
5. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until crust is browned and fish just feels firm and looks opaque around the edges. Check seasoning of tartar sauce and serve a dollop on the plate or in a small dish alongside fish.