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May 31, 2016 | 3 minute read

An Award-Winning Dinner, Sesame-Crusted Cod

Eat more fish. Dishes like this colorful combo of cod and a succulent salad, both sparked with Japanese flavors, make following this health-enhancing advice easy.

Fresh cod is meaty and satisfying. Its mild taste, though, needs a kick. I usually liven it up by baking cod in an Italian-style tomato sauce or spooning a Mexican salsa over the warm fish. Now I have another way, using the enticing flavors of wasabi and citrus-sparked ponzu sauce.

Wasabi cod with saladI love wasabi, as you know from my post in April. Here, this feisty condiment adds a hint of heat and also helps a sesame-seed crust adhere to the cod.

Ponzu sauce, a blend of soy sauce, lemon juice, vinegar and sweet mirin rice wine, sits next to soy and teriyaki sauces at the supermarket. But I prefer making it from scratch by combining its four ingredients to avoid the preservatives found in commercial brands. Brushed on the cod, ponzu sauce adds the savor of umami. (See below for recipe.)

With more citrus and roasted sesame oil whisked in, ponzu sauce also becomes the base for the Asian vinaigrette enlivening the accompanying salad of carrots, sweet red pepper, and orange sections.

This recipe shows how to roast the cod using the restaurant technique of searing the fish on top of the stove, then finishing it in the oven.Seared cod before roasting

This combination of direct and indirect heat gives the thick filet a crusty top, then keeps it moist and tender inside as the cod cooks through. Salmon is outstanding cooked this way, too. You need to use a heavy pan that can go from burner to oven; a cast iron skillet is ideal. This recipe, created by Hannah Herrera, from Maricopa, Arizona, took first place in this year’s C-CAP-AICR recipe contest. C-CAP is a program for U.S. high school students who want a culinary career.

AICR provides a scholarship to help graduating high school students continue on to culinary school. Invited by AICR to judge submissions, I was won over by the way Hannah used wasabi, her way of roasting the cod, and the play of Japanese flavors in the fish and accompanying salad. I have adapted it slightly so it is easier to prepare at home.

For a fine fish dinner during the week, I serve the cod on its own, set deliciously on its bed of arugula. On weekends, I prepare the entire ensemble.

Ponzu Sauce

2 Tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon mirin

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

In small bowl, combine all ingredients.

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