parmesan crusted halibut on a bed of garlic sauteed spinach and goat cheese/sundried tomato mashed potatoes

Whoa, bob! how did the name get so long? Well...

Maurizio did the 24 hour cardiologist convention escape tour of philly. 30th St Station pickup from the Amtrak Washington line straight to Jim's [cheese]Steaks for the mandatory philly welcome lunch. Pizza steaks, cheese whiz, mushrooms, no onions. A successful first impression. The Liberty Bell had to be bypassed on this tour—too many May schoolkid trips feeding the waiting line. But we made the Independence Hall tour after only a 10 minute wait and the guide turned out to be a real live wire whose rapid fire info-tainment shtick kept bob amused if not Maurizio, whose command of English was set at much lower speed. Yada, yada, yada...

So where to do dinner? Maurizio is not fussy, but is also making familiar Italian chatter about big American meat—oversized overthick steak. We go for Toscana Cucina Rustica in Bryn Mawr, where Maurizio gets his 20 oz steak and bob gets the title of this recipe almost, shared with ani of course. Almost, because we went a bit further than Toscana with the garlic, and threw in the parmesan since we're addicts. Did I mention the touch of crushed red pepper?

The restaurant review from our Italian guest? "Not exactly Italian, but excellent food." [Freely translated.] Fair enough. You want authentic Italian, you go to Italy. But Americans aren't bound by Italian constraints (tradition) and can creatively extend Italian cuisine to places where we like it to go. And that warm chocolate pudding cake with vanilla ice cream on top at the end—chocolate ecstasy—you wouldn't find that in the old boot. American flexibility be praised. Maybe this is the price we have to pay for too much sauce on our pasta.

The next morning an early departure back to Washington. But ... bad news—a 10 alarm fire north of Philly threatens to shut down all trains and I-95 as well. The VIP Metroliner train for DC was boarding though. bob thinks maybe it would be worth it to board and pay the outrageous difference in fare, but does not verbalize this idea to Maurizio. Then it's gone. And the threat materializes. All other trains are suspended indefinitely. Hours of waiting time possible. And then the Amtrak miracle occurs. They announce that the Metroliner is backing up into the station to pick up the southbound passengers waiting for the not-so-cheap but much cheaper train caught by the fire. A miracle because some faceless bureaucrat actually made a common sense decision that helped relieve the suffering of quite a few regular folks in a jam.

That evening we had to do a dinner for five. Weakminded chef's that we are, we figured we'd do the tartufo fettuccini on them (all first timers) and try to recreate the halibut dish from the night before, while experimenting with a Key lime tart that has lingered on for years without finality in our cooking log. Either the event was a success or our guests were master diplomats. We won't worry about the fine distinction.


goat cheese and sundried-tomato mashed potatoes
4 large Yukon gold potatoes
0.4 lb fresh goat cheese
13 sundried tomatoes, boiled in water 10 minutes
1 T butter
1 t tomato paste
garlic sauteed spinach
3 bunches fresh spinach
2 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/8 t red pepper flakes
parmesan crusted halibut
2.2 lb fresh halibut filet, cut into 6 pieces
1/2 c bread crumbs
2 T chopped fresh dill
1/2 c parmigiano, freshly grated
salt and pepper to taste


  1. Wash the fish and pat it dry. Cut into 6 pieces.
  2. Mix together the rest of the crust stuff and press it on the fish pieces. Put in a glass baking dish and stuff in the fridge for a few hours.
  3. You can do the mashed potatoes and spinach prep ahead of time. Boil the potatoes in salted water about 15 minutes until tender.
  4. Meanwhile boil up the sundried tomatoes to soften them up. Then puree them with a few tablespoons of the water to help the puree process in the hand blender container, and the dab of tomato paste (we squeeze some out of a tube) for more color.
  5. Then mash the potatoes with an electric hand beater and mix in the room temperature cheese and tomato puree. Cover until later.
  6. Clean the spinach, drain and boil in the water clinging to it until cooked.
  7. Then drain it, press out the water and sauté it with the pressed garlic, olive oil and a touch of red pepper flakes. Cover for later.
  8. When ready to proceed, bake the fish in a preheated oven about 20 minutes. Put the mashed potatoes in with them to reheat.
  9. Meanwhile reheat the spinach.
  10. Assemble each portion on the plate individually. First lay down the bed of spinach, then plop down some mashed potato, not too much, and then lay the baked fish piece on it. Serve.


  1. We could have halved the mashed potato recipe, but we like leftovers. It was good with our terrific 3-meat meatloaf a few nights later.
  2. The fish we could have reduced slightly since we were only 5, not 6, and the last smaller piece became a leftover.
  3. We had to increase the sundried tomato from our initial estimate and throw in a bit of tomato paste to get some color into the potatoes. They should clearly have a reddish color for presentation.
  4. The mashed potatoes have nice color, but the presentation of the finished dish can't hope to match that of real food professionals.
pchetc.htm: 16-aug-2006 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]