Sautéed Halibut in a Fava Bean, Olive, & Caper Ragoût

Source: Micki Seibel, May 2012

Source: Micki Seibel, May 2012

Summer is the season of fava beans, and this dish highlights them beautifully. The firm and delicately sweet halibut sits on a base of nutty, buttery fava beans that are contrasted with the saltiness of the green olives and capers. Technically, a “ragout” is a thick stew of well-seasoned meat or fish with or without vegetables. Although this dish is not technically a ragout as the halibut rests on top of the stew, the fava beans, olives, capers, and tomato do provide a well-seasoned and intense flavor. In addition, they deliciously combine on their own without the artificial addition of extra spices or seasonings. Finally, the intense flavors of this dish pair wonderfully with acidic white wines such as a dry Riesling or Pinot Blanc.

Cook Time

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Yields: Serves 2


Source: Micki Seibel, May 2012

Source: Micki Seibel, May 2012

  • 2 Halibut filets
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed
  • 1/2 cup fava beans, boiled and shelled
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 1/3 cup green olives, pitted and sliced
  • 4 tsp capers
  • 1/4 cup white wine, e.g. pinot blanc or riesling
  • 1/2 cup shellfish or chicken stock
  • 12 basil leaves, chiffonade
  • freshly ground black pepper


  1. Spread the coriander seeds on a plate. Press one side of the halibut firmly into the seeds to coat well. Refrigerate for up to 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
  3. Meanwhile, in one quart of boiling, salted water, cook the fava beans for 3 minutes.
  4. Drain the beans and run under cool water. When cooled, tear a small piece of the shell off of the rounded end. Squirt the beans out by pinching the opposite end. Set aside.
  5. Heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the halibut, crust side down and cook for 3 minutes. Turn the fish and cook for 5-6 minutes or until the halibut is cooked through. Remove the fish, cover loosely with foil, and place in the oven to keep warm.
  6. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over high heat in the same skillet. Add the garlic and tomato and cook for 2 minutes.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium, add the fava beans, olives, and capers and cook for 1 minute.
  8. Add the wine and stock and turn the heat to high. Reduce the liquid by half, about 5 minutes.
  9. Remove from the heat. Stir in the basil and season with freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  10. Place the fish on plates. Spoon the sauce generously over each filet. Serve immediately.

How Not to Screw it Up

  1. You can use ground coriander to coat the fish, but you’ll lose a bit on texture. If you must, go ahead.
  2. Don’t burn your fingers on those fava beans. If you don’t let them cool after boiling them, the boiling water will be waiting for you inside of the pod.
  3. It’s easy to chiffonade the basil. Stack 4-6 leaves on top of each other. Roll them like a cigar. Slice from one end to the next. The result is nice ribbons of basil. You can chop the basil, but you’ll be smashing it up rather than “chiffonade” like a pro.
  4. As a vegetarian alternative: you can pan roast a flavored tofu using the above directions substituting the tofu for the halibut.