Poached Hake with Beet Greens and Crimson Lemon Sauce

Poached Hake with Beet Greens and Crimson Lemon Sauce

The combination of earthy beet and bright lemon juice is refreshingly tart and balanced against the delicate hake, ideal for a hot summer’s night.

Makes 4 servings

1 medium beet, scrubbed

3 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

½ pound beet greens, trimmed, washed, drained and coarsely chopped or torn in pieces

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 medium shallot, minced

1¼ pounds hake fillet or other lean white fish, cut in single portions

1 lemon

Put the beet in a pot with water to cover; bring to a boil and cook until tender. Remove the beet; strain the liquid and reserve it. (You can do this a day or two ahead.)

Peel and dice the beet. Put it in a small food processor with ⅔ cup of the reserved beet broth and process to a pulp. Press the pulp with the back of a spoon through a fine sieve set over a bowl to catch the juice. Add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and 3 tablespoons olive oil; stir up, then season generously with salt and a little pepper. Taste carefully for balance, to see if it needs more lemon juice or salt. The total volume will be 1 scant cup. This sauce will not amalgamate: the splotches of red and yellow are the point. We’re playing Jackson Pollock on the dinner plate.

Prepare the beet greens and fish:

In a sauté pan over low heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter; add the shallot and cook to soften it. Gradually stir in the beet greens and cook just enough to wilt them. Set aside.

In a wide shallow pan fitted with a rack, add water to a depth of about ½ inch; it should be below the rack. Remove the rack, cover the pan with the lid or foil and bring the water to a boil.

Set the hake fillets neatly apart on the rack. Cut 4 thin slices from the middle of the lemon. From the lemon heels squeeze some of the juice over the fillets and season with salt and pepper; top each with a quarter of the remaining butter and a lemon slice. Set the rack back in the pan, cover tightly and steam the fish gently until just cooked through, about 10 minutes per inch thickness.

To serve, gently warm the beet greens if necessary and spoon a flat bed in the middle of each serving plate. With a spatula, one at a time carefully remove a hake fillet and set it on the greens. Squeeze a little more lemon juice over the fish and put the lemon slice back on top. At the last minute, stir up the beet and lemon juice sauce and dribble it around the outside of each plate.