Never before have I registered a fish temperature as I cooked it. The recipe for “Skillet-Roasted Fish Fillets with Roasted Red Pepper, Hazelnut, and Thyme Relish,” from the March/April 2010 issue of Cook’s Illustrated, instructed me to roast my fish only until it reached 135 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. The result? Fish that was fantastically moist, even “creamy.”

I roasted sea bass fillets (a bit pricey?) for 13 minutes, until that temperature was reached. The ideal pairing for my simply roasted fish was this marvelous relish. I didn’t bother to toast or skin my hazelnuts, and I didn’t mind. The relish -- quickly assembled in the food processor -- was full of flavor: olive oil, roasted red peppers, lemon, parsley. I added 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper to my relish. Impress yourself with this great fish/relish duo.

I also dared myself to make the “Barley-Brown Rice Salad,” from the June 2010 issue of Cuisine at Home (recipe below). Could two powerhouse grains share the space in a single salad?

Barley-Brown Rice Salad with Cucumbers & Basil-Orange Pesto
Cuisine at Home, June 2010
Makes 4 servings

For the Salad:
1/2 cup dry regular or quick-cook barley
1/2 cup dry regular or quick-cook brown rice
1 cup diced cucumber

For the Pesto:
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup hazelnuts
2 cloves garlic
zest and juice of 1 orange
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp. kosher salt

Cook barley and brown rice in separate saucepans according to package directions. After cooking, rinse grains under cool water; set aside in a colander to drain.

Pulse basil, hazelnuts, garlic, zest, and juice in a food processor or mini food chopper until finely minced. Drizzle in oil and continue to pulse until pesto is blended; season with salt.

Toss grains with cucumber and pesto until coated. Season with more salt, if desired. Serve at room temperature.

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My barley cooked in 25 minutes; brown rice cooked in 45 minutes. I used half a cucumber. Again, I got to pulse hazelnuts in my food processor, this time in the salad’s pesto. After adding another 3/4 tsp. salt to the combined salad, I enjoyed its cucumber crunch and faint hint of garlic. This salad was a nice exercise.

PRICES
Sea Bass (4 fillets) = $25.28

RECIPES: enjoy the moistest fish you’ll ever make, with a robust relish; a sensible salad mixes grains and pesto
PREP TIMES:
fish and relish can be ready to eat in 30 minutes; if using regular grains (as I did), you’ll need more than an hour to assemble this salad
TASTES: succulent white fish is smacked by the kiss of hazelnuts and roasted red peppers; hazelnuts win again in a basil pesto that dresses chewy barley and rice

Next time, I want to travel down a new path. I will visit “The Magical Loaf Studio,” where I will design my own “Adventist-Style Vegan Dinner Loaf” (see my recipe below). I’ll also cook the “Cheese Grits and Greens,” from the February 2005 issue of Vegetarian Times. See the results of my outrageous vegetarian meal when you come back to my site on Wednesday, June 23.

Camille’s Vegan Loaf
(design your own loaf at www.veganlunchbox.com/loaf_studio.html)

1/2 cup cashews
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
2 celery ribs, diced
1 cup mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
2 cups cooked lentils
1 cup uncooked oat bran
1/2 cup tomato juice
1/2 cup uncooked polenta
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes
1 tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a loaf pan or 8x8 square baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside (an 8x8 pan makes a crisper loaf).

Grind the cashews into a coarse meal using a food processor or spice/coffee grinder. Place in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Sauté any vegetables you’ve chosen in the olive oil until soft. Add to the large mixing bowl along with all the remaining ingredients. Mix and mash together well, adding only as much liquid as needed to create a soft, moist loaf that holds together and is not runny (you may not need to add any liquid if the grains and protein are very moist). Add more binder/carbohydrate as needed if the loaf seems too wet.

Press mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until cooked through.

Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then turn out onto a plate or platter and slice. Serve with potatoes, vegetables, and vegetarian gravy, if desired.

Cold leftover slices of Camille’s Vegan Loaf make a great sandwich filling.