4 each 6 oz. skinless halibut fillet or best available white fish (i.e. striped bass, snapper, cod, etc.)
2 each bulbs fennel with tops (cut off tops and reserve. Peel outer layer of the bulb, trim root and split in half top to bottom)
1 lemon sliced very thin, seeds removed
1 shallot peeled, sliced thin
1/2 cup peeled hazelnuts
1 bunch arugula trimmed and washed
1 bunch basil washed
1 orange juiced
1 tbsp. sugar
1 cup virgin olive oil
Fresh ground white pepper
1. Preheat oven to 375° and lightly toast the hazelnuts until golden (roughly 3 - 5 mins). Remove and allow to cool. Rough chop by hand or in a food processor. Add 2 tbsp. of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
2. Add sliced lemons to a small (1/2 quart) sauce pot and just cover with cold water. Simmer for 1 minute. Strain, discard water, place the lemons back in the pot and cover with cold water again. Add the sliced shallot, 1 tbsp. sugar and a small pinch of salt. Simmer for 2 minutes. Allow to cool slightly. Add 2 tbsp. olive oil and puree in a blender until smooth.
3. Place the halved fennel bulbs in a small, microwave safe dish. Drizzle with 1 tbsp. olive oil. Add the orange juice, 5 sprigs of basil and season with salt and pepper. Wrap tightly with cling wrap and microwave on high for 3 to 4 minutes in 1-minute increments until the fennel is fork tender. Reserve warm.
4. Coat the fish fillets lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
5. Place half of the fennel branches in a large saute pan. Place the fillets on the fennel. Place the remaining fennel branches on top of the fish and bake in the oven for 7 to 8 minutes until the fish is firm to the touch. Remove from oven and discard the fennel branches.
6. Spoon 1 tbsp. of lemon puree in the center of 4 plates. Top each with 'braised fennel'. Top with fish. Toss the arugula with the hazelnut/olive oil mixture, season with salt and pepper and divide among the plates.
NOTES: the lemon puree, hazelnuts and fennel may be prepared one day in advance. Just reheat the fennel before serving. Also, the fennel preparation makes a simple soup by pureeing the fennel with vegetable or chicken stock and a touch of cream.