Fish for Two

I’ve been trying of late to add more fish dishes to my regular cooking repertoire. Many years ago I cooked a disastrous Valentine’s Day dinner for my boyfriend and I, involving an undercooked saumon aux lentilles and a clafoutis made with canned pears. Our romantic dinner involved fish that was gray on the outside and raw on the inside, with baby food for dessert. As you can imagine, it left us sick and uninterested in romance. For years after I was wary of cooking fish. Fortunately, last year I got my hands on Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Mesdames Child, Bertholle, and Beck brought me back round to the creatures of the sea via their fish filets poached in white wine. A dish that remains the very best meal I’ve ever cooked.

It’s my opinion that the Provençal region of France does some of the best fresh fish dishes in the western hemisphere. Theirs is a truly ancient tradition, stretching all the way back to the Gallo-Roman period, and combining the flavors of France with those of Italy, Greece, Spain, and North Africa. Lighter and fresher than much traditional French food, its relatively simple preparations, short cooking times, and few ingredients, make it ideal for weeknight dinners.

This last week I made two Provençal(ish) fish dishes, one with black sea bass and the other with cod. They were both eaten with green tapenade (the tapenade recipe below makes enough for about 3 meals for two people.)

English: Tapenade is a Provençal dish consisti...

Green Tapenade

(Adapted from The Provençal Cookbook by Gui Gedda)

7oz green olives

4 tablepoons capers

Zest and juice of ½ lemon

2 anchovy filets in oil.

6 tablespoons olive oil

Ground pepper to taste.

1.)   Place all the ingredients except olive oil and pepper in a food processor and pulse until you have a coarse puree.

2.)   As with a salad dressing, with the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow and steady stream. Season with pepper. Place it in a jar or a bowl with a thin splash of olive oil on top to contain its flavor. Use within five days.

Black Sea Bass Filets with Green Tapenade

(Adapted from The Provençal Cookbook by Gui Gedda)

2 black sea bass filets, about 6 ounces apiece.

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons green tapenade

2 lemon wedges

Ground pepper to taste


1.)   Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Pat filets dry and heat olive oil in a skillet. While the oil is heating, spread tapenade on the skin-side of the filets. Once the filets are prepared and the oil is hot but not yet smoking, place the fish skin side down on the skillet. Cook for one minute. Turn them over and cook for another minute or two.


2.)    Pop the skillet in the oven for five minutes, or until the fish is just cooked. Season with pepper and serve with lemon wedges.

Poached Cod with Green Tapenade

(Adapted from Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson)

This recipe will serve two, although there may be one portion to fight over for lunch the following day.

2 pints water

2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

1 onion, peeled and sliced

1 celery stick, sliced

2 cloves

¼ teaspoon whole peppercorns

2 bay leaves

1-tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 cod filets (8-10 ounces each)

2 tablespoons green tapenade

Fresh pepper to taste


1.)   Put all the ingredients except the cod and the tapenade in pot. Bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Once the poaching liquid (or court-bouillon) is ready slip in the cod and bring back to a boil. Switch off the heat and let the fish sit in the poaching liquid for about 7 minutes. The fish at this point should be tender to the point that it’s nearly falling apart.

2.)   Serve with the tapenade and black pepper to taste.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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