Sometimes I just need a pick-me-up, and when I do I love a meal that reminds me of warmer climates. It might be that I’m drained, or maybe it’s the short days and cold evenings walking the dog. I get tired of stews and comfort food that are so appealing at the beginning of winter, but seem to repeat all too often. I need to be reminded that summer is coming, and when I am, my mind instantly travels to the Mediterranean.
A Mediterranean meal is the exact opposite of heavy stews and rich sauces. The meals are typically light and fresh, always a bit salty and acidic; they are what I crave in the summer. After eating lots of meat in the winter, fish is a great alternative and a healthy option as well. I used to only bake and fry fish, but I was introduced to poaching in a cooking class. Poaching helps keep food, in this case fish, feeling light and tender since there is no high heat being applied. This cooking style imparts a delicate texture that is hard to create in any other way. On top of all that, poaching (in any liquid) is one of the easiest ways to cook anything — and very difficult to overcook. Having a recipe that you can quickly put together and leave unattended is amazing.
This recipe is great because in addition to being healthier, there is something about the smell and briney nature of olives and capers that takes my mind to warmer climates — that unmistakable smell, the smell of salty seas and warm breezes at the beach.
It is not always feasible to get away every year, but just the thought of enjoying fresh meals on the water’s edge is enough to keep me in a happy place till the warm summer sun actually reveals itself.
2 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely diced
3 cups tomatoes, puréed
1/2 cup olives, finely diced
1/4 cup capers, chopped
2 tbsp salt
4 tbsp pepper
1 1/2 lbs cod fillets, about 4 pieces
Basil, small bunch, chopped
Heat olive oil in heavy-bottomed frying pan (with high sides) over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring.
Add tomato purée, olives, capers, half the salt and half the pepper. Bring up to a simmer.
Season cod with remaining salt and pepper. Add cod to the pan, and push down to fully cover with sauce. Cook for 10 minutes, or until each piece is fully cooked. Add basil on top and cook for additional 30 seconds.
Match: Serve with orzo and sautéed veggies and a Sicilian Insolia.