Homesick and hungry for the sun, my light therapy lamp isn't cutting it these days. It's bitterly cold in Paris and we finally have that icy winter we've been waiting for. Nevertheless, I've been focusing on cooking foods that inspire a little sunshine in my life. Even though tomatoes are technically out of season, I need them. I'm being a bit of a hypocrite here to buy them for this recipe, but it's an emergency purchase.
There are many different versions of provençal-styled fish. Many come in the form of fish stews like bouillabaisse. Depending on the recipe, a hearty white fish is usually combined with other Mediterranean fish (which are mostly small and crushed up to make a broth). But no soups for today! For this recipe, you'll be using olive oil of course and the yummy, sunshiney flavors of lemon, tomato, and Herbs de Provence (better fresh if you can get them).
Sometimes I'll add other non-traditional French Southern vegetables. Poivron, or bell pepper is a must (and traditional), but I love the taste of leeks (not so traditional in the South) with fish, so I've added that in. It's also important you put copious amounts of chopped olives and capers. Mon Fiancé hates olives that aren't the regular green pimento kind but that just means there's more for me. I get a "Provence" mix, which is a little spicy and includes black and green olives.
After cutting up all these beautiful components, I'll sauté them in olive oil and make a nice little sauce as the vegetables cook and caramelize (I just had leftovers for lunch and now I'm salivating for more!).
Once you get a nice vegetable meld with a thick tomatoey and olive oil sauce, place the veggies in an oven safe dish. Put the raw and cleaned white fish (my choice here is Dorade, a white fish found in the Mediterranean Sea and the Northern Atlantic Ocean) on top. Garnish the insides with lemon slices and fresh herbs and then top everything with a final dash of Herbs de Provence and even more lemon slices. It's so good, I dream about the warm sea while eating this dish.
Easy Baked Provençal Fish
- 2 medium-sized Dorade (gilt-head bream) or any mild, white fish; whole but cleaned
- 2 large lemons, 1 thinly sliced, the other quartered for serving
- 2 medium zucchinis, thinly sliced
- 3 small-to-medium bell peppers (in each color-- 1 green, 1 red, 1 yellow), julienned
- 1 small leek, roughly chopped
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 1 fresh garni of your favorite herbs (preferably Provençal, like bay leaf or thyme)
- 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon or 150g of chopped green and black olives
- 1/4 cup or 85g of capers
- 2-3 medium tomatoes, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed and roughly diced
- 2 tablespoons of herbs de Provence
- 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon or 70g of tomato paste
- 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon of water
- 2 tablespoons of dry white wine
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: 1 small sliced aubergine/eggplant and/or a pinch of saffron
1. When fish is ready (cleaned), rub both sides with a generous amount of half the herbs and some salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. In a large sauté pan, heat up a tablespoon of the olive oil on medium-high heat. Once the oil is ready (you'll see bubbles start to form immediately), toss in the onions and garlic. Make sure not to burn them, constantly stirring and moving the pan. When the onions are translucent, pour in the rest of the vegetables, chopped olives, and capers. Add the rest of your seasoning (herbs, salt, and pepper), and continue to stir for another 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, and cover pan.
3. After about 10 minutes, uncover your pan and stir your veggies. The melange should almost be thoroughly cooked. Add another tablespoon of olive oil, then the tomato paste and water. Stir again and cover for 5 more minutes. While your vegetables are finishing, heat up your oven to 400F or 210C.
4. In an oven safe dish (mine was 34 x 6 cm / 14 x 2.5 in), pour in the vegetable mixture. Add a dash of your white wine. Place your seasoned fish on top. Inside the fishes' cavities, stick in some seasoning, your fresh herbs, and some of the sliced lemons. Garnish the rest of the dish with lemon slices on top and a drizzle of olive oil. Put the dish in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until fish has reached a nice flaky, baked flesh.
5. After baking, turn on your oven's broil/grill function for 3-5 minutes, being careful not to let the dish burn. Once you get a nice crisp on top, it's time to take the fish out.
6. Serve with wild rice and your quartered lemons. Enjoy the sunshine!
And that's that! Until next time! À bientôt!