A rich, complex sauce adds Mediterranean flavor to simple and healthy baked fish. Mediterranean Fish paired with Lemony Orzo and a simple salad or steamed vegetable, is quick enough for a weeknight, yet elegant enough for a special occasion!
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
~~ Charles Caleb Colton
After 2 months in McAllen, I would have to say shopping at HEB (supermarket) is one of the most positive aspects of our move from New Mexico to Texas. This supermarket chain carries a fabulous selection of fresh and pantry items! I recently discovered a line of prepared simmer sauces by Kaldi. We don’t do “fast food,” so I try to keep pantry items that allow me to prepare a meal quickly and with what I have on hand. The Kaldi Saganaki Anise, Black Olives, & Capers Cooking Sauce was fabulous. The flavors of this Greek-inspired sauce got my “wheels-a-turning,” and I came up with my own homemade version… The fish in Mediterranean Fish & Lemony Orzo bakes in a rich tomato sauce flavored with shallots, capers, tapenade, anise seeds, fresh oregano, and of course, garlic. I promise it will keep you coming back for more!
Much of the food I prepare loosely follows the Mediterranean diet. Heart-healthy fats, garlic, tomatoes, lean meats and fish, and minimally processed foods make this a very healthy diet/lifestyle. I keep fish fillets in my freezer, and the pantry items in my well-stocked pantry. I frequently turn to flavors from this region when I need inspiration and want to avoid a trip to the market. On this particular night, I rounded out the menu with some very simply prepared fresh haricots verts. There was no doubt this was a blog worthy recipe…
A key ingredient in this dish is a good-quality tapenade. I love to make my own, but it will not suffer if you substitute a good prepared tapenade. Assemble all of your ingredients, preheat your oven, and make your sauce. While the fish bakes, make the Lemony Orzo. I chose to set the fish atop most of the the sauce, and top it with some additional sauce, to avoid having the fish “swimming” in sauce. It is also important to keep an eye on the fish; it is easily overcooked. You want to cook it only until the semi-transparent look of the fish is gone. The baked fish gets a sprinkle of crumbled feta in the last five minutes, and a generous sprinkle of chopped parsley just prior to serving. The orzo really makes the dish, so I hope you will try them together.
We enjoyed the robust flavors of Mediterranean Fish & Lemony Orzo with a bottle of Spanish Torrontes – a very crisp, dry white wine with a hint of citrus. A sauvignon blanc would be another excellent option. I might also mention a “trick” I employ in plating my food. I use my smaller salad sized plates in place of the dinner sized plates. Portion control is key in watching your weight, and the smaller plate makes it seem as though you are getting a more generous portion. I allow one 4 to 6 ounce portion of fish and 2 ounces of dry pasta per serving. Making extra for leftovers can be an invitation to having seconds, and that can be dangerous! If eating healthy, and maintaining or losing weight, consider keeping a close watch on portions, and serving your meals on smaller plates. It works for us.
Mediterranean Fish & Lemony Orzo
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tsp. garlic minced
- 2 shallots minced
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper*
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste*
- 1 teaspoon dried anise seed*
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves chopped* or 1 teaspoon dried leaves
- 2 tablespoons capers rinsed and drained
- 2 tablespoons Olive Tapenade Recipe*
- 1 can crushed tomatoes
- sea salt/fresh ground pepper*
- Sauce above
- 4 firm, white fish fillets rinsed and patted dry (16-24 oz)
- 1 ounce feta cheese crumbled
- Italian parsley to garnish
- 3 cups chicken/vegetable stock on low heat
- 1 shallot minced
- a drizzle of olive oil
- 1 cup orzo pasta
- zest and juice of one lemon
- sea salt/fresh ground pepper
- * See Notes
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees (375 convection).
- Add olive oil to a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add garlic, shallots, crushed red pepper, and anchovy paste (if using). Saute until fragrant, and shallots are nearly translucent.
- Add anise seed, and dried oregano leaves if using. Stir to combine, and saute about 1 minute.
- Add capers, tapenade, tomatoes, and fresh oregano if using. Stir well.
- Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes (more or less).
- Select a pan that will keep the fish fillets cozy but not crowded. Some overlap is fine.
- Ladle about 2/3 of the tomato sauce into the pan, and spread evenly across the bottom. Arrange fish in a single layer. Again, some overlap is fine.
- Ladle the remaining sauce over top of the fish down the center of the pan.
- Place in the hot oven. Cook 5-10 minutes until the fish begins to look opaque. While it bakes, start the orzo. The broth should be hot already.
- When fish begins to look opaque, sprinkle with crumbled feta, and return to the oven for an additional 5 minutes. Be careful to not overcook. I have used tilapia and flounder fillets, and they typically require a total cooking time of 10-15 minutes on convection, and that is equivalent to about 12-18 minutes total in a standard oven. Of course the thickness of the fillets determines the cooking time. Remove from the oven and finish the orzo.
- To a medium sauce pan, add a drizzle of olive oil and the shallots over medium high heat. Saute until shallots are nearly translucent.
- Add the orzo. Stir to coat.
- Zest the lemon and reserve. Squeeze the juice (without seeds) over the orzo. Stir again.
- Begin to add hot broth/stock to the pan a ladle full at a time. Allow the liquid to absorb before adding additional. When the pasta is al dente, STOP adding liquid. You don't want it to be mushy! Stir in the reserved zest.
- To each plate, carefully add a fish fillet with a spatula. Add additional sauce from the pan if necessary. Serve the Lemony Orzo alongside. Garnish fish and orzo with chopped Italian parsley.
Use crushed red pepper to taste, or omit entirely. I use 1 teaspoon, but we like the heat!
Omit the anchovy paste if you just can't handle it. It does add a bit of complexity to the sauce that we think is delicious!
Don't feel like you have to make your olive tapenade. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't...
Anise seed and fennel seed are not the same, but do have similar flavor. Feel free to substitute fennel seed.
Dried oregano leaves are fine in place of fresh. I wouldn't suggest ground.
I watch sodium levels, and with the tapenade and capers, the sauce (and the fish) don't really need any additional salt for our taste. Make sure you always check for seasoning.
I would suggest any firm, mild white fish fillets - barramundi, tilapia, flounder, cod, snapper, etc.
Macronutrients (approximation from MyFitnessPal.com): 402 calories; 31 g protein; 27 g carbohydrates; 21 g fat.