Look! There’s their olive orchard, intermixt
With rows of vines and almond-trees betwixt.
The beauty of it is, that vineyard hath
For every day in all the year a path!
There’s ne’er another such the beauty is;
and in each path are just so many trees.
Frédéric Mistral, Mirèio: A Provençal Poem
Garlic, olives and olive oil, anchovies, tomatoes, fresh herbs – the vibrant flavors of Provençe find their way to our table regularly. Provençal cuisine may be one of the easiest to “whip up” on a weeknight when you keep a “well-stocked pantry.” The impetus behind the creation of this specific dish was my reluctance to venture out to the market during a thunderstorm that wreaked havoc in Las Cruces earlier this week. I had planned a completely different menu, but I didn’t want that dish badly enough to get washed away in one of many flash floods that evening! I keep chicken breast and thighs, fish fillets, pork loin and tenderloin, and other proteins in my freezer. Fish can be thawed quickly under running water, so fish it was! I almost always have a large tub of spinach in the refrigerator, and tomatoes on the counter. My pantry “filled in the blanks” as this dish came together. Once the fish fillets were thawed, this dish was ready in less that 30 minutes. My husband and I stayed dry at home, and we enjoyed a fabulous meal together 🙂
One of the recurring themes in my writing, is the importance of understanding and utilizing flavor profiles. This recipe is a really good example of the way your well-stocked pantry and utilizing flavor profiles can boost the quality of your meals. I typically don’t meal plan. I plan daily according to my mood and schedule. I hate shopping in Las Cruces due to the lack of variety (it’s a WalMart town) 🙁 , so my pantry plays a very important role in minimizing trips to the market. With respect to a provençal flavor profile, think of the rocky Mediterranean coast – olive trees, wild rosemary, fennel, thyme, and sage, bay laurel and juniper. Olive oil and olives, anchovies, capers, tomatoes, and garlic – lots and lots of garlic – characterize this wonderful cuisine. Tapenade, ratatouille, bouillabaise, and aioli (garlic mayonnaise) are representative of the cuisine, and among my favorites to prepare and enjoy.
So in planning your provençal pantry list, include good olive oil, anchovies and/or anchovy paste, capers, good canned tomatoes, whole garlic bulbs, minced garlic, dried thyme leaves, sage, and bay leaves. Keep fresh ingredients on hand when possible – fresh rosemary, flat-leaf parsley, thyme, sage, bay, lemons, fennel bulb, etc. Of course any well-stocked pantry includes pasta in several shapes. Stocking your freezer with your favorite proteins is also an important part of having this kind of flexibility in throwing together a good meal without an untimely and annoying trip to the market. I don’t like the results attained when thawing food in the microwave, and rely instead on a very slow stream of cold water. I can usually get fish fillets thawed in just a few minutes…
To get this dish started, thaw and pat dry your fish fillets. You may choose any firm, white fish. Set them aside. Set a large pasta pot 3/4 full of water with a palm full of salt on to boil. This is your chance to season your pasta! Preheat your oven to 275°. While the water heats, prep the sauce ingredients. I like my small tomatoes sliced lengthwise, but you may certainly leave them whole. Mince your garlic if using whole garlic cloves, and assemble all ingredients. You will cook the fish in a fairly hot sauté pan with the garlic, olive oil, and anchovy paste. When the fish is mostly opaque, remove to an oven-safe plate, and place in the warm oven. Using the same sauté pan, start the sauce. If the pan is dry, add just a bit more olive oil. Add the remaining garlic and anchovy paste, crushed red pepper, fresh rosemary, and tomatoes. Stir for a few minutes. When water is boiling, add pasta. Angel hair requires only about 6-7 minutes to cook, so you want to add the pasta while you make the sauce. Do NOT overcook it! When the herbs are fragrant and the tomatoes begin to give up their juice, deglaze the pan with wine and broth. Keep heat on medium-high and allow it to reduce a bit. When the pasta is drained, add back to the pasta pot. Wilt the spinach in the sauté pan, then pour over the pasta. Squeeze the lemon over top (no seeds please!) and give it all a good toss. To serve, place one-fourth of the pasta and sauce on each plate, top with a fish fillet, and garnish generously with chopped fresh parsley.
You may notice my glass of Petite Sirah (full-bodied red). This would not be a typical pairing, but the flavors of the dish are quite bold, and it actually was delicious with the food. C’est délicieux! I hope you will give it a try.
This dish sings with the flavors of Provence - garlic, herbs, tomatoes, anchovies...
10 minPrep Time
15 minCook Time
25 minTotal Time
- 8 ounces angel hair pasta*
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tsp. minced garlic, about 6 cloves(divided)
- 2 tsp. anchovy paste (divided)
- 4 fish filets (tilapia, red snapper, cod, about 24 ounces)
- 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
- 2 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 1 pint small tomatoes (ie. cherub, sunburst)
- 2 tbsp. capers
- 2/3 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 8 ounces fresh spinach
- juice of 1 lemon
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp. fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
Pre-heat oven to 275 degrees.
Put a large stock pot 3/4 full of water with a palm full of salt on high heat. Now is the time to season your pasta!
Assemble all of your ingredients. Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise if desired. You may leave them whole if preferred. Mince garlic if using whole garlic cloves.
To a large saute pan on medium-high heat, add olive oil, 1 tsp. of the minced garlic, and 1 tsp. of the anchovy paste. When the garlic and anchovy are sizzling, add your fish fillets. Cook about 2-3 minutes per side - until fish is nearly opaque and starting to brown on the edges. Do not overcook. Remove from the pan to an oven-proof plate. Place in your warm oven.
To the saute pan on medium-high heat, add the remaining garlic and anchovy paste, crushed red pepper, rosemary, tomatoes, and capers. Stir occasionally until tomatoes begin to give up their juice. De-glaze the pan with the wine and broth. Allow it to reduce a bit while you start the pasta.
The water should be boiling for your pasta. When it is boiling, add pasta, and cook according to package, but make sure you cook to al dente. Drain. Set aside.
Add spinach to your saute pan. Stir into the sauce just until it wilts.
Add to the pasta. Squeeze the lemon over top. Stir well to combine. Taste and season.*
To serve, place one-fourth of the pasta/sauce mixture on a plate, top with a fish fillet, garnish with parsley. Enjoy!
*2 ounces of pasta per serving. If you are watching your calories, this is so important.
*I like Barilla Plus for the additional protein.
*Anchovy paste is salty. Taste the dish before adding any salt.