The major premise behind A Southern Kitchen is “doing life together.” We practice that at every opportunity, whether with friends or family. It’s not uncommon for us to throw together a dinner party for ten or more on the spur of the moment. For those times that we do plan in advance, I like to keep a collection of dishes that can be made ahead and finished while guests are arriving.
This recipe for baked fish is perfect for any size dinner party. I’ve used it for a gathering of twenty and for a quiet evening with just one other couple. Everything can be prepared early and set in the fridge until just before my guests arrive or while serving appetizers. There is such a burst of Mediterranean flavor coming from the roasted fennel, tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and lemon — you can almost imagine yourself sitting by an azure sea under the warm sun, enjoying a glass of chilled white wine while dining on a perfectly seasoned piece of fish.
The original recipe came from Cooking Light magazine and I’ve made very few changes (my changes probably make it a little less friendly on the waistline). It’s one of my favorite Cooking Light recipes, and I especially love the roasted fennel.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Fennel bulbs
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Dried oregano
- Lemon zest
- Fennel seeds
- Dry white wine
- Fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Orange zest
- Canned whole tomatoes
- 6 firm white fish fillets
Preheat oven to 450°.
Toss fennel with ½ tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, ¼ teaspoon oregano and the lemon zest and roast at 450 for about thirty minutes, or until lightly browned and tender.
In a large skillet, heat ½ tablespoon olive oil and add fennel seeds and garlic. Saute 1 minute then add tomatoes, wine, parsley, orange rind, 1 ½ teaspoons oregano, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about ten minutes.
Arrange fillets over the fennel and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then drizzle a little olive oil on top – probably about 1 teaspoon. I used sea bass, but you could use swordfish or halibut or any firm white fish.
Pour tomato mixture over the fillets. At this point, you can cover and place in the fridge until ready to finish. Take the dish out of the fridge at least thirty minutes prior to finishing so it can come to room temperature. Bake at 450° for 20 minutes or until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve with Salmoriglio Sauce.