Butter-Basted Spiced Cod with Polenta

Mondays have never been my most favorite day of the week (especially when I was working full time), but having a meal plan in place makes it just a smidge more accommodating. And while we’re not strict advocates of “Meatless Monday,” we tend to keep it in the weekly rotation as often as possible.


This Butter-Basted Spiced Cod with Polenta recipe found in Fine Cooking’s “Make-It-Tonight” series looked like a fine contender, especially given the fact that we conveniently had some homemade harissa on hand. Harissa is a North African paste made of ground dried chile peppers, garlic, olive oil, and spices; and is not the easiest condiment to find. You can make your own following this recipe from an earlier blog (scroll down toward the bottom of the post.)

Baking the cod in melted butter added a richness to the fish that nicely balanced the heat from the harissa. Nestling the fish over the polenta topped with the melted butter brought the dish together; with the green herb garnish adding a pleasant pop of color and earthy finishing touch.

We made a few minimal changes to the original recipe by Ronne Day. For starters we purchased a one-pound piece of cod loin and cut it down into 3 equal pieces. Therefore our baking dish was smaller, measuring 8 x 8 square; but I kept the amounts of the other ingredients as listed since we like saucier finishes.

To add dimension to the polenta, I used 3 cups of homemade seafood stock as opposed to water, and WOW, did it make a difference not only in taste but the gorgeous goldenrod color.

As a side, we made Fennel-Orange Salad with Red Onion and Olives, a really nice change from lettuce and spinach salads. This popular Sicilian salad is made with blood oranges when they are in season, but navel oranges work just as well. This salad is sure to cheer you up with its soft bright colors and zingy flavors.

Butter-Basted Spiced Cod with Polenta

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1-1/2 tsp. crushed whole coriander seeds or ground coriander
  • 2 medium lemons, 1 finely grated to yield 1/2 tsp. zest and squeezed for 2 Tbs. juice, the other cut into wedges
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 3 oz. (6 Tbs.) unsalted butter
  • 4 6-oz. pieces cod loin
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. harissa paste
  • 2 tsp. coarsely chopped cilantro or parsley


  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Heat a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the coriander and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 3 cups of water, the lemon zest, and 1 tsp. salt; turn the heat up to medium high.
  3. Whisk in the cornmeal and cook, stirring often, until thick and creamy, about 20 minutes. (If the polenta gets too thick, loosen with a little hot water.)
  4. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Season the fish lightly with salt and pepper and arrange in a 9×13 baking dish with space between each piece. Remove the butter from the heat, stir in the harissa and lemon juice, and pour it over the fish.
  5. Bake, basting every 5 minutes or so, until cooked through (the fish will flake easily), about 15 minutes. If necessary, cover with foil to keep warm.
  6. Divide the polenta among 4 shallow bowls or plates. Top with the fish and spoon the butter over the fish. Top with the cilantro or parsley and serve with the lemon wedges.


Fennel-Orange Salad with Red Onion and Olives


Fennel-Orange Salad with Red Onions and Olives

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 blood oranges (if unavailable, substitute naval oranges)
  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed (about 1 lb. total after trimming)
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh mint
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Slice the onion half lengthwise as thinly as you can. Put the sliced onion in a bowl and cover with cold water to mellow its flavor and keep it crisp. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Working with one orange at a time, slice off both ends. Set the orange on a cutting board, one cut side down. With a sharp knife, cut away the peel (the zest and white pith) by slicing from top to bottom, following the contour of the orange. Working over a bowl to collect any juice, release the orange segments by carefully cutting them away from the membrane that separates them. Remove any seeds and put the orange segments in another bowl, separate from the juice. Squeeze the membranes over the juice bowl.
  3. Cut the fennel in quarters lengthwise and then trim away most of the core, leaving just enough intact to keep the layers together. Slice the quarters lengthwise as thinly as you can.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. (The recipe can be prepared up to this point several hours in advance. If working ahead, wrap and refrigerate the fennel; don’t chop the mint until just before serving.)
  5. Drain the sliced onion and toss it with the fennel. Put the fennel and onion in a shallow salad bowl or on a rimmed serving platter. Drizzle with the reserved orange juice. Arrange the orange segments on top and sprinkle with the olives and mint.
  6. Drizzle the dressing evenly over the salad. Add several grinds of black pepper and serve immediately.

Adapted from a recipe by Janet Fletcher, Rosetta Costantino from Fine Cooking

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