From Penelope Casas TAPAS cookbook, comes this typically Andalusian riff on olives. One whiff of these spicy tidbits erases any doubt of their Arab origins. Dried or fresh herbs, or a combination of the two bring on the magic.
With an upcoming holiday finger food party on the horizon, we thought they’d make a wonderful accompaniment to the other appetizers being served. Keep in mind, these olives need several days to marinate, so it is nice to prepare one of the dishes ahead of time, then just plate them as the hot recipes come out of the oven.
Don’t be alarmed if the garlic cloves turn blue. It startled us at first until The Hubs googled the reason and found out they weren’t going bad, it was just a reaction caused between enzymes and sulfur-containing amino acids in the garlic. They are perfectly safe to consume and taste just fine.
The compound responsible for this reaction, isoalliin, is formed when garlic is stored at a cool temperature for several weeks, typically in the winter, when pantries are colder.
While we know salmon isn’t a Mediterranean fish, this recipe riff from “Patricia Wells at Home in Provence,” uses high-impact Provençal ingredients which are an ideal match for the rich, meaty fillets. Here, steamed fish sits atop a bed of sliced fennel to add sweet, licorice-like perfume; after cooking, the tender-crisp slices make a delicious accompaniment.
The sharp flavors of the warm olive, caper and lemon vinaigrette complement both fish and fennel. Cook the salmon to medium doneness—that is, until only the center is translucent. For well-done fillets, steam the fish for a couple minutes longer than indicated.
If you prefer white fish over salmon, thick fillets of striped bass or sea bass work well, but increase the steaming time to about 10 minutes. No matter the type of fish you choose, try to select fillets of equal thickness so they cook at the same rate.
Don’t uncover the pot while the fish is steaming, as loss of steam will slow the cooking. Instead, simply set a timer (or tell Alexa to remind you 😉 ). Note to the wise: When opening the pot, angle the lid away from you to avoid a burst of steam to the face.
We chose broccoli rabe as the other side dish. By par-boiling it first, much of the bitterness is eradicated. Once chilled in an ice bath and drained, any extra moisture is wrung out in a clean dish towel. A little garlic, olive oil and red pepper flakes give it a boost of flavor when reheated in a pan.
Fennel-Steamed Salmon with Warm Olive and Caper Vinaigrette
2 small fennel bulbs (about 1 lb. total), halved, cored and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
1 tsp. grated lemon zest, plus ¼ cup lemon juice
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
4 6-oz. salmon fillets, each about 1 inch thick
6 sprigs dill, plus 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
1 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, roughly chopped
¼ cup drained capers
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
In a medium bowl, toss the fennel with the lemon zest and ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper; set aside. Season the salmon all over with salt and pepper.
Place a folding steamer basket in a large Dutch oven. Add enough water to fill the bottom of the pot without submerging the basket. Remove the basket. Cover the pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high.
Line the basket with the fennel. Place the salmon skin down on the fennel, then lay the dill sprigs on the fillets. Turn off the heat under the pot, then set the basket in it. Cover and return to a simmer over medium. Steam until the thickest parts of the fillets reach 115°F to 120°F (for medium doneness), 7 to 9 minutes; the fennel should be tender but not completely soft.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium, combine the olives, capers, oil and pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, just until sizzling gently, about 2 minutes.
Add the lemon juice and cook, stirring, just until warm, another 1 to 2 minutes. Cover and set aside.
When the salmon is done, remove and discard the dill sprigs. Using a metal spatula, transfer the fennel and fillets, skin down, to a serving platter. Sprinkle with the chopped dill, then spoon on the warm sauce.
The bright colors and flavors literally pop off the plate in this lovely, healthy fish tagine. And with a few tweaks, we bolstered that brightness by doubling the amount of carrots and green olives. Pairing it with a side of tricolored couscous to help soak up the luscious sauce didn’t harm the color palette either!
For a bright, flavorful fish tagine, start by salting chunks of cod to season the flesh and help it retain moisture. Coat the fish in chermoula, a flavorful herb-spice paste of cilantro, garlic, cumin, paprika, cayenne, lemon juice, and olive oil, just before cooking to season its exterior.
Softening bell pepper, onion, and carrot before adding the tomatoes and fish ensures that the vegetables will be soft and tender by the time the fish has cooked through. Preserved lemon and olives add acidity, complexity, and salty punch to the broth. To produce moist, flaky cod, turn off the heat once the broth is bubbling at the bottom of the pot and allow the fish to cook in the residual heat.
You can substitute red snapper or haddock for the cod as long as the fillets are 1 to 1½ inches thick. Picholine or Cerignola olives work well in this recipe. Serve this dish with flatbread, couscous, or rice.
12 ounces skinless cod fillets (1 to 1½ inches thick), cut into 1½- to 2-inch pieces
½ teaspoon table salt, divided
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus 2 tablespoons chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
¾ teaspoon paprika
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
½ onion, sliced through root end ¼ inch thick
½ green bell pepper, cut into ¼-inch strips
1 small carrot, peeled and sliced on bias
¼ inch thick¾ cup canned diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons pitted green olives, quartered lengthwise
1 tablespoon finely chopped preserved lemon
Place cod in bowl and toss with ¼ teaspoon salt. Set aside.
Pulse cilantro leaves, garlic, cumin, paprika, and cayenne in food processor until cilantro and garlic are finely chopped, about 12 pulses. Add lemon juice and pulse briefly to combine. Transfer mixture to small bowl and stir in 1½ tablespoons oil. Set aside.
Heat remaining 1½ tablespoons oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, bell pepper, carrot, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and their juice, olives, and preserved lemon. Spread mixture in even layer on bottom of saucepan.
Toss cod with cilantro mixture until evenly coated, then arrange cod over vegetables in single layer. Cover and cook until cod starts to turn opaque and juices released from cod are simmering vigorously, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and let stand, covered, until cod is opaque and just cooked through (cod should register 140 degrees), 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve.