Fresh fish is most readily available on the weekend, which coincides with the most welcome moment to relax while cooking. A lazy Sunday is just the right time to chop and mix herbs, onions and garlic, in anticipation of oven-baked white fish served in the late afternoon. In the following recipe I utilize the Norwegian cod fish called skrei, in season January through April. Skrei may be replaced with sea bass or any other commonly available fresh white fish. Merluzzo can be found at the fish markets of Italy.
- 400 grams of Skrei filet
- 1 organic lemon
- 2 rosemary stalks
- crushed red pepper to taste
Layer an oven dish with baking paper. Wash the fish in cold water and dab it dry. Place two rosemary on the bottom of the dish, followed by the slices of one lemon, ending with the skrei. Sprinkle the fish with some finely crushed red pepper. The lemon and rosemary will scent the fish, giving it extra flavor while baking.
Ingredients for soffritto with breadcrumbs
- 2 slices of whole wheat or spelt bread
- 200 grams carrot
- 100 grams celery
- 100 grams shallot or red onion
- 25 grams of garlic
- 50 grams of extra virgin olive oil
- the leaves of 2 stalks of fresh rosemary
- the leaves of 4 stalks of fresh sage
- sea salt
Toast the bread in a toaster until it is dry enough to crumble. Pick the leaves of the rosemary and sage. Peel the shallot and garlic. Wash and peel the carrot. Pull the tough threads off back of the celery stalk with a vegetable peeler or paring knife. Chop each vegetable very fine one by one with a sharp knife. To save time the kitchen machine is a perfectly acceptable tool to chop and mix. I prefer however to chop each ingredient separately regardless of the instrument used. This keeps the flavors pure and separate.
Mix the finely chopped celery and carrots with the minced garlic and shallot in a bowl. Add the finely chopped rosemary and sage, followed by half the olive oil and sea salt to taste. Spread the mixture over the top of the fish and cover with baking paper, leaving the dish to marinate in the refrigerator for one to four hours.
Crush the breadcrumbs and pour the remaining olive oil over them. Set the breadcrumbs aside for later use. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees. Take the herb-packed fish out of the refrigerator 30 minutes prior baking. Bake the fish covered with baking paper for 10 minutes. Toss the breadcrumbs over the fish, and return the dish to the oven to bake another 5-8 minutes. The fish is ready to serve when the breadcrumbs are lightly toasted and the skrei is pearly white and al dente in the middle.
♦ Suggested combinations
Serve the baked fish with a mash of sweet potatoes and a stir-fry of wild spinach and garlic. This dish makes a beautiful dinner when served with oven-roasted parsnips and a salad of orange and fennel.
This particular combination of herbs is called a soffritto and has many uses in the Italian kitchen. The most time-consuming aspect of making the soffritto is the chopping of the vegetables and picking the herbs. I would suggest for this reason to make a double recipe, using the quantities mentioned for the above-mentioned recipe, while saving the remaining portion for another meal during the week. The soffritto mixture is perfect when sautéed a few minutes in olive oil to be tossed over pasta, or grilled vegetables.
Be sure to leave the breadcrumbs separate from the extra soffritto you may have made. Breadcrumbs don’t save well.