It's been yet another one of those weeks where there just doesn't seem to be enough hours in a day. There has been a flurry of activity in our household this week, enough to make one wonder if a revolving door mightn't be appropriate. Last night, my dad was coming to have supper with us and I wanted to make something that was healthy, time efficient and simple, yet elegant. I still had some cod fillets in my freezer that my best friend's husband had caught in August and both my husband and my father LOVE a good feed of cod. I didn't want to do the same ole, same ole, but my father prefers his fish to taste like fish, nothing too complicated and certainly nothing too heavily seasoned.
Baked cod fillets and potatoes fit the bill alright but white fish and white potatoes just doesn't fit my personality much. I'm vibrant and colorful and my food reflects that, or at least I'd like to think it does. So how would I go about making simple, not too heavily seasoned, baked cod fillets and potatoes? Well, I could bake the potatoes, give them a nice crispy skin and the fish could be bathed in luxurious extra virgin olive oil, but there was still a vibrancy issue.
What would be a good condiment to have with fish? Well, tartar sauce is a favorite in Newfoundland but that too would be white. White on white on white? That would be just plain boring! Perhaps I could take some of the flavours of tartar sauce and color it up. Tradional tartar sauce has mayonnaise, (more white), shallots, capers and some sort of acid such as lemon juice or vinegar, as well as possibly Dijon mustard and seasonings like dill weed or parsley. I certainly didn't want more white, so trational tartar was out, but what about something with tomatoes, capers and shallots? And then it hit...a taponade! Of course! That would work!
Tapanade is commonly known as a Provencal dish consisting of pureed or finely chopped olives, capers, anchovies, and olive oil that's popular in the south of France as an hors d'oeuvres spread on crackers, crusty bread or crudites. Olive based tapanades with anchovies and/or vinegar are ubiquitos in Italian cusine and the first recorded recipe for tapanade appears in a Roman cookbook dating back to the first century AD, before the appearance of the French word tapanade, or indeed the French language itself.
French or Italian, the recipes have a few things in common: olive oil, olives, capers and anchovies. Olive oil, olives and capers I had...and I had already planned to add tomatoes. Tomatoes and olives, and indeed capers are commonplace in a variety of Italian dishes. Caper Tomato Tapanade...sounded good to me!
First up were my baked potatoes. I decided I wanted some texture to go along with my soft cod fillets, so after scrubbing my potatoes, I massaged the skins with some olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and pricked them with a fork because I didn't really want a handful of potato grenades to explode in my oven. I baked my potatoes on 425F for approximately 35 minutes on the rack, before adding my thawed prepared cod fillets.
I rubbed my cod fillets with a little olive oil too, and lightly seasoned them with salt and pepper. After placing them on a baking sheet sprayed with Olive Oil Cooking Spray, at the 35 minute mark for my potoates, I slid my baking sheet into the oven and continued cooking the potatoes along with my fish for another 15-20 minutes.
I was really pleased with this meal all the way around. Nutritionally, baked potato is a great source of Vitamin B6, which alone gives potato high marks. B6 is an active ingredient everywhere in the body, from the synthesis of amino acids and nucleic acids used in the creation of our DNA, to the protein center of red blood cells and the production of serotonin, melatonin, epinephrine and norepinephrine and GABA, not to mention the critical role it plays in the process of changing homocysteine ,that directly damages blood vessel walls, into benign substances. Cod is quite possibly one of the healthiest things you can eat for cardiovascular and overall health, not to mention all those good fats from the olive oil. The tapanade's role was to provide color and flavour, but with tomatoes, olives, olive oil and those mighty little capers, it also pulled it's nutritional weight.
Baked Cod Fillets with Caper Tomato Tapanade and Baked Potatoes....a simple yet elegant meal. Easy, healthied-up, inexpensive AND delicious...it's just the way I roll!