When I saw this fresh wild Cod at the store, I knew it would benefit from quick steaming. Yet, I also knew its’ mild taste would benefit from a somewhat assertive flavoring.
As I’ve just bought a new tin of wonderful Spanish saffron, I’ve decided to go with a Mediterranean inspired sauce and combine it with tomatoes.
Soon, capers, anchovies, almonds, cooked chickpea, raisins, lemons and honey showed up on the working table; the sauce pretty much created itself and a wonderful aroma filled the kitchen…
As the fresh tomatoes available were far from acceptable, I’ve used good quality crushed canned tomatoes instead. However, if you find ripe and flavorful tomatoes, use them without hesitation.
With the chickpeas, I’ve used ones I’ve pre-cooked, but good quality canned chickpeas (preferably unsalted) would work just as well, and will shorten the preparation time.
The dish is great for entertaining, as the fish requires only 10 minutes of cooking, while the sauce can be made ahead and reheated. It can be served as a first course, using smaller portions of fish with the sauce only, or as a main course, with larger portions of fish served on a bed of saffron couscous, rice or polenta.
The Cod can be substituted with other flat fish, shrimps or scallops. The sauce is also great on its’ own, served with couscous, pasta or polenta.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes for the sauce, 10 minutes for the fish
1 lb (450 grams) skinless and boneless fresh Cod fillet
1 tsp saffron threads
1 Tbs hot water
1 large shallot, chopped
¼ cup olive oil + 1 Tbs
5 anchovy fillets
¼ cup capers, roughly chopped
2 cups crushed tomatoes, with tomato paste
1 cup water
Zest and juice from 1 large lemon
1 cup cooked chickpeas
½ cup golden raisins
1/3 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp cayenne
1-2 Tbs honey, preferably orange blossom
1-2 tsp salt
Serving option: couscous (see HERE how to prepare)
1. Portion the fish and pat dry with paper towels. Mix the saffron threads with the hot water and let sit for 5 minutes.
2. In a wide pot, sauté the shallot with ¼ cup olive oil. Add the anchovies, mash roughly with a spatula and cook for 1 minute. Add the crushed tomatoes and water and mix well.
3. Add the lemon juice, 2/3 of the lemon zest, the chickpeas, the raisins, 2/3 of the almonds, the pepper and cayenne. Mix well , bring to a boil and cook for 1-2 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes, mixing occasionally, until the sauce reduces and thickens a bit.
4. Taste and add salt and honey according to the saltiness and acidity of the sauce. (The anchovies, capers and tomato paste vary in their levels of saltiness and acidity from one brand to another, so it’s best to cook the sauce before deciding how much to add.) Mix well and cook for 1-2 minutes.
5. Add the fish pieces, in one layer and not touching one another. Sprinkle the fish with salt, black pepper and the remaining lemon zest, and drizzle the 1 Tbs olive oil over it.
6. Bring the sauce to a boil and cover the pot. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for about 8 minutes, until the fish is white and opaque.
7. For an appetizer, serve with sauce only. For main course, serve with saffron couscous.Sprinkle the rest of the almonds on top.