Some things just go together… peanut butter & jelly, bacon & eggs, mashed potatoes & gravy, champagne & … hell, ANYTHING.
For me, another one of those pairings is fish and any kind of salty condiment. I love salt. I know it isn’t good for you in excess, but I can’t help it. There are at least 8 different kinds of salt in my kitchen at this very moment. Smoked Salt, Truffle Salt, Hawaiian Pink Salt, French Sea Salt, Kosher Salt, Maldon Salt, Australian Pink Flake Salt, Sel Gris, but NEVER idiodized table salt.
I am not alone in this near-obsession. As is the case with most Chefs, we have a salty palate. What I mean by that is we are so accustomed to highly seasoned food that for the average person it can be a bit too salty. (My Mom used to tease me that she was going to buy me a salt lick at the feed store by our house).
To feed my addiction, I made olive tapenade. It is one of the most delicious things and it will keep in your refrigerator for over a week. It can be eaten on its own: spread of a piece of warm, toasted baguette, or use it as a flavoring on a piece of fish for example. Luckily for me I have a great fishmonger a few blocks away, which brings me back to some things just go together… Fish loves salt. It doesn’t have to come from actual salt, it can come from bacon, capers or olive tapenade! If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Where do fish live? (in salty ocean water…)
When cooking fish, it is important to let the flavor of the fish really come through. Don’t mask it with too many flavors, spices or heavy condiments, just give it a boost with something flavorful and delicious. When using something like olive tapenade, a little goes a long way. It is very salty, so try not to be too heavy-handed with the seasoning on your fish.
This works well with a firm-fleshed mild white fish like cod or halibut, but i wouldn’t do this with lemon sole or any other delicate fish. For that, all one would need is a little salt & pepper and a squeeze of lemon.
2 cups mixed olives, pitted (kalamata, nicoise, picholine, arbequina,etc)
1 sprig thyme, finely chopped
2 sprigs rosemary, finely choppped
1/2 bunch parsley, washed & finely chopped
2 TB capers
2 anchovy fillets
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
– Put everything except the olive oil into the food processor & blend until combined and roughly chopped.
– Using the pulse button, slowly add in the olive oil until incorporated.
For the fish:
1- 6 ounce portion of cod (about an inch thick)
– Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan, over moderately high heat ( use a non-stick pan, unless you enjoy living dangerously…)
– Season fish (lightly) with salt & pepper.
Make sure your pan is hot before you put the fish in. You want to have a nice golden crust on it and if you don’t hear that “sizzle” when the fish goes in, take it out and wait for the pan to heat up a little more.
Cook the fish for 3-4 minutes each side, squeeze a little lemon over it and add a teaspoon of tapenade.