With swimsuit season fast approaching (or in full swing, depending on what part of the country you live in), I thought it best to choose something from the “Lighter Side” chapter of The Casserole Queens Cookbook, though many of the more “comforting” dishes were tempting, most notably the “World’s Greatest Chicken Pot Pie,” which was featured on Food Network’s Throwdown! With Bobby Flay. There was a lot of zip here: licoricey fennel (both bulbs and seeds), lemon (both zest and juice), garlic, fresh oregano, capers, tomatoes, and white wine, and it all worked together without overpowering the fish (I used cod). The layered potatoes at the bottom of the dish added heft to the meal, but I’d also suggest serving this with a good loaf of crusty bread to soak up the extra sauce. There’s a good amount of prep work here, but it can all be done in advance, making this pretty dish a great choice for company.
Baked Fish and Vegetables with Tangy Caper Sauce from The Casserole Queens Cookbook: Put Some Lovin’ in Your Oven with 100 Easy One-Dish Recipes by Crystal Cook and Sandy Pollock
Makes 6 Servings
2 pounds red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch slices (about 6 cups)
4 cups thinly sliced fennel (about 2 small bulbs)
1 tablespoon olive oil
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
¾ cup dry white wine
6 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
3 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
6 (6-ounce each) sea bass fillets, or other firm white fish fillets
Tangy Caper Sauce (recipe follows)
1. Preheat the oven to 450˚F.
2. Combine the potatoes, fennel, 2 teaspoons of the oil, ¼ teaspoon of the salt, and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper in a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish; toss gently to coat. Bake the vegetables for 30 minutes or until they can easily be pierced with a fork.
3. Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil in a medium skillet. Add the fennel seeds and garlic, and sauté for 1 minute. Add ¼ teaspoon of the salt, 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper, the tomatoes, wine, 4 tablespoons of the parsley, 1 tablespoon of the lemon zest, and the oregano to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 8 minutes.
4. Sprinkle the fish fillets with the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Arrange the fillets over the potato mixture in the casserole dish. Sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of lemon zest and spread the tomato mixture over the fish. Bake at 450˚F for 40 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons parsley. Spoon the caper sauce over the fish before serving.
Tangy Caper Sauce
Makes ¼ cup sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons capers, drained
Dash of freshly ground black pepper
Put the lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, salt, lemon zest, garlic, capers, and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk to combine.