I grew up hating fish. Ocean fish, in particular, with its strong flavor and millions of bones. I even choked my way through what someone was pleased to call “Smoked Fish”. I just assumed that it was supposed to be like jerky. My mom did a good job whenever she cooked it; it tasted bad only to me.
Because of my natural aversion to fish flesh, I decided to challenge myself to develop a method of enhancing (disguising?) the taste. What I was after was a simple entree that allows the flavor to shine through for piscine aficionados with a light, complementary finishing sauce or drizzle that makes me happy.
I started by reading over different recipes but, knowing that I would probably end up writing about it, I dismissed most of them as too fussy for what I had in mind. Often, in an effort to appear ‘Gourmet’ a recipe will call for too many steps or has ingredients that are out of focus.
Meanwhile, the tomatoes in our garden are ripening slightly faster than I can use them. As I considered how to incorporate them into my fish, I remembered having tried some of our locally produced citrus flavored oils when they first became available. Beyond the obvious use as dipping oils, they are fantastic on freshly poached or grilled meat, vegetables or anything else that needs a bit of finishing.
I thought of having used orange-flavored olive oil and fresh black pepper on dead-ripe sliced tomatoes a few summers back. Phenomenal. This is totally in line with the Italian way of serving fresh, seasonal vegetables with olive oil, coarse salt and a pepper mill as a beginning to a meal. The leap to tomatoes, orange olive oil and the naked salmon fillets that I had in the refrigerator was the logical next step.
My method for cooking the fish was a kind of poach, using the juice of the orange whose zest is pictured and plain extra virgin olive oil. Once the fish was just cooked, I kept it covered and warm on a plate while I quickly heated the sauce. To serve, I spooned sauce over each portion and grated a little orange peel on top. Light and colorful, it went well with a blue cheese, bacon and lettuce salad and a whole-grain side dish.
Tomato-orange sauce for fish
4-5 fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced small or 1 14-ounce can petite-diced tomatoes, well drained
1/4 cup good quality orange-flavored olive oil
Freshly grated orange zest
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Warm the olive oil in skillet; add diced tomatoes. Sauté over medium-high heat until tomatoes are softened but not mushy and sauce reduces slightly. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Divide among fillets and garnish with a small amount of orange zest. Serve immediately. Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups, enough for 4-6 portions of salmon.
Lori Bowles lives in Lodi with her husband Jeff and is living the semi-retired life while staying current on food trends. She enjoys searching out local purveyors of the best that Lodi has to offer.
Contact Pam Bauserman at 209-369-7035 or email@example.com