I love fish! I love learning about them–their biology, systematics, ecology, etc. I spent many hours as a undergraduate researcher in a university biology fish lab (specifically with guppies & close relatives), was the first author of a manuscript, and for a couple of years was the lab manager in charge of hundreds of fish tanks. I became very attune to the needs of the fish that I worked with that I think I was in some ways “The Fish Whisperer.” I ordered all their supplies, coordinated a team of students to help care for them, spent weekends cleaning tanks and measuring their reproductive capabilities (for the scientific research of maternal provisioning–yes, some fish I worked with had placentas too! lol ), and I even made a special dish for them–a beef liver pâté for optimal nutrition. Anyhow, I get excited by the subject of fish. Just ask my parents! They have been there with me through all of my fish adventures at school and with the several incarnations of the family fish tank at home while growing up. Of course, I also enjoy fish in the culinary realm–cooking and eating them!
Anyone else love fish? I learn a lot about food when I go grocery shopping. On a grocery trip recently, I encountered a new fish for me, a white fish called hake (Merluccius capensis) or also commonly called Cape Capensis in the U.S. and Merluza in Spain. It is a fish from South America that was once endangered but is now “the healthiest hake in the hemisphere.” For more info on hake, check out the Trader Joe’s description and this site too!
In the U.S., you usually find frozen hake fillets. It’s hard to find it fresh, but frozen ones are still really good. I got mine at Trader Joe’s. Here they are defrosting. The beauty of this dish is that it doesn’t require much ingredients and it is quick! Once the fish is defrosted, it takes less than 10 minutes to cook!
While the fillets are defrosting, you can make the topping for the fish. I used sun-dried tomatoes (drained off the olive oil), pitted kalamata olives, and a parmesan, Romano & asiago blend. Blend these 3 ingredients in a blender or food processor to get a chunky spread like a tapenade.
The finished tomato-olive topping/spread waiting for the fish filets. You can also make this a day before and store it in the fridge. This topping has a lovely color and has a nice aroma, like puttanesca. At least, I think so 🙂
Once the fillets have defrosted, it’s time to preheat the broiler. Dry the hake well, spray each side with some oil (or brush some on), and season with salt & pepper. In general, it’s a good idea to make sure your fish is dry before you bake, grill, or pan-fry it so it cooks properly and tastes good.
I placed the filets on a baking sheet, then spread on the crimson-colored tomato-olive topping. Broil for 4-6 minutes, depending on the thickness. The filets I used were around 1/2 inch think, so I kept them under the broiler for 4 minutes. For thicker cuts at ~1 inch, 5-6 minutes is enough. Note: Though I used parchment to line the pan, it is better to use foil or put the fillets in an oiled sheet. You’ll see why below.
The fish out of the broiler and resting for a few minutes before serving! The parchment paper got scorched under the broiler! So, make sure not to use parchment with this recipe. 😀
Hake in Tomato-Olive Crust
minimally adapted from Jacques Pepin’s More Fast Food My Way
- 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (packed in olive oil), drained and chopped roughly
- 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives (or any black olive will do)
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (or you can use other hard cheeses like Romano)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (optional)
- 4 hake fillets, defrosted (most meatier type fish would be good alternatives such as cod from the original recipe or halibut, sole, haddock, mahi-mahi, etc.)
- 1 tablespoon safflower oil
- salt & pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)
- olive oil for garnish (optional)
- Preheat the broiler. Grease a baking sheet and/or line with foil.
- Make the tomato-olive topping: Chop the sun-dried tomatoes into 1 inch pieces. In a food processor or blender, process the sun-dried tomatoes, olives, parsley, and grated parmesan to make a rough puree (think tapenade consistency).
- Prepare the fish fillets by drying throughly with a towel or paper towels. Spray each side of each fillet with safflower oil or brush it on. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Place on the prepared baking sheet.
- Spread the tomato-olive mixture evenly on each fillet. Cook in the broiler for 4-6 minutes until tender but slightly undercooked. It will continue to cook out of the oven. Cooking times vary depending on the thickness of your fish. Let it rest for a few minutes and garnish with parsley and olive oil. Done!
We served our tomato-olive hake atop roasted potatoes and alongside sautéed bok choy. This was a quick and definitely tasty dish that you can do with many types of fish. That tomato-olive crust with the fish is very flavorful. Even if you slightly overcook the fish it will still be moist and tasty! I am now a fan of the fish broiling method! For those of you observing Lent, this would be a a delectable dish for Fridays and Holy Days. And for those of you who love to eat fish, give it a try! I hope you enjoy it!
As Jacques always says,
- Something Fishy (letslivehealthily83.wordpress.com)
- Roasted Halibut in Cherry Tomatoes and Black Olives (iamdelicious.typepad.com)
- Broiled salmon with cherry sauce (wyff4.com)
- Fish 3 Days, Fish 3 Ways Day 2: Olive Oil Poached White Sea Bass topped with Tapenade (mmm-yoso.typepad.com)