Simply seared fish gets a briny finish with this caper-olive salsa
This 20-minute recipe from Susie Theodorou's cookbook "Mediterranean," originally published in 2018 and rereleased in the United States in 2022, is just the kind of thing I like to have in my back pocket for weeknight suppers.
Yes, you have to gather a couple of fresh herbs for the salsa, but the rest is pantry- and freezer-friendly, making it an easy lift after a long day.
The recipes featured in her cookbook were drawn from her life, writes Theodorou, who was born in London but says she was raised eating as if she "grew up in a Mediterranean village" due to her Greek Cypriot parents.
The book includes recipes from her family and her travels suitable for celebrations and family dinners, but I was drawn to what she calls "midweek dinner" dishes.
For example, she includes straightforward instructions for cooking whole fish as well as pan-searing, grilling and roasting fillets and then offers four simple ways to top them: a sunflower seed gremolata; a fennel and parsley salsa; an olive, chili and parsley topping; and the caper and olive salsa that I'm featuring here.
As you would expect from the experienced food stylist, each turn of the page reveals another tempting photo, but you don't have to be a professional stylist to make this simple dish look great. The chopped olives and capers married with fresh herbs and olive oil create a blend that is not only big-flavored and briny, but lovely shades from pale yellow to vibrant green.
You could spoon it over just about any white-fleshed fish you like. Here, I made it with easy-to-cook and -find cod fillets. Those fillets are rubbed with a little oil, sprinkled with pepper, then seared in a hot skillet with more oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. The salty salsa does the heavy lifting flavor-wise.
Theodorou addresses the fear some people have about cooking fish. She recommends removing the fish from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking, rubbing it lightly with oil, and making sure the nonstick pan is well oiled and hot.
I can imagine this salsa spooned over freshly caught fish, grilled outdoors and then eaten on a patio overlooking the sea, but it also brought a smile to my face using store-bought fillets, seared on my apartment stove and served at my dining table. That's the beauty of good food.
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Seared Cod With Caper-Olive Salsa
Chopped olives and capers come together with fresh herbs to create a big-flavored, briny salsa that would be great spooned atop just about any grilled, pan-fried or baked fish. We tried it with easy-to-cook and source cod fillets for a 20-minute supper. Just add a green salad for a complete meal.
Storage Notes: Refrigerate the fish for up to 2 days; the salsa for up to 3 days.
FOR THE SALSA
1/2 cup green olives, pitted and finely chopped
1/4 cup capers, drained and roughly chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional), Calabrian preferred
Freshly cracked peppercorns
FOR THE FISH
Four (1 1/2-inch-thick) skinless cod fillets (6 ounces each)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Make the salsa: In a medium bowl, mix together the olives, capers, olive oil, dill, parsley, lemon juice and crushed red pepper flakes, if using, until combined. Taste, and season with salt and pepper, as desired.
Make the fish: Rub the fillets with oil and lightly sprinkle them with pepper. In a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Transfer the cod to the pan and cook for about 2 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed. Flip the cod, sprinkle with the lemon juice and add more oil, if needed, and cook for another 2 minutes or until the cod is tender, opaque throughout and starting to flake. The fillets may need more or less cooking time, depending on thickness.
Transfer the cod to plates and spoon the salsa over.
NOTE: For best results, remove the cod from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before searing it.
Nutrition information per serving (1 fillet and 3 tablespoons salsa) | Calories: 333; Total Fat: 22 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 73 mg; Sodium: 588 mg; Carbohydrates: 3 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 0 g; Protein: 31 g
This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian's or nutritionist's advice.
Adapted from "Mediterranean" by Susie Theodorou (Kyle Books, 2022).