Dinner fatigue plagues even the cook who enjoys the process. Part of the solution lies in having things on hand to cook. Plus, a supply of simple recipes that deliver big with minimal effort.
Our deep-freezer always holds a reserve of frozen fish for those challenging dinner nights. One of the most versatile offerings includes the Wild Alaskan Pacific cod delivered direct from Sitka Salmon Shares. Other excellent sources of properly frozen, sustainably sourced fish fillets, include Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.
Whipping together an interesting sauce greatly increases the odds that I will be motivated to cook this convenient, lean protein. Canned tomatoes transform into many things, among them a smoky tomato sauce seasoned with Spanish pimenton — aka smoked paprika. Quickly saute finely chopped onions and garlic before adding canned tomato puree and the seasonings. In less than 10 minutes, you’ll have an intriguing sauce for fish, poultry, grilled eggplant and more.
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I stock the dulce (sweet) paprika for regular use in soups, stews, barbecue sauces and rubs. The picante (hot) smoked paprika packs a punch, add it sparingly. Look for smoked paprika in the spice aisle of large supermarkets or online from www.thespicehouse.com or www.tienda.com.
When my thinking cap is on straight, I plan ahead and set the packaged frozen fish on a plate to gently thaw all day (or overnight) in the refrigerator. Then, when dinner rolls around, it’s still very cold. In a pinch, the fish can be put in a sealed bag and set in a bowl of lukewarm water to speed up the thawing. Season the fish with salt, pepper and smoked paprika, then let it come to room temperature while pulling the rest of the dinner together.
Start the fish cooking on a hot griddle or skillet for a golden crust. Finish the fish with a brief stint in a hot oven. Or, cook the fish in a single, uncrowded layer in an air-fryer using the timing suggested by the manufacturer’s directions. Make extra fish to save for use in the scrambled egg recipe that follows or to tuck into a brioche bun with a smear of mayonnaise for a warm sandwich.
At serving time, spoon the sauce onto serving plates and top with a piece of hot fish. Accompany the fish with a microwave-heated rice pouch and a green salad dressed with fresh lemon juice and Spanish olive oil.
High heat roasted cod tastes fantastic gently scrambled into eggs for a casual supper or brunch dish. Pass warmed smoked tomato sauce or serve topped with salsa.
Roasted Cod with Smoked Tomato Sauce
Makes 2 servings
Note: Other fish options include wild caught Alaskan haddock (scrod), pollock, swordfish and tilapia. Look for boneless skinless filets at least 3/4 inch thick.
2 or 3 pieces (1 to 1/4 pounds total) wild-caught Alaskan cod fillets, thawed
Salt, freshly ground black pepper
Smoked sweet paprika
6 to 8 small sweet mini red peppers
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots or 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 (15-ounce) can tomato puree, unseasoned tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
1. Pat fish dry and season on all sides with salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Refrigerate up to several hours.
2. Heat oven to 425 degrees on convection or 450 degrees on conventional setting. Put the peppers onto a small baking pan and coat lightly with oil and a sprinkling of salt. Roast, turning peppers often, until golden on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven.
3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium-size skillet over medium. Add shallots and cook until golden, about 6 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute. Stir in tomato puree (use a splatter guard if you have one) and 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika. Simmer to thicken the sauce slightly. About 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the remaining olive oil.
4. Heat a heavy, well-seasoned or nonstick griddle (suitable for the oven) over medium heat. When a drop of water sizzles on contact, add remaining 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add fish and cook over medium, without turning, until fish release from pan and is golden, about 4 minutes.
5. Immediately slide the griddle with the fish into the hot oven. Cook, without turning, until top is golden and fish nearly flakes when the tip of a knife is inserted in the thickest portion, about 4 to 6 minutes.
6. Spoon some sauce onto each serving plate. Carefully set a piece of fish on top. Add a roasted pepper or two. Garnish with the parsley and serve.
Scrambled Eggs with Roasted Cod
Makes 2 servings
Note: You can use best-quality canned salmon here in place of the cod.
1 to 1 1/2 cups large flakes of cooked cod, see recipe
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons heavy cream or half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon each: salt, freshly ground pepper, smoked sweet paprika
Expeller pressed canola oil or olive oil
Chopped chives and chopped basil leaves for serving
Smoked tomato sauce or tomato salsa, warmed, for serving
1. Set fish near heat source. Beat eggs with a fork in small bowl until mixed. Stir in cream, 1 tablespoon water, the salt, pepper and paprika.
2. Heat a medium-size, 9- or 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium until a drop of water sizzles on contact. Add a thin film of oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add eggs and cook, using a heatproof spatula to lift cooked edges of egg up and allowing the liquid eggs to run underneath forming large soft curds, about 3 minutes. Gently fold in cod flakes. Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with chives and basil. Pass sauce or salsa.
(JeanMarie Brownson is a James Beard Award-winning author and the recipient of the IACP Cookbook Award for her latest cookbook, “Dinner at Home.” JeanMarie, a chef and authority on home cooking, Mexican cooking and specialty food, is one of the founding partners of Frontera Foods. She co-authored three cookbooks with chef Rick Bayless, including “Mexico: One Plate at a Time.” JeanMarie has enjoyed developing recipes and writing about food, travel and dining for more than four decades.)