Simple Art of Cooking: Now’s the Time for Easy, Local Fish Dishes

delicious monkfish
Delicious monkfish. Photo credit: iStock/Thinkstock

Our local fish is like manna from the heavens. Now is the perfect time to make use of seasonal ingredients, including tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and fresh herbs, when preparing fish. The following recipes share a common theme in that each features a sauce that can be prepared ahead, even up to overnight. When you’re ready to serve the meal, the fish cooks briefly in the sauce. I can almost hear you saying, “This is my kind of dish.”

Take advantage of seasonal tomatoes and fresh tarragon from your herb garden for this simply delectable do-ahead recipe.

Yield: 6 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 large shallots, finely chopped
2 1/2 cups peeled, seeded and diced tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon capers in brine, rinsed
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
1 tablespoon chopped
fresh tarragon leaves
1 1/2 pounds monkfish fillets, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

1. Place oil and butter in a sturdy skillet over medium heat and, when butter foam subsides, add the shallots. Sauté for a minute or two until tender. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and wine, and bring mixture to the edge of a boil. Adjust heat to a simmer and cook for 5 to 7 minutes until wine evaporates by half. Add capers, parsley and tarragon and stir to mix. Taste to adjust seasoning, if necessary. The sauce can be prepared several hours ahead or refrigerated overnight. Bring sauce to room temperature if refrigerated and simmer when ready to cook the fish.

2. Add the fish to the sauce in the pan, spooning the sauce over to coat and simmer for 7 to 8 minutes until the fish is springy to the touch. Serve on warm plates with sauce spooned over.

Reprinted from Silvia Lehrer’s Savoring the Hamptons: Discovering the Food and Wine of Long Island’s East End.

The sweetness of the accompanying local vegetables takes our local striped bass to another level in this recipe, which was inspired by the cuisine of Portugal.

Serves 4

1 1/4 pound center cut, skinless striped bass fillet
All purpose flour for dusting
Kosher salt and paprika
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 medium-large onions, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, finely diced
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 large bay leaves
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup dry white wine
2 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and finely diced
2 to 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley

1. Cut the fish into 2-inch pieces and season the flour with salt and paprika. Dredge each piece of fish in the flour, shaking off excess. Heat two tablespoons oil in a sturdy 12-inch skillet and sear the fish fillets about 2 to 3 minutes (do not crowd pan) on each side. Transfer to a dish in a single layer and set aside. Can be prepared several hours ahead.

2. Place the diced onion in the same skillet the fish seared in and sauté onion in the pan drippings about 3 to 4 minutes until onion is translucent, then add chopped garlic, and sauté another minute or so. Add diced pepper, cilantro, bay leaves and salt and pepper to taste, stirring occasionally for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the wine, bring to edge of boil, and with cover ajar, cook at a brisk simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove bay leaves and discard. Sauce may be prepared several hours ahead set aside.

3. When ready to serve, place sauce over low heat and add the fish. Cover and warm over low heat about 8 to 10 minutes. Taste to adjust seasoning if necessary and serve with chopped parsley. Mashed potatoes make a perfect accompaniment.

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