Is this really Sicilian? Perhaps, if The Goddess lived in a Sicilian village she would be making this dish, with many of the flavors—tomato, capers, olives, garlic, orange (there it is again!) and some fennel—that are so prevalent in Sicilian cooking. This turned out to be delicious, so she will be making this frequently. I think the idea for this came to The Goddess when she sneaked out and was wandering around the Interwebs. She ran across this fantastic blog, The View from Great Island, by Sue Moran. It’s great and you should go right over there and take a look. What caught her eye was Roasted Chicken with Allspice and Citrus; Sue oven-roasted sliced citrus with seasoned chicken, which just looked terrific and which will appear on our table in the next little while. It appears Sue and I share a love of citrus…and in this case, allspice, too. When roasted, the citrus slices get soft, but with a caramelized, chewy rind that’s just a textural wonder. You know The Goddess has an ongoing love affair with anything citrus, but oranges are particularly near and dear to her. Yes, The Spicy Honey is aware of this tawdry little affair and has just decided to live with her follies…we sort of have a threesome going here (did she say “threesome”? Shock and horror!!!), as he loves oranges, too! The thing is, citrus adds that spark that helps balance flavors…oranges add that, but a bit of sweetness, too.
That same day, The Goddess meandered into a great little Persian restaurant, Torange. If you live in the Miami area, wander over and have lunch or dinner with them. On Thursday they have a buffet lunch, with three different rice options, as well as some other wonderful, savory treats. Anyway, other than having a terrific lunch, they were nice enough to sell me some sumac and barberries, which I use frequently, but didn’t bring with me. It’s that sweet-sour flavor profile that I adore and thought it would work well with fish.
So, it was Ash Wednesday, and for many that is a meatless or “fish” day. Being the heretic that I am, I don’t follow religious rituals much these days, but having grown up with those rituals…well, let’s just say that old habits die hard! Besides, we love fish. So I decided to use some of the flavors from Persia (allspice, sumac and mint) and used the idea of roasted oranges from Sue. Since I didn’t want to use the oven, I decided to see how pan-roasting or frying, would work. I’m happy to report that everything worked well enough that I would absolutely use this method again!
I’m having a great time exploring the different fish available in South Florida. For this dish I used a fish called “mutton snapper”. It’s not a very attractive name, but the flavor was great. It has a mild, slightly sweet flavor, with a firmer texture than cod, but not as firm as swordfish. Cod, tilapia, catfish, red snapper…any whitefish or shrimp, would be equally delicious. If you don’t have sumac (you can, and should, purchase it at The Spice Mill), use some extra lemon juice to squeeze over the fish, but don’t leave the allspice out. It’s just hinted at, a flavor nuance, really. But, the dish would suffer, from a flavor-standpoint, if you omit it. And you know, The Goddess wants to encourage you to broaden your flavor horizons!Of course, you will need to adjust the cooking times according to the thickness of your choice of fish. The conventional rule of thumb is 10 minutes per 1 inch of thickness, which is fine if you’re serving the fish as is, right out of the frying pan. But, if you’re simmering this in a sauce, 8 minutes should be enough; you can see the pink in the center; this is right after flipping the fillet over, but it isn’t done enough yet. But, slightly under-cooking fish, is better than over-cooking it!
Sicilian Fish with Caramelized Oranges, Tomato, Capers, and Olives
- 1 pound fish fillet (snapper, corvina, tilapia or cod), skin removed
- 1-2 large pinches of ground allspice
- 2-3 pinches sumac (optional)
- Good sprinkle of garlic granules (or Garlic Explosion)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 clove garlic, very finely minced
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup tomato purée
- 1/2 cup pitted green and/or black olives (supermarket olive bar is great
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
- 1-2 tablespoons oil
- 1 or 2 navel oranges, sliced into thin slices (1/8-1/4-inch thick)
- Finely minced fresh mint or large pinch of dried mint, crushed to a powder
Season the fish fillet with the allspice, sumac, if using, garlic granules, and salt and pepper. Set aside.
Heat a non-stick skillet; add 1 tablespoons oil. Add the orange slices, lower the heat and continue to cook until the edges begin to brown. Carefully turn and sauté on the second side. You’ll want the slices to caramelize slightly and the rinds to soften; it will take about 5-7 minutes total. Remove the slices to a plate; set aside. Do not clean the skillet.
In a same skillet you cooked the oranges in, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat and add the onion; sauté until the onion becomes translucent, stirring frequently. Stir in the garlic; sauté for 30 seconds. Deglaze the pan with wine; simmer until reduce by about 1/3. Add the tomato purée and simmer for about 1-2 minutes, or until it thickens slightly. Stir in the olives, capers and the honey; simmer for 30 seconds; taste and correct the seasoning.
In a separate skillet, while the sauce cooks, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add the fish, skin side down and sauté for 2-3 minutes or until nicely browned. Turn the fish, adding more oil if needed, and cooked until browned the fish is just cooked through, about 3-5 minutes. The cooking time will depend on how thick the fish fillet is—rule of thumb is 10 minutes per 1 inch of thickness.
Return the sauce to a simmer, and serve the fish, napped in the sauce, with 3-6 caramelized orange slices on the side; sprinkle with crushed, dried mint or finely julienned fresh mint. Serve with steamed sugar snap peas, green beans and/or carrots and basmati or other rice or roasted potatoes.
NOTE: This fish fillet was quite thick, so it too longer to cook, about 10 minutes total. I think the “rule of thumb” is a bit on the high side. I think it should be more like 8 minutes per inch, because the fish will continue to cook and in this case, will be enrobed in a hot sauce. You could add Meyer lemon slices with the oranges, when sautéing.
Sicilian Fish with Caramelized Oranges, Tomato, Capers, and Olives Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2016. All rights reserved.
By all means, use the same skillet that you pan-roasted the orange slices in, when you make the tomato sauce. Why would you wash that down the drain? This sauce will translate well as a sauce for shrimp or chicken and would be great tossed with pasta. Next time, I will make a double or triple batch of the oranges. They will store well in the fridge, can be added to salads, as well as main courses. You could also treat yourself to a few slices on good toasted bread with a slice of cheese…I had that for breakfast…yeah, mmmmmm, it’s a good combo! This is a delicious Lenten dish, but one that can be equally wonderful for dinner parties. I served this with roasted potatoes (The Spicy Honey had rice), braised fennel bulb with orange zest and fried green tomatoes.