Authentic Italian cooking is not just pasta as many people think here in the States. Portion sizes are much smaller, and pasta is generally served as a first course, separate from the main entree. Family meals are important events and diners are encouraged to savor their food. Vegetables and fruits are prepared to enhance and accompany the flavors of the main course. Vegetables, such as, eggplant, asparagus, artichokes, peppers, fennel, spinach, beans, and escarole are most commonly used. Italian cuisine places emphasis on the quality and freshness of ingredients and most Italian cuisine originates from frugality and poverty. Locally grown and regional products are the basis for meals.
The dish featured here, will demonstrate how vegetables flavor and support the main dish protein. This dish features fennel, which is a vegetable that is not well know, but is showing up more and more in food magazines and cooking shows. Fennel is a bulbous vegetable with a tall, wispy, frond top that looks rather like dill. The fronds can be used in salads or to dress a serving plate, but the main attraction of fennel is the bulb itself. It’s very firm and crunchy, and it tastes a bit like licorice and anise. It has a fresh, bright taste and is excellent for salads or slaws. It can also be grilled or braised until tender and it becomes sweet, mild and delicious.
Fish Braised With Fennel, Artichokes and Lemons
In this recipe you can use any firm white fish fillets that are found in your region, such as, halibut, cod, grouper or bass. I also prefer frozen artichoke hearts to bottled types because I think the frozen taste much fresher. This is a typical Italian preparation for fish fillets and includes many mediterranean flavors. Give it a try for your next meal and let me know how you like it.
You will need:
- 2 lemons
- 1 – 9oz. package frozen artichokes, defrosted and cut in half
- 1/2 large onion, halved crosswise and thinly sliced (about 1 cup
- 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, halved crosswise, core removed and cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
- Salt, freshly ground pepper, flour for dredging
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 fillets (each about 6 ounces and 1 inch thick), skinned
- Fennel fronds
Squeeze juice from 1 lemon; cut the remaining lemon into very thin slices.
Put onion, fennel, artichokes, oregano, lemon juice and lemon slices, 3/4 teaspoons salt, 1/4 cup water, and 2 tablespoons olive oil into a large saute pan or deep pot. Cover pan.
Bring to a low boil. Reduce heat, and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until artichokes are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove to a bowl. Set aside.
In same pan season both sides of fish with salt, pepper and a light coating of flour.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat until very hot but not smoking. Add fillets. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook fillets, without moving them, until bottoms are golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully flip; cook until fish is opaque and flakes easily, 2 to 3 minutes more.
Return artichoke mixture to pan and warm a minute or two. Spoon 1/2 cup artichoke mixture over each fillet. Garnish with fennel fronds.