Italians eat a great deal of fish and seafood, in fact, one of their large holidays is called “the 7 fishes” and is celebrated on Christmas eve.

Bronzino or Mediterranean seabass is a fish typically found in the Italian cuisine.  Bronzino is the Italian name in most areas of Italy while branzino is the name for the same fish in Northern Italy. It’s often covered in coarse salt and baked whole. The salt forms a shell that is cracked open and the fish is filleted at the table.

Salt Crusted Fish

Other favorites for Italians include tuna fish, which is often added to red sauce and served over spaghetti. Calamari is squid and is served battered and fried as an appetizer or stuffed and cooked in tomato sauce. Smelts are a small fish and they get breaded and fried.

Roasting a whole fish is a procedure more than a recipe, and will work well with any sort of fish that takes well to being baked. In the Italian seas the fish most prized for roasting are branzini, orate, saraghi, spigole, dentice, and cefali (as these fish are called in Italy) but according to Alan Davidson’s Mediterranean Seafood (Penguin Books), these fish are also known in most other areas of the world as sea bass, gilthead bream, dentex, two-banded bream, and gray mullet. 

By now we all know that eating fish is good for you. The American Heart Association recommends two servings of fish per week. Fish helps prevent heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. Fish are an excellent source of protein and especially omega-3 fatty acids.

Why then do most of us only eat fish when we dine out? It’s reported that people eat fish out twice as much as they do at home. That’s a big number! For some reason, people are intimidated by cooking fish at home, but they shouldn’t be? It’s fairly straightforward and baking is the easiest.

Baking Fish

Lean  fish, such as cod or haddock, do not contain as much fat within the flesh as oily types of fish, such as salmon or herring. For this reason it is advisable to protect the flesh of lean fish so that it does not dry out during the cooking process.

To stop lean fish from drying out, cook it by adding some liquid to the baking dish or in a sauce.

The liquid could be water, wine, butter, milk, lemon, lime or orange juice, oil or a little stock. Other ingredients can also be added to give extra flavor and aroma, such as herbs, tomatoes, onions or chopped vegetables. Alternatively, the flesh can be protected by either stuffing the fish or by coating it in flour or breadcrumbs before baking.

Baking in parchment paper is another way to keep the fish moist while baking.

Here are some of the  foolproof methods to cook your fish at home. You can select one of the methods below that appeals to you and cook accordingly.

Primavera Fish Fillets                                                                                                                                                                  

4 servings (4 ounces fish with 1-1/4 cups vegetables)

Ingredients:

  • 4 (4- 5 ounce) fresh or frozen fish fillets, defrosted
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh broccoli florets
  • 1 cup fresh cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup julienne-cut carrots
  • 1 cup sliced fresh white mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup diagonally sliced celery
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place 1 tablespoon olive oil into a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish and brush fillets with the oil; turn to coat. Arrange fillets in a single layer in the baking dish. Sprinkle with lemon juice and pepper. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven.

While fish is baking, heat remaining oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until lightly browned. Add broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, mushrooms, celery, salt, and basil. Cook, stirring, for 5 to 6 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender.

Spoon hot vegetables into the center of the baking dish, moving fish to the sides of the dish. Sprinkle vegetables and fish with Parmesan cheese.

Return the dish to the oven and bake an additional 5 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Serve with a small whole wheat roll.

Roasted Cod with Potatoes

Serve with Tomato Salad, recipe below.                                                                      

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds red new potatoes, scrubbed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 4 cloves garlic, halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 4 cod fillets, (6 to 8 ounces each)
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. On a medium rimmed baking sheet, toss potatoes with garlic, rosemary, and 1 tablespoon oil; season generously with salt and pepper. Arrange potatoes in a single layer. Bake, tossing potatoes once, until beginning to brown, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, rub fillets with remaining teaspoon oil; season all sides with salt and pepper.

Place fillets flat on top of potatoes. Return to oven, and roast until fish is cooked through and potatoes are brown and tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer fish to serving dishes. Garnish with lemon wedges.

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds heirloom (if they are available in your area) or regular beefsteak tomatoes, cored—large ones sliced 1/4 inch thick, small ones halved
  • Salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Sliced black olives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Arrange the tomatoes on a platter. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with oil. Scatter the olives, basil and cheese on top.

Oven-Baked Fish Sticks

Children in your family will love this dish.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon seafood seasoning (such as Old Bay)
  • kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup egg substitute
  • 1 1/4 pounds skinless fillets, cut into 1-inch strips
  • Coleslaw, recipe follows

Directions:

Heat oven to 450° F. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the panko crumbs with the oil, seafood seasoning, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toast in oven, tossing once, until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a shallow bowl and wipe off the baking sheet and cover with parchment paper.

Pour the egg substitute in a second shallow bowl. Dip the fish in the beaten egg (shaking off any excess), then coat in the panko crumbs (pressing gently to help them adhere). Place in a single layer on the parchment-lined large baking sheet.

Bake the fish sticks until crisp and opaque throughout, 12 to 15 minutes. 

Creamy Buttermilk Coleslaw

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound (6 cups) cabbage, shredded fine or a 16 oz bag shredded coleslaw mix
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium carrot, shredded
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons low fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons light sour cream
  • 1-2 scallions, minced (about 2 tablespoons )
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons agave syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed

Directions:

 In a large bowl mix buttermilk, mayonnaise, sour cream, scallions, parsley, vinegar, agave, mustard, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Add cabbage and shredded carrots. Toss salad. Chill in the refrigerator for about 30-minutes before serving. Will keep up to 3-days.

Parmesan Crusted Flounder with Lemon Caper Sauce                                                     

Ingredients:

  • Two 6 oz flounder fillets or other white fillets
  • 1/4 cup flour for dredging
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 pound cooked orzo pasta (whole wheat is good)

Parmesan Flour:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1-1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, grated

Sauce:

  • 1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons capers, drained
  • juice of 1/2 Lemon
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • pinch salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Place plain flour in a shallow pan.

Place egg wash in a shallow pan.

Mix flour and parmesan cheese in shallow pan.

Dredge fish in plain flour, shaking off excess flour.

Dip in egg wash and coat in parmesan flour mixture.

Place the fillets on a large, greased baking sheet. Bake the fillets until they are cooked through and the coating is golden, about 15 minutes.

In a small pan combine garlic, capers, lemon juice, wine, stock, and pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce by half. Remove from heat and add butter.

Plate fish over cooked orzo and spoon sauce over the fish.

Tip: Serve with oven roasted asparagus. The asparagus can be cooked on a second baking sheet along with the fish.

Lemon & Herb Fish Baked in Parchment                                                                                                                                

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced lemon zest
  • 4 scallions (both white and green parts)
  • 1 to 1-1/2 lb. fish fillet, in four equal portions
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons. softened butter

Directions:

Heat the oven to 450°F.

Mince the parsley, garlic, and lemon zest together. Set aside.

Cut the scallions into 2-in. lengths and slice them lengthwise. Divide the scallions among four sheets of parchment large enough to enclose fish and top each with a portion of fish. (See instructions below.)

Season the fish with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Top the fish with a portion of the herb mixture and 1 teaspoon of butter.

Seal the packages and bake on a sheet pan until brown and puffy, about 8 min.  Serve with rice and a vegetable or a Caesar Salad.

 How to Wrap Fish in Parchment:

You will need 16 inches of paper for each filet. Fold the paper in half and cut into a semi-circle. Open the semi-circle, and using the fold as your starting line layer ingredients.

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