I've always been in favor of simplicity. To me, cozy nights in, snuggled on the couch with a favorite movie far outweigh a fancy night out on the town. I will always choose a crinkled linen top and jeans over the latest designer trend. I wrap presents with brown paper and kitchen twine, not because it's the "cool" thing to do, but because I find that the gift on the inside is more important than the part that will be ripped to shreds. Such is my philosophy with food: simple cooking is better cooking.
To me, an ingredient's integrity lies in its natural form. A carrot is best as a carrot. The less we fuss with that carrot, and the more we allow it to shine as itself, the more we will enjoy it.
I didn't always feel this way. There was a time when I thought the more complex the recipe, the better it would taste. In an attempt to impress, I would often overcomplicate a dish with redundant ingredients, adding a little of this and a little of that, until the individual components of the dish were lost in a labyrinth of flavor. It wasn't until I starting really exploring my cooking style in culinary school -- the ingredients and cuisines that inspired me -- that I began to realize that the way I approach most of my life is also how I should approach food. That realization marked a turning point in how I cook.
I'm here today to share a simple, yet flavorful take on poached fish -- buttery cod fillets gently cooked in a light tomato broth, flavored with herbs, shishito peppers, garlic, spring onion, capers, and red pepper flakes for a bit of heat. It's beautiful, summery, and deliciously uncomplicated.
cod poached in tomato broth
This dish is deliciously comforting, but also light and summery. The tomato broth is flavored by fruity olive oil, herbs, and salty capers and serves as the poaching liquid for the cod, which is gently cooked until buttery soft. Everything is served together in one bowl, along with some oil-cured olives for a briny pop of flavor and some crusty bread to soak up all of the delicious broth.
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for serving
3 spring onions, white parts only thinly sliced into rings
8 shishito peppers
2 garlic cloves, crushed + peeled
2 teaspoons salt-packed capers, rinsed
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh parsley, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 (14.5 ounce) can high quality whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
salt + freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 (6-ounce) skinless cod fillets
freshly squeezed lemon juice, for serving
oil-cured olives, pitted, for serving
crusty bread, for serving
In a medium-sized dutch oven or stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, whole peppers, and garlic cloves and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and starting to brown and the peppers are slightly blistered, about 5 - 7 minutes. Add the capers, red pepper flakes, bay leaf and parsley sprigs and sauté for 1 - 2 minutes more. Add the white wine vinegar and cook until almost completely reduced, about 2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, and their juice and 2 ½ cups of water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until the broth is slightly reduced and flavorful. Season generously with salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.
Reduce the heat to low and add the cod fillets in one even layer in the pan. The broth should just cover each fillet. If it doesn't, cover the pan with a lid. Poach the cod, at a very slow simmer until opaque and cooked through, about 6 - 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish. Make sure to watch the pot very carefully during this stage -- bubbles should be barely breaking the surface. If the liquid gets too hot, the fish will turn rubbery and tough, rather than buttery and soft. Once cooked, remove the fillets and place each in its own shallow serving bowl. Divide the peppers between the bowls and pour over the broth, discarding the bay leaf and parsley. Garnish each bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Scatter the pitted olives and fresh parsley over top. Serve immediately with crusty bread for soaking up the delicious broth.