Eight years ago, I blogged a dish I perhaps inadvisedly named, “Saving Your Sole in a Fish Bowl.” I guess I couldn’t help myself. Recently, looking over some of my earlier fish and seafood recipes, it was obvious this recipe –while tasty and a little different –needed updating. Not only did the recipe itself scream for a fresh edit, the photographs were sad. So sad. They didn’t even look like the delicious meal I had made and, well, they were pretty embarrassing. If I were going to use this for the last FRIDAY FISH of the year (Good Friday), I’d better get to work. More about Good Friday?
I printed the recipe out and read over and over it, still loving the concept, but unable to come up with a better title. I finally settled on, “Sole Arrabbiata with Vegetables,” not because the sauce is a quintessential arrabbiata (it’s not), but because it sounded like the dish I made. Reading it, you’d be close to having an idea of what to expect (fish in a spicy tomato sauce)–and that’s important to me. So, all real and true Italian cooks, I’m sorry–or, in Italian:
THIS RECIPE IS VERSATILE.…Shopping for the ingredients, I had time to think over the list of vegetables and will tell you that, as with many of my recipes, you can use some of the ingredients you have on hand or those you just love. If you’ve green beans and no zucchini, you use those, adding them at the end as I did the zucchini so they maintain a bit of their crunch in all the softness of the sauce and fish. No sweet bell peppers? Leave them out or toss in a handful of corn. I do think the onions and tomatoes can’t easily be replaced and I love the diced lemons in the sauce–other than that, make the changes that make sense to you and your kitchen. Your basil isn’t growing yet? Use dried Herbes de Provence or a combination of dried basil and dried thyme. Of course you can sub water or broth for the wine if you like. No sole at the store? Buy another white fish, but add a couple of minutes to the cooking time for a thicker fillet like tilapia, pollack, cod, etc. Read up on types of fish.
THAW YOUR FISH IN A FLASH: Have cryovac-packaged frozen fish? If you’ve forgotten to place them in the fridge overnight to thaw (and who didn’t), put the plastic packets of frozen fish in a pan of cold water and they’ll defrost in no time. You’ll need to replace the cold water every 10 minutes or so. Read directions on package for exact times, but mine are often thawed in 30 minutes. If your frozen fish isn’t in a cryovac package, you can place them in a gallon plastic bag, seal really well, and place that bag in a pan of cold water. Read up on thawing fish quickly. However you thaw your fish, try this:
sole arrabbiata with vegetables
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 medium yellow Spanish onion, diced
- 2 small carrots and diced (don’t bother to peel)
- 3 stalks celery with leaves diced
- 1 Red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, diced
- ½ cup julienne basil divided, or sub 1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence*
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper rubbed finely between your fingers
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 cup water or more if needed
- 28- ounce can chopped tomatoes
- 2 lemons: 1 cut into ½-inch dice including peel for the sauce and the other cut into wedges for serving
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2 small zucchini diced
- 1 ¼ pound sole fillets patted dry and lightly sprinkled with salt and pepper
- ¼ cup sliced kalamata olives garnish
Cooked pasta, brown rice, mashed potatoes, or sautéed spinach for serving–if desired.
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees and place the plates or shallow bowls on the center rack to warm. If serving on pasta, rice, or potatoes, begin with that as the fish dish doesn’t take long.
- Heat the oil in a deep skillet, Dutch oven, or sauté pan over medium flame and add the garlic, onion, carrots, celery, sweet pepper, half of the basil, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Cook covered, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until softened.
- Pour in the wine and let cook down for 2-3 minutes until wine is reduced by half.
- Pour in the water and the tomatoes; stir in the diced lemon. Drizzle with honey. Taste and adjust seasonings. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes until a bit thickened, adding a little more water if it’s too thick. Stir in zucchini and cook another minute or so.
- Gently lay seasoned sole fillets over the top of the sauce and cover. Let cook 3-5 minutes or until fish is just firm and opaque.
- Spoon ½ cup or so of pasta, rice, or mashed potatoes onto each warm plate or shallow bowl to form a bed. Add the fish—2 fillets or so—and spoon a good half-cup or more of sauce over each. (Pour the rest of the sauce into a bowl or sauce boat and place on the table.) Garnish with sliced kalamata olives, reserved fresh basil, and the lemon wedges. Grate a little more black pepper over each serving. Serve hot.
WINE: Skip the go-to “white wine with fish” and pair this with a medium-bodied red wine that can stand up to the heat in this dish. I call this pairing the prep instead of the protein. A white will do nothing here and a bigger red with fight with the crushed red pepper in the sauce. Think Syrah, Red Rhone, a Chianti, a Malbec, or even a Zinfandel.
DESSERT: Despite being white fish, this dish is filling, especially if you’ve served it on rice or pasta or potatoes. Something sweet and light will be the perfect answer for dessert–think lemon sorbet or even just a small glass of Limoncello. Nothing yet? Coffee and Italian cookies–try pizzelle or biscotti.
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Looking for an Easter meal?
Make my Italian-Style Braised Lamb . It’s lovely for a buffet; you can ask guests to bring mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, a crispy salad, soft rolls with lots of butter, Easter bread, and carrot cake. That’s what I’m doing. Of course Dave is smoking a couple of ducks to go along with it all!
Dave and I can’t stop thinking of Paris and the lovely lady, Notre Dame. Prayers for rebuilding and for the loving learning and cooperation that must first occur.
Happy spring, my friends. Cook some fish soon.