Baking a whole fish is an easy way to enjoy a healthy, fat-free and delicious main dish. As much as I am a proponent of olive oil in almost all my recipes (even in baking at times), I do not use any oil to bake this fish. Rather, the flavors of the vegetables, olives, herbs and garlic mix in the covered fish pan and infuse the flesh.
Here, I used a red snapper, but feel free to use other similar fish that you might find at your local fish market. This is a great dish to serve with some roasted sweet potatoes.
The baking time depends on the weight of the fish. For a 2.5 lbs. fish, I baked it for about 45-50 minutes at a high temperature (425F). You can prepare the recipe all the way to the point where you would normally put it in the oven but refrigerate it instead for a few hours until you are ready to bake it.
2.5 lb red snapper
1 fennel bulb
1 large red onion
1.5 lb. tomatoes
1 cup black olives, pitted
1 cup water
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
4 large garlic cloves, peeled, halved, center removed
6 rosemary springs
1 lemon, sliced, for presentation.
Preheat oven to 425 F.
Place the water and vinegar at the bottom of the fish baking pan.
Wash and trim the fennel. Slice it lengthwise. Peel and slice the onion.
Layer the onion slices and fennel slices on the rack sitting above the vinegar water. Add 3 springs of rosemary.
Cut the tomatoes in half or quarters depending on size. Reserve.
Place black olives, the leaves of 3 rosemary springs and garlic in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
Process until the mixture is smooth to obtain a tapenade.
After scaling the fish and cleaning the inside, make three deep incisions on either side, all the way down to the bone.
Fill the inside and each incision with the tapenade.
Place the fish on top of the bed of vegetables. Add a little sea salt and ground pepper.
Add the tomatoes and grind a little sea salt on the tomatoes. Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes.
To serve, lift the rack out of the fish pan and transfer the fish onto a presentation platter. Surround it by the vegetables, decorate with a few slices of lemon and some of the fennel leaves. Enjoy!