Red Snapper with Fennel, Tomatoes and Tapenade

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.

20131116-141318.jpgHere, 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.

20131116-141417.jpgIngredients:

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.

20131116-141600.jpgPlace the water and vinegar at the bottom of the fish baking pan.

20131116-141651.jpgWash and trim the fennel.  Slice it lengthwise. Peel and slice the onion.

20131116-141736.jpgLayer the onion slices and fennel slices on the rack sitting above the vinegar water.  Add 3 springs of rosemary.

20131116-141843.jpgCut the tomatoes in half or quarters depending on size. Reserve.

20131116-141925.jpgPlace black olives, the leaves of 3 rosemary springs and garlic in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

20131116-142007.jpgProcess until the mixture is smooth to obtain a tapenade.

20131116-142059.jpgAfter scaling the fish and cleaning the inside, make three deep incisions on either side, all the way down to the bone.

20131116-142156.jpgFill the inside and each incision with the tapenade.

20131116-142243.jpgPlace the fish on top of the bed of vegetables.  Add a little sea salt and ground pepper.

20131116-142340.jpgAdd the tomatoes and grind a little sea salt on the tomatoes. Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes.

20131116-142441.jpgTo 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!

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Seared Tuna Niçoise

Salade Niçoise was our summer staple growing up in Provence. We picked fresh tomatoes and green beans from the garden every day, seasoned them with a garlic vinaigrette, and added the niçoise olives, tuna, anchovies and other classic ingredients to complete our lunch.

20130725-205406.jpgPersonally I like to sear fresh tuna steaks as much as possible, although a good quality canned tuna in olive oil makes a great alternative. Traditionally, we included hard boiled eggs for convenience of preparation ahead and have them on hand any time. If you have the luxury of cooking soft boiled eggs at the last minute, they add a delightful note of strong color, fine texture and delicate taste.

20130725-205510.jpgIngredients:
1 1/4 lb fresh tuna steak
3/4 lb French green beans
4 fresh farm eggs at room temperature
4 medium size red potatoes
4 vine ripe tomatoes
2 oz flat filets of anchovies
A bunch of fresh flat parsley
2 cloves garlic (or one large one)
2 dozen oil and herb cured black olives or niçoise olives
6 tsp Dijon mustard
6 tsp Balsamic vinegar
10-12 Tbsp Olive oil
2 Tbsp Grape seed oil
Freshly ground sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

20130726-054404.jpgSnap the ends of the green beans to pull the threads out if any.

20130726-054452.jpgPlunge them in salted boiling water.

20130726-054528.jpgBoil them till firm tender.

20130726-054608.jpgDrain them in a colander.

20130726-054649.jpgImmediately cool them in a bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking process and preserve their bright green color.

20130726-054738.jpgWash the potatoes. Cut in half and in thick slices.

20130726-054819.jpgThen, cube all the potatoes.

20130726-054900.jpgBoil the cubed potatoes in lightly salted water till firm tender, and leave in water off the stove to keep them warm.

20130726-055009.jpgChop the parsley, garlic and cut the anchovy fillets into small pieces.
Separately, cook the eggs the same way as for the Asparagus with Salmon Caviar and Black Olive Vinaigrette (see recipe for photos), by bringing a pot of salted water to a boil, adding the eggs, bringing back to a boil and cooking for 3 minutes on timer. Drain hot water from pot and rinse the eggs under cold running water till cool. Set aside.

20130726-055208.jpgPrepare garlic vinaigrette into three separate bowls. Place 2 tsp of Dijon mustard in each, add 1/3 of the chopped garlic in each, a little salt and pepper, 2 tsp of balsamic vinegar, mix well. Add 3-4 Tbsp of olive oil and whisk.

20130726-055253.jpgWash and quarter the tomatoes. Remove the hard core. Slice thinly and place in one of the bowls with the garlic vinaigrette. Toss, add parsley and set aside.

20130726-055332.jpgPlace the green beans in another bowl containing garlic vinaigrette, add chopped parsley, toss and set aside.
For the third salad bowl, drain the potatoes and place them in the last bowl, add anchovy pieces, chopped parsley, toss and set aside.

20130726-055412.jpgWhile I was finishing preparing the salads, my boyfriend offered timely collaboration to sear the tuna. He oiled the fresh tuna steak with grape seed oil and cracked some black pepper. The grape seed oil has a higher smoke point and is well suited for high temperature cooking and can be safely used for searing.

20130726-055455.jpgPlace a tablespoon of grape seed oil in a cast iron pan on high heat to get the pan very hot.

20130726-055546.jpgOnce the pan is hot, place the tuna steak on the bottom and do not move it.

20130726-055629.jpgCover with a splatter guard to prevent the oil from spreading around the cooking surface.

20130726-055714.jpgOnce the bottom of the tuna steak is brown, turn it over with a metal spatula.

20130726-055759.jpgContinue cooking the other side, without moving it, until it browns the same way. Again, cover with the splatter guard.

20130726-055841.jpgWhen both sides are seared, place on a cutting board and slice the tuna thinly.

20130726-055916.jpgStart to plate the salads, peel the soft boiled egg.

20130726-060025.jpgAdd a few slices of seared tuna, some olives, cut the egg in half… Enjoy!

Asparagus with Salmon Caviar and Black Olive Vinaigrette

An appetizing and colorful plate, amazingly simple to put together for a light lunch or an appetizer for a dinner.

20130621-210006.jpg A beautiful way to serve asparagus. In this version, I paired them with a hen egg, but you can certainly use quail eggs if available. The salmon roe is easy to handle for decoration and brings a burst of brilliant color that compliments the green asparagus, the black olives, and the white and yellow eggs.

20130621-214657.jpg Ingredients:
2 lb asparagus
8 black olives, preferably dry cured in oil and herbs.
1 – 1.5 oz salmon caviar
4 hen eggs (or a dozen quail eggs) at room temperature
1/4 cup grape seed oil
1/2 tsp white balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
A bunch of chives
Salt and pepper

20130621-214739.jpg Wash and trim the asparagus, removing the ‘woody’ ends.

20130621-214817.jpg Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil and throw in the asparagus. The salt content helps develop a beautiful green color. In addition, you might let the asparagus bathe in a bowl of ice water prior to placing them in the boiling pot, as going from the icy cold to the boiling hot temperatures will also help develop a more vibrant green color to the vegetables. Cook until tender.

20130621-214915.jpg When ready, immediately plunge them in an ice water bowl to stop the cooking process and so that they retain their beautiful green color. Drain once cool to the touch.

20130621-215006.jpg Meanwhile, bring a smaller saucepan of water to a boil and carefully place the room temperature eggs into the boiling water using a slotted spoon. Cook in rolling water for precisely 3 minutes.

20130621-215114.jpg Then place the eggs in ice water to stop the cooking process. Once cooled, gently break the shell to remove. This process needs to be tended carefully as the eggs are soft, not hard, and you want to be sure not to inadvertently break them open as the yolk should still be runny.

20130621-215310.jpg In a small bowl, prepare the black olive vinaigrette. Place the mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper in the bowl. Mix well.

20130621-215403.jpg Dilute the mustard by adding the vinegar and mixing thoroughly.

20130621-215452.jpg Add the grape seed oil and whisk together to fully homogenize the ingredients.

20130621-215556.jpg Pit and chop the black olives finely.

20130621-215637.jpg Incorporate into the vinaigrette.

20130621-215734.jpg Chop the chives, reserving the tapering tips for decoration.

20130621-215826.jpg Salmon caviar, or sometimes called salmon roe, is highly perishable and must be refrigerated until the time you are ready to serve the plates.

20130621-215927.jpg Prepare the plates by arranging the asparagus as a bed on the bottom. Drizzle with the black olive vinaigrette and sprinkle with chives. Place a small spoonful of salmon caviar to the side, carefully displaying some of the eggs artfully around. Set the soft boiled hen egg to the side.

20130621-220022.jpg Cut open the soft boiled egg to unveil a perfectly cooked white and runny yolk. Finish with the chives tips and serve at once. Enjoy!