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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Root Celery and Grapefruit Salad with Fennel and Avocado

A refreshing blend of root vegetables and tangy citrus. Colorful, crisp and appealing, this salad can be served as an appetizer, or at the end of a meal as a finishing note.

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This dish is prepared in the juices of the grapefruit and requires no additional seasoning, simply dressed with the fennel tips. It contains no fats, no salt and is naturally healthy.

20130331-154647.jpg Ingredients:
1 root celery
1 grapefruit
1/2 fennel bulb
1 avocado

Tools:
Mandolin
Serrated knife
Paring knife

20130331-171932.jpg Peel the root celery, making sure to remove all the ripples with a pairing knife until you obtain a smooth surface. Place it firmly on the prongs of the mandolin holder. Fit the mandolin with the smooth blade on the narrower setting.

20130331-172111.jpg Slice the root celery in paper thin disks.

20130331-172210.jpg Prepare the half fennel bulb the same way and set aside.

20130331-172307.jpg Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit and scrape the whole half of the avocado out of its skin with a spoon. Slice each half thinly.

20130331-172816.jpg You can start to assemble the plates by displaying the celeriac slices in an overlapping fashion. Add a few slices of the avocado.

20130331-172911.jpg Prepare the grapefruit by cutting the outer skin around it with a serrated knife all the way down to the flesh. Cut all the way around until the grapefruit flesh is entirely exposed.

20130403-184614.jpg Place the knife by the inner membrane to slice down to the core of the grapefruit.

20130403-184735.jpg Continue cutting on either side of the membranes to free the individual sections of the grapefruit.

20130403-184830.jpgPlace a few slices on top of the celeriac on each plate.

20130403-184850.jpg Arrange a few ribbons of the fennel bulb on top.

20130403-184915.jpg Add a few tips from the fennel branches and squeeze the juices that remain in the inner part of the grapefruit over the celeriac.

20130403-185102.jpg That’s it! Enjoy!

Glazed Carrots and Fennel

Glazed carrots paired with fennel are a beautiful accompaniment to grilled or sautéed fish.

Successful glazing resides in taking time. The process simply cannot be rushed.

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Glazed carrots and fennel with garlic and thyme.

Preparation is fairly simple. Clean and cut the fresh ingredients, assemble, and simmer. The simmering process is slow, but also low maintenance. Just check periodically that the vegetables are cooking evenly and that the liquid is not evaporating too quickly.

Plan to start preparation for this dish about two hours ahead. Simmering can easily take an hour to an hour and a half.

The nature of glazed vegetables is to be very sweet, typically because of added sugar. As we attempt to keep a healthy approach to our cooking, I have increasingly been using agave syrup instead of sugar. Agave syrup is a natural sweetener that can be used by health conscious cooks to replace the high-glycemic and refined sugars we want to avoid.

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Ingredients:

8 medium to large carrots

1 fennel bulb

6 garlic cloves

1 cup water

3/4 cup agave syrup

3 tablespoons olive oil

a few springs of thyme

The glazing process considerably shrinks the vegetables. Use a large pan, deep enough to accommodate all the raw vegetables. I like using a heavy cast iron pan for slow cooking, where the heat is evenly distributed and held throughout the cooking time.

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Garlic and thyme. A classic combination to deliver the fragrances of Provence. We did not grow thyme, as it grew wild, we used to pick it fresh from the grounds on our Sunday afternoon walks through the rocky and hilly countryside.

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Peel and cut the carrots into even sizes.

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Clean the fennel bulb. Cut in half and slice evenly.

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Moderately heat the olive oil in a heavy cast iron pan, with deep sides, and place the carrots and fennel in the pan.

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Peel the cloves of garlic, slice in half lengthwise, remove the inner green part.

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To remove the small thyme leaves, hold a spring by one end. With your other hand, slide the tips of your fingers along the stem to catch and detach the delicate leaves without crushing them.

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You’ll quickly accumulate the leaves, leaving the stems bare.

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Add the thyme leaves and halved garlic cloves to the vegetables.

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Add the agave and water, bring to a boil, and simmer… for about one to one and a half hour.

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By the time the liquids have been absorbed, the vegetables will have acquired a beautiful shine, with a tender texture, and a sweet taste. Enjoy!