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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Green Peppers and Summer Tomatoes Salad

In our bright and sunny Ardèche summer days, my grandfather would come back from ‘le potager’ (vegetable garden) with the deliciously ripe tomatoes and green peppers he had just picked.
When I received the beautiful long and light colored green peppers and varieties of tomatoes from the farm this week, they reminded me of those Ardèche days and my memory was instantly bringing their flavors back to my taste buds. This is one of the simplest and easiest salads to prepare and most delicious so long as you have fresh farm ingredients.

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Some days we would add a few filets of anchovies to complete the plate. With or without the anchovies, the salad is full of flavors, with the crunchy freshness from the green pepper and the juicy sunshine bursting out of the ripe tomatoes.

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Ingredients:
4 slicer tomatoes
12 Juliet tomatoes
2 cups Sun Gold tomatoes
4 green peppers
A few springs fresh rosemary
12 anchovy filets (optional)
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 Tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper

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Slice the tomatoes thickly and evenly to form a bed on each plate.

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Core the green peppers, rinse them under running water to remove seeds.

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With a long and thin slicing knife, cut the inner white membranes being sure the leave the outer skin intact.

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Thinly slice the green pepper to create rings showing their outer shapes.

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Start to display sliced tomatoes and green peppers on plates.

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Quarter the Juliet tomatoes. Remove the stems of the Sun Gold tomatoes.

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Artfully arrange all the tomatoes on the plates.

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Remove the fresh and tender rosemary leaves from the stems.

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Chop them finely. Also chop the garlic.

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Place mustard, chopped rosemary, garlic, salt and black pepper in a small bowl. Mix well together.

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Add vinegar and olive oil. Mix vigorously to fully incorporate all ingredients.

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Drizzle rosemary vinaigrette over the plates. Sprinkle with extra chopped rosemary.

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Add anchovies if using and enjoy!

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!

My Grandmother’s Summer Eggplant

My grandmother used to make this dish almost daily during eggplant season. She would prepare it early in the morning when the temperature outside was still pleasant and then serve it cold, as an appetizer for lunch in the shade of our hot and dry summer days.

20130714-215916.jpg Both refreshing and fragrant, it is infused with garlic and profusely sprinkled with parsley to balance the strength of the garlic.

20130714-220005.jpg Ingredients:
1 large eggplant
6 medium tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
A small bunch parsley
3/4 cup olive oil
4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Cracked sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.

20130714-220713.jpg Wash and cut the eggplant in 1cm thick slices lengthwise. Remove stems.

20130714-220805.jpg Brush olive oil on one side. The oil will be quickly absorbed as the eggplant acts as a sponge.

20130714-220856.jpgPlace the olive oil side down on a baking sheet, brush the other side (now on top) with olive oil, generously sprinkle cracked sea salt. Bake for about 20 minutes.

20130714-221150.jpgMeanwhile, prepare the tomatoes in the same way we prepared them for the Mussels in orange, tomato an saffron sauce, by peeling them and seeding them. Then, chop them.

20130714-221253.jpg Heat about one Tbsp of olive oil in a a pan and add the chopped tomatoes. Here I am using a cast iron pan as I like the way it evenly spreads the heat when simmering the tomatoes.

20130714-221422.jpg Peel, crush and chop the garlic cloves. chop parsley and set aside.

20130714-221512.jpgAdd the garlic to the tomatoes, a little cracked sea salt and simmer together for about 30-40 minutes.

20130714-221638.jpgWhile the tomatoes are cooking, removed the cooked eggplant from the oven. It should be golden brown.

20130714-221723.jpgImmediately sprinkle vinegar on top of the eggplant while still hot. Set aside and let cool in the baking sheet so the heat emanating from sheet fully infuses the flavors.

20130714-221823.jpg Arrange the eggplant slices in a serving dish where they can be spread out.

20130715-054036.jpgOnce the tomato sauce has finished cooking, it should have a unified consistency.

20130715-054146.jpgSpread the tomato sauce on top of the eggplant.

20130715-054247.jpgSprinkle chopped parsley, refrigerate and enjoy as a cold summer appetizer.