Making this dish is easy and therapeutic—and it involves several things that I love about cooking—working with interesting ingredients, chopping and layering. To start with, I considered the fish. Having tasted this, I now think it would also be amazing with salmon, but I selected halibut for this inaugural tasting—fresh, wild caught (wildly expensive I might add…) but it was firm-fleshed and sweet smelling—just like fresh fish is supposed to be. Rubbing the lemon juice and oil into the fish mingled the sweet smell of the fish and the lemon and it was clean and fresh looking in its glass dish.
Second, I chopped. This is a very happy chopping dish—and I find chopping relaxing as long as I have time to do it. Make this when you have the time and the inclination to meditate. (Or, if you don’t feel romantic about chopping, just use a food processor and knock it out.)
Combining the spice mixture, I could see that this dish was going to be full flavored and beautifully colored. For fun, I ground the fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle—which really made me feel like a cook—I really need to use that dandy little tool more.
And then, when I fired up the skillet and cooked the onions, everybody in the house went by and said “hmmm…what are you making”…(they always do that when you sauté onions) and as I layered on the garlic and the ginger and the chile, tomato and spice mixture the whole mess was very aromatic and drew even more comments from my peanut gallery. The final addition of the coconut milk smoothed it all out and I just knew that this was going to taste really good as long as I didn’t overcook the fish. I didn’t. And now I have a new addition to my favorite fish recipe file.
Thai Baked Fish
Ingredients for the Fish
2 pounds thick, firm fish fillets (halibut, salmon or cod work well)
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Ingredients for the spice mixture
6 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely ground
1 ¼ teaspoon salt
Ingredients for the Sauce
2 cups finely chopped onion
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced green chile (Serrano or jalapeno)
1 large fresh tomato, chopped
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
¼, coarsely chopped cilantro for garnish
Cut the filets into serving size pieces. Combine the lemon juice and vegetable oil and massage it into the fish. Cover and refrigerate while you make the sauce.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium skillet, sauté the onion in the vegetable oil over medium high heat until the onion is soft and just beginning to brown. Add the garlic, ginger and green chili and cook for 2 minutes. Add the spice mixture and tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently until the tomatoes have softened. Add the coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes.
Arrange the fish in a single layer in a lightly oiled baking dish. Bake, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
For a wonderful rice recipe that would be perfect with this fish, I’m grateful to the cooks at the blog Muse in the Kitchen who recently posted this recipe.
A special note: I’ve submitted this recipe as an entry in A Taste of Yellow, a celebration and awareness for Cancer survivors. To learn more about it, here is the link http://www.winosandfoodies.com/2009/08/livestrong-with-a-taste-of-yellow-2009.html