A fish dish that's a breezy snap

 22 Jul 2017 - 16:03

A fish dish that's a breezy snap
Sauteed Fish With Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette and Lemon Aioli (The Washington Post by Renee Comet)

By Sara Moulton / The Washington Post

Few fresh foods are more tempting than a tomato in season. The only "preparation" it needs is to be pulled off the vine, sliced, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. Done!

But until those perfect specimens appear, try this recipe's roasted tomato vinaigrette. It's a knockout. Any tomato will do - beefsteak, plum, cherry, you name it - as long as it's ripe.

To determine its ripeness, simply smell the stem end, which should boast an intense aroma of ... tomato. Then roast the winners to eliminate excess water and concentrate their flavour. Finally, puree them with sherry vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil. (Sherry vinegar is my favorite, but you're welcome to use balsamic, white or red or even cider vinegar instead.)

The vinaigrette's acid kick makes this sauce a great partner for fish, and the aioli's garlicky creaminess makes it a suave complement to the vinaigrette.

The fish is best with a light crust. You can achieve that by dipping the fillets in flour to start. (My favorite is Wondra flour, the kind my grandmother used to make gravies because it never lumped up.)

Sauteing the fish takes no time at all; you can prepare the rest of the meal, then wait until the last minute to cook the fish. Or you can cook the fish a little bit ahead and serve it at room temperature, which might be preferable on a hot summer's night.

The beauty of this recipe is that the two sauces can be made as many as four days ahead. Just keep them covered and chilled, then whisk them a bit before serving. Even better, they happen to go very well not only with sauteed fish, but also with grilled chicken, shrimp or vegetables. Or you can double down on the seasonal bounty by tossing the vinaigrette with chopped fresh tomatoes and then piling the mixture onto grilled bread drizzled with the aioli. It's an appetizer so good you may end up forgetting about the main course.

Sauteed Fish with Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette and Lemon Aioli

6 servings

Serve with grilled corn on the cob or your favorite slaw.

Ingredients

--For the tomato vinaigrette

1 pound ripe tomatoes, cut into ¾-inch wedges

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1½ to 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Water (optional)

--For the lemon aioli

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (low-fat if you prefer)

1 teaspoon finely grated zest and 2 teaspoons juice (from 1 lemon)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

--For the fish

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Six 6-ounce firm-fleshed white fish fillet pieces (¾ to 1 inch thick, skin-on or skinless), such as tilapia, catfish or bass (go to seafoodwatch.org to find sustainable options)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Wondra or all-purpose flour, for coating the fish

Tarragon leaves or chopped chives, for garnish

Method:

--For the tomato vinaigrette: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Arrange the tomatoes, cut sides up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle them evenly with 2 tablespoons of the oil and sprinkle them with ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Bake (middle rack) until they have shriveled and browned slightly, about 30 minutes.

Transfer them immediately, along with any juices from the pan, to a blender. Add 1½ tablespoons of the sherry vinegar and the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil; puree until silky smooth. Taste and add the remaining vinegar, as needed. Season lightly with salt and pepper; add water, as needed, to make the vinaigrette spoonable.

--For the lemon aioli: Whisk together the mayo, the lemon zest and juice, and the garlic in a bowl.

--For the fish: Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season the fish lightly with salt and pepper and dip it in the flour, coating it on both sides and shaking off the excess.

Once the oil shimmers, add the fish to the pan and cook it just until it is opaque and golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.

Place a fillet on each plate. Spoon the vinaigrette generously over each portion and drizzle the lemon aioli on top. Garnish with the tarragon or chives and serve right away.

Moulton is the host of "Sara's Weeknight Meals," a television show now in its sixth season. She is the author of four cookbooks

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