Fennel and tomato sauce (with(out) fish)

A Mediterranean visit brought to you by Mark Bittman from the New York Times. The moment I saw fennel, tomatoes, olives, I knew I was in. And soon! As I was making it, I was thinking what can you replace fennel with, because I know some people don’t particularly like it, so maybe zucchini? To get that softy texture in the end… Considering zucchini really cook down, use maybe 3-4 zucchini, depending how big they are and how much you like them. 🙂

(I like Mark. I miss his “Minimalist” column in the Times. He makes good stuff. Sometimes, he’d choose an ingredient and then give you close to 12 combinations about what you can do with that ingredient (let’s say asparagus). It comes out like 12 different recipes! Crazy! I am pretty sure if you go in the Recipe Archives you can find them. )

His recipe says 1 fennel bulb or 2 smaller ones and it’s supposed to serve 4. Four??? I can eat the whole bulb how awesome fennel is! Besides, I think it’s ok to have second servings of the veggies. Maybe not the meats or the starches, but veggies? So my amount made dinner and lunch for tomorrow.

I don’t know what I was thinking when reading this recipe before I went to the supermarket. I guess my head was in that fennel and getting to it ASAP. haha I read “whole tomatoes”, all right. I also read “can of tomatoes”. But, I didn’t read that then you chop them. I would like to save you (people with actual lives) some time and advise you to buy yourselves some chopped tomatoes. You would need a large can of tomatoes, or two smaller ones.

Mark suggested having this alongside fish, which I did. But you don’t have to. It is good on its own, with some pasta or without, with some good bread, or alongside some chicken.

I have also cut down on the original amount of oil (1/4 cup??)

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil

less than 1 tbsp butter

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped

salt and pepper to taste

2 tsp dried thyme

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 large can chopped tomatoes, drained (or whole tomatoes, chopped and drained)

3-4 tbps drained tomato juice

15 black olives, unpitted (Mark says the pit adds flavor so he keeps it; either way, it saved me some time from pitting them!)

1 ½ tsp capers, chopped (1 ½ tsp is the measure I took of the whole capers out of the jar)

3 fish filets, frozen or fresh

chopped parsley, to taste

Preparation:

1. Heat up the oven to 200C. Place the frozen or fresh fish in a baking dish, drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil, add a pinch of salt and pepper and 1 tsp thyme. (if your fish is frozen, there is no need to add water, if it’s fresh, I’d add a tbsp or two of water, I am always afraid of things sticking). It would take some 20 minutes in the oven, again, depending on fresh or frozen. I didn’t really time it, I just checked it a few times, you’ll know when it’s done, if not return it in the oven.

2. Heat up the remaining olive oil and butter in a frying pan and add the fennel. Stir to coat with the oil and lower the heat to medium. Sauté the fennel until it’s nice and soft, without browning it. This could take some 15-2o minutes. Give it a stir every now and again.

3. In the meantime, drain (and chop) the tomatoes. Stir them in the colander to drain them well. Keep the tomato juice.

4. When the fennel is softened, add the minced garlic and thyme. Stir.

5. Add the tomatoes to the fennel, 3 tbsp tomato juice, olives and chopped capers. Stir and let it simmer until some of the juice evaporates and becomes saucy. Add the parsley. (After I switched it off, I added the last tbsp tomato juice, cause I wanted it saucier)

Done. Serve this alongside your fish, with a small side of pasta or rice.

*Note: you can make the sauce with more tomato juice and use it as a pasta sauce. I think the next time I am going to make it even more Mediterranean and add some mussels. Mmmm…

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