Dinner:  April 26, 2007

I love how well the flavors of fennel and tomato marry with seafood, so I do some variant of this dish pretty often. It’s another fast and fairly simple preparation. Heat two sauté pans and add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to each. In the first pan, add a couple of smashed and chopped cloves of garlic, one thinly sliced fennel bulb, and about a cup of thinly sliced onion or leek. Season with salt and allow them to cook over medium heat until caramelized. We’ve usually got a bottle of pastis around, so I like to add an ounce or so of that when I’m cooking with fennel to deepen that yummy anise flavor; if you don’t have pastis, you can substitute white wine or white vermouth, or even use a bit of water. Add the pastis or other liquid to the pan and stir up the browned bits from the bottom, then immediately add 2 cups of chopped tomatoes with their liquid, the juice and zest of one lemon, and a handful of chopped fennel fronds. Adjust the seasoning again if needed, cover, and allow to simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.

Season your fish filets on both sides with salt and pepper (I used halibut here, but this also works well with sea bass, wild striped bass or swordfish). Rub a little bit of olive oil all over, and add the filets to the second pan, which should be really hot at this point. Allow them to cook undisturbed on the first side (if you have skin-on filets, start them skin side down) for 3-4 minutes so they develop a good crust, then carefully flip them and cook on the second side a minute or two more. Spoon the fennel and tomato mixture into shallow bowls, place a fish filet on top of each, and top with more chopped fennel fronds.

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