Roasted black cod and pickled fennel in a saffron tomato brodetto

Roasted cod with tomato saffron brodettoWhen I recently traveled in Italy, I ate a lot of very rustic and authentic Tuscan and Roman food. Tuscan cuisine is rooted in the “cucina povera” tradition, while the food of Rome is influenced by it being the political and religious center of the country. There’s always been a lot of money in Rome while Tuscany has only come into it’s own in the last 50 years.

While all of this great rustic cooking fed my Italian soul, when I got back to the USA, I craved something a little more modern and architectural. I recently cooked dinner for a client and this was my creation with that goal in mind.

This is 4 separate recipelets that you make and assemble just before serving.

This recipe serves 4.

Special equipment needed

  • Fine mesh sieve
  • Mandolin slicer
  • Oven-safe non-stick skillet

Saffron tomato brodetto

  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • A pinch of saffron
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 box of Pomi strained tomatoes or a large can of high quality pureed tomatoes
  • 2 cups of fish stock or clam broth
  • Salt and white pepper (use of white pepper is solely to preserve the red only color of the brodetto – use ground black pepper if desired)
  1. Add the saffron to the white wine and warm for 30 seconds in the microwave. Let steep for 15 minutes.
  2. In a small sauce pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onion until soft. About 5 minutes.
  3. Add the wine-saffron mixture to the onions and heat to a boil. Then add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Thin the tomato-onion mixture with the fish/clam stock to create a very lightweight sauce. Simmer the brodetto for 10 more minutes to cook out the fishy taste. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer and return to the pot.
  5. Add salt and white pepper to taste and thin if needed with a little water to create a very thin brodetto. Reheat to warm over a low simmer before using.

Pickled fennel

  • 1 fennel bulb – top removed, cut in 1/2 through the root and thick core cut out
  • 1/8 cup Champagne vinegar
  • 1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 shallot – finely diced
  1. Thinly slice the fennel bulb using a mandolin slicer and place in a bowl. The fennel will soften as it pickles.
  2. In a small sauce pot, bring the vinegars and shallot to a boil. Pour over the fennel and toss.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a paper towel and let the mixture pickle for several hours. Toss occasionally.

Sweet and sour spinach

  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 bunches of spinach – very well cleaned (soak in a sink filled with water and drain)
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and dry toast the almonds until they begin to brown. Swirl around and toss the almonds as they brown. When done, immediately remove to a small bowl.
  2. Place the golden raisins in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soften for 15 minutes then drain and squeeze out the extra water with your hands.
  3. Peel the onion and cut in 1/2 through the root. Thinly slice on a mandolin slicer.
  4. In a large sauté pan with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the red onion and sauté until soft – about 5 minutes. Place the spinach with the draining water still clinging to it in the pan with the onions. Cover and let steam for a few minutes until wilted. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat.
  5. Once the spinach is cool, drain and squeeze the excess water out with your hands. Add a little olive oil back in the pot, heat over medium and return the spinach.
  6. Sauté the spinach and add the almonds and drained raisins and combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Roasted black cod

  • 4 black cod fillets – each about 3 inches long and as uniform as possible
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Heat the oven to 400° degrees.
  2. In a non-skillet skillet large enough to hold the black cod, add a little oil olive. Heat over medium-high heat until the oil is smoking.
  3. Dry the black cod fillets with a paper towel and generously season both sides with salt and pepper. Place in the heated skilled skin side down.
  4. Pan fry the black cod until the skin is crispy and then place the skillet in the heated oven. Roast the cod until it’s opaque and firm to the touch. Remembering you’ve got a white-hot pan and using an oven mitt, remove the skillet to the stove top.

Assemble the dish!

  1. Using bowls with a wide flat bottom, first squeeze the excess moisture from the pickled fennel and then place a mound in the center of the dish.
  2. Place the roasted cod on the fennel mound – skin side up.
  3. Take about 1/4 cup of the sweet and sour spinach, squeeze with your hands to drain and create a loosely packed ball. Balance on top of the cod.
  4. Using a measuring cup or other spouted container, pour the warm brodetto around the fennel mound.
  5. Serve!


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