Earlier this year I mentioned that we set a goal of eating more fish. I’m happy to say we’ve kept up with it. Salmon, tilapia, sole, Pacific cod and several types of seafood have been the focus of our dinners a few nights a week.
The best part of this venture has been discovering new types of fish. I’m constantly coming across new options to research. The most recent is swai. It’s imported, but Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch considers it a Good Alternative.
This week, I was craving something with a rich tomato sauce so I decided that would be my first experiment with the swai. It turned out to be the ideal match for this firm white fish!
I’ve seen recipes that call for slipping the raw fish into the sauce to cook, but I felt better about baking the fish and adding it just before serving. Thoroughly cooking the fish helped it hold up better in the sauce.
I was surprised to find swai compared to catfish in my research. I guess the texture is similar, but the flavor isn’t nearly as fishy as what I remember when eating catfish. (My grandpa was the family catfish fisherman and I grew up attending plenty of Catholic Friday fish frys, so I’ve had my fair share of it over the years.)
The simple tomato and olive sauce is versatile. If swai isn’t your thing, this would be equally good with a cod or even tilapia. Although, the tilapia would likely be more delicate. If you want to forgo the fish altogether, chicken cutlets or portobello mushrooms would be a delicious substitute as well.
White Fish with Tomatoes and Olives
4 white fish filets
1 tbsp + 2 tsp olive oil
¼ cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. crushed or diced tomatoes (I use Trader Joe’s unsalted, crushed)
½ cup sliced green olives
½ tsp dried basil
¼ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp smoked sweet paprika
¼ tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
¼ to ½ tsp fine ground sea salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat the fish filets with the 2 teaspoons of olive oil and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the fish is barely cooked through and just begins to flake.
In a large skillet*, heat the olive oil over medium high. Add the onion and garlic, cook for about 3 minutes, until the onions begin to soften.
Add the tomatoes, reduce the heat to medium. Stir in the olives, basil, oregano, paprika and red pepper. Let simmer for about 5 minutes, until warmed through. Taste, and then add in the desired amount of salt. (The olives will make it slightly salty so this is based on personal preference. I use about ¼ teaspoon.)
Place the baked fish filets in the tomato sauce and reduce the heat to low. Let cook for about 5 more minutes until the fish is reheated. Serve each filet with ¼ of the tomato sauce.
*Young cast iron can sometimes create an unappealing flavor when it comes into contact with acidic tomato sauce. The older and more seasoned your pans are, the better they hold up to things like tomatoes. I use my cast iron for tomato sauces, but choose a non-cast iron skillet if yours are not seasoned well.