When I think of fish for an elegant dinner, cod is not one of those swimmers that first come to mind. For me, cod brings up images of breaded fish sticks and men in rain slickers on Cape Cod fishing boats. And then there is cod liver oil, the scourge of children in old stories, used as a threatened dose to make them eat their suppers. Of course, now we know that the Vitamin A and D rich oil has multiple health benefits, easing arthritis pain, and benefitting our hair, bones, and skin. Still, whenever I think of cod, Julie Andrews’ admonition to young Michael Banks in the movie, Mary Poppins, comes to mind. When she tells the poor kid (who does look a bit fish-eyed) after he’s just seen her slide up the banister, “Close your mouth please, Michael, we are not a codfish. . .,” it burned it indelibly into my brain, coloring my perception of that type of fish forever.
And yet, I’ve discovered that cod is one of those white fishes that shouldn’t be overlooked. With its firm and mild-tasting, flaky flesh, cod is a wonderful blank canvas with which you, the chef and artist, can create simple, beautiful meals. It’s important to buy fresh fish; the taste and texture is no comparison to the frozen product. This easy, vegetable-filled broth is one I think you’ll enjoy. Springy and bright, it won’t make you think about cod liver oil, either.
Poached Cod with Curried Vegetable Broth Recipe
1 orange pepper, thinly sliced
1 small yellow squash, quartered and diced
1 cup fresh spinach leaves
1 c. yellow sunburst tomatoes, halved
Note: similar to cherry tomatoes, find this sweet, yellow variety alongside other small tomatoes
1 lb fresh cod fillets, rinsed and patted dry
1 14.5 oz can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes
2 T grapeseed oil
2 tsp curry powder
3/4 c. water
1/3 c. dry white wine
pinch of saffron threads
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add curry powder and toast, stirring, bringing out heat, for 30 seconds.
Add yellow and diced tomatoes, crushing with the back of a wooden spoon, then water, wine, and saffron threads. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to a slow simmer. Cover skillet and allow flavors to blend for about 6-8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Gently slide cod fillets into the liquid and cover, simmering on medium-low until cod is opaque throughout and begins to flake, about five minutes. Add pepper, squash, and spinach leaves to the skillet and replace cover. Continue on simmer over very low heat for about 3-4 minutes, or until fish is tender and flakes easily, and vegetables are crisp tender.
To serve, place cod in warm, shallow bowls and spoon broth and vegetables over it.
What to serve with a mild fish such as cod? Stephanie Davis, Wine Guru from Winacea, says she served Pala I Fiori Vermentino di Sardegna, a beautiful, seafood friendly wine, at an Italian wine tasting event back in February. It is a dry, white wine made from the Vermentino grape. A delicious alternative to Sauvignon Blanc, she also recommends it because it’s easy on the wallet. Stephanie’s advice? She says, “The poached cod will sing with this Sardinian star.”
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