Merluzzo con Bietola Selvaggia, Lenticchie Rosse & Finocchio
Cod with Wild Chard, Red Lentils and Fennel
Yes indeed, I fried a fish- and I liked it! Which IS actually quite surprising to those of you who know me a little better. Fish is not at the top of my list of "must eat" foods, I will be honest with you. The only real exception to this rule being that I do actually really enjoy monkfish- but at those prices? No, one of the few other fish that I do occasionally enjoy is cod- basically because of its mild flavor and firm, juicy consistency. Well... juicy if you don't overcook it that is- which so many so-called fish-lovers do!
So this evening, I took it upon myself to make a light and delicious meal rather than another heavy Winter meal... despite our first snow falling today and the temperatures plummeting! And I think you have to admit... it is hard to look at these pictures and not yearn for the bright, sunny days of Summer- but at least we can TASTE them now... and dream...
All you need to do to make this dish, is to have your wits about you- because it will be finished in a flash! So you will need to time it well. You will need a small saucepan, a small frying pan and a regular sized one... and you will need to not be afraid to use them!
Let's start off with the lentils. To cook 1 cupful of lentils, you will need 2 of water- rule of thumb. Get your water boiling and add some crushed garlic and tomato paste... still until dissolved and then add the lentils. Season with salt, pepper, a little ground cumin and a pinch of sugar and reduce to a low simmer.
Heat up both frying pans and add a little olive oil to each. In the large pan, sautée a few slices of fennel at a high heat, with a light sprinkle of sugar and salt. Flip occasionally until it softens slightly and becomes a light golden brown.
In the small pan, add a clove of garlic to perfume the oil and a sprig of rosemary. Lay your fish in the pan with the nicest-looking side face down and let it fry at a relatively high heat without moving, for 2-3 minutes.
In the meantime, remove the fennel and pop the chard into the frying pan with a few new drops of oil and a little crushed garlic. Season with salt, pepper and a hint of nutmeg and stir so that all the leaves get coated and begin to soften. At this point also, add a chopped spring onion to the lentils, a splash of olive oil and a little finely chopped parsley.
Back to the cod- after 3-4 minutes, it should be nicely golden on the underside. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to the saucepan and a drop of Pastis or Sambuca and a splash of water. Carefully turn the fish over and turn off the heat. Add a pat of butter and allow it to sit in the frying pans residual heat- which will gently cook the fish through without drying it out, in the following 2-3 minutes whilst you serve the rest.
I set the lentils down on top of the fennel and the cod on top of the chard, sprinkled the cod with some crushed red pepper and a few sprigs of fennel greens as a garnish. These are nice, gentle, complimentary flavors and go to make a lovely dish... so I do hope that you enjoy it as much as I did!