Eating Lighter After the Holidays

Foie gras, smoked salmon, daube de boeuf (a rich Provencal beef stew), and dark chocolate bûche de Noel for New Year’s Eve, plus lobster velouté with sautéed mushrooms, escargots in garlic butter at one restaurant, and roast pork tenderloin in mustard cream sauce at another!! Those are just some of the indulgences my husband and I have enjoyed since arriving in Paris last week! Now, though, after all the celebrating, we are trying, like everyone else, to eat lighter.

The dish that came immediately to mind for one of our first “healthy” meals of 2017 here in France’s capital was cod baked on a bed of spinach, chickpeas, and tomatoes. Some of you will recognize this dish which first appeared in my syndicated column several years ago and then in Sunday Casseroles. It is my “go to” recipe for quick, delicious, low- calorie cooking.

An all-in-one main course, it features fish fillets (my favorite is cod) arranged on a bed of spinach, tomatoes, chickpeas, and olives, all conveniently layered in a casserole. Count on about 20 minutes to assemble the dish, then 25 minutes of unattended oven time. When roasted, the fish, scented with lemon and topped with homemade breadcrumbs, is moist and the mélange of vegetables is melded into a tempting softness.

Happy cooking to all of you in 2017!


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Baked Cod On a Bed of Spinach, Chickpeas, and Tomatoes

Lemon and Olive Oil Sauce
5 tbsp olive oil, plus more for the baking dish
2 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp grated lemon zest
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Fish and Vegetables
1 lb baby spinach
3 tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tsp minced garlic
10 to 12 oz Campari or cherry tomatoes, sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained well
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
4 fish fillets (halibut, cod, or other mild firm white fish), 1-inch thick and 5 to 6 oz each
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup coarse toasted breadcrumbs, (see cooking tip)

1. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Oil a 9-by-13-inch or a shallow 3-quart baking dish.

2. For the sauce, whisk together the 5 tbsp olive oil, lemon juice and zest, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper in a small nonreactive bowl. Set aside.

3. Place the spinach in a large bowl and toss with 3 tbsp olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and spread it on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. (Press spinach down with a spatula or your hands if it seems to be taking up too much space in the pan.) Sprinkle the garlic evenly over the spinach. Arrange the tomato slices over the spinach and sprinkle the chickpeas and olives over the mixture. Pour half the sauce over the vegetables.

4. Arrange the fish on top of the vegetables and drizzle remaining sauce over the fillets. Sprinkle the feta over the fish and vegetables, then sprinkle some toasted breadcrumbs on top of each fillet.

Bake until the fish is opaque and flakes easily and the spinach has wilted, 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.

Serves 4

Cooking tip: Use a 1- to 2-day-old good quality peasant or country bread (sourdough works particularly well) with crusts removed, and process in a food processor to make 1 cup coarse crumbs. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in medium, heavy frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the crumbs and cook, stirring constantly, until they are crisp and rich golden brown, for 3 to 4 minutes. Extra breadcrumbs can be stored in a plastic self-sealing bag and refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Adapted from Sunday Casseroles (Chronicle Books 2014) by Betty Rosbottom

6 thoughts on “Eating Lighter After the Holidays

  1. Betty — We made the baked cod, spinach, chickpeas and tomatoes last night, and it was delicious! The colors and textures made it visually appealing, and the flavors blended beautifully. Thanks!

  2. I also made it for a family meal and the flavor combinations were absolutely wonderful. I used Cod from our freezer (letting it thaw of course) but my dish turned out with a lot of water in the bottom of the pan. We’ve been having problems with oven temperatures. I’m going to try it again and watch everything more carefully. It’s an unusual dish and we all loved it – just too watery for company.

  3. Julie,
    The water most likely came from the fish being frozen. If you try it again, use fresh cod or other white fish. Also, if you washed the spinach, it should be dried well.

    So glad you liked the flavors. I made this often at our house!

  4. Hi Betty–The baked cod is a really great recipe. Just wanted to tell you that I added several tablespoons of pine nuts for crunch and for the fish topping, combined panko and parmesan for an added flavor enhancement. This recipe definitely goes into my repertory. Enjoy Paris and be sure to have dinner one evening at Ze Kitchen Galerie!

    • Hi Michael,
      Thanks for your note. I think the pine nuts and panko additions sound great! We didn’t get to Ze Kitchen Galerie this time, but have eaten in this special restaurant before!

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