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Saturday, September 23, 2023
Sept. 23, 2023

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Cod easy on budget, taste buds

Pan-roasted dish inspired by Italian appetizer bruschetta


Fresh fish is often considered a special-occasion meal. Let’s face it, some varieties can be just as expensive as the highest quality steaks. Cod, on the other hand, can be easy on the budget, especially if you’re lucky to find it on sale.

Mild tasting and flaky, cod is an extremely versatile fish. Considered a “gateway” dish for people who turn up their noses at fishy-tasting seafood such as salmon, cod can be beer-battered and fried for tacos or a Lenten fish fry, roasted, sauteed, grilled, marinated in lime juice for seviche or simply be baked with a little butter, lemon and garlic for an elegant dinner.

This recipe, fashioned after the classic Italian appetizer bruschetta, is likewise easy to pull together. After being brushed with lemon-garlic butter, the cod is topped with chopped, balsamic-marinated tomatoes, followed by a crunchy topping forged from panko and Parmesan. It’s easy enough for a weeknight, but tastes fancy enough for the weekend.

When choosing fish, it’s a good idea to check out Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch consumer guide. It offers easy-to-search “best choice” and “good alternative” recommendations for each species, along with details of how and where your seafood is harvested.

Fresh cod should have firm flesh, appear moist and not smell fishy. Ideally, it should be eaten within two days of purchase.

Pan-roasted Cod

Serves 4.

I’ve been on a kick lately with lemon-flavored balsamic vinegar, which adds a delicate citrus note. If you can’t find (or don’t like) cod, another white fish such as haddock is a seamless stand-in. — Gretchen McKay, Post-Gazette

For fish:

11/2 pounds fresh cod loin, cut into 4 portions

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

Juice of 1/2 small lemon (about 1 tablespoon)

For tomato topping:

1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

3 or 4 basil leaves, slivered

1 clove garlic, minced

Splash or two of olive oil

Splash or two of balsamic vinegar

For Parmesan topping:

1/3 cup plain panko bread crumbs

2 heaping tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Pinch dried oregano

Pinch red pepper flakes

Olive oil

Cooked rice, for serving

Lemon slices, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Pat cod fillets with a paper towel until dry, then season with salt and pepper. Place in a greased casserole dish or parchment-lined baking sheet.

In a small bowl, stir together melted butter, olive oil, minced garlic and lemon juice until combined. Spoon on top of cod fillets in pan until evenly coated.

In another small bowl, prepare bruschetta topping. Stir together chopped tomatoes, slivered basil and minced garlic, then add a splash or two of olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste.

In a third small bowl, combine topping ingredients, using just enough olive oil to bind the panko and Parmesan — about 1 tablespoon.

Spoon the tomato mixture on top of the buttered cod, then sprinkle with Parmesan topping. (You might have extra.)

Bake fish until it is opaque and flakes easily with a fork, 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets.

Serve on top of rice with pan sauce, with lemon slices for squeezing.