This dish can be made with any white fish, but today I chose Fluke (Flounder) because it’s local and because it looked great–pink and plumper than usual. Usually it comes in very thin filets that I like to coat and fry (see my post “Fritto di Mare“) but today, the pieces were nice and thick.
The dish starts with a tomato sauce, simply made by sauteing a bit of onion, a slice or two of green pepper (my mother adds it to her tomato sauce), then adding a can of whole peeled tomatoes that have been coarsely pureed in the blender. The mixture simmers for about ten minutes, then it’s ready for the fish.
“Livornese” usually implies tomatoes, capers and olives. I’m not a big fan of capers, so I’m using a couple of different kinds of olives to vary the high and low notes of acidity. I have fresh green cerignola olives that I’ve pitted; I have small picholine and nicoise olives as well.
I make the tomato sauce in a broad ovenproof skillet, then after it has simmered for about ten minutes, I add the fish filets on top and nestle them in the sauce. Toss in some olives and place the whole skillet uncovered in a hot oven. The sauce reduces slightly as the fish bakes. When the dish is done, the fish is moist and delicate–essentially poached, and the sauce around it has tightened up a bit.
This is a great dish to make for guests for a couple of reasons. First of all, the sauce can be prepared and set aside until it’s time for dinner–then throw in the fish and bake for 10 – 15 minutes. The oven can then be turned off and you can cover the pan with foil and leave in the hot oven for a few more minutes if you’re not yet ready to gather around the table.
The other appealing aspect of this dish is that it won’t make a mess of your kitchen (no frying or splattering) and it won’t give your house the fishy odor that people associate with cooking fish. I like to make this in my city apartment for that reason.
It’s good with rice or mashed potatoes, which can soak up some of the wonderful tomato sauce scented with olives. Tonight I’m serving it alongside boiled potatoes with parsley and olive oil. Also on the side, I’m making broccoli di rapa with garlic and lemon zest (see my prior post “Fritto di Mare“).
Fluke alla Livornese
2 lbs fluke (or cod, halibut, sea bass, swordfish)
28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, lightly pureed in the blender
1 small onion, quartered and sliced
2 strips of a green pepper
6 tbls olive oil
1/2 cup assorted pitted olives (mix green and black)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
In a broad ovenproof skillet on low heat, saute the onion and green pepper in olive oil for about 5 minutes or until it softens and begins to turn golden. Add tomatoes and simmer for about 5 more minutes.
On a board, season the fish filets with salt and pepper and rub with oil on both sides. Place the filets in the sauce and sprinkle olives around fish. Place skillet uncovered in the oven for about 10 to 12 minutes (depending on how thick the filets are–they should be cooked through). Remove and let stand for a few minutes at room temperature before serving. Drizzle with more olive oil at the table.
Can be served cold from the fridge the next day with a salad.