Eric Akis: Roasted cod with couscous, blood orange salad

Eric Akis

In winter, I prefer stick-to-your-ribs comfort food, but the spring-like weather of recent days has caused me to lighten and brighten things up. Today’s sunny recipes are the result, and designed to create a Mediterranean-style dinner for two.

The main dish sees B.C. cod fillets set in a shallow pan with cherry tomatoes and olives. All were then flavoured with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, lemon and fresh oregano. The fish was then roasted, creating a light, but nicely flavoured and aromatic entrée that is quick to prepare.

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I paired the cod with quick-cooking couscous that I accented with spices, mint and bits of chopped date and pistachios, tastes and textures that worked well with the flaky fish.

I find orange works well with fish and couscous and decided a salad featuring that citrus would be a nice way to round out the meal. To allow the taste of the orange to shine, I kept things fairly simple.

To make the salad, I set peeled slices of sweet orange on crisp lettuce and topped them with a bit of crumbled feta and some of the fresh oregano that I also used in my fish dish. Extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper were drizzled and sprinkled on, and then the salad was allowed to sit a few minutes to allow the flavours to meld.

When shopping for the ingredients, I noticed that eye-appealing blood oranges were in season, so I opted to use slices of them in my salad.

As you can see by today’s photo, my goal of creating a light and bright meal was achieved. I hope you enjoy it soon, or perhaps on a Valentine’s Day next week, when you need a sunny meal to serve your beloved.

Roasted Cod with Cherry Tomatoes, Olives and Oregano

This Mediterranean-style fish dish is aromatic, flavourful and does not take long to prepare. If you can’t find cod, try another fish fillet in this recipe (see Eric options).

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 12 to 15 minutes

Makes: Two servings

2 (5 to 6 oz./140 to 170 gram) grey or lingcod

6 to 8 cherry tomatoes, each halved

8 to 10 black or green olives, or mix of both

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 small garlic clove, minced

• salt and white pepper to taste

12 whole fresh oregano leaves

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Place the fish in a single layer in shallow baking dish just large enough to comfortably hold the fillets. Top and surround fish with the tomatoes and olives.

Combine olive oil, juice and garlic in a small bowl. Drizzle fish and other ingredients with this mixture. Now sprinkle fish with salt, pepper and oregano. Bake cod 12 to 15 minutes, or until cooked.

Note: I provide a range of cooking times for the fish because fillets can vary in thickness. When cooked, the flesh of fish will start to slightly separate into flakes, and it will lose its translucency and become opaque. When touched, cooked fish should also feel slightly firm, not hard (a sign you have over-cooked it) and not soft (a sign it is not cooked through).

Eric’s options: Instead of cod, try another fish fillet in this recipe, such as haddock, halibut or snapper.

Couscous with Pistachios, Dates and Mint

Nicely spiced, quick-cooking couscous that you can serve alongside the fish. The shelled pistachios used here are sold in the bulk-foods section of some supermarkets and at bulk-food stores. They’re expensive, but you only require a small amount. Unlike the fish and orange salad recipes, this one actually yields four servings, but the leftovers can be enjoyed the next day or two.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: About 10 minutes

Makes: Four servings

1 1/2 cups water or chicken stock

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus some for drizzling

1 small garlic clove, minced

1/4 tsp ground cumin

• pinches ground cayenne pepper and cinnamon

• salt to taste

1 cup couscous

1/4 cup unsalted shelled pistachios (about 30 grams), coarsely chopped

3 medjool dates, halved lengthwise, pitted and chopped

3 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh mint

Place the water (or stock), 1 Tbsp oil, garlic, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon and salt in a small pot and bring to a boil. Mix in the couscous, pistachios and dates. Return to a boil, cover, remove from the heat, and let couscous stand five minutes.

Fluff the couscous with a fork to separate the grains. Mix in the chopped mint, saving a bit of it for the top. Transfer couscous to a serving bowl, sprinkle with remaining mint, drizzle with a little olive oil and serve.

Orange and Feta Salad

This light-and-bright-tasting and looking salad nicely complements the fish and couscous.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: None

Makes: Two servings

2 cups chopped romaine or baby mixed salad greens

2 medium navel or blood oranges (or 1 of each), peel and pith removed, flesh cut into thin rounds

1/4 cup feta cheese, coarsely crumbled

• extra virgin olive oil, to taste

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• fresh oregano leaves, to taste

Spread lettuce (or salad greens) on a plate. Arrange the orange slices on top of the lettuce, slightly overlapping them. Top the oranges with feta cheese. Drizzle oranges with olive oil, to taste. Now sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano leaves, to taste. Let salad sit a few minutes to allow flavours to meld, and then serve.

Eric’s options: Instead of feta cheese, try crumbled bits of soft goat cheese on this salad.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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