In this recipe, a simple basil-laden green olive tapenade serves as a topping for whitefish fillets. This flavorful tapenade keeps the fish moist as it bakes and infusing it with lots of delicious herby flavor.
This month in Tori’s Mediterranean Table, we are exploring the simple, seasonal cuisine of Provence. Guided by our friendly and knowledgable local guide Gilles Conchy, we discovered the delightful flavors of the south of France. I adore the elegant simplicity of Provençal cooking. It draws heavily on the abundant local produce, cooked in season, with regional touches of finer French “haute cuisine” (influenced by local tourism). I’ve enjoyed some incredible meals in the French Riviera. Revisiting this special place in our interactive culinary community has been a joyful experience.
As part of our journey, we explored tapenade – a rich, olive-based spread that is popular throughout Provence. In France tapenade is often a starter, served on cold lettuce leaves or toasted bread slices. I like using it as an accompaniment to baked fish.
Gilles introduced us to two of his delicious tapenade recipes in our Provençal journey. His green tapenade is a revelation! The addition of fresh basil makes it very special. Gilles’ version is different than the recipe below. It includes some unique touches that I haven’t included here (you’ll have to join the Table to learn those!). That said, I was inspired to make a much simpler version to share as a topping in this easy whitefish recipe. Using buttery, rich Castelvetrano olives gives this tapenade (and the fish!) a wonderful flavor. The mild flavor of whitefish like cod or haddock serves as the perfect base for this salty, herby tapenade. Enjoy!
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- 4 ounces pitted Castelvetrano olives, about 1 cup (see note below)
- 15 large basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed
- 1 ½ teaspoons capers, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 tsp minced garlic (1 small clove)
- ¼ teaspoon lemon zest
- 4 boneless skinless wild caught white fish filets, such as cod or haddock (4 ounces each)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh lemon wedges for serving
- Preheat oven to 450⁰F and line a baking sheet with baking parchment. In the work bowl of a food processor add olives, basil, olive oil, capers, garlic, and lemon zest. Pulse until ingredients form a rough paste.
- Place fish fillets on prepared baking sheet and season with pepper. Spread the tapenade over the top of the fillets, evenly divided.
- Bake fillets for roughly 15 minutes, or until fillets are cooked through and flake easily with a fork. Fish can easily go from perfectly done to overdone, so pay close attention as it cooks and don't let it overcook (or it will become dry and rubbery). The cook time will be dependent on the fillets' thickness. Let it rest for 3 minutes, then season with freshly ground black pepper before serving. Serve hot with fresh lemon wedges; squeeze on a little fresh lemon juice for a nice, bright lemon flavor. Feel free to drizzle fillets with a little extra olive oil for more flavor and moisture, if desired.