Middle Eastern Tomato Garlic Fish – Recipe for Middle Eastern-style fish with tomato sauce, garlic cloves, roasted bell peppers. Easy, healthy, flavorful entree by Tori Avey.
This fish recipe is my take on a Sephardic-style fish preparation that has been in my husband’s family for generations. I used to make it for our family frequently, but a couple of years ago I moved it to the back of my recipe box. It is best made with sea bass, a flaky, buttery white fish with a mild flavor that can stand up to a relatively long simmer. When I heard that Chilean sea bass was being boycotted due to overfishing, I stopped making this recipe as often. When I did make it, I used black cod as a substitute. That all changed a month ago when I discovered Australis Barramundi, a sustainable and delicious sea bass from Massachusetts. Before I go on, I should let you know that I have not been paid to promote or endorse this product. I just love it and feel more people should know about it! This sea bass is one of the tastiest I’ve tried. It’s sold in the frozen section of my local Whole Foods. After reading more about this healthy fish, which is sustainably farmed in clean waters and has high levels of Omega 3’s, I was “hooked.” It’s not cheap, but it is less expensive than fresh sea bass from our local fishmonger. We now enjoy sea bass again a couple of times a month as a treat. Of course you can use any sea bass, cod or haddock you prefer in this recipe… just thought I’d give Australis a shout out because we love it!
This recipe is super easy to make. After defrosting your fish (if using frozen fillets), it only takes about 30 minutes to prep and cook. The sauce is mildly spicy and slightly sweet, filled with a wonderful garlicky flavor. While 20-ish minutes might seem like a long time to simmer fish fillets, the bed of herbs below helps to keep them away from direct heat. This means the fish can slowly simmer and soak up the rich flavor of the sauce. The fillets may separate a bit while cooking, depending on how thin they’re cut; sea bass tends to hold up quite well. I like to serve the fish over cauliflower couscous for a low carb, gluten free, light and satisfying meal. You could also serve it over regular couscous or rice if you’re so inclined. I must say that the cauliflower couscous is really delicious, and it’s kosher for Passover too, which makes it super versatile. To learn how to roast bell peppers (you’ll need them for this recipe), click here. You can also used jarred roasted peppers in a pinch.
Note: The Australis brand is not kosher certified but sea bass is a kosher fish, so those who keep strictly kosher should follow their own protocol here.
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Middle Eastern Tomato Garlic Fish
- 4 mild, flaky white fish fillets (sea bass or black cod recommended)
- 1 1/2 cups hot water
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp sugar (or 1 tsp honey)
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (adds a slight kick - if you're spice sensitive, feel free to omit)
- Salt and pepper
- 2 large roasted red bell peppers, peeled and sliced (see notes)
- 2 handfuls fresh cilantro or parsley
- 12 cloves garlic
- Cauliflower couscous for serving - optional (see notes)
If your fish is frozen, thaw it in cold water for 15-30 minutes or in the refrigerator overnight. Rinse your fish fillets with cool water and pat dry. In a small bowl or 2-cup measuring cup, whisk together hot water, tomato paste, paprika, sugar or honey, cayenne and 3/4 tsp salt (if you're watching your salt intake you can cut it to 1/2 tsp).
In a large saute pan, spread out the cilantro or parsley, roasted bell pepper slices, and garlic cloves to make an even "bed" for the fish fillets.
Place the fish fillets on top of the bed of herbs, peppers and garlic. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, then sprinkle evenly with the red pepper flakes.
Pour the seasoned tomato paste liquid over the top of the fillets, coating each fillet with sauce. Turn on heat and bring the sauce to a medium simmer.
Reduce heat to medium low, cover the saute pan, venting slightly, and let the fish simmer for about 15 minutes, basting every 3-4 minutes with sauce, till the fish is opaque and flaky.
Remove the lid from the pan and turn up the heat to a higher simmer. Let the sauce simmer and reduce for about 5-7 more minutes, continuing to baste the fillets, till the sauce thickens a bit and the largest garlic cloves are soft.
Serve fillets over cauliflower couscous or your favorite starch, topped with sauce, garlic cloves and sliced peppers. We usually serve it with a light spinach salad or sauteed greens on the side.