Spanish Garlic Fish


For a long time, I was not a fan of heat and spice in my food. But in my 20’s, I had an opportunity to dine in some of the most amazing Spanish and Portuguese restaurants in New Jersey, where garlic, pepper, and tomatoes are the “holy trinity.” I started to understand that heat is best when balanced with flavor, and that, like salt, proper use can enhance the flavor of food and not mask it.

This week’s recipe is a fish entree inspired by my experiences with those Spanish and Portuguese restaurants. It has a lot of garlic – a whole head for just four servings – and pan-roasting the garlic slices until they are golden brown really changes the flavor of the garlic and gives it great depth. Throw in a generous pinch of red pepper flakes, and you have infused HUGE flavor into your fish with just two ingredients.

If you like heat in your food but are not a fan of fish, this would be a great dish to try as a way to expand that particular horizon. Personally, I love most kinds of fish, but in this dish the spicy tomato sauce is the star of the show.

If you’re truly adamant about your dislike of fish, then feel free to proceed with chicken. I won’t be offended. Vegetarians can also use firm tofu in place of the fish.

I served this alongside a large serving of oven-roasted green beans for a well-rounded meal.

Spanish Garlic Fish Recipe

  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, minced and divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon light salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 20 ounces fresh fish, divided into four filets
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic or red/white wine vinegar

Thinly slice garlic cloves and place in a large non-stick skillet with chili flakes and olive oil.  Set skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic begins to sizzle and brown. Cook until garlic is golden brown, being careful not to burn, about 10 minutes.  Remove pan from heat and let rest for 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and return the pan to medium-high heat. Add half of the parsley. Season the fish with the salt and pepper, and when the tomato mixture comes to a boil, tuck the fish into the sauce.

Return mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover skillet and cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until fish reaches desired doneness. Add a little water to mixture if it becomes dry.

Remove fish to serving plates. Stir remaining parsley into tomato mixture along with vinegar. Pour sauce over fish.

Makes 4 servings.