After a couple of rough days last week, I developed a craving for a comforting brothy bowl of mussels and crusty bread. I bundled up and head off to our local Whole Foods, a reliable source for beautiful seafood. When I approached the display, my eyes scoured the selection. I didn't see any bags. The gentleman behind the counter asked if he could help me with anything. "Any mussels?" He gave me an apologetic smile, "Sorry, we're all out and probably won't be getting in for a few days. Everyone wanted them for the holidays." Bummer. "Ok, so, let's see what else we have here." I looked over my other options. And that's when I noticed a gorgeous lone red snapper laying before me. "What about the snapper?" I asked. His eyes went wide and a big grin formed. "That just came in this morning. It's super fresh. You're going to love it." Sold.
Not much needs to be done to such a beautiful fish. I rubbed it with a bit of oil and lightly salted the skin. Into the oven it went and, within 30 minutes, the whole thing was finished. There are so many directions one can take with this dish, but I went with a Mediterranean spin, pairing the fish with sautéed fennel, tomatoes and sliced black olives.
The day after, I ended up at the store again and showed the fishmonger some photos on my phone of what I'd prepared. "This is awesome. Just awesome. I'm so happy you showed me this." I didn't get into details about the blog or that I'm a food photographer (though he got really excited by the plating). I don't know how often people share their creations with him, but I hope it brought him joy knowing that someone enjoyed his recommendation.
ROASTED whole RED SNAPPER WITH TOMATO, FENNEL AND OLIVES
1, 3 pound cleaned whole red snapper
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz canned diced tomatoes
1 medium fennel bulb, cut in half and sliced into 1/4 inch wedges
1/2 cup pitted black olives, sliced
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place the snapper onto a large baking pan. Cut 3 or 4 angled slits into each side of the fish. Rub the skin of the snapper with canola oil and lightly salt the skin and cavity of the fish. Roast for 30 minutes or until the fish flakes. Transfer to serving platter.
While the fish is cooking, set a large pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for 1 minute. Stir in garlic and fennel. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Cook for 3 minutes. Stir in diced tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes. Add black olives and taste for seasoning. If necessary, season with additional salt and black pepper.
Serve with a side of rice or roasted potatoes.