Week 8 Finalists- Best Summer Fish Recipe

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This week, we chose two recipes with similar ingredient lists. Both fish dishes have a tomato sauce seasoned with capers and olives, but one contains pasta while the other relies on potatoes for heft. See what you think.

The (Not Barefoot) Contessa's Fish Pasta by Fisheri

Fisheri's recipe title -- The (Not Barefoot) Contessa's Fish Pasta -- caught our eye. Turns out the recipe comes from an actual contessa, a friend of Fisheri's. The sauce reminded us of so much of the cooking we've seen in Italy, with vegetables and fish simmered for much longer than you'd expect. Here, the fish is sauteed in oil, and then it stays in the pan as wine is reduced and fresh tomatoes are added and simmered. We feared the fish would end up in shreds. Instead we learned something: by adding the fish early on, its flavor infuses the whole sauce, so the tomatoes and fish are no longer separate entities, but fully integrated into the sauce. And the capers and olives reinforce the flavor of the fish with brine. It ends up being a more vibrant version of puttanesca.

Fisheri's ingredients specified a white fish, recommending striped bass or snapper. We went with the striped bass, and were pleased that we did.

The sauce is only raw tomatoes, and thus, we did much slicing! We ended up using 1 quart of dicd tomatoes, and our sauce was just a hair too dry (we wanted more of it to coat every strand of pasta!) so next time we may use 5 cups.

Much like smashing garlic, the meat tenderizer is very effective for pitting olives.

The best piece advice for skinning fish filets? Use a sharp knife.

We cut the fish into pieces that were roughly 1 1/2" squares, hoping this would allow it to cook for a while without drying out. We were right!

Mincing parsley. Perhaps the most tedious kitchen job. Ever.

Toasting the garlic briefly in hot oil before adding the fish. Be careful not to brown it!

Once the fish is added, the garlic begins to brown (and smell delicious) but you really don't want to burn it.

After deglazing with some white wine, the tomatoes!

As the tomatoes cooked, they broke down into a gorgeous sauce.

After cooking the sauce for ten minutes, we killed the heat and added the olives, capers, and parsley. The sauce came together a touch as it sat, and the flavors melded seamlessly.

As soon as the pasta was done, we plated it with the sauce. We decided one large dish of this pasta would be beautiful, and practical, at the table.

Finished: Delicious!

Cod Mare Chiaro by Giulia Melucci

Giulia Melucci's recipe made us think of an old Patricia Wells recipe that we love, in which lamb is cooked atop a bed of potatoes. In Melucci's dish, you begin by roasting quartered potatoes until they're almost tender. While they cook, you get a fresh, chunky tomato sauce simmering on the stove, seasoning it with capers, olives, oregano and fresh basil. When the potatoes are nearly done, you push them to the sides of your roasting pan, plop the fish in the center, spoon the glistening sauce on top and send it back in the oven to finish cooking. Like with Fisheri's pasta, you get an excellent summer fish dinner with very few ingredients.

Very similar ingredients to the above dish, but a very different outcome!

The recipe called for 4 medium red potatoes, but instead we used 6 small-ish new potatoes. They worked very well.

After tossing them with olive oil, oregano, salt, and pepper, we threw them in the oven (not literally) to roast.

More tomatoes!

We also pitted and sliced olives, finishing the ingredients for the sauce.

Toasting the garlic in a pan Amanda's had since college. Which is to say it's practically new...

Merrill tears basil right into the sauce.

The sauce stays relatively thick, as it only cooks briefly.

We made a well, of sorts, in the potatoes, and nestled in the (seasoned) cod.

Poured the sauce over only the fish, and popped it back in the oven for only 12 minutes, at which point the fish was perfectly cooked, and the potatoes were crisp on the outside, and velvety on the inside.

We'd serve this directly from the dish.