When European explorers made their way to the New World, they were surprised by the number of cod in the Grand Banks, a section of the continental shelf that stretches for hundreds of miles off the coast of Nova Scotia.

Today, this lean, flaky fish is a mainstay of the New England fishing industry. With a mild, sweet flavor, cod is perfectly suited for the bold Mediterranean flavors it is paired with in this recipe.

Although simply prepared with a dusting of bread crumbs, the cod develops a wonderfully crisp texture in the oven. It is a nice complement to the sweet mixture of sauteed onion, bell pepper and golden raisins that accompanies it. A touch of brown sugar and balsamic vinegar meld the flavors together.

True balsamic vinegar is produced from very mature Trebbiano grapes, native to Modena, Italy. The vinegar is aged for six months to several years in a series of barrels made from different woods, which produces its unique taste. Most balsamic varieties available at your local supermarket are made commercially in stainless steel tanks. For authentic balsamic, head to a specialty store it's worth the trip.

When buying cod filets, look for fish with flesh that gives slightly when you press, then springs back into shape. If you are not using the cod immediately, place the filets on a wire rack in a shallow pan filled with crushed ice. If placed in the coldest part of the refrigerator, the fish can be stored like this for up to two days. If they are well wrapped, they can be kept in the freezer for about two months.

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While this dish pairs well with almost any vegetable, the vivid colors of steamed asparagus and broccoli complement the finished plate nicely. Add a slice of just baked hearty, whole grain bread to finish your Mediterranean experience.

Sicilian Cod

Makes 4 servings.

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Ingredients

  • 4 tsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 3 Tbsp. golden raisins
  • 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 (4 oz.) cod fillets (haddock, halibut, or catfish may be substituted)
  • 2 Tbsp. Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh basil, coarsely chopped (or 2 tsp. dried)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

  2. Heat 2 tsp. oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Heat garlic until light golden brown. Add onion, bell peppers, raisins, vinegar, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion and vegetables are tender, approximately 15-20 minutes. Set aside, but keep warm.

  3. Spray shallow baking dish and place fillets in it. Brush the fish with remainder of oil. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.

  4. Bake at 450 degrees for approximately 12 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Spoon onion mixture over fish before serving and sprinkle with basil.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
220 calories
6 g total fat
1 g saturated fat
20 g carbohydrate
22 g protein
2 g dietary fiber
230 mg sodium