Living in Toronto means having access to all kinds of great food and fresh produce, both imported and local. The only issue I have is with accessibility to fresh fish and seafood. We are landlocked and because of this we pay dearly for it.
You see, when I lived in Greece, I had access to fresh fish all the time. I’d walk to the farmer’s market and peruse the tables of various fish and seafood all caught that same morning. Not only was the fish affordable in Greece but more than once, the fish monger would throw in an extra fish or two just for the hell of it. Talk about generous!
There are plenty of fishmongers in this city and I have shopped at several locations. The last time I was at a fish store in Kensington Market, I bought 2 medium-sized whole sea bass and paid $25 for them. My head reeled when the cashier quoted the price. This past week, I went to the St. Lawrence Market and picked up 4 fresh red snapper fillets for $18. They looked very plump and shiny and I was eager to prepare them in a way that would heighten their freshness.
To make this meal, I set to work using traditional Greek ingredients to create baked fish in the oven. This traditional Greek dish is called Psari Plaki and varies from region to region throughout Greece. Some add a cup of white wine to the fish before baking, others just use water. Some folks add oregano AND parsley. Some even add a chopped hot banana pepper for kick. But one thing is certain, nobody skimps on the tomatoes, onions and garlic.
Traditionally the fish is prepared with potato wedges scattered throughout the pan (Make sure to drizzle extra oil and salt on the potatoes if using). Of course, the fish will end up cooking faster than the potatoes but Greeks like their fish overcooked anyway. If you are fortunate enough to have access to fresh whole fish (head and tail intact, guts removed and surface scaled) along with juicy in-season tomatoes, this dish is spectacular.
When the fish begins to cook, the aroma of the garlic, onions and parsley will make you antsy with anticipation. Personally, I couldn’t wait to dig into this. I served it over a bed of long grain rice, pouring the reserved juices from the pan over the fish.
Oven baked Greek-inspired fish (makes 4 servings)
4 boneless, skinless fish filets (fresh or frozen)
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, sliced into thin rings and separated
1 can whole tomatoes, crushed or 4 fresh tomatoes, chopped
bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
salt & pepper
3-4 tablespoons of water
a squirt of lemon before eating
1) Pre-heat oven to 325F. Drizzle about 2 tbs of oil on the bottom of a baking pan. Place your fish filets in the pan.
2) Drizzle more oil onto the fish. Sprinkle the salt, pepper, garlic, the onions, the chopped tomato (or tomato puree) and the minced parsley over the top creating a blanket of ingredients. This will serve two purposes: 1) it will keep the fish moist during baking and, 2) it will create a lovely broth at the base of the pan which you can drizzle onto your fish after and/or sop it up with good crusty bread.
3) Bake the fish for approximately 30 minutes or until the onions and garlic have softened. This step is optional but if you like (towards the last 3-5 minutes) remove your lid or foil cover, and you can turn on the broiling element in the oven to add some caramelized colour to the fish and vegetables. At this point, you can add a squirt of lemon juice to your fish if you like. Kali Orexi!