Tomatoes are a pretty big deal in my family. My maternal grandfather, Bernard L. Pollack, was a horticulturist at Rutgers and in 1968 he engineered the Ramapo Tomato. As he describes it, “this hybrid was intended for the home gardener who was tired of eating tomatoes that tasted like the boxes that they were shipped in.” My grandfather has developed several other strains of tomatoes, including the Abbie which was named after my mother. As you can imagine, we’re what you might call “tomato snobs.” I cringe when I see people put tomatoes in the refrigerator (the cold temperature tampers with the sweet flavor), and my mom hardly allows ketchup at the dinner table, referring to it as “tomato murder.” Every year I literally count down the days to the time when the best tomatoes are finally in season: heirloom, beefsteak, early girl. Until then, I am lucky to have access to pretty good cherry and grape tomatoes year round. I use them in salads, pasta sauces, scrambles, or I just eat them out of the basket like candy.
Cherry tomatoes also make for a nice sauce over pan-fried white fish. I usually sauté them with lemon and capers, but last night I decided to switch it up a bit. I was inspired by this dish from the recipe book of Trefethen Family Winery, but improvised based on the ingredients at my disposal and came up with my own tomatoey version.
White Fish with Spicy Tomato Sauce (serves 2)
- 2 TB olive oil
- 1 lb (2 fillets) flounder, or other white, flakey fish
- salt and pepper
- salt-free poultry or seafood seasoning (I like Penzeys)
- 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small shallot, chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped Kalamata olives
- 1/4 cup white wine
- juice from 1/2 lemon
In a large non-stick pan, heat olive oil over a medium-high flame. Season one side of the fish with salt, pepper and seafood seasoning. Place fish fillets in the pan, seasoned side down and cook for 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to a serving dish.
Add parsley and red pepper flakes to the pan and sauté for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, garlic, shallots and olives and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the white wine and continue to sauté until most of it has cooked off (about 2 more minutes). Spoon tomato sauce over fish, squeeze with a bit of lemon, and serve! I added a bit more green to the dish with some zucchini sautéed in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper – inspired by Annie P.
As suggested in the original recipe, I paired this dish with Trefethen 2011 Harmony Chardonnay. I was a bit apprehensive about pairing Chardonnay with tomatoes, but I was hopeful that the Harmony would be able to stand up to the acid and spice in the dish – and I was right! The Harmony held it’s ground and was a refreshing pair to the flavorful fish, showcasing a bright, lemony side that was complemented by a bit of creaminess. As for the tomato sauce, it was deliciously spicy and I loved the addition of Kalamata olives. I will definitely be making this again, and I think it would also go well over roasted chicken.
Special thanks to my mother and her wonderful parents, Bernie and Sonia, who have spoiled me with delicious tomatoes over the last 28 years, and taught me how respect the integrity of the tomato. I can’t wait to have a garden of my own some day, where I can carry on the tradition of Ramapo tomatoes.