Cod is one of my all time favorite fish. It cooks fast and its flaky meaty chunks are the perfect canvas for all sorts of accompanying vegetables and sauces but I’ve been cooking it the same way for decades --- oven roasted, topped with tomato slices, olive oil, bread crumbs, fresh herbs, salt, pepper and a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice. It’s a simple dish that takes five minutes to prepare and about 20 minutes to cook. It’s an effortless and elegant dish. The results have stood the test of time but it was time to mix it up a bit.
My motivation to prepare oven-roasted Cod in a different way really came from a search for affordable fresh vegetables in winter and my hunt for great taste. I was in the supermarket picking up a pint of rather pricey cherry tomatoes and was resigned to pay a lot for colorful tomatoes that would be long on fiber but really short on juice and flavor.
The magic of this roast cod that has kept me preparing it the same way for decades is the rich sauce from the juices of fresh tomatoes, the fish, and the lemon when roasted with olive oil and fresh herbs. There’s nothing like it. The combination of flakes of mild white fish, toasted breadcrumbs, and a bold citrusy sauce makes for a dish that can’t be beat.
Unwilling to pay the price for winter tomatoes or compromise on flavor, I set out to find some alternative vegetables for this roasted cod classic. The three that I chose were parsnips, red beets, and broccoli stems all cut into nice uniform cubes
None of these vegetables would have the intense acidic flavor of vine-ripened tomatoes bursting with juice so I roasted the winter vegetables to intensify their flavor. Roasting intensified the sweetness of the beets, dialed-up the anise from the parsnips, and coaxed the mineral flavors from the broccoli stems.
In addition to the roasted vegetables, I topped the cod with chopped Medjool dates as the star of the dish.
Medjools are creamy and sweet with the flavor of molasses, vanilla, and brown sugar. In this roasted cod with winter vegetables, the Medjools impart to the dish the richness and complexity of flavor that the tomatoes provide in the summertime version of the dish.