A fish dish that's no fuss

September 24, 2005|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Tribune Media Services

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Roasted Fish With Guacamole, couscous scented with saffron, pan-fried zucchini with garlic, plum sundaes

My husband, a college professor who loves to entertain, is always suggesting we invite people over for dinner. "Just keep it simple," he advises.

Recently, he unexpectedly proposed that we ask two students for a meal. I was hesitant, but then it came to me: I could anchor the meal with an easy fish dish I had made several times before. It takes only a few minutes to assemble and needs a short time in a hot oven.

On different occasions I've prepared this dish using fillets of striped bass or cod or halibut steaks, drizzling the fish with lime juice, seasoning it with salt and pepper, then topping it with thinly sliced tomatoes.

The fillets are moist and flaky after less than 15 minutes in the oven. For a quick, colorful garnish: dollops of store-bought guacamole, sprinkled with crumbled bacon and chopped cilantro.

The resulting dish, with its vibrant green, red and white color scheme, looks as if it requires far more expertise and much more time than it actually does.

For side dishes I decided on couscous scented with saffron and pan-fried zucchini with garlic. Plum sundaes, made with scoops of vanilla ice cream and sliced plums sauteed in sugar and spices, can end the meal.

Betty Rosbottom writes for Tribune Media Services.

Roasted Fish With Guacamole

4 servings

Olive oil for oiling baking pan

4 (7- to 8-ounce) cod or striped bass fillets or halibut steaks, about 1/2 - to 3/4 -inch thick

8 teaspoons fresh lime juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 to 3 medium tomatoes, stemmed and thinly sliced

1 cup purchased good-quality guacamole

4 bacon slices, fried until crisp and broken into bits

4 teaspoons chopped cilantro

Line a heavy, rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Oil the foil generously with olive oil. Arrange fish on baking sheet.

Drizzle 2 teaspoons lime juice over each piece of fish, then salt and pepper generously. Overlap tomato slices on top of each fish to cover. (You may not need to use all of the tomatoes.)

Bake fish on center rack of preheated 425-degree oven until flesh is opaque and flakes easily when pierced with a sharp knife, 10 minutes or longer. (Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the fish, so watch carefully.)

Transfer each piece of fish to a dinner plate and top each with a mound of guacamole. Sprinkle each serving with some bacon and chopped cilantro. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 306 calories, 36 grams protein, 14 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 9 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 82 milligrams cholesterol, 551 milligrams sodium. Recipe from Betty Rosbottom, a cooking school director and author of "Big Book of Backyard Cooking," Chronicle Books, 2004. Analysis by registered dietitian Jodie Shield.

Company's coming

Entertaining at the last minute? Here are a few preparation tips:

Walk around the house, laundry basket in hand, and place any unsightly clutter in the basket. Stash the basket in an inconspicuous place.

Keep plenty of candles on hand for quick mood-setting. Vanilla candles are great for deodorizing.

Slice a loaf of French bread. Pour a combination of olive oil and balsamic vinegar into a small tray for dipping.

Create a quick bouquet: Gather and combine flowering shrubs, berries, decorative grasses and flowers from your yard.

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