Whenever Chris leaves for a work trip and it’s time to cook for one, I get the craving for all things that he doesn’t like. First thing I do, is roast some beets (he hates beets!), and then I usually make something briny with ingredients like anchovies, capers, pickles, marinated peppers or artichokes…you get the picture. That’s not to say that he doesn’t eat any of these, his face just doesn’t light up as much as when I tell him I’m making good old BBQ ribs.
And even though I miss him like crazy when he’s gone, I’m glad that I get to experiment in the kitchen and discover delicious recipes like this Mahi Mahi with artichokes, green olives and pines nuts in a light tomato sauce.
Mahi Mahi is very flaky when cooked properly and has an almost sweet flavor, which pairs wonderfully with the briny flavors of this sauce. But if you can’t find Mahi Mahi, feel free to try this recipe with the more common yellowfin tuna. Actually, until I wrote this blog entry, I thought Mahi Mahi was tuna! Scroll down for the Foodstory to learn more.
A lot of Mahi Mahi pieces can be quite large, making them plenty to split between two people. In fact, Chris ate half of the fish later that night when he flew home from LA, and I was surprised to see him happily pile the sauce onto every bite. I think this yummy recipe will now be welcome into our weekly dinner rotation and Chris might be starting to actually like capers! Now I just have to work on those beets 😉
Am I eating Dolphin?!?
When I first started researching this Foodstory, I got a little panicky after learning that Mahi Mahi’s other commonly used name is Dolphinfish. Dolphins are incredibly beautiful and intelligent creatures and I refuse to eat anything that is in the same family.
I was very relieved to learn that Mahi Mahi and Dolphins are not related in the least bit, and that it’s just another confusing (doesn’t make sense at all!) encounter with the strange world of fish nomenclature. I felt similar bafflement when I learned that Ahi is the same exact fish as popular bluefin tuna while writing my Pepper Crusted Ahi Tuna Foodstory.
Why so many different names for the same fish?!? The explanation is simple: same fish species can be found in various regions of the world, where they were given completely different names by different language speaking fishermen. Mahi Mahi is of Hawaiian origin and has become the most popular name for this surface dwelling ray-finned fish. Mahi Mahi is part of the (and yes, I’m about to bust out smarty latin terms) Coryphaena equiselis family, which consists of only two types of fish, while the majestic Dolphin is in the Delphinidae family, comprising more than 30 different species.
The word Mahi means “strong” in Hawaiian, so the name literally translates to “strong-strong”. In other parts of the world, it’s is also called Dorado and Dolphinfish, even though it has nothing to do with Dolphins.
I love learning about food terminology and knowing exactly what I’m cooking and eating!
- Mahi Mahi Filet
- 3 tbs olive oil
- 1 tbs canola oil (or olive oil) to fry the fish
- 2 tbs champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
- 2 medium celery ribs or 1 large
- 1 small onion or 1/2 a large one
- 2 large garlic cloves, sliced thinly
- 1/3 cup high quality tomato sauce (preferrably from San Marzano tomatoes)
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 4 to 5 oz marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
- 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, drained and chopped
- 1 tbs capers, drained
- 2 tbs lightly toasted pine nuts
- 1.5 tbs sugar
- pinch of hot pepper flakes
- 2 tbs thinly sliced basil + 1 tbs for garnish
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 if finishing fish there…see #7.
1] Chop the artichokes and green olives, set aside in a small bowl. Finely chop the celery and onion, peel and thinly slice the garlic.
2] Heat the 3 tbs of olive oil in a large deep skillet over medium heat, add the onion, celery and garlic and cook, stirring here and there, until the onion looks translucent. If the veggies start to brown, turn down the heat. You DO NOT want to burn the garlic. After 3 minutes, push the veggies aside and add the pine nuts to one side of the pan to toast them a bit and release their nutty flavor, about 2 minutes (you can also do this separately, this just saves time and clean up).
3] Add the 1/4 cup white wine to the skillet and deglaze the pan for a minute, meaning let the wine cook off while you scrape the bottom with a spatula to lift the caramelized bits. Then add the tomato sauce, chopped artichokes and olives, capers, sugar, and pinch of hot pepper flakes. Season the sauce with a sprinkle of kosher salt (or regular salt) and a few grinds of black pepper.
4] Lower the heat to medium low and simmer the sauce about 6 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender and the sauce has thickened.
5] Turn off the heat, add the 2 tbs basil and set the sauce aside. (Sauce can be made up to 2 days ahead, chilled in fridge and reheated over low heat day of serving)
6] Coat the fish with Canola oil (or olive oil, canola just sears fish better in my opinion) and sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Heat a skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium high heat and add the fish flesh side down. Sear for 3 minutes, then flip to the skin side. Fish is ready to be flipped if you can easily slide the spatula underneath it. If it’s sticking to the pan, let it cook longer.
7] After you flip the fish to the skin side, take a spatula and press the fish down into the skillet, this will help the skin of the fish crisp more. After 3 minutes, you can either: cover the skillet with foil (or with pan cover), lower heat and let it finish cooking, or place the skillet into a preheated 350 degree oven. The fish is done when it registers 125 degrees, should take another 6 minutes or so if your piece of fish is 2 inches thick.
8] To serve, either spoon the sauce onto a plate and place the Mahi Mahi crispy skin side up over the sauce, or place the fish skin side down on a plate and spoon sauce on top, topping with some additional basil.
Either way, it will be a stunning and delicious dish 🙂