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Foodie Friday: Pan-roasted cod swims in tomatoes, panko and Parmesan

This recipe, fashioned after the classic Italian appetizer bruschetta, is likewise easy to pull together

By Gretchen McKay, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Fresh fish is often considered a special-occasion meal. Let’s face it, some varieties can be just as expensive as the highest quality steaks. Cod, on the other hand, can be easy on the budget, especially if you’re lucky to find it on sale.

Mild tasting and flaky, cod is an extremely versatile fish. Considered a “gateway” dish for people who turn up their noses at fishy-tasting seafood such as salmon, cod can be beer-battered and fried for tacos or a Lenten fish fry, roasted, sauteed, grilled, marinated in lime juice for seviche or simply be baked with a little butter, lemon and garlic for an elegant dinner.

This recipe, fashioned after the classic Italian appetizer bruschetta, is likewise easy to pull together. After being brushed with lemon-garlic butter, the cod is topped with chopped, balsamic-marinated tomatoes, followed by a crunchy topping forged from panko and Parmesan. It’s easy enough for a weeknight, but tastes fancy enough for the weekend.

Fresh cod should have firm flesh, appear moist and not smell fishy. Ideally, it should be eaten within two days of purchase.

Pan Roasted Cod

I’ve been on a kick lately with lemon-flavored balsamic vinegar, which adds a delicate citrus note. If you can’t find (or don’t like) cod, another white fish such as haddock is a seamless stand-in.

For fish

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh cod loin, cut into 4 portions
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • Juice of 1/2 small lemon (about 1 tablespoon)

For tomato topping

  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 or 4 basil leaves, slivered
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Splash or two of olive oil
  • Splash or two of balsamic vinegar

For Parmesan topping

  • 1/3 cup plain panko bread crumbs
  • 2 heaping tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Pinch dried oregano
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • Olive oil
  • Cooked rice, for serving
  • Lemon slices, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pat cod fillets with a paper towel until dry, then season with salt and pepper. Place in a greased casserole dish or parchment-line baking sheet.

In a small bowl, stir together melted butter, olive oil, minced garlic and lemon juice until combined. Spoon on top of cod fillets in pan until evenly coated.

In another small bowl, prepare bruschetta topping. Stir together chopped tomatoes, slivered basil and minced garlic, then add a splash or two of olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste.

In a third small bowl, combine topping ingredients, using just enough olive oil to bind the panko and Parmesan — about 1 tablespoon.

Spoon the tomato mixture on top of the buttered cod, then sprinkle with Parmesan topping. (You might have extra.)

Bake fish until it is opaque and flakes easily with a fork, 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets.

Serve on top of rice with pan sauce, with lemon slices for squeezing.

Serves 4.