The sauce makes the dish. This one tastes like tapenade, with complex notes from its reduction of anise liqueur, orange juice and sugar. Rockfish is the delivery vehicle of choice, but I'd bet just about any fairly thick, white-fleshed fish fillets would do nicely.
Serve with parsleyed potatoes or a mash of sautéed peas and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Rockfish with tapenade sauce
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 16 minutes
Make ahead: Leftover tapenade sauce can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Stir to reincorporate before using. Adapted from "In the Kitchen With the Pike Place Fish Guys" by the crew of Pike Place Fish, Bryan Jarr and Leslie Miller (Viking Studio, $30, 272 pages).
1/4 cup Pernod (for a nonalcoholic substitute for the Pernod, mix 3 to 4 teaspoons of ground anise seed into 1/4 cup water or liquid of your choice)
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
3 or 4 stems thyme
2 cloves garlic
3 good-size basil or sorrel leaves
3/4 to 1 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/3 cup capers
2 anchovy fillets
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or more as needed
4 skinless rockfish fillets, pin bones removed (20 to 24 ounces total; may substitute black cod)
Freshly ground black pepper
Combine the Pernod, orange juice and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the mixture has come to a boil, cook for 6 minutes, stirring once or twice, until it has reduced and is slightly syrupy.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a food processor and let it cool while you pick enough thyme leaves to yield 2 teaspoons and coarsely chop the garlic and the basil or sorrel leaves.
Add the thyme, garlic and basil to the syrup, along with 3/4 cup of the olives, the capers (drained or rinsed, depending on the method of brine) and the anchovies. Purée until fairly smooth.
With the motor running, gradually add 1 tablespoon of the oil. If needed or desired, add up to another 2 teaspoons of oil or some/all of the remaining 1/4 cup of olives. Transfer to a bowl.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Season the fillets lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Add to the pan and cook for 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.
Meanwhile, grate 1 tablespoon of zest from the orange.
Divide the fillets among individual plates. Spoon the tapenade sauce on each portion, then garnish with the orange zest. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Per serving (using half of the sauce): 280 calories, 27 g protein, 9 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 50 mg cholesterol, 460 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 7 g sugar