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JeanMarie Brownson: Build up a reserve of frozen fish for those challenging dinner nights

JeanMarie Brownson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dinner fatigue plagues even the cook who enjoys the process. Part of the solution lies in having things on hand to cook. Plus, a supply of simple recipes that deliver big with minimal effort.

Our deep-freezer always holds a reserve of frozen fish for those challenging dinner nights. One of the most versatile offerings includes the Wild Alaskan Pacific cod delivered direct from Sitka Salmon Shares. Other excellent sources of properly frozen, sustainably sourced fish fillets, include Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

Whipping together an interesting sauce greatly increases the odds that I will be motivated to cook this convenient, lean protein. Canned tomatoes transform into many things, among them a smoky tomato sauce seasoned with Spanish pimenton — aka smoked paprika. Quickly saute finely chopped onions and garlic before adding canned tomato puree and the seasonings. In less than 10 minutes, you’ll have an intriguing sauce for fish, poultry, grilled eggplant and more.

I stock the dulce (sweet) paprika for regular use in soups, stews, barbecue sauces and rubs. The picante (hot) smoked paprika packs a punch, add it sparingly. Look for smoked paprika in the spice aisle of large supermarkets or online from or

When my thinking cap is on straight, I plan ahead and set the packaged frozen fish on a plate to gently thaw all day (or overnight) in the refrigerator. Then, when dinner rolls around, it’s still very cold. In a pinch, the fish can be put in a sealed bag and set in a bowl of lukewarm water to speed up the thawing. Season the fish with salt, pepper and smoked paprika, then let it come to room temperature while pulling the rest of the dinner together.

Start the fish cooking on a hot griddle or skillet for a golden crust. Finish the fish with a brief stint in a hot oven. Or, cook the fish in a single, uncrowded layer in an air-fryer using the timing suggested by the manufacturer’s directions. Make extra fish to save for use in the scrambled egg recipe that follows or to tuck into a brioche bun with a smear of mayonnaise for a warm sandwich.


At serving time, spoon the sauce onto serving plates and top with a piece of hot fish. Accompany the fish with a microwave-heated rice pouch and a green salad dressed with fresh lemon juice and Spanish olive oil.

High heat roasted cod tastes fantastic gently scrambled into eggs for a casual supper or brunch dish. Pass warmed smoked tomato sauce or serve topped with salsa.

Roasted Cod with Smoked Tomato Sauce

Makes 2 servings


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