Cod is braised in a flavorful mix of fresh and...

Cod is braised in a flavorful mix of fresh and canned tomatoes, saffron, garlic, oranges and olives. Credit: Marge Perry

I am often asked if canned and fresh tomatoes can be used interchangeably in recipes. The answer: it depends. Canned tomatoes give off more liquid as they cook and also have liquid in the can. Sometimes, that liquid is just what you want — other times, a recipe is better with the brighter flavor (and dryer texture) of fresh chopped tomatoes.

In the case of this Sicilian cod recipe, the combination of canned and fresh tomatoes is ideal — but in a pinch, you could certainly go with all of one or the other. The results will be different, but either way you end up with an incredibly tasty meal.

Saffron lends unique flavor and color to the dish, but it is very expensive. So expensive, in fact, that many stores keep it behind the counter and take it out only as requested. If you don’t feel like splurging, use about ½ teaspoon of turmeric instead. Turmeric lends beautiful color — and health benefits.

The sauce may be made in advance and refrigerated for up to three days or frozen. With it on hand, you have an almost-instant, exuberantly flavorful dinner.

Sicilian Cod with Tomato, Saffron, Olives, and Orange

Adjust the amount of red pepper flakes to your tolerance for spiciness.

4 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)

1 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed

1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise

1 teaspoon grated fresh orange zest

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided

4 (6 to 8-ounce) cod fillets

Coarsely chopped parsley for garnish

1. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, oregano and pepper flakes; cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic starts to brown, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, sugar and saffron; cook, until the sauce has thickened, stirring occasionally, 22-25 minutes. Stir in the olives, zest, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper; continue cooking.

2. Season the cod with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Nestle the fish into the sauce in the skillet in a single layer. Cover and cook until the fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork, about 10-12 minutes. Serve with some of the sauce spooned over the fish.

Makes 4 servings

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