- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 27, 2005

My husband, a college professor who loves to entertain, is always suggesting we invite this couple or that, or this group or another over for dinner. “Just keep it simple,” he repeats, urging me to give him the green light to issue an invitation.

Recently, he proposed that we ask two students for a weeknight meal. I was hesitant, having just hosted out-of-town guests, but he persisted. “Let me think about a menu,” I replied, and then it came to me. I could anchor the meal with an easy fish dish I had made several times during the late summer for the two of us.

The entree takes only a few minutes to assemble and needs a short time in a hot oven. On different occasions, I had prepared the dish using thick fillets of striped bass or cod or halibut steaks. I drizzled the fish with lime juice, seasoned it generously with salt and pepper, then topped it with thinly sliced tomatoes.

The fillets were moist and flaky after less than 15 minutes in the oven. For a quick, colorful garnish, I mounded the fish with dollops of store-bought guacamole, then sprinkled them with crumbled bacon and chopped cilantro.

The resulting dish, with its vibrant green, red and white color scheme, looks as if it requires far more expertise and much more time than it actually does. The rich taste of the guacamole complements the mildness of the fish; the bacon provides a salty bit of crunch; and the cilantro adds a distinctive and robust accent.

As side dishes, I have decided on couscous scented with saffron and pan-fried zucchini with garlic. Plum sundaes, made with scoops of vanilla ice cream and sliced plums sauteed in sugar and spices, will end the meal.

Students, I’ve learned, make ideal guests and are inordinately appreciative of a home-cooked meal, a welcome alternative to their typical dorm fare. The professor has already made the phone calls.

Roasted fish with guacamole

Olive oil for oiling baking pan

4 7- to 8-ounce cod or striped bass fillets or halibut steaks, about ½- to 3/4-inch thick (see note)

8 teaspoons fresh lime juice

Kosher salt


2 to 3 medium tomatoes, stemmed and thinly sliced

1 cup purchased good-quality guacamole

4 bacon slices, fried until crisp and broken into bits

4 teaspoons chopped cilantro

Line a heavy, rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Oil the foil generously with olive oil. Arrange fish on baking sheet.

Drizzle 2 teaspoons lime juice over each piece of fish, then salt and pepper generously. Arrange enough slightly overlapping tomato slices on top of each fish to cover. (You may not need to use all of the tomatoes.)

Bake fish on center rack of preheated 425-degree oven until flesh is opaque and flakes easily when pierced with a sharp knife, 10 minutes or longer. (Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the fish, so watch carefully.)

Using a fish turner or a large spatula, transfer each piece of fish to a dinner plate and top each with a mound of guacamole. Sprinkle each serving with some bacon and chopped cilantro. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Note: Each of these fish works well in this recipe. The bass and halibut, however, are more firm than the cod. The bass and the cod can be purchased as fillets, but the halibut is usually easier to find as steaks.

Betty Rosbottom is a cooking school director and author of “Big Book of Backyard Cooking,” (Chronicle Books).


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