Fish with Rhubarb Sauce

Peshkado kon Ruibarbaro

Spring marks the arrival of rhubarb at-the market and of Passover. Thus, it is not surprising that fish in sweet-and-sour rhubarb sauce appears on the Seder table in Greece and Turkey. The major difference between the preparations favored in the two countries is in the proportion of rhubarb to tomato. In Greece, one part rhubarb to two parts tomato rules, while in Turkey the proportions are reversed. The original version of this recipe, from the Jewish community of Rhodes, calls for swordfish, but some rabbis forbid its use as it does not have scales for the first six months of its life. Sea bass, cod, flounder, and salmon are excellent alternatives. This dish was a great favorite at my San Francisco restaurant, Square One. We served it during Passover and then off and on throughout the rhubarb season. Although not authentic, you can also grill the fish fillets and spoon the sauce over them at the table.

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Ingredients

For the Rhubarb Sauce

  • 1 ½ pounds rhubarb
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or about 3 cups chopped, seeded canned plum tomatoes
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons honey
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 2 pounds firm fish fillets such as cod, sea bass, flounder, or salmon

Method

To make the rhubarb sauce, clean the rhubarb stalks by pulling off the heavy filaments, much as you would pull strings from celery. Cut crosswise into 1½-inch pieces. Place the pieces in a saucepan and add the water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, until the rhubarb has melted into a purée and is tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Warm the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are reduced to a thick sauce, about 15 minutes. Add the wine, 1 tablespoon honey, and the lemon juice and zest, if using, and stir well. Add the tomatoes to the rhubarb purée, or vice versa, and mix well. Simmer, uncovered, over low heat until the sauce is thick and rich, about 20 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and the cinnamon, if using. Taste and adjust the sweet-and-sour balance, adding a bit more honey if needed. Keep warm.

While the sauce is cooking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F

Arrange the fish fillets in a single layer in a baking dish. Spoon some of the sauce over them, covering them completely. Cover and bake until the fish tests done when the point of a knife is inserted into the thickest part, about 15 minutes. Transfer the fillets to a platter and spoon the rest of the warm sauce over them. Serve at once.