Black Cod Mediterranean Style

This is the story of a meal that turned out good, but could have been better….I made a bit of a mistake, but it was good eating, and it is only food afterall….

I picked up about 3/4 pound of black cod (also known as sablefish) at the Sacramento Natural Foods Coop. It was a Friday night, I was tired, and I did not want to do some kind of fancy cooking. So I figured I would use the Mediterranean fish recipe that is already posted on this site. It is a basic “chop up the stuff and bake it”  kind of recipe.  I had an extra red bell pepper so I chopped it up and added it to the usual tomato mix. I used 6 tomatoes; it was a bit much for that amount of fish, but I had a bunch of tomatoes I was trying to use up.  Altogether I had about 6 cups of tomatoes chopped, 3 Tablespoons capers, 1/4 cup of small Nicoise type home-made olives pitted (you can use Kalamata), 1/4 cup chopped basil, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, 2 cloves garlic crushed, 1 very small red onion chopped  along with the chopped red bell pepper and 1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. I mixed all these ingredients together to put on the fish.

I put the cod in a baking dish, and this is where I made a mistake. With so many tomatoes, I should have used a 9 by 13 glass baking dish but I used this Pyrex casserole dish instead. It was just a bit too small for the volume of tomatoes. I had cut the two filets in half, and removed any bones I could find with needle nosed pliers. I put 1/2 cup of white wine and 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in the baking dish and put the fish on top of it.

I piled all of the tomato mixture on top of it and it looked like this. Just not quite enough surface to volume ratio!

I baked it at 350 for 15 minutes, at which point I realized it really was getting soupy so I upped the heat to 375 for a few minutes, then finally 400. After 35 minutes I knew the fish was done, but the pan had quite a bit of liquid in it.

I took 2 pieces of sourdough levain bread and ground them in the food processor with 1 Tablespoon olive oil to make bread crumbs. This time instead of using the Pecorino Romano cheese, I decided to use a low-fat feta cheese. So I put 2 ounces of that crumbled up into the bread crumb mixture and sprinkled it all over the fish. Then I popped it under the broiler until it was all nice and brown.

I served it up and it looked nice on the plate. I had some Yukon gold potatoes which I boiled and mashed with milk, salt and pepper and a tiny bit of organic margarine, and some Italian green beans which I simply boiled and served up with it.

However this is what the pan looked like and it is because I used a pan that was too small. Next time I will remember to use a larger pan to allow the tomatoes to evaporate adequately.

The dish has great flavors though and I encourage you to try cooking fish this way. This is a fish recipe for people who are not that fond of fish.  In fact Adrian had eaten 1/4 of the pan and was saying “Where is the fish?”. That cod had just sort of fallen apart into the vegetable mixture, but it really was a tasty mix.

Nutrition Tip: Black cod, otherwise known as sablefish, is a sustainably harvested fish according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. You can check out their list and download a guide at this link:

Black cod is a very rich fish and it is a powerhouse of nutrition. It has 2 1/2 times the omega-3 fats of salmon, which itself  is considered to be an excellent source of omega-3 fats. Salmon has about 670 mg of omega-3s per oz. whereas black cod has a whopping 1400 mg. in the same amount. Omega-3 fats are considered by researchers to be one of the prime contributors to the health benefits of the traditional Mediterranean diet. They lower triglyceride (a type of fat in the blood) so effectively that there is a prescription omega-3 fat product on the market. They also reduce inflammation and clotting and are a critical component of the brain. The list of research on the benefits of Omega-3 fats is so extensive it is beyond what I can cover here. Suffice it to say I feel they are essential to good health in a multitude of ways and I make sure both myself and the people I love get omega-3 fats in their diets.

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

Tomato sauce (sans BPA)

After all the recent press on BPA, and my discovery that you can’t get canned tomatoes without the BPA, I became more convinced that I needed to put up the tomatoes I have in the garden to last through the winter. One way to do this is to dry them, which we did with a few, and another way is to peel them and remove the seeds and freeze them in bags or can them. I did a little bit of each of those. But if I make a big batch of sauce now, and then freeze the sauce, it will take less room in the freezer than all those frozen tomatoes. I also am able to use any fresh herbs or other vegetables that are in season now. And the best thing is, I can pull out a jar in the winter, and dinner is half fixed. I usually just add some turkey or chicken sausage, maybe some winter vegetables or some beans, pour it over pasta and I am good to go.

This particular recipe uses up a LOT of tomatoes, and the sauce is almost thick like tomato paste. You can thin it down, or even add it to soups, to give some great tomato flavor in the winter. It also makes a great pizza sauce. I have the recipe for the roasted red tomato sauce posted on my pages, but we also had a bumper crop of golden tomatoes.  I figured “use what you have” so I thought I would give them a try.  We planted too many golden tomatoes this year but they are beauties. The color goes from gold on the top almost to red at the bottom. They are called “Hillbilly Potato Leaf” and they look like this:

The specifics of this recipe are on the roasted tomato sauce recipe page but I made a few modifications due to the “use what you have” philosophy. I had golden bell peppers, and I thought those would be a nice addition to a roasted golden tomato sauce so I  removed the stem and seeds, cut them in large rough pieces and put them in the roasting pan with the olive oil, onions and peeled tomatoes. I used about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, 15-20 tomatoes peeled, seeded and broken into chunks, 2 red onions, 3 golden peppers, 4 whole peeled cloves of garlic, and a few springs of thyme. I skipped the oregano for this batch, because I am not sure at this time how I am going to use it and oregano is an assertive “Italian” flavor. As usual these amounts are rough…Just don’t overdo the herbs. If you like garlic you could go heavier on that.

All these big chunks of tomatoes, onions and whole cloves of garlic, along with the stalks of herbs, were thrown into the big roasting pan. I cooked them at 425 degrees, and after about 15 minutes I opened the oven and gave it a stir. I continued to do this until all the liquid had evaporated, and the tomatoes were starting to turn lightly brown. This took over an hour.I removed the big stalks of herbs, then put it into a bowl and pureed it with a hand blender. Then I put it into jars and tucked it away for the winter. I was surprised how sweet it was, absolutely delicious. I think it will be great with a chicken apple sausage or turkey breakfast sausage over wheat pasta for a hearty winter dish.

By the way, if you do not grow your own tomatoes, you can often get “ugly” tomatoes for a deal at your farmer’s market or at a local farm. They will work well for sauce. The Sacramento Farmer’s Market had big bags of tomatoes for 3 dollars during the last hour of the market this Sunday. The growers just throw everything into the bags and put a cheap price on them to sell them before they close. Here are big bags of peaches and grapes that were also marked down to 3 bucks. Perfect for freezing to make winter smoothies.

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

Food Day at UC Davis Medical Center


Last Monday was Food Day. The Food and Nutrition Department at UC Davis Medical Center sponsored several activities in celebration of healthy eating. I presented a talk on The California  Mediterranean Diet to staff. I set up the display above showcasing foods grown within 50 miles of the Medical Center. Before the talk we had an informal tasting of olive oils including 2 oils from the Olive Center on the UC Davis Campus and one from Bariani which is a producer in the Sacramento area. Bariani makes a California Balsamic Vinegar which we also offered for tasting.

Olive oil and bread for tasting

The cafeteria at the Medical Center offered a delicious menu featuring Mediterranean foods. They provided some samples of  Roasted Vegetable Quinoa salad to the attendees at my event. The salad was delicious. This is the recipe (adapted for home use) along with some photos of the preparation. It is nice to see healthy ingredients in such large portions!

Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad Recipe:

3 ounces Quinoa,

1 cup cold water,

3 ounces asparagus

7 ounces carrot diced ½ inch

6 ounces red onion cut 1 inch

6 ounces cauliflower florets

2 Tbsp. olive oil

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp pepper

1 tsp lemon juice

2 tbsp. Olive oil

3 tsp. wine vinegar

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp pepper

2 Tbsp fresh mint

Rinse quinoa very well in a strainer. Put in a rice cooker and cook with 1 cup cold water until finished.

 Check out the size of that rice cooker!

Wash asparagus and trim bottom end, then cut the asparagus into 1 ½ inch pieces on the diagonal.

Isn’t this asparagus pretty?

Break the large cauliflower in pieces into slightly smaller portions.

Put the onion, asparagus, and cauliflower in a roasting pan and drizzle 2 tbsp. olive oil and the ½ tsp salt and pepper over. Mix and roast at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

Eat your vegetables

Mix lemon juice, olive oil, wine vinegar, salt, pepper to make the dressing.

Fluff the quinoa in a bowl, put the vegetables over it, then pour over the dressing and mix it all together.

The ingredients before mixing

Sprinkle chopped fresh mint over the top and serve.

Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad

I have not used quinoa much, but this recipe made me curious and I plan to try a version of this salad at home. Quinoa is a grain (actually a seed) that is native to South America, and I was surprised to find that it has twice as much protein as brown rice. It also is much higher than rice in a variety of minerals including calcium and iron.

Thank you to the UC Davis Medical Center Dietetic Interns for taking the photos. Thanks also to all the staff of the Department of Food and Nutrition who helped make this event successful.

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

What is BPA and why is it in my tomato sauce?

Today is food day, and the official inaugural day of my website and blog. I have a lot to get done today, but checked the news and found one more study about the harmful effects of the plastic BPA, which stands for bisphenol-A. It is a hormone like substance, and studies suggest it may be associated with a variety of problems including diabetes, reproductive problems, neurological problems and cancer. Many scientists consider it to be a suspect chemical, and Canada has now declared it to be a toxic substance,  The FDA considers it to be a substance of concern for fetuses, infants and young children. I personally don’t want BPA in my body, and it has been suggested that most Americans have higher blood levels than what is recommended.

If you buy foods packaged in plastic, which I hope you are limiting, avoid foods with the 3 and 7 recycling number on them as they are most likely to contain BPA.

In the process of researching foods for my “Mediterranean Pantry” page, I began to wonder about canned foods. Canned beans and tomatoes, and canned salmon, seemed like healthy foods that are reasonably sustainable in their methods of production. But canned goods often contain BPA in their liners, and studies have shown that a lot of it can leach into the food. Could I find any brands that did not contain BPA? You would think maybe organic brands, right? The answer was not that simple.

In the end, this is what I determined: at this time there is no canned salmon that is BPA free. Some manufacturers are working toward that and I will keep you updated.

Canned tomatoes are very acidic, and it has been difficult to find an alternative to BPA. The only manufacturer who is using a BPA free can is Muir Glen, and they just started using it this year. So anything on the store shelves is likely to be in last year’s can and contain BPA. Any sauces made with tomato would similarly be canned in BPA.

I could find no California tomatoes in glass jars, which would of course be the best option. Bottled sauces are often made with tomatoes that were previously in cans so I am not sure that is an improvement. After reading all this I decided to peel and freeze a bunch of my tomatoes this year in jars and plastic zip-lock bags (I checked, they do not have BPA). I also took to canning my tomatoes again. Remember if you are canning tomatoes, they are a borderline acidic food and you should follow approved recipes for canning them and add the acid ingredients such as lemon juice or citric acid in the amounts recommended to avoid botulism. I use the UC Davis publication download on preserving tomatoes at this link for recipes.

As for any other canned goods, Eden foods, which is an organic brand, packs everything except tomato products in cans that are not lined with BPA.

When I was researching all of this, it gave me a headache and confused me and I am a professional dietitian.  I can’t imagine the lay person figuring all of this out. I decided it was just one more reason skip the plastic and cans altogether and eat fresh, local, in season California grown foods whenever possible.

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.