It can be hard to find balance this time of year. As the holidays approach, I imagine myself busily and happily planning menus, addressing Christmas cards and selecting gifts, with Nat King Cole playing in the background.

If I am not careful, however, busily and happily can easily morph into frantically and grumpily. It is not necessary nor is it in the spirit of the season.

In 2020, we may not be traveling or gathering as much as we would like, but many of us still will be packaging gifts and cookies to mail to friends and jumping on Zoom calls for holiday get-togethers.

One thing I do to find balance this time of year is to plan weeknight meals that are streamlined, with few ingredients — dishes that offer big flavor without much work.

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This simple baked fish dish is a great example of what I mean. I found the recipe in “Epic 30-Minute Roasts” (Page Street Publishing, 2020) by Maja and Jernej Zver, who write the Slovenian food blog Jernej Kitchen.

I’m keeping this well-organized cookbook handy during this holiday season because I like its vibe and have already bookmarked a few other simple dishes I want to make, such as roasted chicken thighs with grapes and polenta and roasted cauliflower steaks.

The book is a good resource for new cooks, too. The authors offer tips, such as using slender cuts of meat and thinly sliced vegetables for quicker cooking, and provide a list of pantry staples as well as equipment required. The menu selection also includes a small batch of sauces that would work well on so many dishes, along with quick-to-make sides and uber-simple desserts, too.

The baked fish dish is simple as can be. Trout, or your favorite light, white-fleshed fish, is seasoned with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and topped with thin slices of lemon before it is baked for about 15 minutes.

While the fish is baking, you make a mouth-puckering sauce, which the authors call a salsa, with shallots, garlic, capers, butter and lemon juice and zest. The softened allium sweetens as it cooks and marries well with the tart capers and lemon. The salsa is spooned over the hot-from-the-oven fish. And dinner is on the table.

If you want to lighten up the dish, you can use extra-virgin olive oil rather than butter to make the salsa.

The first time I made the dish, before I began the recipe, I halved small Brussels sprouts and slipped them into a frying pan with salt, pepper and olive oil to pan-fry while I cooked the rest. Another time, I put a pot of baby new potatoes on to boil before I started the fish and enjoyed the dish, as the authors suggested, with potatoes on the side, grabbing a bit of salsa on my fork with the potato. Delicious.


Ingredients

For the trout

  • 4 (4 1/2- to 5-1/2 ounce) fresh trout fillets, or any other firm, white-fleshed fish, such as sea bass or tilapia
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 thin lemon slices from 1 large lemon

For the caper salsa

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 shallots (about 7 ounces total), thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) drained capers
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, for serving (optional)

Step 1

Make the trout: Position a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 325 degrees. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the fillets on the prepared baking sheet. Season the fish with salt and pepper, and drizzle it with the oil. Place two slices of the lemon on each fillet.

Roast the fish on the middle rack of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the fish registers 130 degrees and the fish is flaky and separates easily with a fork. (Thicker fillets may need 2 to 3 more minutes.)


Step 2

Make the salsa: While the fish is baking, place a saucepan over medium-high heat, then heat the oil until shimmering. Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring constantly until they soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the capers, stir and cook, stirring constantly, until the shallots just begin to darken, about 2 minutes. Add the butter and stir until melted. Remove from the heat, and stir in the lemon juice and zest. Season with the salt and pepper.


Step 3

To serve, transfer the trout to a serving platter. Spoon the caper salsa on top, then sprinkle with the parsley, if using.


Nutrition Information

Calories: 399; Total Fat: 27 g; Saturated Fat: 8 g; Cholesterol: 97 mg; Sodium: 581 mg; Carbohydrates: 11 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 4 g; Protein: 28 g.


Adapted from “Epic 30-Minute Roasts” by Maja and Jernej Zver (Page Street Publishing, 2020).

Tested by Ann Maloney; email questions to voraciously@washpost.com.

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