Oven-roasting this beautiful slab of fish at a low temperature means it will take more time than the standard 10 minutes per inch thickness than you might be used to for cooking fish. But the snapper is guaranteed not to dry out in the process.

Chef and cookbook author Virginia Willis calls this “fish cookery with training wheels” — in other words, not intimidating.


  • One 2-pound firm white fish fillet, such as halibut, snapper or grouper, (about 1 1/2 inches thick)
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup green olives, preferably Castelvetrano, crushed and pitted
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, hulled, seeded and diced
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 6 basil leaves, chopped

Step 1

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Place the fish in a shallow baking dish and coat it with 4 tablespoons of the oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Step 2

Scatter the olives, lemon slices, thyme and bay leaves around the fish. Bake (middle rack) for 60 to 75 minutes, or until the fish is very tender and slightly opaque. (Start checking it at 50 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet; Its flesh should be moist and barely separate when the tines of a fork are inserted.)

Step 3

Meanwhile, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, tomatoes, shallot, garlic and sherry vinegar. Season lightly with salt and pepper and all the ground coriander. Let the mixture sit while the fish cooks; the salt will bring moisture out of the tomatoes and make the mix slightly soupy.

Step 4

Once the fish is cooked, leave the fillet in the baking dish or use a spatula to carefully transfer the fish and olives to a platter. Discard the thyme stems and bay leaves.

Step 5

Spoon the tomato mixture with the juices over the fish, then garnish with the basil. Serve hot.

Adapted from “Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South,” by Virginia Willis (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018).

Tested by Miriam Albert; email questions to voraciously@washpost.com.

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Calories: 230; Total Fat: 17 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 20 mg; Sodium: 320 mg; Carbohydrates: 7 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugars: 4 g; Protein: 14 g.