Oven roasting is a great way to cook fish, because the high heat penetrates the flesh relatively quickly and browns the skin (if any) or topping beautifully. Here are two recipes that showcase this technique admirably.

OVEN ROASTED COD WITH PROSCIUTTO-GARLIC TOPPING

Although it has become somewhat scarce, cod is still a favorite fish in Maine. I love it roasted this way, with this salty/herby/lemony/garlicky topping, which gets crispy and delicious in the hot oven and is the perfect foil for the clean, neutral flavor of cod. You could actually use any white fish for this — halibut would be great, for instance, or monkfish or catfish or sea bass or

Although the recipe is simple, it’s elegant enough to be the centerpiece for a special meal, accompanied with rice or orzo pilaf, buttered green beans, and maybe an apple tart to finish.

PROSCIUTTO-GARLIC TOPPING:

1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) chopped prosciutto

1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

3 tablespoons chopped basil

1 large garlic clove, minced

2 teaspoons coarsely grated or chopped lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper

COD:

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cod fillets, about 6 ounces each

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup dry white wine

In a small bowl, toss together the prosciutto, parsley, basil, garlic, lemon zest and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Brush a shallow, rimmed baking sheet or baking pan with oil. Arrange fish in the pan, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with topping, patting it on evenly. Drizzle with remaining oil, and pour wine around the fish.

Roast in the preheated oven until the fish is no longer translucent and flakes with a fork, and the topping is crispy and browned, about 5 minutes for every ½ inch of thickness. Serve fish with the pan juices spooned over.

Servings: Four

ROASTED WHOLE STRIPED BASS WITH LEMON AND PESTO

Wild striped bass, or “stripers,” have been staging something of a comeback recently. Although still threatened by commercial fishing and pollution, some of these large silvery, black-striped fish are now being caught by sport fishermen.

Striped bass is also being farmed, and the farmed fish are usually in the 1½-pound range. The flesh of stripers is firm, meaty and utterly delicious. Perhaps you still have some mint in your garden to use in this garlicky herb pesto, which gets brushed on the fish.

Two 1½-pound whole striped bass, or one larger fish

1 cup or so South Paris mint-walnut pesto (recipe follows) or other pesto

Thin lemon slices

Mint and/or parsley sprigs for garnish

Have the fish cleaned, but leave skin and tail on. (The head is optional.) Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Brush a shallow, rimmed baking sheet or baking dish with oil.

Rinse and dry the fish thoroughly and cut three or four slashes crosswise in each side of the fish right down to the bone. Place in the prepared pan and brush the fish inside and out generously with the pesto, working it into the cuts on the sides. Arrange the lemon slices down the center, over the pesto.

Roast in the preheated oven until the fish is opaque down to the bone at the thickest part; 15 to 20 minutes for smaller fish, 25 to 35 minutes for a larger fish.

Remove to a platter, garnish with mint and/or parsley and serve.

MINT-WALNUT PESTO:

1/2 cup lightly packed mint sprigs

1/2 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley sprigs

1/2 cup basil sprigs

1/4 cup walnuts

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a food processor, combine the mint, parsley, basil, nuts, cheese, garlic, lemon juice and salt. Pulse three or four times to make a very rough paste. With the motor running, pour the oil through the feed tube and process just until the sauce is pureed. Do not overprocess, or the pesto will lose some of its bright color and full flavor. (The sauce can be stored for a day or two in the refrigerator, but it will darken. To help prevent this, pour a skim of oil on the surface.)

Servings: Four (or more, if roasting a larger fish)

 

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Dishing Up Maine” (Storey Publishing 2006) and “The New England Clam Shack Cookbook” (Storey 2008). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula.