For this Sicilian dish, mahi mahi is stewed with cherry tomatoes and capers plus onions, and olives. The mahi mahi becomes infused with a salty-sweet flavor.
When I visited the southeastern tip of Sicily in October, everyone was feasting on lampuca alla matalotta, filled with cherry tomatoes and capers and made with a delicious kind of blue-fleshed fish that approaches the coast that time of year; fishermen still lure this shade-loving fish by extending palm branches off the sides of their boats. I learned later that this fish is also known as capone and that mahi mahi is our closest equivalent. I especially like the version served by chef Lina Campisi of La Cialoma, on which this recipe is loosely based; she leaves out the green olives often included by other cooks.–Toni Lydecker
LC Satisfying On Its Own Note
You may want to consider a side dish to soak up this salty-spicy broth—one of our testers recommends our Lemon Israeli Couscous for the job, but you may be equally happy slurping the soup straight from the spoon. No judgment here.
Mahi Mahi Stewed with Cherry Tomatoes and Capers
- 4 fillets cut from medium-firm fish such as mahi mahi, bonito, grouper, sea bream, sea bass, cod, or snapper
- Sea salt or kosher salt
- 1 small onion chopped
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup halved or quartered cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1/3 cup Mediterranean olives pitted or unpitted (optional)
- Leaves from 1 or 2 flat-leaf parsley sprigs chopped
- 1 heaping tablespoon salt-preserved capers soaked in water for several minutes and drained
- Hot red-pepper flakes
- Sprinkle the mahi mahi fillets lightly with salt.
- Combine the onion, olive oil, and 1/4 cup water in a skillet large enough to hold the mahi mahi in a single layer. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer briskly but not furiously until the onion is tender. Add the tomatoes, olives (if using), parsley, capers, red pepper flakes to taste, and another 1/4 cup water.
- Once the cooking liquid returns to a simmer, lay the mahi mahi fillets on top, skin side down. Cover and simmer until the fish is cooked through, about 10 minutes. At this point, the tomatoes will have released their juices and there should be a small ladleful of brothy sauce for each serving; if not, remove the mahi mahi to a platter, add a little more water and heat briefly. Taste and stir in a bit more salt and pepper flakes if needed.
- Ladle the sauce into shallow soup bowls; place a mahi mahi fillet in each one.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This was an exceptionally easy dish to prepare—a nice, easy, one-pot meal. I think it took me 20 minutes to make from start to finish. The fish is extremely moist, and there’s great flavor from the capers, olives, and cherry tomatoes. If you find there’s not enough liquid from the cherry tomatoes, the recipe instructs you to add a little more water after removing the cooked fish. You could also use some white wine to deglaze the pan, reduce slightly and add more liquid to it. This would give the dish a flavor boost. One of the best things about this recipe is that the author suggests six other types of fish that can be used instead of the mahi mahi. This is a great help to home cooks—very often I get questions from my cooking school students on what other fish or meats they can use in a recipe, and I know they struggle, especially with interchanging various types of fish. I’d make this recipe again and again to try these different fish to see which one I like the best.
This recipe is quick and easy. In fact, the couscous I made as a side dish took longer. It’s nice that the recipe gives you several fish choices in a generous price range. Make sea bass for a special dinner. Tight budget this week? Cod it is. The brothy sauce was wonderful, with bits of olives and capers giving a salty buzz to the mildly sweet fish. The recipe instructs laying the fish on top of the sauce, but I’d spoon the sauce over the fish before covering the pan. Don’t fret if you can’t find salt-preserved capers at your local supermarket; just use the ones in vinegar brine that are more widely available. The difference in taste in the finished sauce is not significant enough to warrant a rush-order from an online gourmet store.
This is a weeknight winner. It cooks up fast, so you want to make sure you have everything else ready to go. I used cod because mahi mahi wasn’t available. The fillets were pretty thin, so I had to watch my cooking time. When laying the fillets on top of the other ingredients, I spooned a bit of the juices on top to help permeate the fish with the flavors. I served this with the Lemon Israeli Couscous, and the blend of flavors had a nice contrast.
This is a very simple yet flavorful dish that comes together in a snap. I wish I had salted my fish just a little bit more before stewing it in the otherwise briny broth, but I’m a salt freak. I served it with frik (baby green wheat), chock-full of chopped grilled scallions and an assortment of minced fresh herbs like dill, parsley, and chives.
Mahi Mahi with Cherry Tomatoes and Capers is a relatively quick and easy fix after a busy day. The mild mahi mahi contrasts well with the other savoury ingredients to create a vibrant-flavoured, colourful dish. The optional olives don’t detract from the other flavours. I also tried this with grouper and had equally nice results.
Note: Though the “Mediterranean olives” the recipe calls for is rather vague, it’s actually nice because there are so many types to choose from. My latest experiment was with Italian Taggiasche olives; small, purplish-red pitted olives that changed the nuances a bit, but still complimented the preparation.
This was outstanding in every way. The sauce was just the perfect blend of flavours, with its rich olive oil, sweet tomatoes, salty capers, briny olives, and fresh burst of parsley. I used cod, as I had some in my freezer, but I would love to see how this turns out with other fish as well. I’d make this again in a heartbeat. I love that it’s an uncomplicated, one-pot meal that’s so easy to prepare, yet so impressive in results. This will be a staple in my kitchen from now on.
I was lucky to find some fresh mahi mahi, which was beautiful when cooked. The tomatoes added a nice sweetness and a splash of color. I added both the capers and black pitted Mediterranean olives, which I loved, but one of my guests felt the fish was overpowered. This is a quick weekday dinner that I’ll make often.
Originally published October 07, 2009