Monkfish in a Tomato-Olive Sauce

Monkfish in a Tomato-Olive Sauce Recipe

Cooking fish wrapped in leaves is a popular culinary technique. Not only does it help keep the fish moist, but the flavor and fragrance of the leaves beautifully season the fish. Latin Americans wrap fish in corn husks or oja santa leaves before cooking them on a griddle until charred. Banana and ti leaves are used by Hawaiians and Southeast Asians, and in the Caribbean for roasting fish in the coals or steaming. Salmon wrapped in fig leaves and charcoal-grilled—deliciously sweet and smoky — is one of my favorites. But everyday, easier-to-find leaves such as cabbage, lettuce, or chard can also be used to create tasty and good-looking little fish parcels that can be steamed, sauteed, or braised.

Wrapping fish in escarole leaves sounds involved, but this recipe is actually quite easy and quick. Rockfish, halibut, sea robin, grouper, or any mild-flavored fish may be substituted for the monkfish. This dish is great eaten on its own with bread and a salad, but it is also nice served over pasta or couscous.–Paul Johnson

Monkfish in a Tomato-Olive Sauce Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 1 H
  • 1 H
  • Serves 4


  • Leaves from 1 head escarole
  • One 1 1/2-pound monkfish fillet
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup oil-cured black olives, such as kalamata or niçoise
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 yellow onion, finely sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and julienned
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon minced oregano leaves (optional)
  • Juice of 1 lemon


  • 1. Blanch 16 of the largest escarole leaves in boiling salted water for just a minute; rinse under cold water and drain well. Spread the escarole leaves out on a flat surface.
  • 2. Coarsely chop the rest of the escarole, about 1 cup, and set aside.
  • 3. Cut the monkfish fillet into 16 equal-sized pieces and season with salt and pepper. Place each piece of fish on one of the escarole leaves, roll once or twice the long way, fold the sides in, and continue rolling.
  • 4. Place the olives between a clean kitchen towel and pound lightly with a mallet or saucepan. Pick out the pits and discard. Chop the olive meat coarsely and set aside.
  • 5. In a large saute pan or skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onion and bell pepper for 3 or 4 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the white wine, tomatoes, capers, and oregano, if using, and bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  • 6. In a large saute pan or skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over high heat and saute the fish packets for about 1 minute on each side, or until they begin to brown lightly, then add them to the simmering sauce. Add the reserved chopped escarole to the hot pan and stir to wilt. Add the wilted escarole, chopped olives, and lemon juice to the simmering sauce and cook gently for 5 or 6 minutes, or until the monkfish packets feel firm when pressed.
  • 7. Serve in shallow bowls with a drizzle of olive oil added at the last moment.
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