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Baked Fish Fillets
1 pound eggplant, cut into medium cubes
1 teaspoon salt
4 (6 to 8 ounce) Chilean sea bass fillets, or any thick firm-fleshed white saltwater fish
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thickly sliced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (28 ounce) can peeled Italian tomatoes, drained, chopped and juices reserved separately
8 whole basil leaves
1/4 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (optional)
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
Sprinkle the eggplant cubes with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and put in a colander. Place a dish over the eggplant and weight it down. Drain for 20 minutes and pat dry with a towel. Set aside.
Sprinkle the fish fillets with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large saute pan set on medium-high heat until sizzling, about 2 minutes. Put the fish fillets in the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 2 minutes on each side, until well browned. Transfer the fillets to a plate and set aside.
In the same pan, heat 3 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil over high heat until sizzling, about 2 minutes. Cook the eggplant in the hot oil until well browned, about 5 minutes. Transer the eggplant to a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Add the remaining olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes to the same pan set on high heat and cook until sizzling, about 2 minutes. Add the drained tomatoes, basil, oregano, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Cook for 2 minutes. Add half of the reserved tomato juices, discarding the remaining juices. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half and thickened, about 4-5 minutes. Pour the sauce over the eggplant and top with the fish fillets, pushing the fillests lightly into the sauce. Bake, uncovered, 15-20 minutes. Transfer the fish and sauce to a serving dish. If you wish to try the sweet-and-sour finish, combine the optional balsamic vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan set on high heat and boil until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Drizzle over the fish before serving.
Wine Suggestion - Merlot
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