John Dory with Caponata

from Ship to Shore

Lift four nice fillets from the John Dory, or have your fish shop do it for you. To fillet the fish, slice firmly into the fish, along the middle, from head to tail. Then work the knife from the incision, away from the middle, staying along the bone. Keep the skin on, and follow the recipe below. Serve alongside the caponata, for acidity and freshness. I like caponata at room temperature, but it’s up to you, if you prefer it warm. 


For the caponata

2 to 3 small eggplants, peeled and diced

45 mL (3 tbsp) fine salt

250 mL (1 cup) olive oil, divided

1 medium onion, peeled and diced

400 mL (1 2/3 cups) canned or bottled tomatoes, peeled and seeded

150 mL (2/3 cup) small green olives, pitted

2 stalks celery, peeled and diced

250 mL (1 cup) roughly chopped celery leaves

150 mL (2/3 cup) dry white wine or apple cider vinegar

75 mL (1/3 cup) granulated sugar

Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

For the John Dory

4 John Dory fillets, skin-on, patted dry

Salt and pepper

100 mL (6 tbsp + 2 tsp) grapeseed or other high-heat oil

1 lemon, cut in half


To make the caponata:

Preheat oven to 215C (420F).

In a bowl, to eggplant in salt and 150 mL (2/3 cup) of the oil. Spread evenly over a baking sheet and roast in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until soft.

Meanwhile, in a medium pot, over medium heat, heat remaining oil. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 8 minutes, until onions are softened but not brown. Stir in tomatoes, olives, celery stalk and leaves, wine or vinegar, and sugar. Reduce heat slightly, and simmer for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until the liquid has somewhat reduced and things soften a bit. Add roasted eggplant, and stir to combine. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes, and then remove from heat. Crack some pepper onto the caponata, if you wish. Will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

To make the John Dory

Dust both sides of the fillets with a generous amount of salt and pepper. In a large pan, over medium-high heat, heat oil. When oil begins to shimmer, gently lay fillets, skin-side down, in the pan and sear for about 5 minutes. Carefully flip fish over and remove the pan from the heat. The residual heat in the pan will finish cooking the fish. Spoon caponata onto 2 plates and place 2 fillets on each. Serve with lemon garnish.

Serves 2 as a main course.

Nada’s Tips & Tricks: I used bass instead of John Dory – works great with any dense white fish. I sprinkled some Old Bay seasoning on the fish to add a little kick. The caponata has a Mediterranean taste to it – I served it warm and it was a big hit. Great way to insert a lot of vegetables into your diet. Plated it with a warm Niçoise salad and voila a healthy dinner is served!

Excerpted from Ship to Shore by John Bil © 2018 John Bil. Published by House of Anansi Press.