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THE HEALTHY PLATE: Recipe for baked white fish in parsley sauce

09/15/2014 11:58 EDT | Updated 11/15/2014 05:59 EST
Here's the thing about baked white fish, such as haddock or cod: We know we should eat more of it because it's such a healthy choice. Trouble is, we also know that most baked white fish is dry and tasteless.

And I speak from experience. I hate to throw my mom under the bus, but her baked fish — while certainly healthy with its minimalist squeeze of lemon and tiny dot or two of butter — was uninspired, flavourless, unsatisfying and, perhaps worst of all, overcooked. My sister and I used to sneak emergency cookies from my mom's purse on baked fish night just to fill up. So how healthy was it, really?

All of which is why I wanted to change baked fish night for future generations, or at least for my own daughters. My goal for this recipe was to preserve the health benefits of cod or haddock, while making a dish that I would actually crave. I wanted a baked white fish that is a satisfying, comforting, homey food that I could feel good about feeding my family, and that I could make easily on a weeknight.

Enter my baked cod with parsley sauce. I took inspiration from two unlikely bedfellows — the flavourful Argentinian chimichurri sauce and a cassoulet, the ultimate creamy-bean French comfort food. The result was loved by all in my house. OK, most. I won't say which of my four daughters couldn't be convinced...

But the recipe couldn't have been easier. I whipped up the sauce in minutes (you could do this part a day in advance and keep in the refrigerator), then layered white beans, fish and the dill-parsley sauce and popped it all in the oven. The extra fiber and protein from the beans and healthy fats from the sliced almonds help make this dish truly filling.

Finally... a baked white fish dish that doesn't need a cookie chaser!

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BAKED WHITE FISH IN PARSLEY SAUCE

Start to finish: 30 minutes (10 minutes active)

Servings: 4

For the sauce:

1 large bunch parsley, roughly chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

2 shallots, roughly chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

For the fish:

Two 15-ounce cans white beans, drained, rinsed and blotted dry

Four 5-ounce cod or haddock fillets

Salt and ground black pepper

1/2 cup sliced almonds

Lemon wedges, for serving

Heat the oven to 400 F.

In a blender, combine all ingredients for the sauce. Pulse until mixed, but still chunky (about 10 pulses). If there isn't enough liquid to blend the herbs, add another tablespoon of vinegar. Set aside.

In a 3-quart baking dish, spread the beans in an even layer. Season with salt and pepper.

Use paper towels to blot away any excess moisture from the fish fillets (this is especially important if they are thawed from frozen). Season the cod lightly with salt and pepper, then set the fillets on top of the beans. Drizzle the parsley sauce over the fish and beans, then bake until the fish is almost cooked through (bright white and opaque), about 15 to 18 minutes.

Sprinkle the almonds over the top, then return to the oven and bake until the almonds are golden, about another 3 minutes.

Nutrition information per serving: 610 calories; 230 calories from fat (38 per cent of total calories); 25 g fat (3.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 60 mg cholesterol; 52 g carbohydrate; 13 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 44 g protein; 340 mg sodium.

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Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the upcoming cookbook, "Supermarket Healthy." http://www.melissadarabian.net

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