Arctic char with olive tapenade

Arctic char, deboned, 1 lb
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Sugar, to taste
Lemon, cut into wedges
Butter, 1 tbsp
Kalamata olives, pitted, 1/4 cup
Garlic, 1 clove, finely crushed and chopped
Basil, 1 tbsp, finely chopped
Olive oil, 2 tbsp

Olive tapenade
1. Purée olives, garlic, basil and 1 tbsp olive oil with salt and pepper to taste (using a mini food processor or immersion blender).


1. Lightly season the fillets with salt, pepper, and sugar.
2. Heat olive oil in cast-iron skillet over low-medium. Preheat oven to 350 F.
3. Place fillets in pan, skin-side down, about 4-5 minutes until crust forms.
4. Turn over and turn heat off.
5. Squeeze lemon over fish and toss wedges into pan.
6. Spread olive tapenade over fish.
7. Place butter on top of fish.
8. Move pan into oven and cook until flaking and opaque, 10-15 minutes.

Serves: 2-3 people, but you can easily adjust the quantities appropriately

The story:
Okay, so this, the first recipe I'm posting doesn't have a great backstory. But it's light yet filling, and it was the first kind of fish my one year old son was willing to eat.

Fljótsdalur, Iceland, April 2006
I first tried Arctic char in the best possible location - Akureyri, Iceland. We had rented a car and spent two weeks driving around Ring Road and staying in hostels along the way. Our favorite hostel was a spacious and otherwise deserted thatched-roof farmhouse in Fljótsdalur. We could walk out the back door and hike a mountain behind us, or contemplate the massive Vatnajökull (Vatna glacier) in the distance, but the food (peanut butter and jelly and dried soup) left me homesick for my beloved Covered Market. I had recently spent two weeks as a food tourist in Morocco, which included the most ridiculously fresh fish I'd ever tasted, selected from fishmongers near the docks in Essaouira and grilled and served with lemon (and, incongruously, French fries) right there in front of me. I had heard Icelandic seafood could compete - but Iceland in mid-April, especially in some of the remote places we found ourselves, is an almost surreally isolated and isolating place. At times, the treeless landscape struck me as something alien, almost a moonscape. In an eerie cave in Grjótagjá, near Myvatn, the image of stalagmites through translucent blue-green water overlapped with the reflection of stalactites from above and I momentarily lost my sense of up and down. On top of a mountain, ostensibly on the way to Seyðisfjörður, in a snowstorm, I felt as if I might be lost forever. 

We weren't lost forever, and we did eventually find some spectacular seafood, first lobster in Höfn, then Arctic char in Akureyri, and finally a lovely, lingering, multicourse feast at Einar Ben in Reykjavik.

The Blue Lagoon

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