Many years ago, I stood on a terraced hillside in the ancient Sicilian town of Ragusa Ibla, looking at the spectacular view. All along the rock walls were trays of tomatoes and tomato paste, spread out to dry in the hot sun. Although sun-dried tomatoes appear to be trendy in America, they are part of a strong Italian tradition of keeping tomatoes in the repertoire of the cuisine when fresh, ripe tomatoes are out of season.
Sun-dried tomatoes are available dry or packed in oil. The dry ones need to be reconstituted in a little water or they will be too chewy. However, soaking them can leach out a lot of the flavor. (If you use oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, you do not have to soak them.) With the dry tomatoes, soak a third in hot water to get a full-flavored tomato liquid to add to the onion mixture, then add the rest of the tomatoes without soaking. They will soften enough if you prepare the onion mixture a few hours ahead of time. Combining the tomatoes with currants is an Arabic touch, also part of the Sicilian tradition.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the onions, sprinkle lightly with salt, and cook over moderate heat until very tender, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not let them brown. Add the vinegar and honey, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, currants, and 4 tablespoons of the mint. Cook for a few minutes longer. Taste for seasoning. You may not need any additional salt if the tomatoes have been salted, but you will need pepper. Adjust the sweet-and-sour ratio. If you'd like it sweeter, add some of the currant soaking liquids. Check again for salt.
Sprinkle the fish fillets with salt and pepper, and place in a lightly oiled baking dish. Cover with the onions. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the fish tests done (poke with a knife and take a peek). You may need to cook this a little longer if the onions were cool when you put them on top of the fish. Remove the fish to serving plates and top with the remaining chopped mint.
From Kitchen Conversations, by Joyce Goldstein.
When Marvin Gapultos had a craving for adobo but didn’t know how to make it, he decided to learn his family’s recipes. Since then, he has shared the flavors of Filipino food through his Los Angeles-based food truck The Manila Machine, on his blog Burnt Lumpia, and in The Adobo Road Cookbook.