Roast Fish with Cannellini and Green Olives


The most wonderful time of the year is also the busiest. With all the cards to send, parties to attend, and the added holiday hoopla, it’s easy for dinner to get lost in the shuffle. Most nights, I am quite aware that I need to make dinner, but I’m busy making Chex Mix for the freezer and baking a batch of cookies instead. Christmas also seems to bring out the overachiever in me. Every year I imagine myself making bûche de noël, while back in the real world I am struggling just to make tonight’s dinner.  

To survive the festive season you need strategy. Plan now for a few easy meals that you can pull together quickly and make sure you have the ingredients on hand. I always have jarred salsa in my pantry and some pulled rotisserie chicken in the freezer. Combine these with 4 cups of chicken broth, top with some tortilla chips and shredded cheese, and you have a very quick chicken tortilla soup.  

When you need a mostly effortless dinner, but still want to eat well, this Roast Fish with Cannellini and Green Olives is a great recipe. Made with staples like canned beans, olives, and lemons, it’s easy to throw together. Served with a steamed vegetable and some warm crusty bread, it might just be the most healthful thing you will eat this month. Best of all, it needs very little help from you. It will bubble away unattended in the oven, leaving you with your hands free for all that tree trimming and cookie baking. 

Fish can be very polarizing and can also be somewhat tricky to prepare at home, but a flavorful oven roasting remedies this. Tangy lemons, salty olives, and a splash of healthy fat olive oil hit all the right notes, punching up the flavor of the creamy beans and white fish. What results is just like what you’d get in a trattoria –  fleshy beans swimming in a flavorful broth, with a nice portion of perfectly cooked fish nestled on top. Plate this in a large bowl and enjoy with the smug knowledge that you made it at home. 

I didn’t have any fresh oregano but my fresh herbs from Thanksgiving were still in perfect shape. I used dried oregano and added fresh sprigs of thyme and rosemary so I could put them to good use. I only used one can of beans, which was just right since there’s just two of us, but you could certainly add 2 more fish fillets to this dish and make it a dinner for four. Substitute other varieties of olives if you like.

Stay warm and merry and enjoy every busy moment of this blissful season.

Roast Fish with Cannellini and Green Olives

  • 2 lemons, divided
  • 5 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 small shallots, thinly sliced into rings
  • 1/2 cup Castelvetrano olives, pitted, torn 
  • red pepper flakes
  • 4 sprigs oregano (1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed 
  • 2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 lb. whole skinless whitefish fillet (such as cod, haddock, or halibut)
  • kosher salt

Preheat oven to 300º F. Slice 1 lemon into thin slices, removing any seeds; slice the other into wedges. Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and stir in shallots. Sauté a few minutes, stirring occasionally, then add olives, red pepper flakes, oregano and garlic. Sauté a few minutes more, then add beans and chicken stock. Reduce heat and let simmer about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Transfer bean and olive mixture to a shallow 3-quart baking dish. Place fish on top, nestling into beans; season fish with salt. Arrange lemon slices over surface of fish so that they are slightly overlapping. Drizzle remaining olive oil over fish and transfer dish to oven. Roast until fish is opaque throughout (internal temperature 145º F), about 25-35 minutes depending on type and thickness of fish. Stir beans lightly. Serve with lemon wedges alongside for squeezing over fish.  

-adapted from

Donna Ferguson

Donna Ferguson

I love to cook, garden, and write about all the things in Vancouver and the Northwest that make life so great.

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