My granddaughter has informed me that she adores Catherine de Medici. Arguing with teenagers is the most futile endeavor in the world, but I couldn’t stop myself from casually dropping, “She was a mass murderess, you know. How do you feel about The Night of St Bartholomew?” That was ignored, I as had expected. I was still curious. Teenagers do think out of the box, and my granddaughter Alisia has not yet met a box that doesn’t need to be demolished (I can’t say that I was any different!). So why, then? Other than having Lorenzo the Magnificent of Florence for a father, which was not her accomplishment but an accident of birth, what’s there to admire? Ah, a story goes that a 16-year old Catherine, caught unawares in a castle about to be captured by enemy soldiers, ran out on a balustrade and hiked her skirts, thus scandalizing the soldiers to the extent of total retreat. It takes a teenager to be inspired by this kind of a yarn!
In reality, however, Catherine married the French Dauphine Henry, who later became King Henry II, at the age of 14. She missed Florence badly! (I can relate to that!) She missed Italian food, she missed Florentine vegetables, she missed not only ice cream which she introduced to the French court, but the green veggies: broccoli, spinach, artichokes… Artichoke got her in the middle of yet another scandal, as it was considered an aphrodisiac and consequently not appropriate for public banquets. Spinach was another matter! Catherine, who was known in France as La Florentine, brought her own Italian cooks with her. Knowing of her craving for spinach that grows on the hills of Tuscany, they incorporated spinach into almost every dish that was served to the queen. Thus any French dish with spinach has been called a la Florentine, or simply Florentine. So now you know that Fish Rollatini is not even an Italian recipe! It is still delicious, though, and it reminds me of Florence, so let’s do it!
I’ve seen many recipes with canned or frozen spinach, but I prefer to steam or microwave fresh baby spinach. Get ready fresh chopped dill, salt and pepper, but don’t mix anything, just have it ready.
Lay out fish fillets halved lengthwise. I used tulapia, which is good, but sole or flounder are even better. Put a handful of steamed spinach on each filet and spread it evenly. Leave about an inch (2.5 cm) on each side for rolling. Cover it with a generous layer of chopped dill. Sprinkle Panko crumbs (I use gluten free) on top of dill. Season with salt and pepper.
Bring the two ends together and make them overlap.
Arrange the rolls seam down in a lightly misted with oil baking pan. Splash some lemon juice, sprinkle with allspice, and scatter some capers around. Cover and bake for 30 minutes.
What you get is a light and dainty, elegant main course fit for a royal table. Let your guests feel like kings and queens!
P.S. It was delectable, and it was begging for a glass of Pinot Grigio, but we didn’t have any, so we had to settle for a Terra Vega Chardonnay from Chile – not bad!
- 2 lbs firm white fish fillets (flounder, sole, or tulapia)
- 2 cups loosely packed fresh spinach, steamed or microwaved
- 1 cup fresh chopped dill
- 1/2 cup gluten free Panko
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon capers
- A pinch of allspice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly mist baking pan with oil.
- Steam or microwave spinach until barely softened, about 1 minute.
- Cut each fish filet in half lengthwise. Place fish filets on flat surface. Spread spinach equally on each filet, leaving 1 inch (2.5 cm) ends. Generously cover with chopped dill. Sprinkle with Panko, season with salt and pepper.
- Bring ends together, overlap them, place each roll in baking pan seam down.
- Pour lemon juice over rolls, sprinkle allspice, scatter capers.
- Cover and bake for 3o minutes. Serve hot.