Baked fish can be different every time you make it. This simple, delicately flavored protein forms the base for the addition of any variety of herbs, spices and sauces. In a sauce, you can add nutrition without piling on fat, and vary the ingredients to enjoy high-quality baked fish many different ways.
A classic French sauce, such as an amandine, dore or meuniere, is usually stirred up in the pan after fish filets are sauteed. To make one of these sauces suitable for baked fish, first assemble the sauce in a small saute pan or shallow saucepan before placing the fish in the baking dish. Substituting olive or other healthy oil for half the quantity of melted butter that usually comprises the sauce to reduce saturated fat content while keeping the classic flavor. Pour a thin layer of sauce into the baking pan, add the fish and top with the remainder of the sauce. Bake uncovered in a 425-degree Fahrenheit oven for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.
Both low-fat mayonnaise and low-fat or non-fat plain yogurt form the basis for a wide variety of quick, spreadable baking sauces. Stir a little cocktail sauce, horseradish, pesto or coarse-ground mustard into mayo or yogurt for a sauce to cover the tops of fish filets or steaks. Make a mock tartar-sauce with pickle-relish-laced yogurt, or mix chopped fresh dill and drained, chopped capers with low-fat mayo for a Scandinavian flavor. Coat the baking dish with a little cooking spray or a light coating of olive oil. Lay the fish pieces in the dish and bake; the sauce will brown lightly.
Fish dishes from cuisines around the world often cross the line between sauce and main dish, with fish accompanying abundant vegetables. In general, plan to double cooking time if you add one of these generous sauces. Give your fish a Greek sauce with generous amounts of tomato and onion, garlic and a touch of cinnamon. Sandwich fish between layers of thin-sliced tomatoes, onions and zucchini; a drizzle of olive oil, a spritz of balsamic vinegar and a dusting of fresh basil and oregano give your fish an Italian flair. Send your sauce Southwest by substituting fine-chopped red onion and cilantro for the Italian herbs. Saute a large quantity of mushrooms and thin-sliced sweet onion in a little olive oil, adding white wine and an assortment of fresh herbs for an ever-changing baking sauce. Baking fish with sauce underneath and on top allows its flavors to permeate thoroughly during quick cooking.
With fuller-flavored steak fish, don't be afraid of bold flavor contrasts. Salmon, for example, has a surprising affinity for sweet flavors. An apple-jelly-horseradish glaze, orange-and-hoisin sauce or a sweet-hot barbecue sauce bring out salmon's buttery qualities. Use Asian flavors like fresh grated ginger or soy-and-citrus ponzu sauce to redefine swordfish or halibut steaks. Capitalize on the contrast between tender fish and crunchy nuts or seeds; thazelnuts and sesame seeds add as much interest as more classic almonds. Explore Middle Eastern flavors by saucing fish filets with tahini and topping them with toasted pine nuts.