Easy Pan-Seared Cod with Lemon, Olives, and Capers


Easy pan-seared cod with lemon, olives and capers

Easy pan-seared cod with lemon, olives and capers

Friends, what if I told you that this easy, pan-seared cod with lemon, olives, and capers comes together in just 15 minutes?  That also includes the prep time!  Pretty amazing, right?  The combination of lemons, olives, and capers is full of bright, assertive flavors – a classic southern Mediterranean dish.

So many of us want to include more healthy seafood in our diets (especially after the December Holidays), but we do not, because we feel intimidated by it. Some think that fish is hard to cook, or, that we need special equipment.  Others might simply not be sure how long it takes to cook properly.  The good news is that fish is probably the easiest protein to cook, provided that we become familiar and confident with the various methods of cooking fish.

Easy ways to cook fish at home

Fish is such a lean protein that does not need any tenderizing, marinating, or, advanced planning.  In most cases, all we have to do is season it and cook it. There are many easy ways to cook fish:  from pan-seared, to baked, to steamed, grilled, or broiled.

The only thing we need to pay attention to is not to overcook the fish.  There are many ways to ensure this, such as testing the fish with a fork to see that it flakes easily, or, making certain that the flesh is opaque at the end of the cooking time, or, just use an instant digital thermometer. A safe temperature for cooked fish is 145°F.

Tips for Cooking Fish at Home

  1. Buy fish from a place you trust. If buying a large piece, ask the fishmonger to fillet it, trim it, and remove the pin bones for you
  2. Frozen fish is perfectly fine to use, as it is usually frozen shortly after being caught
  3. Fish cooks fast, so have all your ingredients prepped and ready before you start cooking
  4. Do not let fish too long in an acidic marinade, as the marinade will begin to “cook” the fish
  5. For shallow-frying fish, you can use olive oil, but you can also use a neutral oil of your choice
  6. The easiest, and most forgiving, method of cooking a fish is probably steaming it in parchment paper 

Ingredients for the pan-seared cod with lemon, olives, and capers

Cod topping ingredients

For this recipe, besides the cod, the rest of the ingredients are for a simple, and flavor-packed topping, that is spooned over the fish before serving.

  1. Olives – I used Greek Kalamata olives and Italian Castelvetrano olives, but any olives will do
  2. Lemon – use the zest and a few slices
  3. Capers – which add a nice, lemony tang (you can omit them if you prefer)
  4. Garlic – just one, large clove
  5. Celery leaves – from the tender, smallest celery stalks, or, use parsley
  6. Optional additions:  during the summer, a handful of small tomatoes sautéed briefly, adds lots of flavor

Once the ingredients for the topping are prepped, all you have to do is pan-sear the cod fillets.  A few minutes on each side will do.  I also like to sauté slices of lemon in the same skillet — they flavor the fillets very nicely!  After that, remove the cod from the heat, top it with the mixture of olives and capers and serve!

How to serve it

For a light meal, serve it with a delicious, well-seasonal salad; the perfect pairing for any fish.  If you need something more substantial, a simple parsley rice pilaf or steamed vegetables are all good choices to accompany the fish.  Just have everything ready so when the fish is ready so you can sit down to enjoy it while it is still hot!

Marilena’s Kitchen Update

January marks the seven-year anniversary for “Marilena’s Kitchen”.  Since I posted my first recipe on January 2015, I  have published 375 blog posts, most of them with a Mediterranean focus, generating over 400,000 page views,  in just this last year!  I am very grateful to all of you for subscribing to my blog and for welcoming my posts every week to your inbox.  As I am entering my eighth year writing this blog, I am thankful for all your support, your encouragement, and, all the kind comments and e-mails you have shared with me this past year!marilena's kitchen logo

Easy Pan-Seared Cod with Lemon, Olives and Capers
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A southern Mediterranean recipe for pan-seared fish, with bright, assertive flavors!
Recipe type: Seafood Main
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Serves: 2
  • 2 pieces of cod, ¾”- 1” thick, (about 6 oz. each)
  • --- sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2-3 TBSP. olive oil (or, neutral oil)
  • ½ medium lemon (zested and sliced)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 6 olives, black and green, chopped
  • 1 TBSP. small capers, rinsed and dried
  • 2 TBSP. tender celery leaves (or parsley)
  1. Pat dry the fish fillets very well, then season them generously with salt and pepper and set them aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, olives, and capers.
  3. Zest the lemon and cut it into thin slices
  4. Set a large skillet over medium-high heat. It should be large enough to accommodate the fish and the lemon slices. Add the olive oil and, when it gets hot, carefully lower the two fish fillets into the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Using a fish spatula, gently press the fillets against the skillet ensuring that the whole side of the fish is in contact with the heat (this is important especially when cooking fish with the skin still on – it ensures crispy skin). Let the fish cook for about three minutes and then shake the skillet gently to check if the fish releases from the pan. If it does not, let it cook for another 30 seconds (when the fillets form a crust, they will easily release from the pan). Flip the fish to the uncooked side, then add the lemon slices to the pan around the fillets. Cook the fish for two minutes more (the cooking time depends on the thickness of the fish and how well you want the fish cooked). With a fork, check the flesh of the fish to make sure it flakes easily. Flip the slices of lemon. Add the garlic mixture to the skillet and cook for another 30 seconds.
  5. Transfer the fish to two plates and spoon the mixture of olives and capers over the fish. Sprinkle the fillets with the reserved lemon zest and celery leaves. Serve with extra lemon on the side.


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