Recipes used to rule me.

I made a fruit salad once that called for one — 1! — peach. Peaches weren’t in season, so I drove all over Tampa in search of the elusive fruit. I finally found a tiny, hard specimen I could add to the apples, oranges, melons, grapes and other fruits dictated by my salad recipe.

“Oh, yum!” a friend said as she took a bite of my finished product. “I bet this tastes different every time you make it.”

“No,” I said, a little perplexed. “Why would it?”

“Doesn’t it change with the fruit you use?”

Change with the fruit I use?!? Was that legal, I wondered? Could I change up the fruit in my fruit salad recipe? Could I even change a recipe?

Wouldn’t the kitchen gods get angry?

No. The kitchen gods don’t get angry. In fact, they sometimes smile.

Here’s the fun thing about cooking: Most recipes are suggestions. As long as you stay within the coloring book’s outlines, you can play with the crayons all you want.

cherry tomatoesLast night was a case in point: The husband and I had snapped up a couple of pints of gorgeous cherry tomatoes at the farmers’ market. I had four rockfish fillets chilling in the refrigerator. And a recipe I was dying to try.

Now, my recipe called for cod, which I didn’t have. And Fresno chiles, which I didn’t have. And cilantro — which was missing, too.

But I had tomatoes! Would the recipe adapt?

I’m happy to say that it did. We dined on spicy, tomatoey Maryland rockfish, spiked with Anaheim chiles, parsley and dill.

I was happy. The family was happy.

And the kitchen gods smiled.

cherry toms on fish

Rockfish With Spicy Tomato Sauce (adapted from “Bon Appetit”)

Make this as is … or play to your heart’s content. You want to end up with fish that’s smothered in a tomato-chile sauce. How you get there is up to you!

  • 4 rockfish fillets
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped herbs (I used parsley and dill)
  • 1 Anaheim chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • Dash of red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon sherry wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

Dry the rockfish fillets and place them in a greased casserole dish. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the herbs, chile, garlic, tomato paste, paprika, honey, allspice, pepper flakes, vinegar and olive oil. Stir well, then season with salt and pepper.

Cut 2 cups of tomatoes in half. Sprinkle those over your fish, then add the remaining 2 cups of whole cherry tomatoes. Spoon the herb & chile mixture over and around the fish.

Bake the fish for 20 minutes, then increase your oven’s temperature to 400 degrees. Bake an additional 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and spoon onto plates.

cherry tom fish dish