Most nights, our dinners are simple: roasted vegetables, salad, whatever leftovers we have from yesterday’s lunch or another day’s project in the fridge. Sometimes it’s previously prepared food we’ve stuffed in the freezer. Other times it’s ice cream. We tend to go for easy and simple and mindless, despite what the stereotype of keeping a food blog might be. But every so often, one of us gets freshly inspired, like I did last week with this fish recipe, and making dinner becomes less about efficiency and more about fun. These are the times when I love the kitchen, when it feels like a way to creatively vent out all the tension of those crazy mental Ferris wheels and tangibly let my hands show my brain, again, that some forms of disorder resolve, making beauty in the end.

Thinking about this just now, I Googled “why creative outlet,” because that’s what I’m describing here, I guess, what it means to have a creative outlet, be it cooking or writing or pottery, and I fell deep into a rabbit trail of articles about how practicing creativity in any of its forms can be valuable for people fighting everything from depression to anxiety to boredom to stress. Making things you enjoy is something that can “help people perform better at work,” says a recent study featured at NPR. Gardening helped one woman featured in a Writer’s Digest Magazine article improve the way she wrote. Lorraine Thompson at Copywriters’ Kitchen cites regular cooking as a weapon against stress and as a way to help your mind to slow down. “Food preparation is a process,” she says. “It takes time. It requires participation … By handling food every day, you’re given the opportunity to be mindful.”

They’re all sort of saying the same thing I’m saying, the same thing I said to Tim last week on a day that I started behind on work hours and finished strolling fields and hills and horse stables at a previously undiscovered park near our house. “You never know what a day will bring!” I told him breathlessly, right after I snapped a photo of a horse named Boo. It could be working on a car or studying astronomy or tilling the earth that shows it to you, but these gifts of work, especially creative work, can be the very tools to give us hope.


Pecorino-Encrusted Cod in Brown Butter Dill Sauce & Carrot Potato Mash


Serving Size: 3 to 4

Pecorino-Encrusted Cod in Brown Butter Dill Sauce & Carrot Potato Mash

Fish recipe lightly adapted from The Kitchn, and it's a winner. Super simple and fast (as all great fish recipes tend to be) and so buttery and almost decadent beneath the sauce. Also worth raving about is the creamy mash, sweetened and orange-tinted by the carrots but still savory with the tangy kefir and wonderful dill.


    For the fish:
  • 3 tablespoons ghee and/or coconut oil
  • 1- to 1 1/2-pound cod filet, cut into 3 or 4 pieces, thawed to room temperature (frozen? Try this.)
  • Salt and pepper
  • For the topping:
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • For the sauce:
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped dill
  • For the Carrot Potato Mash:
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped into similar-sized chunks
  • 1 pound gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • Enough water to cover carrots/potatoes
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup kefir
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dill
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Turn the broiler on in your oven (ours has two options: high and low; we used low). In a large cast-iron skillet, warm the ghee and/or coconut oil until hot. Meanwhile, salt and pepper the top of the cod filets generously.

Once oil is hot, lay filets, seasoned side down, right in the pan. Cook three minutes, and while it's cooking, mix together topping ingredients in a small bowl. Then use a spatula (ideally a fish spatula, as The Kitchn recommends; what’s a fish spatula? basically this) to flip the filets over. Spread the topping over the filets, pressing it gently with a utensil into the fish. With oven-mitted hands, move the skillet to the oven and broil the fish for 2 to 3 more minutes, until crisp and golden on top. If you're going to err, err on the side of less doneness; taste it and stick it back in if needed; if you overcook the fish just by a minute, it could be a little dry.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, letting it turn from solid to liquid to golden to brown, with a wonderful, nutty smell. Add chopped dill.

Serve filets hot, atop mounds of carrot potato mash (recipe below). Drizzle with brown butter sauce.

For the carrot potato mash (which may be made ahead of time and rewarmed):

Place carrots and potatoes in a large stockpot and add enough water to cover them. Set over medium heat and bring to boil; reduce to simmer; cook until everything is soft through, about 45 minutes. Strain the vegetables, reserving about ¾ cup of the water. Transfer them to a Vitamix or other blender, adding the reserved liquid, and blend until chunky and well mixed, using the tamper if necessary. Scoop this mixture back into the pot, and stir in kefir, butter, grated garlic, and chopped dill. Mash until it’s the texture you like (we like it to stay a little on the chunky side). Salt and pepper generously, to taste.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. Medha

    Such a beautiful recipe & gorgeous pictures! This carrot- potato mash sounds so delicious that I am making right now for our dinner :) These pictures look like just jumped out of Nigel Slater’s book – stunning!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Thank you, sweet Medha! I hope you enjoy! It’s so simple and yet so good!

  2. Marie @ Little Kitchie

    I LOVED this post. A friend and I were just talking this past weekend about making room for creativity. As a teacher it’s something I’m always trying to press into my students! And this recipe — swoon.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      I love your teacher perspective because you so get it. Your lucky kids!

  3. Lindsey | The Next Course

    You so beautifully described the core of the idea that has been fascinating me for the past year and a half. Gorgeous, Shanna!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Wish we could sit down for coffee to talk it all out for a few hours. : )

  4. Elissa

    when do you add the cheesy topping to the cod?

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Elissa! Bless you for noticing this mistake! The recipe has been updated — you add it after flipping the fish and just before sliding the pan in the oven.

  5. Jacqui

    Reading this post makes me want to go create something beautiful. And meet a horse named Boo.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      I swear that horse and I had a moment. We totally connected.

  6. Alicia

    Dill + fish + cheese? Mmmhmm. Gorgeous, as always.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Ha, right? And thanks, A!

  7. felicia | Dish by Dish

    Shanna! you said everything I’ve been feeling lately – and this need for a creative outlet has become stronger and stronger with the past few months. Thanks for articulating all this so well. I’m there with you – about how creating things for the sake of creation can really give us hope.

    Love, felicia

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Me too, Felicia. It comes in waves, I think, and I’m always so thankful for spaces like the kitchen and the blog when I need a way to work stuff out by making.

  8. Vicki

    It’s interesting how we easily put others before ourselves (work, family, etc.). People might hesitate to pursue a creative outlet because “there’s no time” but we all have the same 24 hours in a day and, believe or not, we have some say in how that time is spent. Like you’re saying, instead of throwing something together for dinner being mindful while preparing a meal for your family. A little time spent planning meals for the week makes this task a lot easier than you think.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Yeah, it’s funny how hard it is to make creative outlets a priority.. especially when you realize how much they empower you to do other things. I think it’s worth pursuing!

  9. Kathryn

    This is beautiful! I love that first picture especially. That quotation about mindfulness really resonates with me especially given that I’m currently working on a crazy project away from home so I don’t have the time or the ability to take a step back and focus on creating something.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      I loved your post today. You so get it.

  10. Pingback: london bakes | rhubarb and polenta muffins {gluten free}

  11. Tina | Mademoiselle Gourmande

    What a great post! I can very much relate to that!

    As for the recipe, the pictures are mouthwatering. The fish looks like it’s cooked to perfection! Well done… :)

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Aw, thanks, Tina!

  12. Pingback: Grain-free Pomegranate Coconut Scones + Celebrating 2 years! - Dish by Dish

  13. angela@spinachtiger

    It was wonderful to see you last week. You look beautiful! This dish looks beautiful, my kind of food. As a food blogger, it may also surprise people as to how simply we eat most dinners too. I think being in the creative zone in the ultimate experience. Having just come off a hundred hours writing an article, I never felt happier working. Unhappy in my earlier career that paid a lot, I was perplexed and depressed until I found that I’m a creative junkie and I can’t be anything else. I’m reminded that we are created in God’s image and He’s the ultimate creative. I feel closest to God when I feel his creativity pouring into me. It doesn’t have to be something religious; it can be banana pudding, and I can feel God in it. I see God in your writing talent. Your words flow beautifully. You are the best writer of any blogger I read. I see things like a writer sees, and I think like one, but I don’t have the gift you have. I can’t wait to see one day where your talent takes you. xoxo

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Oh, Angela, you are very kind. Thank you for this way generous comment and for being kind to us last week. I am so psyched for your upcoming article — Please tell us or post about where we can find it when it’s published! We’re so proud of you and, as the people who reached out to you about it would say, you’re more of a writer than you think you are. I love seeing the creative hand of God in you, too. -s

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>