I don’t know about you, but to me the perfect recipe is one that is tasty, easy, healthful, and appeals to everyone in my family. That is a tall order for sure. Most people that I talk to in my classes struggle with having a wide range of great entree recipes and that’s where I have a hard time, too. I only like seafood, but my younger daughter doesn’t. My husband likes everything well done, but I don’t. My son likes everything plain and simple, but the rest of us like strong flavors. You know how it goes.
You see that beautiful piece of fish down there? That is my idea of a perfect dinner — simple, healthy, light, delicious, seasonal, easy-to-make. If my family didn’t thrive on an ever-changing dinner menu, I would love to eat this twice a week with a fresh salad and a glass of rosé. Perfect.
Fish in parchment is easier than it looks and one of the most healthful ways to cook fish. I have taught and posted two other fish in parchment recipes which you may have tried, one with cilantro and ginger and the second with summer herbs. Both are delicious and perfect when you want something light in the summer.
The basic idea when you’re cooking in parchment, is to use ingredients that all cook pretty quickly and at the same rate. Make sure that parchment is tightly sealed and you’ll create a little steam oven in that packet. I always make sure the fish is well-seasoned with salt and pepper and that I add a smidge of fat, either butter or olive oil for flavor, and then there are lots of possibilities.
Once I see those first local tomatoes at the farmers market, I start going a little tomato-crazy. I especially love cherry tomatoes because they are always so sweet. In this recipe, you can’t beat the combination with the sautéed garlic, salty capers and olives and zingy white wine. I would eat this with a simple rice pilaf or quinoa salad or a raw zucchini salad. My family would probably love a little pasta with pesto to go with it.
I have taught this recipe in my cooking classes many, many times and sometimes I added some raw baby spinach leaves under the fish. The spinach wilts beautifully and tastes delicious with all the other ingredients. Shaved zucchini slices would also be perfect, but you could also add vegetables to the packet like blanched (not raw) green beans or slivers of roasted peppers.
Of course, if there are ingredients in the recipe you don’t care for, feel free to omit. After I finish going over a recipe in my class, I take a few minutes to talk about substitutions. Questions about how to change the recipe are the most common questions that come up — how do I make this gluten-free? My husband won’t eat anything with onion. I hate olives. Etc, etc. I give you permission to take out the olives if you want.
1 Tablespoon unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 Tablespoons capers, drained
a handful of mixed fresh herbs (I like to use mostly parsley with a little basil and mint mixed in), if you have them or sprigs of fresh thyme
½ teaspoon sea salt + extra for seasoning fish
a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper to taste + extra for seasoning fish
4 filets of wild halibut or sole
4 teaspoons unsalted butter or unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
8 teaspoons dry white wine
4 12-inch squares of unbleached parchment
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Add sliced garlic, red pepper flakes and cook until the garlic is fragrant and almost golden brown, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in tomatoes, capers and fresh herbs, salt and pepper.
Arrange each piece of fish in the center of the parchment paper and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and pepper.
Top each filet with a fourth of the tomato mixture, 1 teaspoon of butter or oil, and 2 teaspoons wine.
Bring 2 opposite sides of the parchment together and fold. Continue to fold all the way down until you reach the fish. Twist both ends of the parchment so that it looks like a hard candy wrapper. Repeat for each piece of fish. Place each packet on a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes based on the thickness of the fish.
Transfer each packet to a plate and use caution when opening – the steam will be very hot!
Sometimes I like to add a handful of baby spinach leaves to the parchment before topping with the fish.
I think you should have a Cinco de Mayo party! Wouldn’t that be fun? Even if you’re not up for hosting a bunch of people next Saturday night, you at least need to prepare some delicious Mexican-inspired food for your family. Who needs to go to the local overcrowded Mexican restaurant and eat greasy, over-sauced, heavy food in the presence of too many inebriated partyers? Not me, friends! Although I don’t need it to be Cinco de Mayo to make Mexican food. My family requests Mexican about as much as anything else and I am happy to oblige with fresh, healthful and easy-to-prepare recipes.
The Mexican dishes I like to make and eat are perfect for busy weeknights, but even better for entertaining because they’re always crowd pleasers and often it’s all about the toppings and allowing everyone to make their own. I love this for many reasons — it gives kids more control in what they’re eating and really encourages them to try new things, it’s less work for me, and it’s fun!
One of my favorite Mexican dishes is fish tacos. Not only do I make them all the time at home, but I find myself ordering them whenever I can especially on vacation (what vacation?). I’ve been known to eat fish tacos every single day for a week and not tire of them. I love changing the toppings each time to keep it different. Sometimes I’ll even use a Savoy cabbage leaf instead of a corn tortilla. In my house we’re split down the middle as to the preferred fish preparation, so in my classes this month and on my blog post, I decided to demonstrate two delicious methods. I prefer a lime juice-based marinade and my husband likes the dry rub better, but you can’t go wrong with either. Where you can go wrong is not putting together a great assortment of condiments, because this is the KEY to building a perfect fish taco.
I went on a reconnaissance mission to Wahoo’s Fish Tacos in Manhattan Beach to see what a restaurant with the words “fish tacos” in its name does with fish tacos. Wow. Major disappointment. A piece of grilled fish in a soft corn tortilla with a pinch of thinly sliced cabbage. Ok so far. Plus shredded cheddar cheese. Huh? Fish and cheese? No. And then a tiny scoop of pico de gallo (fresh tomato salsa) on the side. People, we can do so much better! A delicious and satisfying fish taco has a balance of different tastes and textures (and no cheese!) Here’s what you need:
creamy: I personally can’t even eat a fish taco without the white sauce I’ve shown here and/or some sliced avocado or guacamole.
crunchy: thinly sliced cabbage or a firm lettuce, even a good slaw like this Cilantro-Lime Slaw.
spicy: even just a little kick makes it better. Try adding a little heat to your sauce, slaw, dry rub or salsa.
tangy: a tart, acidic flavor helps keep everything fresh and balanced. You can squeeze fresh lime over everything or incorporate it in a marinade, slaw or salsa.
I am excited to share a few more great Mexican-inspired recipes next week in hopes to inspire you to enjoy your own fiesta at home!
6 Tablespoons mayonnaise (I like soy-free Vegenaise)
6 Tablespoons whole unsweetened yogurt
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon hot sauce or ¼ teaspoon ground chipotle powder (optional) (taco on the left has sauce with chipotle powder, taco on the right has sauce without)
pinch of sea salt
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 Tablespoons unrefined olive oil
½ teaspoon ground cumin
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 pound firm white fish, such as halibut or mahi mahi
Oil (for brushing grill)
8 6-inch corn tortillas, warmed either on grill or heated griddle pan until pliable
Sliced avocado, guacamole, pickled red onion or radishes, shredded napa, savoy or green cabbage or slaw,
fresh pico de gallo (salsa), fresh lime cut into wedges
Whisk together ingredients for white sauce and refrigerate until ready to use.
Combine lime juice, oil and cumin in a shallow nonreactive dish small enough to just hold the fish. Add fish and turn to coat in the marinade. Season with salt and pepper and marinate fish at room temperature for 30 minutes. OR mix dry rub spices together and sprinkle on both sides of fish.
Preheat grill to medium-hot. Brush grill grate with oil. Grill fish until just cooked through, about 3-5 minutes per side. Break fish into large pieces.
Fill tortilla with fish and desired accompaniments. Drizzle with white sauce and squeeze fresh lime wedges over tacos.