Welcome to the post-Mardi Gras haze! Whether or not you’re religious, it’s time to evaluate our nutrition and spiff up a bit for the upcoming pool and beach season here on the Gulf Coast. There’s no better way to get lean protein than with some of our beautiful local fish. You have your choice for locally sourced fish in this recipe, but you can use something easier on the wallet if you need to that. Sometimes I can find redfish, sometimes I can’t. Sometimes the money’s tighter and tilapia or swai is on sale. My only real requirement for this dish is that I use fresh fish. I try to stay away from the individually packaged frozen fillets if I can. Flounder is an amazing local-caught fish that I highly recommend for this recipe as well. Places like Trans Gulf Seafood (Mobile) or Fresh Seafood Distributors (Mobile and Daphne) or The Famous Lartigue Seafood Market (inside Piggly Wiggly stores in Fairhope, Spanish Fort, Loxley, and Foley) all cater to those who love local seafood but aren’t sure where to buy it. If you’re in Gulf Shores or Orange Beach, you’ll have even more fine fish purveyors to choose from.
This dish has a bright freshness to it that lends itself to thoughts of the Mediterranean and memories of summer. It’s light and playful without being so “fishy-nasty” that my seven-year-old turns his nose up at it. The capers are optional, but they add a salt and floral component I’d be hard-pressed to leave off at this point. Who knew pickled flower buds off a bush could be so tasty? The lemon slices are edible, certainly my husband enjoys them, but most people remove the lemon and thyme sprigs for eating. This dish pairs beautifully with steamed green beans, wilted spinach, and roasted asparagus. For sides, either a simple rice dish or roasted potatoes or even some crusty bread are appreciated. I’d pair this fish with a Sauvignon Blanc.
Mediterranean Fish in Foil
Serves: 4, Nutrition facts calculated per fillet
8 white flaky fish fillets, about 2.5 lbs. total weight
2 whole lemons, sliced thinly using knife or mandoline
3 TBS olive oil
1-pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
10 cloves garlic, sliced very thinly using knife or mandoline
16 sprigs fresh thyme
2 TBS capers
Also needed: Foil squares
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Start out by preparing your foil squares and lay them out onto a baking sheet. Place 2-3 lemon slices per foil. Prepare fillets by patting them dry with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel, and salt and pepper both sides of the fillet and lay them on top of lemon slices. Top with a sprig or two of fresh thyme and roll the sides of the foil up to create a barrier around the fish (but do not seal). Heat oil in saute pan until it shimmers. Add garlic slices and stir constantly for one minute. The garlic should be golden but not browned. If it goes a little brown, that’s okay, but you want it to be mellow but not crisp. Add tomatoes and capers and remove from heat. Stir a few times to combine, cook about one minute off the heat. Add mixture on top of fish, being sure to get a little of everything into each foil pouch. Crimp the top of each foil pouch until sealed. Bake fish for 25 minutes. Serve immediately.
A Note on the OPTIONAL Special Equipment I Used:
Mandoline- please practice safe use of your mandoline at all times! They make knife proof gloves that you can purchase on Amazon if you dislike using the blade guard. My personal mandoline was made by Tupperware, which I am currently a consultant for (as a disclaimer), and I used both the small sized mini and the large regular mandoline for this task. I prefer one with a “V” shaped blade in the large size, it makes cutting things like potatoes much less of a hassle. In the small size, I like a very sharp 2-way blade. There are many brands that make mandolines like these, OXO and Swissmar are among my favorites. You can always use a knife for the steps where I used the mandoline in this recipe.