Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How I learned to love fish: summer on the grill with fish packets

Plate full of summer
This summer I have come to love fish on the grill. I haven't always loved fish, but I've been determined how to cook it properly (which means in ways I'd love) and voila! I've mastered a way I love eating it.

I've tried a few different techniques, but continue to come back to my favorite, easiest and most simple way: grill them in foil pouches, topped with chopped vegetables and herbs. There are so many reasons why I love doing it this way, the main one being that once you do all of the prep (chopping, seasoning, wrapping) you're done except for the grilling part. You can do this mid day or early in the evening, then 20 minutes before you're ready to eat, turn on the grill and you'll have dinner in no time. (Think perfect dinner party food, busy night food, etc.)

Another reason I love foil pouches for fish grilling is there's really no oil involved, and no dreaded sticking of fish to the grill.

And finally, the flavors are really fantastic. But how could I leave out the beauty of the plate? Look at that plate: full of color and summer gorgeous.

I've varied the vegetables and herbs, depending what's growing in the garden, lingering in my refrigerator vegetable bin, or at the farmer's market that day.

About the fish: I use tilapia or salmon, mainly because I haven't done a ton of experimenting with different fish, and I'm still learning. Tilapia is a mellow fish, and available at my local grocery store (New Seasons) who only sells sustainably harvested fish. I've also used the flash frozen fish from Trader Joe's and it's great for this purpose as well. One filet per person works just fine for foil pouches. Lightly rinse your fish filets and using paper towels, pat them dry.

About the vegetables: Chop a variety of vegetables in different colors into bite size pieces (1.5-2 inch cubes approximately): red bell peppers, green and yellow zucchini, mushrooms, sweet onions, peas, green beans, fennel bulb, cherry tomatoes....any combination will work, just use what's available and in season.

About the herbs: Fresh herbs I love include tarragon, basil, oregano and thyme: they all play lovely together, but using just one is fine too. Passing freshly chopped basil at the table is a bonus flavor punch: save some from the packets for passing at the table. Chop fresh herbs and have as a little pile ready for assembly.

fish packet: fish + pile of veggies, herbs

About assembling: Heavy duty foil is good for this purpose, though regular foil will work fine, too. Pull rectangles of foil long enough to be folded over and sealed: about 16 inches is right for the pouches I make. Spray lightly one side of the foil with canola or olive oil non-stick spray. You don't have to do this, but I recommend it. Salt and pepper each side of your fish. Place on foil, closer to one side than the other--remember you're going to pull one side of the foil up and over at one point. Pile on 1-2 cups of the chopped vegetables. Sprinkle the pile liberally with chopped herbs, salt and pepper. A squeeze of fresh lemon or lime on each pile is great at this point. Fold over the foil, and crimp/fold up the edges of the foil, just like if you're making an empanada or calzone. If you have extra chopped vegetables, bonus! Store them in the fridge for a veggie scramble tomorrow morning.

fish packet enclosed

At this point, you're done until it's time for dinner. You can keep these in the fridge until you're ready, or get right to grilling.

About grilling: Preheat the grill, getting it nice and hot. We use a gas grill, and set the packets over medium heat for 12-18 minutes. The variation depends on if the foil packets have sat in the cold refrigerator for the afternoon or not. Don't flip the packets while they grill or anything: just let 'em grill. Set the table, enjoy a glass of wine, take in the ease of summer evenings and check in with your garden. Before you know it, dinner's done: one grill packet per plate, pass any extra fresh herbs and you're good to go. Easiest summer dinner ever. And look at you. You just made fish on the grill. Go do it!


Heather said...

I saw this yesterday and am trying it out tonight. :-) We have fresh peppers, tomatoes and onions to go inside with some herbs and lemon or orange juice. Then I'll add steamed jasmine rice, a salad and ... carrots maybe? Thanks for the inspiration!!


This looks wonderful, LeAnn. I think I might try it sometime. Until then I'll just drool over your photos. :)

MrBrownThumb said...

That looks delicious. I'm not a fan of fish, but I would probably eat that to see if it tasted as good as it looks.

declaratii fiscale said...

Hmmm this recipe looks so delicious and nice and i think that fits perfect with my taste and in my opinion is a very easy recipe, so i think i will try it. Thanks for sharing.