Thursday, September 13, 2007

Gourmet Magazine's Zucchini-Wrapped Fish Bundles

I found a really quick and tasty recipe in Gourmet Magazine that takes very few steps and after doing it several times, I found it turns out great every time.

Here's the run down: Peel long strips of zucchini, lay 5 strips side-by-side, a little olive oil, salt and pepper, cut a slice of buttery fish(I used Swai this last time, but whatever you love at the fish mongers is fine by me), pop a basil leaf on top, roll it up and pop 'em in the pan.

Now, here's my favorite part - you can prep the fish and zucchs in the afternoon while the little ones are playing or sleeping and you can pull a platter full of the little devils out of the fridge and dinner will be ready in about 7 minutes. 7 minutes, now we're talkin'. Less time in the kitchen. More time at the table.

Lucy and Edie love these little fish bundles. Especially Lucy, who sits on top of the kitchen counter and helps me peel the zucchini into long pale green strips. It takes her forever because she is so earnest and meticulous with her little fingers working the peeler over the zucch and there is always a smattering of shredded zucchini matter all over the floors and some smudgy green stains in the form of little hand prints on the walls and her legs are covered in little zucchini shavings that she trails through the house and I find them shriveled and dried up days later on her doll's face or way in the back of a toy drawer.

Once, I found a wad of zucchini ribbons hanging out of the back of Edie's diaper, as if she had gotten the toilet paper stuck in her pantyhose after a long night of bar trawling and had no clue about it. I let her walk around the house this way for awhile thinking she looked funny and cute and then, Lucy declared that Edie had a "tail" and I felt compelled to wrestle the strips out of her diaper to stave off some kind of emotional trauma.

This is still a good time to make this recipe since you can really take advantage of the farmers markets and get some crispy, fresh, right-out-of-the-garden zucchs. If you’ve never cooked “en papillote” which is a pretentious, French term for steaming in paper, this is a friendly introduction. (But do try working "en papillote" into your conversation. It sounds impressive and saying something like, "We're cooking "en papillote" tonight, honey" makes the dish sound fancier and harder to make than it really is.)

One thing – this is not a dish for a dinner party. They are labor intensive if you have to make a hundred of them, you'll regret it by the time you get to 50. This recipe makes for 4 people, according to Gourmet, but I find I never make enough. They are so tasty they fly off the plate. I've also made them for snacks for the kids, ate the leftovers for breakfast with toast and they make a nice light lunch with a salad and bread.

We eat these succulent, buttery little fish packages with our hands, as kind of a finger food, so forget the forks and let them grab them from the plate and pop them in their mouths.

Zucchini-Wrapped Fish


2 (6- to 7-inch-long) zucchini, trimmed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus additional for brushing
16 fresh basil leaves
4 (6-ounce) pieces halibut or salmon fillet (preferably wild salmon), skinned
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Prep in the afternoon

Shave zucchini lengthwise into very thin ribbons with peeler.

For each piece of fish, arrange about 5 slices of zucchini on a work surface, side by side, overlapping each slice by half. Brush zucchini with oil, then lightly season with salt and pepper. Lay 2 basil leaves across center of each group of zucchini slices.

Pat fish dry, then sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper (total) and arrange crosswise on zucchini, covering basil leaves. Top each piece of fish with 2 basil leaves, then wrap zucchini around fish, overlapping ends.

Put the bundles on a platter and slide them in the fridge. Don't think about them until dinner time.

Right before dinner

Take the platter of fish bundles out of the fridge. Put 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet and swirl to coat bottom, then arrange fish, seam sides down, in oil. Lightly brush tops of zucchini and fish with oil.

Cover skillet and cook fish over medium heat, without turning, until barely cooked through, 6 to 9 minutes, depending on thickness of fillets (fish will continue to cook from residual heat).

Transfer fish to plates, then stir lemon juice and remaining 2 tablespoons oil into juices in skillet and season sauce with salt and pepper. Drizzle sauce over fish.


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