Friday, 15 January 2010

Fish on Friday-The 21st Century Housewife's©Pesto Crusted Fish with Couscous and Roasted Vegetables


I love fish, and am all for reviving the tradition of eating fish on Fridays, whether for religious or secular reasons. Fish is good for you, and provided you buy products that have been sustainably fished, it is good for the environment too. According to UN estimates, meat production accounts for nearly one-fifth of manmade greenhouse gases so eating fish one day a week can only help. Although “fresh” fish can be expensive, frozen fish is often a very good buy. And to be fair, unless you are buying directly from a fish monger, most of the fish labelled as "fresh" has actually been previously frozen just after it is caught and thawed under controlled temperature conditions so it can be marketed as "fresh" in the supermarkets. As a result, I tend to buy the majority of my fish frozen, both for reasons of freshness and economy. For example, I can get a big pack of sustainably fished cod loins really reasonably at Costco, and they are suitable for cooking straight from frozen.

Cooking time for fish will vary, depending on whether it is cooked from fresh or frozen, and how thick the fish is. A general guide is that when fish is cooked it should no longer be opaque and it will flake easily with a fork. The timings I have listed here are for my “cook from frozen” cod loins which are fairly thick as well. So go carefully, as overcooked fish is not nice - but then neither is undercooked fish :). Also oven temperatures can vary pretty radically oven to oven, so the first time you make this recipe, just keep an eye on it and go carefully. You can always turn the heat down a bit if things seem to be cooking too fast.

Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients; this recipe is so delicious it is well worth the trouble, and it really does not take very long to put together. If red or yellow peppers are too expensive, you can use green bell peppers instead, or even some roasted red peppers from a jar (don’t roast the jarred peppers though, just heat them through with the couscous at the end of cooking). Same thing goes for the red onion - a plain onion will do nicely if the red ones are pricey.

My family love this recipe, but I love the fact that it is special enough for company too. It’s easily doubled if you have extra guests.

For the fish:-
4 cod or haddock loins, filleted, bones removed
(fresh or frozen)
2 tablespoons prepared basil pesto from a jar
2 tablespoons matzo meal (or bread crumbs)
drizzle of olive oil
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

For the vegetables:-
1 red pepper, de-seeded and chopped in medium pieces
1 yellow pepper, de-seeded and chopped in medium pieces
1 zucchini, chopped in half moons
(cut the zucchini in half lengthwise, and then slice)
1 small red onion, peeled and cut in eighths
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Enough couscous for 4 people, prepared according to package directions.

4 large squares of aluminum foil

Start with the vegetables – place the peppers, zucchini and onion in a roasting dish. Drizzle with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and toss to cover. Place in the oven and roast at 400℉ (200℃) for about twenty-five minutes, stirring once half way through.

Meanwhile, mix the pesto, matzo meal and lemon rind together in a small bowl. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil into the mixture and stir.

Place each cod loin on a square of aluminum foil, skin side down. Sprinkle a bit of lemon juice over each piece. Using a spoon and your fingers, gently press the pesto mixture on to the top of the fish. Seal the aluminum foil up round each piece in a package shape. (Don’t press the foil down on to the fish or topping.) Place the fish parcels on a baking sheet and bake at 400℉ or 200℃ for about ten to fifteen minutes.

At this point, remove the fish from the oven and open the top of the parcels, leaving the foil open. Return to the oven so that the fish can finish cooking and the pesto crust can brown a little. This will take about five to ten minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish and whether it was fresh or frozen to start with. The fish is done when it is no longer opaque and flakes easily with a fork.

If the vegetables have finished cooking before the fish, just remove them from the oven and cover with aluminum foil and a clean tea towel to keep warm.

Prepare enough couscous for four people according to package directions. (This should normally take about five minutes.) Mix the couscous and roasted vegetables together (including any remaining oil in the roasting pan), and divide between four plates.

When it is fully cooked, serve the pesto crusted fish on top of the roasted vegetable couscous.

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