Fresh Spring Favorite: Zucchini Wrapped Fish Fillets

Each time the seasons change, I get inspired to embrace the flavors and types of food that seem to embody the new time of year.

With spring, I bid adieu to casseroles and stews and get excited about lighter, brighter dishes that celebrate colorful vegetables and promise to fill you up but not weigh you down.

This zucchini-wrapped fish fillet looks and tastes just like spring and bursts with flavor. Plus it makes for a dramatic presentation that looks like a restaurant quality dish! The only “trick” is using a Y-shaped vegetable peeler to shave thin strips of zucchini—which is really quite easy and fun to do. This is adapted from Gourmet (August 2007).

Serves 4
Prep time:  15 minutes
Cook time: 7-9 minutes

  • 3 zucchini, at least 7 inches long
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil (or 16 whole basil leaves if  you’ve got ‘em)
  • 4 pieces halibut fillet, each 5.5 ounces (preferably wild caught)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Slice each zucchini lengthwise and starting at the center (the non-peel side), slowly draw the Y-shaped peeler across, pressing the peeler evenly the length of the zucchini like so:

You’ll want about 10 long slices of zucchini per fillet. Overlap them onto each other, and then brush with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and about 1/4 teaspoon dried basil, or one whole leaf (I was fresh out of fresh basil this day, and the dried worked fine).

Place a halibut fillet across the zucchini slices, like this, and brush lightly with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and another 1/4 teaspoon of dried basil, or one more whole basil leaf.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan (room enough to fit four of these beauties) with a lid.

Now, carefully fold over the zucchini, from the top down, and roll the whole thing over, so your “seam” is on the bottom and it looks like this:

Using a spatula, transfer each lovely little zucchini-wrapped fish bundle into your pan.  Once all four are in, put the “hat” on (I always call pot lids hats) and cook undisturbed for 7-9 minutes.  Yes, it’s true! No flipping is involved! How easy is that?

Cook’s Note: If your fish fillets are thinner, cook a bit less, maybe 6-7 minutes. These were about 5.5 ounces each, and 8 minutes did the trick. Plus, once you remove them from the pan, they’ll continue cooking a bit from the residual heat.

When they are done, remove them to plates with a spatula. Now make a snappy little pan sauce: turn down the heat to medium-low and add a splash more olive oil, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.  Whisk it all about until it’s heated through and top each fillet with a bit of sauce.

I like to serve this with fluffy couscous simmered in vegetable stock, garnished with some pine nuts or fresh herbs (parsley or basil) or sliced almonds. Basmati rice or quinoa would also be nice side dishes. If you have left-over zucchini, you can always slice it up and sauté it in the same pan and serve that alongside as well.  Enjoy!

Shopping List:

4 5.5-ounce halibut fillets

3 zucchini
Dried or fresh basil
1 lemon

Other Items
Couscous, rice or quinoa, for side dish

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