Last night I had to prepare a quick and hearty dinner for MM, Frenchie and me before our softball game (which we won 13-3, thank you very much). I decided on fish, Israeli couscous and asparagus. I was going to buy fresh fish but when I called the Safeway near MM’s house to find out what they had, I wasn’t interested. I didn’t really have time to go to Whole Foods or the fish market, but MM mentioned that he had two pieces of frozen Pacific Cod in his freezer and I remembered that I had one left in my freezer as well. Problem solved.
MM is actually the one that introduced me to this flash frozen fish phenomenon (say that ten times fast). It’s ideal for a quick meal for one or two people, and the fish actually tastes pretty great! Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing like fresh fish and I would always prefer that over frozen, but sometimes this inexpensive option is great for convenience sake. You can find flash frozen fish in any grocery store or Trader Joe’s across the country, but the brand that MM and I like to buy is from Safeway and it’s called Waterfront Bistro. They offer lots of different options for fish fillets and steaks, some breaded or marinated and some just plain for you to dress up on your own. The Tuscan Roasted Garlic Pacific Cod is one of my favorites. I also like the Sesame Teriyaki Pacific Salmon and the Sesame Chili Tilapia. These take only 30 minutes to cook. Just follow the directions on the back of the packet (bake at 425 degrees for 25-28 minutes) and plate!
I usually serve fish with some grains and a green vegetable. Israeli couscous is a favorite of MM and Frenchie, so I recently bought some for them to keep in their pantry (but I’m pretty sure I’m the only one that’s ever cooked with it). I love Israeli couscous because it’s the perfect balance of pasta and small grains. And you can have it on it’s own or mix it with a simple sauce. When I serve Israeli couscous with a white fish I mix in a tomato, caper, lemon sauce that I picked up from a Harley Pasternak recipe. This sauce also goes really well over a plain piece of halibut, cod or tilapia. Just mix 1 cup of chopped cherry or grape tomatoes, two TB of capers, and the juice of one lemon (add S&P to taste). Saute in a skillet under medium heat for a few minutes and top over fish and couscous. Alternatively, you can cook the Israeli couscous as directed (1 1/4 cup of boiled water added to 1 cup of Israeli couscous, cook on low for 6-8 minutes) and take it out while it’s still a little al dente. Then add it to the pan with the tomatoes and capers and let it continue to cook and soak in the flavors for two minutes. I find this is a great way to cook the couscous when pairing it with a fish that is already marinated.
Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables because it’s crunchy and flavorful and so easy to cook! You can bake it or saute and it’s the perfect addition to any meal (including scrambled eggs or fritatta – recipe coming soon). It’s important to remove the root of the asparagus spear, which snaps off easily about 1/4 up from the root. I then cut the spear into thirds and saute them in a little olive oil and chopped garlic under medium heat for about 10 minutes. Be careful not to overcook them, as you don’t want them to get flimsy. (There is also a fun fact about asparagus that I always bring up when I am making it. I’m sure you’ve heard that asparagus makes your urine smell funny, which is a genetic trait that most of the population has. But in order to actually detect this smell you must have another gene that enables you to smell the odor, of which about 20% of the population has.)
The timing is pretty easy in this dish because you don’t have to worry about keeping an eye on the fish. Prepare the tomato mix and chop the asparagus after you put the fish in the oven. Begin to boil water for the Israeli couscous when the fish have about 15 minutes left, and start the asparagus when you have about 10 minutes to go. The tomatoes only need a few minutes in the skillet before it begins to boil and you can add the couscous for 2 minutes. If you follow that sequence, everything should time up perfectly giving you a delicious – nearly gourmet – meal in only thirty minutes!