Coddle Up With Fresh Food!

Happy Palm Sunday to all! This church-via-livestream business has left me with a little extra time on my hands on Sunday mornings now. It used to be a good portion of our morning was spent getting ready and going to first service and volunteering in second service. Now we sleep in a bit and get up to enjoy coffee on the couch while watching both our church’s livestream services. During second service now, I spend time working on lunch in the kitchen while watching the message. It’s nice to have a little extra time on Sunday mornings, but I still miss my church family something fierce.

The busyness of this past month has left us little time to focus on eating better. We’ve both been putting in extra hours due to both of us being in “essential industries.” Part of the time has been salads and another part has been whatever is available as grab-and-go and still another is stress-eating. When I do have the time, I’ve been attempting fresh and flavorful foods. The benefit of all of this has been that it has caused me lately to buckle down more and to try to be a little more prepared. I’ve had to use a little more foresight when taking my day/week into account.

In Greece, the Lenten fast is broken on Palm Sunday with a fish dinner — notably cod. While we don’t particularly observe Lent in our house, I do enjoy eating seasonally when possible and bringing you seasonal recipes and ideas. A little while back some friends at church blessed us with some fresh cod, so today I chose to thaw a package out and make ‘Cod in Parchment with Lemon & Vegetables’ from Joanna Gaines’ premier Magnolia Table cookbook. See my slight variation on her original recipe below.

Ingredients:
Cooking spray
(4) 15in squares of parchment paper
(4) 12in pieces of kitchen twine
Salt & pepper
2 lemons, thinly-sliced into 6 discs
1 sm summer squash (we used yellow crookneck as that is The Mr’s fave), cut into thin discs
2 carrots, peeled & shaved into long, thin ribbons with a veggie peeler
1 sm fennel bulb, halved & cored, and sliced thin
1 lg shallot, chopped fine
4tsp chopped fresh tarragon
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4tbsp salted butter
2tbsp chicken broth
2tbsp dry white wine or additional chicken broth

Instructions:
1) Position both baking racks on the bottom two slots in the oven. Place a large baking sheet on the top rack and preheat the oven to 425°F.
2) Arrange the parchment squares on a work surface and spray with cooking spray. Pat the fish dry with paper towels and season the fillets all over with salt & pepper. Place a fillet in the center of each piece of parchment paper and place 3 slices of lemon on each fillet. Evenly distribute the squash, carrot, and fennel among the fillets tossing them over the lemons. Season with S&P again. Sprinkle with shallot, tarragon, red pepper flakes, and garlic. Top each heap with 1tbsp of butter and sprinkle with broth & wine.
3) Bring two opposing sides together over mixture (overlapping slightly) and fold the edges beneath the packet. Tie each packet securely with kitchen twine. Repeat with all packets.
4) Place packets directly on hot baking sheet in the oven and bake for 15min. (This is a great opportunity to cook some rice to serve alongside your packets.)
5) Transfer packets to plates, snip kitchen twine, and enjoy immediately.

The fish cooked with the abundance of vegetables and seasoning was tender and flavorful. This recipe is easy to halve for a smaller group, but honestly… it wasn’t really filling enough for that. Sorry, JoJo! It was tasty, for sure, but not incredibly filling on it’s own and, while pretty, not terribly exciting either. Tarragon and fennel are delicious additions for steamed/poached fish and veggies, but they’re just that. The recipe calls for 1/2tsp crushed red pepper flakes. I recommend omitting the crushed red pepper flakes. The ingredient added a spicy element that felt a little out of place in the grand flavor profile of the recipe.

With the delicate combination of different ingredients from different European cuisines, it was a bit more exploratory (tarragon from French, fennel from Italy, and crushed red pepper from the area stretching across the Mediterranean). One of the truly redeeming quality about this recipe was that the fish was neither bland nor overcooked. I definitely give Joanna credit for that small victory. Funny anecdote, I wasn’t paying enough attention and I accidentally took a great big bite of lemon slice thinking it was the yellow squash. Yes, it was very surprising as it was still quite sour!

What is your favorite fish dinner?

Currently Reading: The Gluten-Free Revolution by Jax Peters Lowell

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