Summer Fish in a pouch

Sometimes I plan all my dinners for the week and sometimes I don’t. I usually don’t plan meals in the summer because I can run to market or to the grocery store whenever I want. Last week it was back to reality for me, back to school, and back to coming home later that I would like. I wanted to make a good dinner but I didn’t get any kind of protein this week at market or the grocery store, and I didn’t plan enough ahead to take something out of the freezer. So I stopped and picked up a piece of fish at Mr. Bill’s Seafood Tuesday night.

I chose flounder for dinner because it looked really fresh and it just came into the shop. The Monterey Bay Seafood Watch said it was a good alternative to other options I had that day.

The Monterey Bay Seafood Watch has an app that you can download onto your smart phone. It lists fish that are best choices (that are caught/raised in a sustainable way), good alternatives (not the best choice but better than others), and ones to avoid (caught/raised in ways that are not good for the environment). It is pretty convenient and it only takes a minute to look up your choices while you are standing at the seafood counter. I think a lot about the sources of my beef, pork, and chicken. I try to get them from places like Country Meadows Farms that has free range chicken and grass feed beef. The seafood app helps me make healthy choices when getting seafood too.

Now I had a start to planning dinner! I started with the fish and checked out what kind of veggies I had in the refrigerator at home.

Here’s the veggies I had stocked up on:

One tomatillo, a yellow squash, small red onions, a bunch of plum tomatoes, some yellow heirloom tomatoes, parsley and cilantro.

How will I combine these veggies with my fish to make an awesome dinner? I am going to build a pouch pocket of freshness and bake it in the oven. Then, I will serve it atop couscous!

Here’s how it’s done…

Summer Fish in a Pouch:

1 tomatillo, small diced

6 red plum tomatoes, small diced

2 yellow plum tomatoes, small diced

1 small red onion, sliced thin

a hand full of flat leaf parsley and cilantro, chopped

1 medium-sized yellow squash, sliced thin

3/4 lb flaky white fish (I used flounder, but you can use any flaky white fish)

You’ll need to heat your oven to 350 degrees, and take out a baking sheet and parchment paper.

Fold the parchment paper in half and then cut it into an elongated oval/heart shape that is about four inches larger than the piece of fish. You want to be able to stuff the parchment with the veggies and fish and then be able to fold over the edges and twist the ends to make a pouch. It helps to cut the ends a little longer so you can twist them closed. Make sure you check out your fish first so you don’t cut the parchment too short (like I did the first time!).

Layer half of the tomatoes, half of the tomatillo, half of the onion,and one-third of the herbs on the bottom on the parchment paper. Form the layer to the shape of your piece of fish and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Season your fish on both sides with salt and pepper and rub with olive oil. Lay your piece of fish on top of the bed of tomatoes, onions and herbs.

Layer the rest of the tomatoes, tomatillos, onions, and another third of the herbs on top of the fish, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil again.

Place the slices of squash on top of your tomato layer and season with salt and pepper. Cover the squash with the remaining herbs and drizzle a little more olive oil on top.

You are now ready to close your pouch. Fold the empty half of parchment over to cover your fish and veggies. Begin to fold and roll the two edges together, forming a pouch. Twist the ends together and tuck them under the pouch so that it doesn’t open up in the oven.

Bake your pouch in the oven (at 350 degrees) for 30 minutes. Cooked the fish to 155 degrees, it will come out moist and flaky. To check the temperature, just poke your kitchen thermometer right through the pouch and into the thickest part of the fish.

Here’s what it looks like when you pull it out of the oven. Be careful when opening the pouch! steam has built up inside the parchment and you could burn yourself.

The fish and all the veggies make really yummy juice so it is perfect to serve with couscous or rice.

Here’s how to make couscous that goes great with this dish…

Lemon Parsley Couscous

2 1/2 cups couscous

2 cups chicken stock

1 tbsp. butter

zest and juice of one lemon

hand full of parsley

salt and pepper

Bring the chicken stock to a boil, add in the butter and season it with salt and pepper. Add in the lemon zest and juice.  Pour in the couscous and parsley, cover with a lid and turn off the heat. Just a note* you may have to adjust the amount of liquid in this recipe depending on the brand of couscous you have.

Wait about 5 minutes and fluff the couscous with a fork. Serve the fish and veggies on top of a bowl full of couscous, spoon some of the juice over the whole thing.

A fresh, good-for-you dinner is served.

I had a lot of extra couscous… tomorrow I’ll post how to use the left overs!

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Vacation Eats – Morro Bay Adventure

More from our California Adventure…

We drove from San Luis Obispo to Morrow Bay on Thursday (August 4th). We stayed at the Hostel Obispo the night before and had their sourdough pancakes in the morning. The batter was mixed but Janeen cooked them, so I had to do the dishes.

There were no available rooms at the hostel for Thursday night so we were hoping to get a camp site by the bay. We headed out early and tried to get a camp site at Montaña de Oro State Park, with its beautiful golden hillsides looking out on to the ocean… but it was full! We did scored a camp site at Morro Bay State Park. The campground was really close to everything, only a short ride to the center of Morro Bay town. There was also a great coastal Natural History Museum with info about the bay and a very helpful volunteer who told us where we could see otters and elephant seals!

Just a note about the California coast** The campgrounds, hostels, and hotels up the coast fill up quick in the summer months. We hadn’t made any plans but we kind of lucked out every night and found somewhere to sleep. If I make this drive again I’ll probably try to make some plans. I should have learned that from the time I visited with Dan two years ago. We had a really hard time finding places to stay and camp. It may cramp my go-with-the-flow adventure style, but it might save some morning hours spent searching for somewhere to sleep at night.

We started our Day in Morro Bay walking Embarcadero Street and checking out the shops and looking at sea lions from the docks.

We decided to go to Giovanni’s Fish Market for an early lunch. I knew we made the right choice when I saw that the line outside the order window was long and the tables were busy.

I couldn’t decide what kind of seafood to try but I did know that I wanted their famous fish and chips. I started with a cup of clam chowder. So fresh, creamy and loaded with clams. We washed it all down with a Hefeweizen from Widmer Brothers brewery in Oregon, This seemed to be a popular brewery around CA, I kept seeing it everywhere. I was a really good Hefe and it went great with the fish.

I ended up with a variety basket of fish, shrimp, scallops, and squid. The fish was the best thing in the basket! The fish and squid were coated with  light beer batter that was much better than the bread-crummy batter coating the shrimp and scallops. I recommend sticking with the classic if you go here.

I would upgrade the french fries to garlic fries! I saw this on the menu and I wondered what it was… I thought maybe they just threw some garlic powder on top but it was $2 extra so I thought that it had to be something more special than that. I was right! They took fries that were already great and added fresh garlic, fresh chopped parsley and real Parmesan cheese to them. The result is delicious and right up my alley.

After completely stuffing ourselves for lunch we need to take a walk. We walked all the way out to Morrow Rock – a volcanic rock that separates the bay from the ocean. The town saved it from being demolished a while ago and now it is a huge nesting ground for shore birds. You can see it in the top picture behind me and Janeen. There were otters playing in the kelp at the bay, squirrels making boroughs in between the rocks, and birds flying everywhere. Here’s some of the sea otter family floating in the kelp, enjoying their lunch of urchins and shellfish.

Our walk inspired us to rent a kayak and get right in the bay. A good idea but it was super windy that day and a bit harder than it seemed it should be. We did get closer to the sea lions and otters, and we got to paddle through the shallow waters where jellyfish were floating and seaweeds were growing.

So the kayaking was kind of hard. I got totally soaked and full of sand. I tried to get off on the sand bar island and sank into the muddy sand, it was still fun though.  We were a little exhausted but we still had a great night – We went back to San Luis Obispo for an epic farmers market… stay tuned!