Herb and Cod Stuffed Peppers
This whole healthy eating thing is good and all, but I don’t know how much more I can take. My dinner the other night was supposed to be a plain baked fish fillet with a cup of steamed green beans and a half cup of steamed red pepper. Are you kidding me? Are there people who actually eat like this and see nothing inherently evil about consuming little more than steamed vegetables three meals a day? Because let me tell you, I am not one of those people.
On my way to restock my supply of steam-ables, I walked by the cheese counter at my grocery store. There was a promotion on local artisan cheeses from Ontario, any my cart was full of bloody broccoli and string beans. My lower lip started to quiver and if I hadn’t been aggressively propelled out of my reverie by a baleful crone on a mobility scooter (who clearly equated “fellow shoppers” with “speed bumps”) I might have actually started to cry. In the grocery store. Apparently hunger brings out my hysteria.
This dish was my halfhearted rebellion against a painfully banal food plan that I am not at all enjoying. They can take my cheese, but they can’t take my spirit.
Herb and Cod Stuffed Peppers
- 4 skinless Pacific cod fillets (6 oz each) *
- 2 sweet red peppers
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 lemon
- large handful fresh parsley
- small handful assorted fresh herbs **
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1/4 large Vidalia (sweet) onion, optional
- salt and pepper, to taste
* Alaskan Pacific cod is a good choice for sustainable seafood, but you can substitute with another white fish fillet (such as tilapia and char) or even rainbow trout if you prefer a sweeter or more flavorful fish.
** We used a combination of basil and mint, but any tender green herb such as tarragon, chervil or cilantro will work.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF with your rack in the center.
Pat the fish fillets dry and lightly season the front and back of each one with salt and pepper. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the fillets and set them aside for 20 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients and your oven heats up.
Mince the garlic as finely as possible and sprinkle lightly with salt. Use the flat part of your knife to mash and smear the garlic on the board until it starts to take on a paste-like consistency.
Coarsely chop the herbs.
In a small bowl, mix together the garlic, herbs, olive oil and the juice from the remaining lemon half.
Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds but keep the stem end intact. Why? Because it’s pretty, that’s why. Sometimes that’s just reason enough.
Peel the sweet onion half (if you’re using it) and slice as thinly as possible. Paper thin would be ideal, and each slice should be translucent. Sweet onions have a mild flavor, but they won’t really ‘cook’ enough to soften fully so you want to mitigate their pungency.
Slide a thin onion slice into each pepper and cover with a tablespoon or so of the herb mixture. Lay a fish fillet down flat and mound a slice of onion and some of the stuffing on one half. Fold or roll the fish to enclose the filling and tuck it firmly into a pepper boat, coaxing it in on the sides so that it is snugly secured. You want the fish fillet to be packed densely and tightly so that it will cook evenly.
If you have any herb stuffing left when all the peppers are stuffed, tuck it in to fill any gaps or empty spaces around the fish.
Place the peppers snugly into an oven safe casserole dish. I find that a large deep dish pie plate is the ideal size, but maybe that’s because sometimes I can’t be bothered to root down to the bottom of my bake-ware and just grab whatever happens to be on top. Slab pie in a lasagna pan? Sure, but don’t tell anyone….
Bake the peppers in your hot oven for 12-15 minutes, or until the fish is firm and opaque.
This dish would be perfect with a wild rice pilaf and vegetable side dish, but because of The Stinkin’ Cleanse I opted for steamed green beans. Sigh.
The peppers will have had time to soften slightly but still maintain a nice tender-crisp appeal, even though the fish stuffing will be firm and flake easily. I’ve always been a sucker for a firm vegetable (get your mind out of the gutter). For some reason crisp veg just makes me feel slightly more healthy and virtuous than a soggy or limp one. Go figure.
This is an undeniably light and low fat entree, but the flavor packed punch from the garlic and fresh herbs actually helps me to look beyond that. Indeed, I even forgot about my cheese and chocolate cravings for a full 15 minutes or so, which is a miracle in and of itself.
Now then, only 1 day left of This Stinkin’ Cleanse and then I think I’ll do a post about cheese cake. Covered in gravy. With bacon and chocolate sprinkles on top.