Mediterranean fish and vegetable parcels
One of the simplest and tastiest ways to cook fish is enclosed in paper parcels. Cooking en papillote (French for “in parchment”), or al cartoccio (Italian for “in a bag”), is such an easy way to get the most flavor from simple ingredients.
To make these wonderful Mediterranean fish and vegetable parcels, we put a bed of green beans on the bottom to keep the delicate fish away from the direct heat. We then place overlapping slices of tender tomato and red onion over the fish, and garnish with olives. We also spoon over a mouth-watering mix of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and basil for extra moisture and flavor. The ingredients are then sealed together in baking (parchment) paper parcels and baked in a hot oven, where they gently cook, and their flavors meld together.
Here are some more reasons why this easy, essentially foolproof, cooking method is one of our go to techniques:
- Fish and vegetables require no marinating before cooking, and no basting during cooking. The sauce and cooking juices infuse the ingredients with aromatic flavors inside the parcel as they cook.
- The food retains its nutrients.
- You can easily and quickly cook an entire dinner in one parcel.
- Parcels can be made ahead of time and placed in the fridge until you’re ready to cook, so it saves time during the busy working week.
- There are no pots and pans to clean — you can just throw away the paper (or foil).
- Fish turns out beautifully tender and moist.
- The delicious cooking juices are all preserved in the parcel (wonderful mopped up with crusty bread).
- It’s possible to cook all sorts of ingredients in parcels. Fresh salmon, tuna or swordfish are great alternatives for white fish. Delicate seafood like shrimp, scallops, mussels and squid are delicious and cook very quickly. Even chicken breast works well, but takes a little longer. Quick-cooking vegetables such as asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, baby spinach, scallions, snow peas and thinly sliced carrots all benefit from cooking in parcels. Once you get the hang of the basic method you can customize parcels with your choice of protein, veggies, and seasonings.
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic — finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 large rectangles of baking parchment paper (or aluminum foil)
16 green beans — ends trimmed
2 x 6 oz (170g) firm white fish fillets (such as cod or snapper)
2 tomatoes — thickly sliced
10 thinly sliced red onion rings
6 black olives — pitted and halved
Variations: Use sliced zucchini instead of green beans. Replace the basil with fresh parsley. Substitute white wine for lemon juice.
Serving suggestions: Serve with a fresh salad and crusty bread on the side, or with steamed or boiled potatoes.