Friday, April 24, 2009

Releasing Some Steam

Well, folks, it seems I've slipped down a slippery slope. Not Britney or Lindsey style--I'm not partying hard or flashing anybody; I'm merely guilty of forgetting that I need to make at least one of my meals a relatively healthy one. I've always believed that indulging is okay, but when those little treats start to become routine...well, they become something else that's a little less special, don't they? And I must admit, for the past few months I've been taking indulgences to a level where nothing I ate felt special. It may have been delicious and enjoyable, but there was no feeling of reward, merit or prize. So, as I planned out a few meals for the coming weeks, it became clear that I'd have to forgo the fried chicken and decadent pasta dishes I love in favor of something that was still tasty, but perhaps less deep fried and carb-centric. A few articles I've read recently have agreed that people who eat fish more often when trying to eat healthy (or lose weight) than they do chicken or other lean meats, are more successful, lose more weight, and even have improved skin and less sluggishness.

So, I decided I'd just have to make sure I didn't fall back into bad habits and use some of my less healthy crutches for quick cooking dinners. While whole wheat pasta is great, and significantly better for you than regular white flour pasta, having it 3 times a week does not a healthy or flattering diet make (no matter how many delicious, fresh veggies I may throw in there). Obviously, somewhere along the way I lost my once innate ability to cook balanced meals throughout the week, alternating proteins and fitting in a veggie-only day whenever possible. To begin on a good note, I stopped by my fishmonger and picked up some lovely fish to bake in the oven and pair with some of my leftover spinach. Fish and greens make a really great combination, especially a mild fish like cod, monkfish or snapper, that don't bring much flavor to the party on their own and need a little pick-me-up. And thank goodness I now know after all these years of cooking, that healthy doesn't have to mean steamed and flavorless (I promise).

I've done citrus crusted fish in the past as a light dinner, but this time I just made a simple crust of panko bread crumbs, parsley, sage and olive oil. The real flavor came from slathering the fish in a mixture of Dijon mustard and honey, which I used to adhere the breadcrumb mixture to the top of the fish. It was a delicious sweet and sour preparation that also helps keep the fish moist as it bakes in the oven, and adds real depth of flavor. For the greens, I just barely wilted them in a pan with a few thinly sliced garlic cloves and hit them with two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar for some acidic kick. It paired really well with the fish, and as the dish came together it almost felt like a deconstructed honey-mustard vinaigrette. I was surprisingly full afterward, but didn't have that gross feeling of being overstuffed (that I've recently been feeling all to often). There was plenty of flavor and plenty of food, and I felt really great afterward. It can't hurt that the whole thing was done from start to finish in 20 minutes, since the fish only took 10 minutes to bake and the spinach came together while it cooked. Here's the final recipe:

Panko-Crusted Fish with Balsamic Sauteed Spinach

1 pound fish fillets, cut into 4 portions (any hearty, flaky white fish like cod, monkfish, or snapper)
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/2 tsp ground sage
1/4 cup chopped parsley
5 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp honey
3 cups packed spinach
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1. Heat oven to 450 F degrees. Combine mustard and honey in a small bowl and set aside. Combine 4 tablespoons olive oil, panko, sage and parsley in a bowl and set aside.

2. Season each fish fillet with salt and pepper and slather top of each piece with honey-mustard mixture. Top fish with breadcrumb mixture, pressing down lightly so it sticks.

3.Place fish on a parchment paper or
lightly greased aluminum foil lined baking sheet and cook until opaque and just cooked through (10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of your fish).

4. Meanwhile, heat garlic and remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add spinach before garlic starts to brown (you can do this in batches if it doesn't fit) and toss to coat in olive oil. Add balsamic vinegar and continue cooking until all of the spinach is half wilted but still has some volume.

5. Remove fish from oven and serve over spinach. Enjoy!



The Food Hunter said...

Looks delicious. I like the balsamic addition in the greens.

Kathryn said...

We've been looking for some tasty yet healthy and quick dinners. We tried this and *loved* it. Thank you! :-)