Fish Bake Summer Dinner

Summer salad. Photo by Keri White

My sister made this for a crowd at the beach last weekend. It showcased the local fish, was simple to prepare and was enjoyed by all.

One great benefit of the dish is that it can be done a bit ahead of time. I would not do it at 8 a.m. to serve for dinner — the fish could begin to break down if it is coated with the lemon/garlic mixture for a long spell — but Sis put it together around 2 p.m., chucked it in the fridge and headed to the beach for a few hours.

The lemon/garlic/salt/pepper combo is acceptable to even the pickiest palates and, accompanied by a summery salad and a loaf of bread, dinner was done! If you want more items on the table, serve rice or quinoa tossed with some fresh summer herbs, your favorite slaw or a couscous or tabouli salad.

We kept dessert super-simple — a selection of ice creams for people to scoop and serve as desired. Ice cream sandwiches or pops are even better — no spoons or bowls to clean. If you want something more elaborate, lean toward fruit or chocolate and away from custards or puddings to optimize the contrast and complement rather than compete with the fish main course.

Fish Bake
Serves 4

We used flounder for this, layered into a casserole, but any white fish would be fine — haddock, tilapia, cod, sole, et cetera. The key is to layer it up so that you sort of cut squares to serve — almost like lasagna. It is easily multiplied for a crowd; we served 12 and used a large rectangular baking dish to cook it, but the recipe here is for a more normal-sized group. A loaf pan or square baking pan would work best for this version.

The panko gives the dish some additional texture and heft, as well as a nice crispy topping, but if you are cutting carbs or are allergic to gluten you can skip it.

Another pro tip: Double the butter mixture and serve it on the table with crusty bread, or save it to stir into pasta or rice tomorrow.

1½ pounds fresh white fish such as flounder or haddock
½ stick butter, softened
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lemon, juice and zest
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
⅔ cup panko
Fresh parsley and/or dill to garnish

Heat your oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, mix the softened butter with the garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice and zest.

Pat the fish dry. Coat a square 8-inch-by-8-inch baking pan or loaf pan with nonstick spray. Place a layer of fish in the pan. Spread it lightly with the butter mixture, and then sprinkle it with panko. Continue this until all the fish and butter are used up. Top it with a layer of panko.

Bake for 30-40 minutes (depending on how thick your fish is) until done — it should cut/flake easily and be opaque throughout, and the panko crumbs should be toasted. When you are ready to serve, top the fish with chopped fresh parsley and/or dill, if desired.

Summer Salad
Serves 4

The fish dish above is delicious but a little monochromatic. This colorful salad will jazz up your table visually and tastily. The beer vinegar was a unique and flavorful addition to the dressing — a random item that came in a gourmet gift basket that I had lying around. If you don’t have it, just use malt, cider or sherry vinegar instead.

6 cups arugula or other baby lettuce, such as spring mix
1 raw beet, peeled and sliced thinly with a vegetable peeler (It should look like
flower petals.)
1 ear of corn (raw or cooked), kernels sliced off
1 scallion, sliced, or a few tablespoons chopped red or sweet onion
1 tablespoon beer vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
Generous sprinkle of fresh-cracked pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons olive oil

In a large salad bowl, mix all the vegetables. Right before serving, sprinkle the dressing ingredients over the salad, toss and serve.


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