By Alaina Sullivan
Steaming fish with vegetables is a foolproof way to serve up a main and a side dish in a single pan. The recipe for steamed fish in The Basics features a classic summertime cast of eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes, but I opted to go with a more seasonal variation featuring leeks. Simply sautéed in garlic and sauced with a little white wine, the leeks become a fresh-yet-buttery steaming machine.
A thick, mild-flavored white fish pairs particularly well in this case - hake was my pick, but cod or halibut would be great too. Set atop the bed of leeks, the fish cooks in the steam as the vegetables bubble beneath. Lid on, it takes just about ten minutes for the flesh to become perfectly opaque and flakey. The leeks finish cooking with the fish, and, brightened with Italian parsley and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, are transformed into a delicious side. Recipe from How to Cook Everything: The Basics.
Steamed Fish with Ratatouille
The vegetables make a perfect "steamer" and create a built-in side dish.
Time: 1 hour
Makes: 4 servings
1 large or 2 medium zucchini
1 medium or 2 small eggplants
1 medium red bell pepper, cored
2 medium or 3 small tomatoes, cored
3 tablespoons olive oil, or more as needed
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 large onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
½ cup Niçoise or kalamata olives, pitted, optional
4 thick fish fillets or steaks (about 1½ pounds)
½ cup roughly chopped fresh basil leaves
1. Trim and cut the zucchini and eggplant into 1-inch chunks. Cut the pepper into strips. Roughly chop the tomatoes, reserving their juice.
2. Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and immediately add the garlic. When it begins to sizzle, add the onion and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Add the zucchini, eggplant, bell pepper, and another sprinkle of salt and pepper. Lower the heat a bit to keep the vegetables from burning and cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is fairly soft, another 10 to 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juice, the thyme, and the olives if you're using them and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to break down, another 5 to 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
4. Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper and lay it on top of the vegetables. Adjust the heat so the mixture simmers. Cover and cook until the fish is opaque throughout and a paring knife inserted into the fish at its thickest point meets little resistance. This will take anywhere from 5 to 12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.
5. Transfer the fish to a platter, then stir the basil into the vegetables. Spoon the vegetables around the fish, drizzle everything with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil (plus a little more if you like), and serve.
◗ Be careful not to cook swordfish and tuna too long when steaming; other fish
won't dry out as quickly.
◗ Giving slower-cooking foods a head start is a valuable technique you can try with
chicken breasts and other quick-cooking cuts of meat.
◗ Steamed Fish with Leeks: Skip the zucchini, eggplant, pepper, tomatoes, thyme, and olives. Trim and slice 1½ pounds leeks (the white and light green parts) and rinse
them in a colander to remove all grit. Begin the recipe with Step 2 and cook the leeks in
the hot oil, stirring occasionally, until they're tender and begin to turn golden, 5 to 10 minutes. Add ½ cup white wine or water and bring to a gentle bubble. Continue with the recipe from Step 4.
◗ Steamed Fish with Bok Choy: Skip the zucchini, eggplant, pepper, tomatoes, thyme,
and olives. In Step 2, add about 1 pound roughly chopped bok choy, ¼ cup soy sauce, and
½ cup water to the skillet. Cook, stirring, until the greens begin to wilt, 3 to 5 minutes. Continue with the recipe from Step 4.
In How to Cook Everything: The Basics Mark Bittman reveals how truly easy it is to learn fundamental techniques and recipes. From dicing vegetables and roasting meat, to cooking building-block meals that include salads, soups, poultry, meats, fish, sides, and desserts, Bittman explains what every home cook, particularly novices, should know.