Admittedly, steamed fish doesn’t exactly scream mouthwatering. But what it lacks in excitement it more than makes up for in health cred.
Steaming generally involves no added fat and is a great way of retaining all of the nutrients in your food. It’s also relatively speedy.
One of the best ways to steam fish is what the French call en papillote (pronounced on pap-ee-oat), or literally "in parchment." In this simple method, fish is wrapped in a packet of parchment paper. As it cooks, the food releases juices. Those flavorful juices turn to steam and are trapped in the packet, cooking and flavoring the food, while keeping it moist.
You also can add other ingredients to flavor and cook alongside the fish, such as herbs, slices of lemon and vegetables. Because fish cooks quickly, it’s a good idea to pick vegetables that are either thinly cut or tender; this helps them cook at the same speed as the fish.
Try to avoid vegetables that give off too much liquid, such as spinach.
Chicken thighs and lamb also can be cooked in this manner, though they take longer.
Don’t have any parchment handy? It’s widely available alongside the plastic wrap at the grocer and is excellent for lining baking sheets when roasting foods or baking cookies (it’s nonstick). But you also can use foil to make the packets. Whatever you choose, be sure not to wrap it too tightly.
For our dish, we went with hake, a firm white fish. We arranged it over a bed of seasoned green beans and topped it with a simple blend of fresh herbs and lemon. Other ideas could be par-cooked, thinly sliced potatoes, scallops and rosemary.
You also might julienne carrots, celery and pea pods and top with raw shrimp seasoned with garlic powder, cayenne and orange slices. For an all-vegetable option, you could do asparagus, sliced the long way, topped with sliced shiitake mushrooms, apple slices and chives.
HAKE EN PAPILLOTE
Start to finish: 30 minutes
1/2 pound small green beans, trimmed
Pinch smoked paprika
Salt and ground black pepper
Four 4-ounce hake fillets
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 fresh mint leaves
4 small sprigs fresh marjoram
4 lemon slices
Heat the oven to 375 F.
Cut 4 large pieces parchment paper, about 12-by-20-inches each. Fold each in half the short way.
In a small bowl, toss the green beans with the paprika. Season with salt and black pepper. Open each sheet of parchment similar to a book. Arrange a quarter of the beans on one half of each sheet of parchment, placing them close to the fold line. Top each pile with a hake fillet. Season again with salt and black pepper.
Top each fillet with a sprig of thyme, a mint leaf, a sprig of marjoram and a slice of lemon. Fold the parchment packets closed like a book again. Starting at one end of the fold, fold the edges of the paper together every couple of inches, creating a seam all the way around. Tuck the last end under and place on a baking sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes. To serve, place each packet on a serving plate and tear open at the center.
Nutrition information per serving: 120 calories; 10 calories from fat (8 percent of total calories); 1 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 65 mg cholesterol; 5 g carbohydrate; 22 g protein; 3 g fiber; 200 mg sodium.