Tilapia and Vegetable Pouches

by elleryturner

Baking fish in individual parchment paper pouches – or said more fancily, fish en papillote – is certainly not a new concept.  It is, however, incredibly easy and a nice change up from the seared in oil or breaded and fried varieties.  Baking fish is a super healthy way to prepare it, but I am hardly ever succecsful at it without drying out my fish.  Not to mention, baked fish reminds me of the dish that’s on every cheap buffet that involves a mystery fish, leathery lemon slices, and an oily butter-colored sauce.  You know exactly what I’m talking about.  It’s gross looking.

Baking each filet in its own little pouch seals in the moisture for a flaky, not dry, finish.  The veggies and splash of white wine – which can be substituted for chicken stock or a drizzle of olive oil – combined with fresh lemon slices and juices from the fish, make for a light and creamy sauce that really pulls this pouch together.

I used tilapia here and before you fish snobs roll your eyes, I’ll stand in defense of tilapia.  I like it.  It lends itself well to other flavors and is a perfectly economical substitute for a more expensive fish when used in a dish like this where the fish doesn’t have to be the star.  If you can find it wild-caught, that’s best, and the tilapia in this recipe can be substituted with any other wild-caught white fish you can find on special at your grocery store. 

Tilapia and Vegetable Pouches (serves 2)

2 filets of wild-caught tilapia

1 zucchini

1 summer squash

1 lemon

Splash of white wine (can be subbed for chicken stock or a drizzle of olice oil)

Salt and pepper

Handful of fresh parsley, chopped

2 squares of parchment paper


Step 1:  Preheat your oven to 350.

Step 2:  Slice your lemon – you’ll need 4 thin slices for two servings.

Step 3: Using a vegetable peeler, peel the zucchini and squash into ribbons, stopping when you hit the seeds.  Side note: zucchini and squash peeled this way can be a great substitute for pasta when served with a hearty meat sauce.

Step 4: In the middle of each square of parchment paper, start with the fish (salt and peppered), sprinkle on the parsley and add the veggie ribbons, topping with two slices of lemon.  Pull up the edges of the parchment paper square and drizzle the white wine over the top.

Step 5:  Pull the two edges running parallel to the length of the fish together and fold at the top, and fold over the edges of the remaining sides to form your pouch.

Step 6: Bake for 12 minutes at 350.  Cooking times may vary based on the thickness of your filets.  When done, the fish should be solid white – no longer opaque – and easily flaked with a fork.  Squeeze the lemon slices over everything, serve and enjoy!

This would be really great paired with oven roasted tomatoes and brown rice, but is perfect on its own for a light meal.  Not to mention, the limited ingredient list makes this incredibly affordable, and even more so when zucchini and squash are available again at local farmers’ markets.

I also love that there are so many different directions you could take this dish – make it with olives, spinach and tomatoes for some Greek flair, or add shredded carrots and stems of fresh thyme to the original recipe to venture into French territory.  You could even put the fish on top of steamed lentils with some diced sweet potato, fresh ginger, garlic, curry powder and lemon slices to make a U-turn toward the Middle East. 

Any way you fold it (lame cooking pun intended), this pouch is simple, easy, delicious and nutritious.