Just because it’s Tuesday and the boss kept you late doesn’t mean you have to settle for take-out or leftovers for dinner. If you’ve got a reasonably well-stocked pantry and some basic staples in the fridge, you can whip up something special in no time. Something wine worthy, in fact. Personally, I’ve got a bigger problem with the first criterion, as I find almost all foods inherently worthy of a vinous accompaniment. Maintaining a reliable food stash? Well, let’s just call it a work in progress!
I strive to improve in this area though, because my husband requires a more regular feeding schedule – one that taps into all the major food groups and meets the USRDA minimum standards. As such I’ve learned to stock up on frozen fruit and vegetables and to keep spices and condiments on hand. That way, I can rely on a single, weekly shopping trip for fresh meat, fish, and eggs, and I’m ready to pull a delicious meal together without spending a lot of time thinking about it.
Last night, that’s exactly what I did. The previous day I had purchased a beautiful, Florida grouper filet that demanded at least a cursory effort from me. I rummaged through the freezer and the cabinets, waiting for inspiration to strike. Preparing the fish would be easy: I had a bag of organic lemons and a ration of fresh bay leaves. On the top shelf of the fridge, a bottle of savory teriyaki sauce caught my eye – yes, it would be perfect!
Here’s how the dish came together:
Grouper with Lemon and Bay Leaves
1.5 pounds fresh grouper filet
2 organic lemons, thinly sliced and seeds removed
About ¼ cup organic teriyaki sauce (find one that is low in sugar and salt, like the one below)
About 10 fresh bay leaves (it’s important that they be fresh, not dried, as the flavor is different)
Salt, pepper, and extra-virgin olive oil.
Heat oven to 375.
Lightly coat a baking dish with the olive oil, then place slices of one lemon in a single layer.
Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper and lay over the lemon slices.
Brush teriyaki sauce over the fish to cover.
Place bay leaves on top of the fish – as many or as few as you like. I used about 10.
Arrange slices of the other lemon on top; drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Bake for approximately 25 minutes (adapt as needed for larger or smaller filets.)
For the side dish, I took advantage of several items in my freezer:
Cauliflower “Risotto” with Corn and Mozzarella
12-oz. bag frozen riced cauliflower (I used Whole Foods 365 organics brand)
1 cup frozen fire-roasted corn (again, the Whole Foods brand)
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
Leaves from 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 fresh mozzarella ovoline (about the size of an egg) diced
1.5 cups fresh arugula, roughly chopped
Butter, salt, pepper
Cook shallot in butter over medium heat until soft.
Add frozen cauliflower and corn and stir, breaking up any clumps. When any water has evaporated, add some butter, salt, and pepper and stir. Mix in the thyme leaves and mozzarella, then cover and cook for 3-5 minutes. Remove lid, make sure no water is left at the bottom of the pan, and add the arugula. Mix all together and add seasoning to taste.
We’ve Got to Have Wine, Right?
Absolutely! And I’ve chosen an affordable, widely available white Bordeaux blend from the area called Entre-Deux-Mers, which translates to “between two waters,” in this case the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers that slice through the region. Its claim to fame is white wine made from a combination of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle. In most cases these wines, labeled AOC Entre-Deux-Mers, are tangy, refreshing, and perfect for seafood and other light dishes.
The 2014 Chateau La Gravière, with its bright citrus notes and mellow herbal aromas went swimmingly with the lemon and bay leaf accents of the fish. The umami flavors of the teriyaki sauce were the perfect foil for the wine’s acidity, bringing all the components of the meal together. Best part? It retails for under $10 a bottle, and you can find it just about everywhere. At that price, consider buying a case and beefing up your “wine pantry.”
For those of you who’d like the particulars: the exact blend of grapes, while changing slightly each year, usually winds up about half Sauvignon Blanc, half Sémillon, with a splash of Muscadelle thrown in for aromatics. Clocking in at just 12.5% alcohol by volume, it’s a light on its feet and goes down easy. It doesn’t spend any time in oak, although it does rest on its lees for two months, with bâtonnage (aka stirring) twice a week.
Quick, Easy, and Delicious
With a few staple ingredients on hand, it’s no more work to create a delicious, healthy, appealing dinner than to warm-up a plate of left-overs. When I made this meal last night, I thought it would work equally well with chicken breasts – something else that’s always in my freezer. It was the first time I’ve used the riced cauliflower but, with the convenience and time-saving it afforded me, you can be sure I’ll stock up next time I hit the store.