Monday, August 20, 2007

Little Presents: Fish Baked in Grape Leaves

If you are fortunate enough to have grapes growing near your house, or know someone who does, this is a fun little supper to put together. The recipe calls for fresh leaves and I would think that substituting the marinated ones that are used for dolmas would not be a good idea. Partly, just because I've never been a fan of the brined grape leaf and second because I'm not sure if the marinated ones would hold up to baking. But I could be wrong.

Still, what's more fun than serving something unexpected? Especially when it takes very little skill to wrap beautifully scented bits of fish in a grape leaf package. It strikes me as a very summery thing to do. The perfume of citrus always pairs nicely with fish and the fennel gives it just a little extra kick. Plus, the fish with it's melange of accompaniments couldn't be prettier peeping through the grape leaf.

Fish Baked in Vine Leaves

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon, zested then juiced
1 orange, zested then juiced
1 fennel bulb, halved lengthwise and very thinly sliced crosswise, leaves reserved and chopped
½ large sweet onion, halved lengthwise and very thinly sliced crosswise
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 (6 ounce) white fish fillets, such as red snapper, bass, or halibut
3-4 large grape leaves per serving
1 lemon, sliced

In a large, shallow ceramic or glass baking dish, combine the olive oil, citrus juices, chopped fennel leaves, salt, and pepper. Pat the fish dry with paper towels and add to the marinade, turning to coat evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 °.
Spread 3 or 4 vine leaves on a work surface, overlapping them to form a large, sturdy wrapper. Place a few slices of fennel and onion in the center. Sprinkle with orange and lemon zest. Cover with a fish fillet and scatter a few more slices of fennel on top. Top with a lemon slice. Wrap the fish in the vine leaves by folding over the short sides first and then folding up the top and bottom sides.
Lay the packet, seamside down, in a large baking dish. Repeat with the remaining fillets, placing them in a single layer in the dish. Pour marinade over fish bundles and toss in any extra fennel, onion or lemon.
Bake 20 to 30 minutes, until the fish is opaque throughout; if the grape leaves have begun to brown you should be fine but you can open one package to check for doneness. Immediately transfer to serving plates and have guests unwrap the fish at the table.


Buck said...

You're so lucky to live in Seattle with its huge array of nice fish.
All we have is Lake Michigan whitefish which is just about the most boring fish you could ever want.

laurelmoons said...

It looks scrumptious, Lorraine! But for those of us without access to fresh, un-pesticided grape leaves (or, really, leaves in general), is there an appropriate substitute?

Pardon me while I go trolling through the earlier recipes before making my shopping list...

(By the way, this is Syd...)

Lorraine said...

I don't know, Buck. I bet after a treatment like this those suckers wouldn't be half bad.

Syd! Good to see you. I don't know if you could substitute marinated grape leaves for fresh but I suppose you could try it. Just make sure you rinse the leaves really well because the fresh leaves don't impart flavor so much as provide a semi-moist wrapping for the fish. If you try it, let me know how it turns out. Good hunting.