Steamed Fish with Ratatouille
The vegetables make a perfect “steamer” and create a built-in side dish.
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
1/2 cup Niçoise or kalamata olives, pitted, optional
4 thick fish fillets or steaks (about 11/2 pounds)
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh basil leaves
1. Trim and cut the eggplant and zucchini 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 eggplant, zucchini, 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 1 ½ 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 1/2 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, 1/4 cup soy sauce, and 1/2 cup water to the skillet. Cook, stirring, until the greens begin to wilt, 3 to 5 minutes. Continue with the recipe from Step 4.
SOFTENING THE VEGETABLES
They’ll take longer to cook than the fish. Wait until they’re tender and lightly browned before adding the tomatoes.
ADDING THE FISH
Give the tomatoes a few minutes to break down; it’s their juice that will create the steam that cooks the fish. Then keep the mixture bubbling gently when you add the fillets.
The knife should slide in and out of the fillet fairly easily, and the interior should be opaque but not dry looking.
Once the fish is ready, remove it from the pan or it will keep cooking.