Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Fish is not just for Fridays

Cathi Litzenberger explains the history behind no-meat Fridays

When I was a kid, many people still observed “Fish Fridays” and our family was right into that one. I often asked my mother why and was answered with some mumble-jumble godly reason and the fear that if not observed, we’d be committing a mortal sin.

In reality, centuries ago, the church, being the governing body of its day, proclaimed the Friday fish rule to help out the struggling fishermen who were suffering because fish had fallen out of favour to lamb, beef and fowl production. It was as simple as that, but control issues based in fear lasted for generations.

Growing up, we didn’t have the variety of fish available today. For us, canned salmon and tuna were main-stays that were made into fish loaves, and an unending variety of casserole dishes. To this day it amazes me just how far one can of fish can go.

Dad liked to fish and it was always a huge treat when he caught enough fresh fish for us all to get a taste; rainbows were my favourite. Today we’re privileged to enjoy fish from all over the world. One of my favourites is fresh halibut and luckily for me, our guys caught some on a recent fishing trip. Today I have two halibut recipes that are favourites.


Baked Halibut

1 tsp. olive oil

1 cup diced zucchini

1/2 cup diced onion

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups diced fresh tomatoes

2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil

1 cup diced fresh mango, optional

1/4 tsp. salt and pepper, or to taste

4 halibut steaks or fillets

1/3 cup crumbled feta

Preheat oven to 450 F. Heat oil in skillet and sauté zucchini, onion and garlic until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add tomatoes, basil, mango (if using) and salt and pepper.

Spoon equal amounts onto halibut steaks or fillets and top with feta cheese. Place on foil or parchment paper on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Serve on rice. Delicious!

Phyllo-Wrapped Halibut Fillets with Lemon Scallion Sauce

2 tbsp. melted butter

4 sheets phyllo dough

2 (5 ounce) halibut fillets

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tsp. chopped fresh dill

3 tbsp. lemon juice

1/2 cup whipping cream

2 green onions, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly butter 1 sheet of phyllo dough. Lay another sheet directly on top of the first sheet, and lightly butter it. Repeat with remaining 2 sheets of phyllo. Cut sheets in half. Season halibut fillets with salt and pepper. Place a fillet near the bottom edge of one of the halved sheets of phyllo. Sprinkle with dill. Fold in the sides of the phyllo, then roll the fillet. Place on a baking sheet, and lightly brush with butter. Repeat with remaining fillet. Bake in a preheated oven until pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring lemon juice to a boil in small saucepan over high heat. Boil until almost evaporated. Reduce heat to medium, and stir in cream. Simmer until cream thickens somewhat. Stir in green onions, season with salt and pepper. Serve halibut on a pool of sauce. Note: Feel free to add asparagus or other blanched veggies to halibut pastry if desired.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every Wednesday and one Sunday per month.