I guess it’s not officially summer yet, but lately Meat-and-Potatoes-Guy and I have been living like it is.
The weather’s been so hot, we’ve been grilling up a storm.
And we took our first warm-weather road trip, to Montreal, Canada.
Montreal is French-speaking, and the beautiful Old Montreal near the Saint Lawrence River is full of old stone buildings, cobbled streets, and gas lamps.
So it feels a bit like a miniature Paris.
Complete with its own gorgeous, Gothic-style Notre Dame Basilica …
… which is beautifully lit with bright, bold color throughout the interior.
The city holds an incredible, vast Botanical Garden with greenhouses, a Japanese Garden, and a very tranquil Chinese Garden.
We lucked out and got a couple of gorgeous, clear, sunny days for the trip.
And it seemed like everyone in the city decided to celebrate the arrival of the warm and sunny weather – the streets were packed with people strolling, every table at every outdoor cafe was occupied.
But I found a couple of pretty, peaceful spots – these winding staircases located outside of buildings are a unique feature of the old Montreal town houses.
It felt a little like a mini European vacation without the expensive, grueling seven-hour flight.
But back to the grilling!
I love, love to cook fish with veggies in foil packets because it’s such an easy technique for cooking a healthy, super-flavorful dish (with hardly any dishes!).
So I had to wonder if foil packets would work for the grill, since I hate to go anywhere near the hot oven during the humid summer months.
Great news: I’ve found foil packets are perfect for grilling!
And the method I’ve come up with is easy and fool-proof, so I’ve never ended up with charred or scorched fish and veggies.
I’ve been loving this Grilled Coconut-Lime White Fish Packet dish lately, packed with fresh summer veggies: corn, zucchini, and shallots.
And complemented with the bright tropical flavors of creamy coconut milk, lime zest, and fresh cilantro.
The flavors are very light, delicate, and fresh – perfect for hot summer evenings.
Here are the key ingredients you’ll need.
Begin by preparing some fresh corn on the cob.
Peel the husks off the corn and break off any stems.
Place the corn in a large pot of water and bring to a boil.
The corn should cook quickly, in just five minutes.
Remove the corn with tongs and allow to cool on a large plate or cutting board.
When the corn is cool enough to handle, grab a large mixing bowl and hold one ear of corn in the bowl, vertically, with the stem side down.
Grab a small serrated knife and slice down the cob, allowing all the corn kernels to fall into the bowl.
Time Saver: if you’re short on time, frozen sweet corn kernels taste (almost!) as good as fresh in this dish.
Next, smash a couple of cloves of garlic with your knife, breaking apart the skin so you can easily peel it off.
Then run your knife through the garlic, mincing it up.
Grab a shallot and slice off both ends.
Cut the shallot in half lengthwise and peel off the skin.
Place one half flat-side-down on the cutting board and cut thin slices.
Next, grab a zucchini and cut off both ends.
Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and place one half flat-side-down on the cutting board for stability.
Cut thin half-moon slices.
Next, zest a lime using a fine grater/zester.
And if you don’t have this helpful little tool, it also works to use a vegetable peeler to remove the lime zest (use just the green part – not the white pith underneath).
Then use a knife to chop it up finely.
Next up: fresh cilantro!
Here’s what it looks like. You can buy it by the bunch in the produce section of the grocery.
Use a sharp knife to chop a small handful of cilantro from the stems.
Then run your knife over the pile of cilantro, chopping it up.
Substitute: if you don’t love the taste of cilantro, try fresh chives instead.
I know people often skip the fresh herbs in recipes.
I know this because I often do it myself, even with my own recipes.
But whatever you do, don’t skip a fresh herb altogether in this fish dish! The flavors are very light and subtle and every ingredient is important.
After the veggies are prepped, prepare the packets.
Prepare the grill for medium heat (about 400 degrees F).
Grab a large sheet of aluminum foil (about 10 inches in length).
Fold it in half to create a fold line, then unfold, like a book.
Pile some of the corn, zucchini, shallots, and garlic on the right half of the foil, near the fold in the center.
Fold up the three edges of the right side of the foil, so they form a “bowl” that contains the veggies.
Now you’ve created your bowl, add the liquids: canola oil and coconut milk.
Add a bit of the lime zest.
Season well with salt and pepper.
Place an individual portion of cod (or similar white fish such as haddock or halibut) over the veggies.
Season the fish well with salt and pepper.
Fold the left half of the foil back over the right.
Then slowly… and carefully… match up the top half of the foil with the folded-up edges along the bottom half, rolling up the edges and sealing in the food, forming an air-tight packet.
The key is to not rush this step, perfectly sealing the packets along every edge, so nothing leaks out through the edges later on when the packets are flipped on the grill (can you guess I learned this the hard way?)
Next, here’s what I recommend for a fool-proof, always perfect fish packet on the grill: place the packets on a baking sheet on the grill and flip the packets once during cooking.
This means you will not end up with blackened grill marks when the food is finished cooking. The result will be similar to if you had cooked the packets in an oven.
But I love this method.
Because blackened, charred food isn’t healthy and is linked to increased cancer risk (see more on healthier grilling here)
And because it prevents inedible burnt-to-a-crisp-food every time (the grill can be a dangerous place for delicate foods like zucchini and white fish)!
The packets should cook for about 10 minutes on each side (first right-side-up, with the fish on top, and then flip so that the veggies are on top).
Then use a spatula to transfer the packets to plates, flipping so that they are right-side-up again, with the fish on top.
Use kitchen shears or a knife to cut a slit into the top center of one of the packets, so you can peel back the foil.
Go carefully with this – the steam that will burst from the packet is sort of impressive looking…but also extremely hot!
If the fish isn’t cooked, just place the packets back on the grill and cook for another 10 minutes or so.
When the fish is opaque and fully cooked throughout, top the fish and veggies with plenty of the freshly chopped cilantro.
Place the packets on plates and serve right out of the foil to preserve all of the richly flavored coconut broth.
What you should end up with: a healthy, dinner-all-in-one, freshly grilled plate of summer goodness.
The fresh summer veggies are the stars here.
The dish is very light, very subtle.
With a hint of creamy coconut and a hint of bright, sweet lime.
Just about perfect for a hot summer evening.
Here is the complete printable recipe:
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Yield: 2 servings
- 1½ cups corn kernels, fresh (2 ears) or frozen
- 1 shallot, halved and thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 zucchini, halved and thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- ½ cup light coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon lime zest
- 8 ounces cod (or other white fish such as haddock or halibut)
- 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Prepare grill for medium heat (about 400-425 degrees F).
- Tear off two large squares of aluminum foil, each about 10 inches in length. Fold each in half to create a fold line, then open, like a book.
- Arrange equal amounts of the corn, shallot, garlic, and zucchini in the center of the right half of each piece of foil, near the fold line.
- Fold up the sides of the right half of the foil, creating a ’bowl’ that contains the vegetables.
- To each packet add: 1½ tablespoons of canola oil, ¼ cup of light coconut milk, ½ tablespoon of lime zest.
- Season well with salt and pepper.
- Using hands, mix to combine ingredients.
- Cut the fish into two equally-sized portions and place on top of the veggies. Season fish well with salt and pepper.
- Fold over the left half of the foil, covering the food. Carefully roll the top half of the foil together with the edges of the right half of the foil, sealing all edges and creating an air-tight packet.
- Place the packets right-side-up (with the fish on top) on a baking sheet and set the baking sheet on the grill. Bake for about 8-10 minutes and then use a spatula to flip each packet. Cook for 8-10 minutes more.
- Use a spatula to remove the packets from the grill, flip so that they are again right-side-up (with the fish on top), and plate.
- Use kitchen shears or a knife to cut a slit through the top center of each packet to fold open. Open carefully - the steam that will rise from each packet is very hot. Check to be sure fish is opaque and cooked through to the center. If fish is not cooked through, place back on the baking sheet and grill for 8-10 minutes more. Top the fish and veggies with freshly chopped cilantro.
- Serve the fish pockets directly in the foil to retain all of the flavors from the coconut-lime broth.