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Sunday, 30 August 2015 00:00

Branzino Steamed in Fig Leaves with Fig Butter and Pecans

Written by Yolanda F.

Figs make a great snack, but only in moderation. Especially when dried, they are high in fiber. But whether you like them dried or fresh, they also contain B6, copper, potassium, manganese, and pantothenic acid. The bad news is that dried figs are high in calories, but it need not become a crisis if you eat them in moderation.

Did you know that fig leaves (not unlike banana leaves and corn husks) can be used as a vessel for steaming? In this case, the fig leaf not only protects the European sea bass known as Branzino in this summery dish from the heat, but also adds an herbal flavor that may remind you of grape leaves, cabbage, collard or chard. Of course, any of these leaves may be substituted and any kind of bass will also do.

Without a bamboo steamer, there’s also an alternative method, but a bamboo steamer would most definitely be a great addition to your kitchen gadget collection.

This silky dish also offers pecans, a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which helps brain function, such as preventing depression, as well as aiding in the ability to think clearly.

They also contain magnesium, the fourth most abundant element in the brain, so necessary that a lack of it can throw brain function off and create confusion, anxiety and depression. A one-ounce serving of pecans provides between 9 percent - 11 percent of the day’s recommended intake for magnesium.

You’ll need:

  • 6 to 8 small fig leaves, or other leaves, washed well

For the Fig Butter:

  • ½ pound fresh figs (preferably the Brown Turkey variety), stems removed and halved
  • ¼ cup pecan or grapeseed oil
  • ½ pound of butter (2 sticks), softened
  • Kosher salt

For the toasted pecans:

  • ½ cup pecan pieces (preferably the Elliot variety)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • Pinch of sugar

For the Branzino:

  • 4 (3-ounce) branzino fillets, with skin intact
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 fresh bay leaf

To blanch fig leaves: Bring a 4-quart pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, create an ice bath by combining 2 cups ice and 2 cups cold water in a large bowl. When the water boils, drop a few fig leaves in and blanch for about 1 minute, then remove with a spider or strainer and immediately plunge into the ice water bath to retain the green color. Repeat with remaining leaves. Drain the leaves on a towel. (The blanched leaves can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for a few hours before using.)

To make the fig butter: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. On a baking sheet, toss the figs with oil and roast for 20 minutes, until completely softened. (Reduce the oven to 350 degrees F for toasting the pecans in the next step.) Let the figs cool, then puree in a blender or a food processor until smooth. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the softened butter and half of the fig puree. On low speed, mix until combined and smooth, then add the remaining fig puree and mix on low to incorporate. Season with salt to taste. Transfer to a container, cover and refrigerate. (The fig butter can be made up to 3 days in advance; leftovers are delicious on almost anything, but especially toast.)

To toast the pecans: Place on a baking sheet and bake in the 350 degree F oven for 5 minutes. Immediately toss the hot pecans with the butter, salt and sugar using a spatula. Return to the oven and bake for 5 minutes longer, until fragrant. Let cool, then transfer to a bowl or an airtight container and store at room temperature until needed, up to a few days. (Toasted pecans like these are great in a salad as well.)

To make the branzino: Season each portion of branzino with salt and pepper and top with 1 tablespoon of the fig butter. Carefully wrap each portion of fish by placing a blanched fig leaf on the counter, top with a fillet, and fold the leaf around the fish like an envelope. You may need to use another left on top to cover; if so, tuck the ends underneath. The fish should be enclosed completely to retain the moisture, but it does not need to be tightly wrapped.

Set up a saucepan with a bamboo steamer and fill the pan halfway with water. Cut 4 slices from the lemon. Add the lemon slices, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf to the water in the pan. Place the wrapped fish in the bamboo steamer, cover, and steam for 5 to 7 minutes. To test for doneness simply peek into a packet to see that the fish is no longer translucent and is firm to touch. (If you do not have a steamer you can wrap your fish in the leaves, then in parchment, and finish with aluminum foil. Bake in a 400 degree F oven for 8 to 10 minutes.)

Serve each packet of fish immediately, placing the leaf directly on the plate and trying to reserve the natural juices as well as the fig butter. Partially unwrap the leaf and top with a squeeze of lemon and some toasted pecans as a garnish.

Source is Summerland - Recipes for Celebrating with Southern Hospitality
By Anne Stiles Quatrano from Bacchanalia


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