by Elizabeth Palmer Starnes

Even though we haven't had much of a winter here, I still can't wait for the warmer, longer days that May brings. The warmer weather and sunshine just make you want to fire up the grill and eat dinner on the patio. Though its not quite that warm yet- we can still get into a sunnier state of mind with bright spring flavors and fresh produce.

Last night for dinner I made cod fish en papillote (which is a fancy way of saying cooked in parchment paper) with fennel and citrus, and a quinoa salad with avocado, orange segments, red and green onions, and edamame, also in a citrusy vinaigrette. Both are healthy and simple to make, and have lots of crossover ingredients, making shopping a cooking easier.





Citrus Cod en Papillote with Fennel

Crank up your oven to 400 degrees, and tear off four 12 x 12 sheets of parchment paper.

Trim off the top green portion of two fennel bulbs, saving the green fronds for later. Half the fennel, and slice them as thinly as you can from the tip to the root. Toss the fennel slices with a good drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and the juice from two oranges and one lemon. You can even add a little zest if you feel like it. 

Portion the fennel evenly among the four pieces of parchment paper, and top each pile with a portion of cod (roughly six ounces each), seasoned with salt and pepper on each side. Pour the juices from the fennel evenly over each fish, and add a splash of white wine as well (roughly a tablespoon each). Grab all the edges of the parchment and roll them as tightly as you can to seal in the steam. At culinary school we did all these fancy tucks and sealed them with egg wash and olive oil- but crumpling it up around the edges works just as well!

Bake the parchment paper packages in the oven for ten to fifteen minutes- depending on the size and thickness of your fish. Check to see if its cooked through, and if not, just add a bit more wine and close it up again for a few more minutes in the oven. 

Slide the fennel and all the juices, with the cod on top, into a shallow bowl, and top with a few fennel fronds if you like. 

Citrus Quinoa Salad

Cook the quinoa (mine comes in a two cup package) according the the package directions, making sure to salt the cooking water to give some flavor. Once all the liquid has been absorbed, turn off the heat and add three cups of shelled frozen edamame. Cover, and allow the residual heat to cook them.

Toss the quinoa with 1/4 cup of olive oil, salt, pepper, and the juice of two lemons and three oranges, to taste. gently fold in orange segments from two oranges, 1/4 red onion (thinly sliced), six green onions (thinly sliced) some of the reserved fennel fronds, and two avocados (thinly sliced). Mix everything together gently and allow to stand for a bit, checking the seasoning and adding more olive oil or lemon/orange juice to suit your own taste. 

This pairs really nicely with the cod fish, but its also great cold the next day, with some chick peas mixed in, for an easy healthy lunch.