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Fish fillets partner with fruit, grits

By Donna Pierce

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

By Donna Pierce

This dish came about out of necessity by thinking through favorite flavors. We first had it at my sister’s house when she and my nephews decided to cancel restaurant plans at the last minute and let Aunt Donna prepare dinner based on groceries at hand, which included a bag of quick-frozen tilapia fillets.

We loved the quick-fix results, based on the tube of grits my sister described as an impulse purchase from Trader Joe’s “to see how it works.” Grits and polenta lovers understand how perfection can be achieved by balancing the smooth, chewy texture of this nearly bland starch with the savory bite of seafood. Those who favor sole Veronique understand the delicious balance of a mild fish fillet paired with a surprise burst of grapes.


Fish fillets with grits, greens and grapes


Raspberry sherbet and animal crackers


Use white or red seedless grapes, depending on the price (there can be a drastic price difference this time of year).

Leave out the red pepper if serving to the “sippie cup” crowd.

Beverage pairing:

Offer a selection of beverages ranging from dry white wine, sparkling water and apple juice to suit everyone’s taste.


1‚Ñ2 cup each: white grape juice, half-and-half

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves plus 8 optional thyme sprigs

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1‚Ñ2 teaspoon ground red pepper, optional

4 mild, thin fish fillets, such as tilapia, trout, sole or perch, each cut in half crosswise

3‚Ñ4 cup white or red seedless grapes, halved

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 package (10 ounces) baby spinach

1 tube (16 ounces) organic Southern-style grits, prepared according to package instructions.

Combine grape juice, half-and-half, mustard, parsley, thyme leaves, 1‚Ñ2 teaspoon of the salt, black pepper to taste and red pepper in a large skillet; heat just to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the fish fillets; lower heat to a simmer. Cover; cook until fillets flake easily with a fork, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer fillets to a platter to keep warm.

Increase heat under skillet to medium-high; stir in the grapes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce reduces by half, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the spinach. Cook until wilted, 2 minutes; stir in the remaining 1‚Ñ2 teaspoon of salt. Set aside. Return fish fillets to the skillet; cook until warmed through, about 1 minute.

Spoon grits into pasta bowls; top each with spinach. Spoon fish and grapes over all. Garnish with thyme sprigs.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition information per serving: 520 calories, 33 percent of calories from fat, 19 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 112 mg cholesterol, 44 g carbohydrates, 41 g protein, 1,408 mg sodium, 2 g fiber