If we’re lucky, Monday nights are free nights in summer: we are home and can prepare and enjoy a meal without other obligations or projects. It’s the one night of the week that I might make a more labor-intensive meal, like fish cakes. But I always know Tuesday will be a picnic before racing sailboats, and a bit of extra prep Monday night means I have a second meal ready to grab and go.
These fish cakes call for some chopping and mincing and two stages of cooking, but they’re worth the effort. The first time I served batches at a house concert, the host said I could have made three times the amount and the platter would be emptied. They’re less greasy than fried fish cakes and more flavorful than potato-based ones. The recipe here easily serves 4, which means I can reheat the leftovers later in the week. To avoid eating the same meal two nights in a row, I set some fish aside and prep a marinade and the extra vegetables while the fish cakes are cooking. On Tuesday, grilled skewers require minimal effort.
Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipes below, but here are the basics for one prep, two meals.
For both recipes, you need some herbs, kitchen staples, and an egg, plus the following ingredients:
2 pounds fish
1 bell pepper
1/2 head garlic
Here’s what you do:
1. Cut up all of the vegetables and herbs, setting aside the ones for Grilled Fish Skewers.
2. Roast the vegetables and fish for the fish cakes.
3. Blend all fish cake ingredients together.
4. Form and chill the cakes.
5. Bake and enjoy.
Mediterranean Fish Cakes
1 large carrot, sliced
1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped
3/4 large red or sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
1-1/4 pounds fish
2 teaspoons Home-Smoked Chili Paste or crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
2 fresh sorrel leaves, chiffonade cut (optional)
1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade cut
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 egg, lightly beaten
Prep all ingredients as noted in the ingredient list; if you’re doing one prep for two meals, prep the skewer marinade and vegetables as well (see below), storing them separately.
Lightly oil two 9- by 9-inch baking pans. Add all carrots and three-quarters of the bell pepper and onion to one pan, along with 2 whole garlic cloves in their skin and 4 lemon slices. Place the fish in the other pan. Bake, uncovered, at 425°F for 10–15 minutes; remove the fish when it flakes easily with a fork. Rotate the vegetable pan and continue roasting for another 15 minutes, until soft and lightly charred.
Mince the remaining clove of fresh garlic and add it and the remaining bell pepper and onion to a medium bowl. Mix in the chili paste, herbs, salt, and black pepper. Flake in the baked fish, removing any bones. Add the roasted vegetables, squeezing the garlic from the skin, removing the lemon flesh from the peel, and composting the bitter white pith. Puree with an immersion blender until mostly smooth and free of large chunks. Stir in the beaten egg.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Fill an ice cream scoop until almost level, and then release the half-ball onto the paper, slightly flattening it; repeat with the remaining fish mixture. Chill the patties in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes, flip, and top with the remaining lemon slices. Bake another 5 minutes, or until the fish cakes are lightly golden. Serve immediately, using the charred lemon slices as garnish. Makes about 15 small fish cakes.
Tips & Tricks
- You have many fish options for cakes and skewers. Halibut is my favorite, but cod loin is a more affordable option. Or choose swordfish, snapper, mahi mahi, monkfish, or striped bass.
- I keep these fish cakes small and plan on a generous 3–4 per person as a standalone meal. You could go larger and serve fewer per person, but they get harder to flip.
- The fridge time firms up the fish cakes, but they can stay chilled for an hour or two if needed. After this longer chill time, transfer the patties to room-temperature baking sheets before pushing them into the oven.
- When I’m serving multiple batches of these fish cakes at a Twice as Tasty Live house concert, I chill them after the first 20 minutes of baking. Then I flip and finish baking just before the party starts.
- These fish cakes carry a lot of flavor, so on a Monday night I typically serve them on a bed of lightly dressed greens. For a party where everyone builds their own plate, I often offer an array of sauces. Tzatziki is a natural pairing, as are Yogurt-Dill Sauce and Lemon–Tahini Sauce. Give a fusion twist with Spiked Guacamole, Fresh Green Tomato Salsa, or an Asian-influenced dipping sauce like you would make for Summer Rolls.
Twice as Tasty
When we’re grilling a meal, skewers are standard. It takes longer to thread vegetables and fish onto a skewer than it does to lay them directly on a grill, but unless you know the grill layout and temperature well, skewers can be easier to manage.
At home, I often skewer vegetables and seafood separately; if you combine them, the vegetables will only be lightly cooked by the time the fish is done. But a mixed veg-and-seafood skewer is too easy to plate and too pretty to pass up if you’re grilling a quick meal or serving a crowd. The vegetable shish kebabs I grew up eating were soaked in marinade, but if I’m prepping the veg a day ahead and marinating fish, I just grill the vegetables unadorned.
Ready to give it a try? The one prep, two meal option was outlined earlier. Here are the basics for just the recipe below:
You need just 4 main ingredients plus some herbs and kitchen staples for a marinade.
1. Cut up all ingredients.
2. Make the marinade and add it to the fish.
3. Thread the skewers.
4. Grill and enjoy.
Grilled Fish Skewers
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
2 teaspoons mint, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces fish, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 large red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
1/4 large red or sweet onion, separated into individual leaves
1/2 lemon, halved and cut into slices
Prep all ingredients as noted in the ingredient list. Combine the garlic, herbs, spices, lemon juice, and olive oil in a container with a lid for the marinade. If you did one prep for two meals with Mediterranean Fish Cakes, pull the stored marinade from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Shake the marinade until it emulsifies, and then pour it over the fish cubes. Refrigerate the fish for up to 1 hour.
Thread the fish and vegetables onto skewers, alternating the fish cubes with the onion, pepper, and lemon pieces. Lay on a hot grill and cook for about 8 minutes, turning often. Makes about 8 skewers.
Tips & Tricks
- My local fishmonger sells pieces left from cutting steaks for restaurants at a reasonable price. They’re perfect for skewering and can be baked and flaked into Mediterranean Fish Cakes. It’s my favorite way to buy halibut.
- Even with one prep for two meals, I like to store my fish as purchased and cube it just before marinating. The fish will keep 2–3 days on ice in the refrigerator; fridge temps alone store the fish safely but degrade its quality.
- If you’re using bamboo skewers, soak them in water for 10 or more minutes before you thread on the ingredients; they’ll be less likely to blacken and break.
- A pile of salad greens is an easy base under grilled fish and veg when picnicking, but it’s easy to opt instead for other grilled veg. A side of Grilled Asparagus can be fired off in the same time as the skewers early season, as can Grilled Corn later in summer. I’ve recently fallen for grilled broccoli as a savory companion and grilled peaches as a sweet one. To stretch the serving size, toss the grilled ingredients into pasta or quinoa.
Like what you’ve learned? To learn more in a Twice as Tasty workshop—in your own kitchen, among friends, and with my personal help—click here. If you’re not yet a Twice as Tasty subscriber, get newsletters delivered straight to your inbox by clicking here.