Pan Seared Flounder with Penne and Greens

Quiet night. Simple ingredients. Italian cooking is my comfort and the first thing I gravitate to when I'm in the kitchen. Pasta gets a bad rap for being unhealthy, and though I agree too much of a good thing is bad [and pasta is definitely a good thing!], it’s so effortless to create a pasta dish filled with healthy and satisfying ingredients. If I didn't have a tradition of making 'Christmas Fettuccine' [thanks to Kate Winslet in The Holiday...if only I were kidding!], I'd happily make this for Christmas Eve.  We've always followed the Italian tradition of eating seafood on Christmas Eve, and this fish dish is a definite contender for Christmas Eve status!

This dish was not intentionally made, since nearly everything I create is based on what I already have in the fridge. Staples like broccoli and baby spinach are always on hand, along with onions and garlic in my pantry.

With such a simple sauce like this, a good wine makes all of the difference [make sure you’ve tasted it and enjoy it on its own before cooking with it!].  The ambiance and lighting in the house is about as cozy as it gets right now, with glints of Christmas lights sparkling in nearly every direction.

The flounder came out just superb [and I don't use that word often!]. The reason  isn’t due to my expert cooking skills [since I’m far from an expert!], rather more because of the freshness and quality of the fish. [Whole Foods really does have some of the best quality fish I can find here in Atlanta, so I highly recommend shopping there when it comes to seafood!]

Pan Seared Flounder with Lemon and Thyme

  • 1lb filet of flounder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme, chopped
  • 1/2 lemon
  • kosher [or sea] salt and fresh cracked pepper

Heat olive oil and butter over medium high heat in a nonstick pan [I use a green pan, but any non-stick will do, as long as it isn’t scratched up- can leach chemicals especially with the acid in lemon juice.]

Sprinkle thyme, sea salt, pepper and lemon juice on both sides of the fish. Cook the fish on each side for about 3-4 minutes until golden brown. Remove from heat and squeeze a bit more lemon juice and serve immediately.

Penne with Sautéed Spinach, Onions and Broccoli in a white wine thyme sauce

  • 1/2 lb penne pasta
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-2 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 cups baby spinach, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme, chopped
  • 1 cup white wine [I used Pinot Grigio]
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 lemon
  • chives [for garnish, optional]

Prep your pasta according to the box instructions, removing the pasta one minute early [and make sure to reserve some pasta water!]. Meanwhile, heat olive oil and one tablespoon butter on medium heat.  Add onion, garlic and thyme and cook 2-3 minutes until translucent. 

Raise heat to medium-high, add broccoli and sauté 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add white wine to the pan, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom. Reduce heat to medium, add spinach and reduce heat to low until pasta is ready. Add the pasta along with 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup pasta water. Squeeze lemon juice on top and toss to combine.

Serve in a bowl with the flounder on top, garnished with chives and thyme]. Serves 2, with pasta for leftovers [perfect for adding grilled chicken the following day!].