Fish and fruit probably aren’t the first two food groups that you’d think to combine to make an unforgettable, wild-caught seafood meal. But there’s actually some culinary synergy between fish and fruit that make this an unexpected but winning combination.
We often pair up savory proteins with sweet flavors by using honey, maple syrup, or sugar in our recipes, so it shouldn’t be so hard to imagine how we can tap into the natural sweetness and variety of seasonal fruits to build interesting recipes that enhance the qualities of wild-caught fish. And like vegetables, fruits are rich in antioxidants and bursting with flavor, making it an easy food group to take advantage of when you’re building healthy meals from whole food sources.
Fresh Fruit for Refreshing Flavor
Combining fresh fruit with seafood gives you a wide variety of textures and juicy flavors to play with. Salsas, for example, are easy and refreshing ways to add punch, color, and interest to your dishes. Mango salsa is a tried-and-true accompaniment for fish when you want to go a little tropical, like this one from Gwenyth Paltrow.
However, to really commit to an unlikely pairing of fruit and fish, you’ll want to try Ben Towill’s recipe for pan-seared sablefish with a grape-sriracha salsa. Or check out Serious Eats’s recipe for grilled halibut, which gets a nice contrast from a sweet and spicy watermelon salsa.
Speaking of melons, John Shields’s recipe for salmon with crispy skin is served in a cold, sweet, and tangy cantaloupe-buttermilk bath. When making this dish, you’ll want to make one major adjustment: Instead of cooking the salmon through in the oven, simply sear your fillets on the stove top until their skins are nicely crisped, then finish them on the stovetop — they’ll likely only need a minute or two more until they’re done.
For a no-cook melon and fish dish, try this twist on the classic Italian combination of prosciutto and melon from Bon Appetit, which wraps spears of honeydew in thinly-sliced gravlax (preferably your own home-cured batch of sockeye)*. It’s a super simple recipe, so make sure you are using good olive oil and a ripe melon so that the flavors really pop. And definitely take pains to slice your salmon up as thin as you can get it to do this dish right.
Berries are also fair game when it comes to fish. How Sweet Eats’s panzanella-inspired salmon salad mixes in fresh strawberries for sweetness rather than using the traditional choice of tomatoes (yes, we know tomatoes are technically a fruit), which makes for a salad that is as unexpectedly yummy as it is gorgeous. Made with wild blueberries, this recipe from Edible Alaska combines apple juice, apple cider vinegar, and the blueberries to make a sweet and sour sauce to serve with salmon.
Dried Fruit for Sweetness and Texture
Dried fruits add intense sweetness as well as texture to your meals. Because of dried fruit’s intensely sugary qualities, you’ll definitely want to balance out this sweetness with some acidity when using it with lean fish.
One way to do this is by creating an agrodolce-style topping to serve with your seafood. (Agro means sour, and dolce means sweet.) This recipe from Amy Brandwein combines a splash if white wine vinegar to soaked golden raisins, raw shallots, briny capers, and a bit of lemon juice and zest to create an agrodolce to serve with seared halibut.
Or, for a chutney-style approach to fruit and fish, try this recipe from the Food Network for almond crusted cod served with a dried apricot and mustard chutney, which embraces a surprisingly delicious trail-mix-meets-sea topping for texture galore.
Classic Citrus for Zing and Zest
Pairing citrus fruits with fish is obviously always a good idea. Fresh juice can be used as an ingredient in sauces, glazes, and marinades; lime juice, for example, is integral in making ceviche**, as it is the acidic ingredient that “cooks” your seafood so that you’re eating a proper ceviche rather than a bowl of sashimi. And just about every fish dish benefits from being served with a wedge of lemon.
But for citrus-infused recipes that feel more “fruity,” orange juice is key. It’s an ingredient that will come into play when you’re making sauces and glazes, since it strikes the perfect balance between sweet and sour. Michael Symon’s recipe for pan-roasted halibut is served with a raisin-caper-pine nut agrodolce, but takes the fruitiness a step further with a brown butter-orange juice sauce that adds caramelized richness to the dish.
Food Network’s recipe for marinated salmon uses a soy-maple-orange juice marinade and is topped with a tasty mixture of dried cranberries, pistachios, parsley, and orange zest.
For an even more fruit-forward recipe, Good Housekeeping’s recipe for salmon is defined by a tangy glaze made from pomegranate and orange juice. The dish also includes dried apricots for texture in a bulgur pilaf that’s served with the fish. Note that if you’re making this recipe, you will want to keep an eye on the doneness of the salmon — you’re roasting it in a hot oven, so you’ll likely only need 6 to 8 minutes to cook up a fillet of wild salmon, depending on its thickness.
Beyond the juice, utilizing the zest of citrus fruits adds complexity to a wide range of dishes. This recipe for gravlax from Epicurious is loaded with the zests of lemons and grapefruits, whose citrusy flavors blend together with fresh dill and black pepper for a perfectly balanced brine to use on your sockeye when you’re craving something salty.
*NOTE: Though the fish in gravlax is “cooked” by acid, it is still considered a raw form of seafood. Officially, we cannot recommend that you eat our salmon raw; and are required to inform you that consuming raw or undercooked seafood and shellfish may increase your risk of foodborne illness. There's a physiological change that wild salmon experience when they move from fresh water to salt water (and back again), which makes them more susceptible to parasites found in fresh water. While we follow modern flash-freezing processes that help to kill off the parasites, we definitely recommend cooking our salmon before eating it. Here's an article with a few more details on our thoughts behind this.
***Though the fish in ceviche is “cooked” by acid, it is still considered a raw form of seafood. Please see note above.