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Super Easy Weekday Night Fish With Onions, Basil, Garlic

I’ve discovered that one of the cheapest and easiest way to get some protein into a quick meal is to use frozen fish.  I can get about 8 filets for about 8-10 bucks at the local Safeway, and usually one filet is plenty for one dish!  When I want to do a quick healthy dinner, fish is usually the best option as it cooks super fast and doesn’t require much chopping.

Now, I don’t have any pictures of this recipe because I wasn’t sure it would turn out that well initially. However, this thrown-together sauté with frozen “basa swai” turned out even better than I expected. So here we are!

“Basa Swai” is a super cheap fish that is similar to catfish. I actually prefer it to tilapia, especially when just doing a simple pan sear. It is a bit meatier than tilapia, and has a softer texture.  Bonus: the basa swai package I got was actually  cheaper than tilapia!

So I cobbled this recipe together after reading up online on various pan searing recipes.  I don’t really have precise measurements since I was winging it, so I’ll just give estimates and leave it up to your (most excellently developed) judgement! Ingredients:

  • Garlic – minced
  • Onion (yellow, red, or white …up to you!) – sliced to thin strips
  • Basil – chopped roughly, generous portions
  • Marsala – feel free to experiment and substitute a dry white wine or something else… though the marsala was very delicious :)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Defrost the fish. I normally just stick it in a plastic ziplock bag and then dump it in a bowl of hot water; it should not take very long to defrost.

As the fish defrosts, chop up your onions and basil, and then mince your garlic.

Take the fish out when it’s thoroughly defrosted. Rinse quickly, then pat it down.  Rub on some salt and pepper – I like to be very liberal with both.  This is the only flavoring going directly onto the fish, so err on the generous side!

Get out a pan – I find that ones with a heavy bottom work out better.  Heat about a couple tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat, and then throw in the onions.  Let the onions cook a bit until they are just starting to look a bit translucent, then throw the garlic in.  A moment later, throw in about half of the basil.  Sauté a bit more – the basil should wilt. Now, take your fish filet and place it into the pan, keeping the heat at medium-high. Let it sit there for about 3 minutes without moving it. You can, however, poke at the onions and stuff a bit to keep them from burning. While the fish is cooking on this side,  take out the marsala/wine/whatever, and then spread as evenly as you can across everything.  I usually do about two turns of the pan (two circles around the pan).  AFter the fish has cooked for about 3 minutes, turn it over and cook for about another 2 minutes.  You can check to see if it’s thoroughly cooked by seeing if it flakes easily when you stick a fork in it.  The surface of the fish should be lightly browned, looking yummy.


I found that this dish goes really well with some couscous. You can buy couscous in boxes at most supermarkets – it barely takes any effort to make.  Just boil a bit of water, throw the flavoring packet in (I used a garlic flavor that worked very well), then take it off the heat, dump the couscous in, cover, and let it sit for 5 minutes.  So easy, and the perfect complement to the fish.

P.S. Ever since Jo bought us a tiny basil plant to keep on our windowsill, basil has suddenly become a household staple and I love it. It is so satisfying to not have to pay 3 bucks for a tiny case of basil at the supermarket every time I want to use it…


  1. […] food blog!” The first thing I found that appealed (and looked easy enough) was Gloria’s Super Easy Weekday Night Fish recipe, so I added frozen fish and a couple other things to the […]

  2. Henry says:

    i already commented on ellen’s review of this dish, but just to reiterate: it is super easy and delicious! we have made it twice. one time i added mushrooms as well.

    any advice on searing? i feel like the outsides are never very crispy…

  3. Julie Martin says:

    Wow!! What a super easy recipe, My 11 year old daughter even liked it!! It is delicious!!

  4. Chantay says:

    I tried this recipe last night and it was delicious. The swai was so tender and flavorful!

  5. […] for us, we seem to have a knack for finding recipes that are vague at best. But we found a recipe that seemed good and gave it our best try. swai with basil, onions and garlic + […]

  6. marcia says:

    I added cayenne pepper, garlic powder and paprika to swai as well as used white wine. The swai turned our deliciously!!! Thank you for the recipe!

  7. Mary Kay says:

    Great recipe! We had it tonight, and we included sliced red bell pepper with the onion, garlic, and basil. Before adding the fish, I dipped it in cornmeal. I had rinsed the fish and allowed it to drip dry a few seconds. So it was damp and that helped the cornmeal to stick. It was just a little coating, and it made a really nice crispy outside layer. I added the white wine after it had a chance to fry a little first. My swai needed a few extra minutes (maybe it was slightly thicker or not entirely thawed when I started), about 3 extra minues. I served it with a romaine salad and steamed sweet potato. Delicious! Thanks for the recipe!

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