Fish with Citrus Caper Sauce

We planted a few citrus trees in our backyard 7 years ago, but shhhh….don’t tell anyone in my neighborhood watch program because technically us homeowners in this lovely planned community are not allowed to plant anything that’s not on THE LIST OF APPROVED GREENERY and citrus trees are not on the list. Which means I have contraband kumquat limes, illegal lemons, hot calamansi and bootleg kaffir.

The trees are in my backyard, hidden from the road and everytime I go out in the backyard to tend to the trees, I feel like a naughty girl. Yes, all it takes is a few citrus trees to make me feel like a rebel. I feel so easy and cheap.

So it’s been 7 years of careful tending, trimming, showering of love and of course, hiding with without a single fruit from year 1 to 6. I’ve heardΒ  that with fruit trees, it takes a few seasons for the plant to get settled in and bear fruit, so I’ve been extremely patient, each season daydreaming of next season’s lemonade.

Finally, last year my calamansi bore fruit (woohoo!) and this year all of the trees are popping out fruit so fast I liken it to watching popcorn explode. pop! pop! POP! Citrus galore!

But now we’re moving and I can’t take the trees with me πŸ™ though I’ve tried to reason to my husband that digging out the 20-foot tall kaffir lime tree and dragging it to our new home would be a fun adventure. NOT.

When we move, I’ll have to start all over again. But in the meantime, I’ll enjoy the fruits of my patience and lovely trees while I can.

This recipe is dedicated to my friend Joe Yonan, food editor of the Washington Post. Joe recently came out with his book called Serve Yourself, Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One.

I don’t normally cook for just myself as I have an entire pack of hungry mouths to feed every night. But since we both work from home and Scott doesn’t eat seafood, sometimes lunch is a simple fish fillet for one (Scott makes a PBJ for himself).

What I love about Joe’s book is that recipes sound like they come from a restaurant menu, but the ingredients and instructions are so unfussy and simple that it’s totally do-able for a party of one.

The recipes are also easily scalable so that you could feed 2 (fancy date!) or 4 (dinner party!) – we’ve made the Catfish Tacos with Chipotle Slaw for the family and it was a big hit.

This Fish with Citrus Caper Sauce recipe isn’t in his book, it’s just something I threw together for a quiet lunch with me, myself and I.Β  Since most of my readers are cooking for more than one person, I’ve written the recipe out for both serving one (in the body of this post with photos) and four people (in the printable recipe).

How to Cook Fish with Citrus Caper Sauce

Text below is recipe for one serving (see printable recipe at bottom for four servings)

You’ll need:

1 fish fillet (or 1/3 pound shrimp), patted very dry
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 orange (slice 1/4 of the orange into thin slices, the rest will be used for juice)
1/2 lemon (slice 1/4 of the lemon into thin slices, the rest will be used for juice)
1 teaspoon capers (drained)
2 tablespoons white wine
2 teaspoons butter

Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to a hot skillet* and sear the fish fillet on one side.

*I like using a wok when cooking. It gives me the flexibility to cook for one or 8 people – look at all the available surface for cooking!

When you begin to see the color change from opaque to white creep up to halfway up the sides of the fillet, flip the fish over.

Add in the wine, orange/lemon slices, capers and the butter. Squeeze the remaining orange and lemon juice into the pan. Season sauce with a bit more salt and pepper if you’d like. When the sauce begins to bubble, turn heat to medium-low and cook until the fish is cooked through, about 1-2 minutes.

Throw in the fresh parsley and you’re done.

10 minute meal for party of 1.


Fish with Citrus Caper Sauce Recipe

Servings: 4 Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 10 minutes

When it comes to fish, simple is best. This fish recipe only takes 10 minutes to cook, start to finish. I've used a combination of orange and lemon, capers, white wine and then finished it with a bit of butter.


4 fish fillets of your choice, patted very dry
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 orange
1 lemon
1 tablespoon capers (drained)
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons butter


1. Cut the orange in half. Juice one half of the orange and slice the other half into thin half-moon slices. Repeat with the lemon.

2. Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Swirl in the olive oil. When hot, add the fish fillets. Once the cooked edge has reach almost halfway up the fillet, flip the fish.

3. Add in the wine, orange juice, lemon juice, orange/lemon slices, capers and the butter. Season the sauce with a bit of salt and pepper. When the liquid begins bubbling, turn the heat to medium-low, cover and cook until the fish is cooked through, about 1-2 minutes depending on the thickness of your fillet. Serve immediately.




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Comments 20

  1. Lyndsey

    I love the sound of this dish YUM! I have a small family so I cook in small amounts anyway, but usually for two. I hope you are staying in town, I like having you around! Although we haven’t met for lunch yet! πŸ™‚ I just discovered this past weekend that my sapodilla tree is fruiting for the first time, I’ve had it for around 8 years. I have a lemon, grapefruit and mango tree, and just can’t get a lime tree to grow!

  2. Robyn

    Gosh, the new owners of your home are getting a bonus – mature citrus trees in a neighbourhood which ‘forgot’ to put them on the list (there’s a list!). We are asked here in NZ to remove noxious weeds, but the thought of not being allowed to plant citrus is incomprehensible – I wonder what the concern is. My bountiful citrus trees provide more than enough for me and extra is shared with the community, perhaps the thought of lemons neglected on the ground doesn’t make for a tidy neighbourhood, but sharing excess helps build a community with heart.

    Meantime, how is the urban farm project?

  3. g.

    How could gorgeous citrus trees (my favorites) NOT be part of approved greenery?!?! Here’s to being a naughty girl!! YAY! πŸ™‚

  4. George

    Great photos! I love the filets sitting on top of the little pool of sauce. I want to experiment with fish and blood oranges (blood orange hollandaise?) soon.

    Any excuse to eat capers works in my kitchen.

  5. Marybeth

    You are so funny! Yeah, stick it to those horrid HOAs, even cladestinely…LOL!!!! This recipe sounds so wonderful and I can’t wait to try it.

  6. Lola Dee

    With the rise of the locovore culture, edible landscape is all the rage out west, esp in California! Recipe looks fabulous, right up my alley! πŸ˜€

  7. Tuyet HoaTienTu

    My family loves to go fishing and we’ve been looking for new ways to serve the fish. This one will work fine next time. The citrus makes it looks more fancy. πŸ˜€

  8. JulieD

    Jaden, I made this last night for my husband and I using mahi mahi and it turned out wonderful! It’s going to be a regular in our house. Thanks!

  9. Dena

    I just made it and it tastes wonderful. The only problem was I added too much citrus so it got a little too sour. Also, the rines of the citrus made it bitter. Next time, I will throw everything in except for the citrus w rines. Oh, make sure fish is fresh otherwise it won’t taste so good either. I added ponzu sauce to enhance the flavor and ate w white rice and a side of salad..reminds me of a Japanese dish. But wow, the bitterness is still in my mouth as I’m typing. I have made something similar before where I just grill the fish and squeeze the citrus juice on top…that eliminated the bitterness from the rines. It’s actually a dish I are at Japanese restaurants.

  10. monique born

    i had the same problem as the previous poster. it turned out horribly bitter. next time will add the thinly sliced citrus as decoration

  11. Terisa

    Just made this dish and it was AMAZING! I was unsure about the orange but used a Kara Kara – sweetness balanced out the sour lemon for a fervent sauce! No bitterness at all. My husband, who is not much of a fish eater, cleaned his plate. Served with orzo and roasted asparagus, yum!! Thanks πŸ™‚

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