Right now in our neck of the woods, it is an amazingly pleasant day. After a week of hot, humid, gray days with the occasional colossal rain and wind bursts, the afternoon is cool, breezy and sporting a blue sky with little cloud puffs wafting by.
The windows have been thrown open and Brubeck is playing on Pandora, and I am planning on what to prepare for dinner.
Since it is so nice, I don’t mind doing a little grilling. I tried the other night and it was just ghastly. Standing in front of an open fire, encapsulated in a swelteringly oppressive atmosphere. I lost my appetite and only wanted ice cream for dinner!
Tonight that shan’t be the case, as I’ve decided on a nice piece of fish accompanied by a brilliant salad… basically a Rockfish and Marinated Tomatoes.
In the Aegean Islands, this is a common manner of preparation, and commonly a whole fish is used. If that is not your style one may use nice thick fillets. I don’t mind grilling a whole fish, but it gets messy and unattractive rather quickly. Here I just lightly salt and pepper the fillets, and give them a healthy douse of fresh-squeezed lemon.
Like the fish, the tomatoes need barely any tampering at all! Only enough to bring out the brightness and accentuate freshness.
(Of course, if you don’t want to grill, the fish may easily be prepared on the stovetop, in a heavy skillet, with a swirl of extra virgin olive oil.)
Fire-Grilled Fish with Marinated Tomatoes (in an Aegean manner)
Yield: 4 portions
Time: 45 minutes
2 cups cherry tomatoes, preferably Sun Gold, halved
¼ cup olive oil, or more as needed
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh hot chili, like jalapeño, or more to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
4 cloves garlic, sliced, or more to taste
freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds of fresh rockfish, filleted, or any firm white fish
1 lemon, sliced
4 to 6 sprigs fresh thyme
Prepare grill; heat should be medium-high and rack about 4 inches from fire.
Combine tomatoes, 2 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar, chili, oregano, a few slices of garlic, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper in a large bowl; let sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, make three or four diagonal, parallel slashes on each side of fish, sprinkle inside of fish with salt and pepper, then stuff with remaining garlic, a layer of lemon slices and thyme sprigs. Rub outside of fish with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place prepared fish on the grill and cook until firm enough to turn, 5 to 8 minutes. Turn and cook second side for 5 to 8 minutes. Fish is done when exterior is crisp and a thin-bladed knife passes easily through the flesh.
Taste tomato mixture and adjust seasoning, adding more oil if needed. Serve fish topped with tomatoes and their liquid.