We invited some friends to dinner on Saturday, and I didn’t know what my husband Matt had in mind for the menu until I opened the frig and came face to face with these three cheeky fellows.
I followed those fish and Matt around with my camera for the next few hours as Matt prepared a delicious summer feast.
Earlier in the day, he had shopped at Whole Foods for the fish. He chose one striped bass and two red snappers mainly for their size and out of curiosity for how they’d taste. The three fish promised to be enough to serve four adults and three kids. He spent $25 on all three, which is not cheap, but not bad when you consider the quality of the catch. The Whole Foods fishmongers gutted the fish and took the scales off before wrapping them.
Matt scored the fish in three places on each side to infuse them with the smoke flavor, sprinkled them with salt and pepper inside and out, brushed the skin with olive oil, and slipped thin-sliced lemon in the folds. Meanwhile, he cut the eggplants in 1/2 inch pieces, brushed the eggplant and the asparagus with olive oil, and seasoned everything generously with salt and pepper.
Also on the menu: A cannellini bean salad that has become a standby for our family. We often take this recipe to potlucks and it always gets raves. Matt drained 3 cans of cannellini beans, added about 5 chopped roma tomatoes, a generous cup of chopped fresh basil, and again olive oil and salt and pepper.
Matt also made sure the charcoal grill was clean and brushed the rack with more olive oil. He waited until the coals were not flaming but nice and grey and the grill was “medium hot” before placing the fish gently on the rack one by one.
After about ten minutes, he flipped each one.
The dog intently watched the action in the hope that some fishy bits may miraculously appear within her reach.
Matt added about a cup of hickory chips, that he had soaked in water, to the coals to add some nice flavor as the fish smoked for about 10 minutes with the lid on.
Then, he checked the doneness of the meat (medium) and judging it to be ready, pulled them off. All in all, the fish grilled for about 20 minutes. The fish went straight onto a serving plate with a few lemon wedges as garnishes.
The veggies took their place on the grill to cook for about three minutes on each side. And then he served the eggplant and asparagus with a basil vinaigrette. So easy to make: You mix a 1/2 cup of basil, with about a cup of olive oil, a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon of capers, and salt and pepper to taste.
It may sound daunting to think of grilling a whole fish, but it really isn’t that hard at all. (Matt makes it look easy, doesn’t he.) Seriously, the final result was absolutely delicious — delicate, meaty, and moist. We slurped up every last bit of juice and even picked over the bones.
For dessert, our guests served us a freshly cut watermelon mixed with thyme, feta, and sea salt, paired with thai coconut gelato and homemade lemon custard cake. We enjoyed it outside in the waning light, while our children and the neighborhood kids ran around chasing fireflies.