Grilled Whole Fish with Lemon and Pink Peppercorns + Santorini Summer
Santorini (Greece) is one of my favourite places in the world: the towns are charming; the views, dramatic; the people, friendly; and the food, excellent. It’s surprising to learn that it is a place rooted in tradition, but also abreast with modernity. It’s rustic in the underbelly, yet sophisticated on the surface. It’s a place of stunning beauty. It would be terrible if I used any more clichés to describe Santorini. I will let the photos do the talking…
It was in the sleepy town of Imerovigli – clinging precariously onto the cliffs of Santorini island – that I once celebrated my birthday at a fish taverna. Just me, my husband, and our one child (at that time). When we got there, it was nearly sunset and the taverna’s grill had already been fired. I could smell garlic, lemon, oregano…and the sea! Yet we were perched cliffside, high above the Aegean. I looked out over the terrace and I was met by this silver-blue body of water quietly fading into dusk. The dusty-rose sunset just grazed the ripples in the water, making the light dance like strands of shimmering diamonds. I, being from a big city like Toronto, just don’t ever get that here – I was floored by the view! It was a special night indeed. A night so memorable that it made me – to this day – crave for that same wonderful, simple, rustic unforgettable time!
Here’s how my time machine transports me to that place again…
We didn’t have a sea, so we went to our community garden. We didn’t have sand, but we had grass. I carried a tray with my sea bass on it, dressed it, seasoned it, and walked to the fiery grill. Twenty minutes later, our family was feasting on fish, as if we were on the beach or at a cliffside fish taverna.
Today’s recipe is really casual – no exact measurements provided because it is that simple! The only rule is to follow your instinct! The ingredients also call for whatever is available locally or seasonally. After reading Kitchen Confidante’s tips on what to look for when buying fish, I am convinced that we need to choose responsibly. I used sea bass in this recipe, which is deemed “OK to eat” (see link) by the Marine Conservation Society. What about you - what’s your favourite fish to grill and would you choose one that is sustainably caught or farmed?
- 1 local and seasonal whole fish, preferably MCS-certified, gutted and scaled
- handful of sea salt
- a squeeze of lemon
- a bunch of herbs such as dill, oregano, thyme, rosemary, savory, parsley
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- extra virgin olive oil
- a few pinches of pink peppercorns, crushed
- lemon wedges
- Wash the fish and pat dry with paper towels.
- Sprinkle salt generously all over the skin and cavity. Rub the salt in with your fingers and massage for 1 minute.
- Give it a squeeze of lemon inside the cavity.
- Tie a bunch of herbs together and place inside the fish's cavity.
- Rub the smashed garlic cloves all over the skin before you stuff it inside the cavity.
- Brush fish with olive oil and score each side.
- Preheat the grill to 400 degrees F. Rub the grill with generous amounts of olive oil - this will prevent the fish's skin from sticking.
- When the grill is hot, place your fish horizontally or diagonally on the grill. Do not touch the fish from this point on until you are ready to flip it.
- Cook one side for 10 minutes, uncovered. Generally speaking, grill your fish 10 minutes per 1-inch (2.5 cm) height per side.
- Using a metal fish spatula, slowly lift the fish from the grill, and with the aid of another spatula or tongs, flip the fish to the other side.
- Cook for another 10 minutes, uncovered. Check for doneness with a thermometer or your finger. Flesh should not be too firm, but have some bounce.
- The first side you cooked should be the side you present your fish.
- Sprinkle with crushed pink peppercorns. Serve with lemon wedges.