When I graduated from high school in 1996, my parents marked the occasion with a spectacular trip to Greece and Turkey. On the picturesque Grecian islands such as Mykonos and Santorini, simply grilled whole fish alongside a Greek salad is a staple that I fell in love with. Up until then, I’d always eaten seafood in a more complex preparation such as a spicy fish curry or a sauce laden version, but here, I thoroughly enjoyed the freshness of the fish and minimal garnishes.
When I got back Stateside, I ordered whole fish on every restaurant visit I could. Today, we’re lucky enough to live a short subway ride from Astoria, which is home to dozens of Greek restaurants and a haven for fish fans like me. Whenever we have a chance, Mahir and I like to take Meenakshi to our favorite spot there for an early Friday night dinner and order two Greek salads and a whole fish big enough for two. One day, Mahir was traveling, and I had such an intense craving for a whole fish that I decided I would try my hand at making it at home. I have to say my version is just as good what we get in Astoria, and our trips across the Queensboro Bridge to the Greek area have become a lot less frequent. I grill the fish until the skin is slightly charred and very crispy, and once I’ve worked my way through the meatier fillets, I like to suck the leftover bits right off the bones.
A one to one-and-a half pound whole fish, headed, scaled and gutted (orata, branzino, dorado, sea bass or any light white fish works well, and your fishmonger can take care of the heading, etc.)
Any assortment of fresh herbs such as thyme sprigs, rosemary sprigs and basil leaves
Four to six thin slices of lemon
One teaspoon of oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450 degrees (only if baking).
Season the fish with salt and pepper to taste, stuff with the herbs and lemon slices.
Rub the outside with the olive oil.
Grill on grill pan or bake in oven until done (you can test this by checking to see if your fish flakes easily with a fork). Cooking times vary depending on size of fish. A one pound fish takes roughly eight to ten minutes a side on a grill pan and around 25 minutes in the oven.
A large Greek salad with romaine lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, olives and a light serving of feta cheese.
Baked fries- cut a potato into your favorite French fry shape, sprinkle with a touch of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and bake in oven or toaster oven until crispy and golden.