Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Head and All

Strangely, it's whole fish that makes me most squeamish.  Maybe it's because it's so very whole and as-if-it-could-jump-back-into-the water looking.  But slaughtering the chickens last year only made me like chicken more, and thinking about their recent aliveness makes me feel better about eating them.  Maybe it's because I still really conceive of fish as a wild animal rather than something raised for eating.  But I have no problemwith wild game.  Maybe it's the eyes.  Whole fish is the only thing I cook or eat that has eyes on it.   Well, if you're still thinking about eating fish, let alone whole fish, then first of all you're on the right blog.  One of the keys to being a responsible eater in my mind is to think a lot about the whole life and death of the food we eat, not in order to obsessively freak out about it but to fully indulge in the kind of curiosity that leads to understanding and responsibility both about what we eat and about what we value.  So I take the slight discomfort of staring into the eyes of my meal as I prepare it as an opportunity to be thankful for the life of the fish, and really moreso as a moment to accept that I value the fantastic moist tenderness of whole grilled fish so much that it's worth the eyes.  The whole fish,  bones and head and all, never dries out or shrivels up, and it's never bland.

Whole Grilled Fish
Serves 4

Use a sturdy whole fish--this was done with Striped Bass but any kind of Bass works beautifully.  Ask the fishmonger to gut, clean, and scale it for you, but to leave on the head.

Marinate fish for one hour, turning halfway through, in:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
salt and pepper

Meanwhile, prepare charcoal grill.  You'll want a nice bed of hot coals.  Just before putting fish on grill, stuff with fresh herbs.  Fennell tops, the stems and feathery leaves that come on top of fennel bulbs, are a fantastic match for fish.  A combination of organo, mint, thyme, and lavendar is also wonderful.  To stuff, just gather the herbs, on stems, and push them into the cavity of the fish.  You don't need to tie it closed.  Just before you put the fish on the grill, toss a handfull of the same herbs onto the charcoal.  Put the fish onto the grill and cover. Cook for about 10 minutes per side.

Grilled Zucchini
Serves 4
This is so simple it's almost embarassing to write it up as a recipe.  But so good. 
Slice 4 medium zucchini lengthwise into 1/4" thick slices
sprinkle generously with sea salt and pepper and let sit for 20-30 minutes
Lay on medium-high grill and grill about 10 minutes per side, flipping once. If you make them with the fish, just lay them alongside the fish on the grill. 

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