Grilling fish can bring terror to the most seasoned cook. The thought of delicate fillets being scraped off of grill grates in sad little shreds or of watching gorgeous fish falling between the grates, only to be consumed by the fire instead of your family, is enough to make grill-veterans preheat their ovens. I have three stress-free and fool proof methods of getting a gentle smoke and char on your favorite fish.
The first method is to coat and re-coat the grill grates with oil. This method builds up a non-stick coating on your grill allowing you to get a delicious char on your fish.
The second method uses aromatic lemons, green onions and herbs to provide a bed for the fish. The fish will develop tons of flavor from the smoky grill and the fragrant lemons and herbs.
Sturdy and thick cut tuna can take direct heat from the grill. Unlike a flaky fish, tuna is not likely to fall apart on the grill. All of the grilling methods can be used for a stove top grill as well as an outdoor grill.Grilled Salmon with Thai Basil SauceFor the sauce:
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
½ cup fresh mint leaves
½ cup Thai basil leaves or any fresh basil
¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 medium garlic cloves
1 small spicy chili pepper, optional
¼ cup coconut milk
Salt and pepper
1. Add all of the ingredients to a blender or food processor and process until a sauce consistency.
2. Gently warm the sauce in a pan over medium heat. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.For the fish:
4 six-ounce skinless salmon fillets
¼ cup oil
2 limes cut in half
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat the grill to medium. Be sure the grill is clean and free from any debris.
2. Dry the salmon fillets with towels. The fish must be completely dry or it will stick.
3. Rub the grill with an oil soaked towel. Close the lid and allow the oil to get really hot.
4. Oil the grill again and close the lid. This process coats the grill grates with oil and keeps the fish from sticking.
5. Finally, brush the fish with oil and season with salt and pepper and place on the grill “presentation side” down (the non-skin side is the “prettier” side and will face up on the plate). Brush the lime halves with oil and place on the grill. Grill the fish fillets for five minutes on one side. Do not attempt to turn the fish until the fish has caramelized and formed a crust. You only need to turn the fish once. The more you “play” with it, the more it will likely stick and fall apart.
6. Turn the fish over, brush the grilled side with some of the sauce and continue grilling for another minute for medium fish.
7. Serve the fish with additional sauce and grilled limes.Grilled Halibut Mustard-Caper Glaze
Halibut is a lean fish and I prefer to grill it on top of aromatic citrus and herbs. While you can put it directly on to an oiled grill, halibut can quickly dry out and over cook. The bed of citrus and herbs protect the delicate fish and keep it moist. The mild fish pairs perfectly with the mustard-caper glaze and picks up flavor from the citrus and herbs. For the sauce:
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil for parve preparation
2 medium shallots, minced
1/3 cup dry white wine
¼ cup Dijon style mustard
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons chives, cut into ½ inch segments
Salt and pepper
1. Place a small sauce pan, lightly coated with olive oil, over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until the shallots are translucent and soft (about five minutes).
2. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the chives, and cook until the mixture has reduced to a thick glaze.
3. Remove from the heat and stir in the chives. For the fish:
2 lemons cut into thin slices
4 scallions, cut in half lengthwise
Several sprigs of fresh thyme, tarragon and parsley
4 six-ounce halibut fillets, skin-off
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat grill to medium.
2. Brush the grill with olive oil. Arrange the lemons, scallions and herbs on the grill to form a bed for the fish.
3. Pat the fish dry and season with salt and pepper. Lightly brush the fish with olive oil.
4. Place the fish, “presentation side” down (the non-skin side is the “prettier” side and will face up on the plate) onto the bed of lemons and herbs. Grill the fish for five minutes. Brush the fish with the glaze.
5. Turn the fish over and brush with the glaze onto the “presentation side”. Grill the fish for another five minutes until cooked through. Brush one more time on the presentation side to build up the glaze.
6. Serve the fish with grilled lemons and favorite vegetables.Grilled Tuna with Tomato-Balsamic Relish
I ask my fish monger to cut my tuna into 1 ½ inch thick fillets, or better yet, whenever possible, I buy a big chunk of the gorgeous fish and cut the fillets myself. I like my tuna rare inside with a deep crusty char on the outside. Tuna’s big flavor can stand up to a sweet and sour tomato-balsamic relish. I like to serve this hearty fish dish with grilled eggplant and zucchini.For the sauce:
extra virgin olive oil for sautéing and for the relish
1 small red onion, sliced thinly
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 large tomatoes, seeded and diced (sometimes I use heirloom or yellow tomatoes)
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup basil leaves, torn
Sat and pepper
1. Place a medium sauce pan, lightly coated with olive oil, over medium high heat. Add the onion and sauté until the onion is caramelized and dark brown (about seven minutes).
2. Decrease the heat and add the garlic and tomatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes let out their juices and begin to reduce (about 15 minutes).
3. Add the balsamic and sugar and stir to combine. Continue cooking for another five minutes. Remove from heat and fold in the basil leaves. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
4. Drizzle two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil into the relish.For the fish:
4 six-ounce tuna fillets, cut 1 ½ inch thick
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat the grill to medium high.
2. Pat the fish dry and salt and pepper to taste. Lightly brush the fish with olive oil.
3. Place the fish onto the grill and grill for two minutes. Turn the fish and continue cooking for another two minutes for rare tuna.
4. Place the fillets on a platter and mound the relish on top of each fillet.Chef Laura Frankel is Executive Chef for Spertus Kosher Catering and author of Jewish Cooking for All Seasons, and Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes.