Branzino is a fish no one in my house had heard of until it appeared in a special summer issue of Gourmet magazine. Their photo of whole fish tied with string and cooked on the barbecue was inspiring to my husband. He grew up eating the fish they caught and he was intrigued by branzino.
We learned that branzino is the northern Italian name for European sea bass, it also goes by the name loup de mer…I’m pretty sure I have ordered that fish off a menu somewhere, probably the south of France and maybe the Caribbean too. The array of fish and seafood available is astonishing, even where I live…more than a thousand miles from the ocean. Fabulous food photos often inspire me to try something different as well as travel stories and hearing about the food from other cultures.
Cooking Class and Australian Seafood
Right now I am in Australia on vacation and although branzino is not from this part of the world we have seen and tasted an array of fish and seafood. At the Sydney Fish Market, the second largest fish market in the world, my husband and I attended a hands-on cooking class. At the Sydney Seafood School we filleted plate size snapper, cut up whole squid, tore apart small blue crabs and prepared fresh mussels. Then we cooked it all up and had a spectacular dinner. It was a delicious culinary introduction for our vacation down under.
While here we have enjoyed wild barramundi, tuna, coral trout, prawns, squid, crab, clams, mussels and salmon. My husband was able to use the skills from our cooking class to filet a five-kilo coral trout caught on his fishing boat on the Great Barrier Reef. Within hours of being caught we pan-fried it in butter and served it with lemon. Fresh and fabulous! Our vacation has provided us with many memories that will inspire future meals remembering our time in Australia.
Branzino for a Summer Barbecue
Back to the branzino…we inquired at our local fish shop, Boyds Lobster Shop and the branzino could be ordered in just two days. We planned our menu and enjoyed a spectacular summer dinner outdoors with friends around this simple recipe for grilled fish.
If you have never been inspired to cook whole fish on the barbecue I hope you will give it a try. It may look difficult but it isn’t. And unless you invite one there will be no judges looking at how you tied the string. Consider enlisting the help of your guests or even assign this job to someone. No matter whether they YouTube the task or not dinner will still be delicious.
Whether you order fish from far away, buy something local or catch your own you can’t go wrong with this recipe for branzino with lemon and oregano. I’d love to hear about your fish cooking adventure in the comments below.
|4 – 1 lb cleaned whole branzino|
|vegetable oil for brushing fish|
|1½ Tbsp fresh lemon juice|
|¼ tsp salt|
|¼ tsp pepper|
|½ cup olive oil|
|1 Tbsp fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried oregano)|
|8 lemon slices|
|8 oregano sprigs|
|4 cloves garlic|
|2 Tbsp red wine vinegar|
|¾ cup olive oil|
|salt & pepper|
|2 red onions|
|2 red peppers|
|2 zucchini quartered lengthwise|
|2 yellow squash quartered lengthwise|
|1 Japanese eggplant cut lengthwise|
|4 Roma tomatoes|
|¼ cup chopped fresh parsley|
|¼ cup chopped fresh basil|
- Whisk together lemon juice, salt and pepper, then slowly add olive oil in a stream, whisking until combined. Add oregano and set aside.
- Along the middle of each fish make 1-inch long diagonal slashes at 2-inch intervals on both sides of the fish. Brush fish all over with vegetable oil and season with 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper (total).
- Season the fish cavity with salt and pepper. Insert 2 lemon slices and 2 sprigs of oregano in each fish. Using kitchen string tie fish closed at 2-inch intervals.
- Oil grill rack then place branzino on the grill. Close lid and cook for 6 minutes. Turn fish over using 2 metal spatulas. Cook for another 6 minutes or until cooked through.
- Transfer fish to platter, remove string and garnish with more lemon. I say let each guest cut off the head and remove the bones of their own fish.
- Serve fish with dressing.
- Combine garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt & pepper in a jar and shake. Set aside a third of the vinaigrette to serve with the fish at the table. Use the remaining vinaigrette to brush the vegetables.
- GRILLED RATATOUILLE
- Red Onion – Cut the ends off of each onion and peel. Holding the flat sides of the onion with your hand push skewers into the onion imagining where you will cut it to make 4 thick slices. The skewer should go through the onion right to the cutting board. Now insert a second skewer into each slice at a different angle. Cut the onion into thick slices cutting between the skewers. Push the skewers further through the onion to hold the slices together. Brush with vinaigrette and grill until soft, 8-10 minutes, turning once. Remove skewers and chop coarsely.
- Peppers – Brush peppers with oil and grill until skin is blackened, about 10 minutes. Place in a plastic bag for 5 minutes. Peel peppers, remove stem and seeds, cut into strips.
- Squash and Eggplant- Brush with vinaigrette and grill until soft, about 5 minutes, turning to cook all sides. Chop into bite size piece.
- Tomatoes - Brush with vinaigrette and grill until soft, 3-5 minutes, turning once. Chop coarsely.
- Ratatouille – Combine all grilled vegetables in a bowl, add parsley and basil. Toss with remaining vinaigrette. Serve with fish.