How to Grill Fish

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Fish is far lower in fat than other meats, especially the infamous saturated fat that is a major contributor to heart disease.
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The photographer had to beat the staff off with a stick just to get a close-up of the kabobs.
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Preparing fresh fish for the grill.

MOTHER’s Kitchen column shares how to grill fish. Rekindle one of the best meals of summer with these seafood recipes hot off the grill.

How to Grill Fish

Over the years some of us have managed to
develop a fish phobia. Perhaps it’s those childhood
memories of the lingering aroma of fish sticks that we were
forced to consume every Friday. Or what about the cooler full of huge, slimy, bulging eyed
fish that Uncle Fred used to bring back from his fishing
trips? And that smell–even the freshest fish leaves a
slight odor when prepared indoors.

Even if we cast our experiences aside, we might think that
fish is too time consuming in comparison to our usual
grilling fare of brats and burgers. We might also feel
compelled to comb cookbooks, searching for fancy sauces and
marinades to disguise the fishy flavor or dry texture. The
truth is, these are just fish stories. Fish actually
requires very little attention if you buy fresh steaks or
fillets and requires less grilling time than chicken or
burgers. As long as the fish isn’t overcooked, it’ll be
juicy and delicious with or without a marinade.

When it comes to nutritional benefits, fish has the brats
beat. Fish is far lower in fat than other meats, especially
the infamous saturated fat that is a major contributor to
heart disease. The fat that is present in the fish has the
famous omega-3 fatty acids which help to prevent blocked
arteries, and consequently heart disease. A study in the
Netherlands showed that eating fish only twice a week can
reduce the risk of having a heart attack by 50 percent. The
amount of omega-3 present in the fish depends on how fatty
the fish is (salmon is higher), and whether the fish was
farm raised, in which case the quality of the fish food
varies. The fattier fish (which are still at least 20
percent lower in fat than beef) also contain an antioxidant
called coenzyme Q, which is believed to be more effective
than vitamin E when it comes to lowering the bad guy LDL
cholesterol in your body.

Today folks must be casting aside those fish fears in favor
of the seafood because fish consumption is on the rise.
Still worried about that smell? For those of you men who
are the Macho King of the BBQ, fish may not have the same
prestige as a side of beef, but the neighbors will be
mighty impressed when you gracefully flip over a five-pound
lake trout. Think that you can’t really sink your teeth
into a fish fillet? Try the meaty, steak like swordfish
shark or tuna steaks. Whatever your phobias, it’s time to
fire up that grill for a delicious fish dinner. Here are
some tips to get you started.

Fish and Vegetable Kabobs Recipe

This is a good family meal that goes well with corn on the
cob and a summer salad. Use a meaty fish that will stay on
the skewer. We’ve used mako shark, swordfish, monkfish, and
bass–depending on the sale of the week. Serves four.

1-1/2 pounds firm-fleshed fish, skinned and cut into
1 to 1-1/4-inch chunks
2 medium summer sweet peppers (any color), seeded and cut into chunks
16 cherry tomatoes
2 small medium summer squash (or yellow zucchini), sliced
in 1/3 to 1/2-inch circles

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 large garlic cloves, minced salt, pepper, dash cayenne
4 skewers

Whisk the marinade ingredients together. Put the fish and
vegetable chunks in a large bowl. Toss with the marinade.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes
to an hour. Prepare the charcoal grill. Skewer the fish and
vegetables. When the fire is ready, grill the kebabs about
three minutes per side, turning them so they don’t burn in
one spot. Baste with a little of the remaining marinade.
Total cooking time will probably not exceed 10 minutes.

Whole Fennel Trout Recipe

You can also use whole (scaled) white fish. If a fresh
fennel bulb isn’t available, stuff the cavities of the fish
with any garden herbs that you may have on hand. It’s best
to use a fish rack when grilling a whole fish; an
inexpensive hamburger rack will work fine. Be sure rack is
clean and greased.

4 whole trout (8-10 ounces each), cleaned
4 tablespoons (or less) extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium fennel bulbs with leaves
6 large cloves garlic, peeled, sliced thin lengthwise
2 lemons, cut into wedges
Salt, freshly ground pepper, cayenne pepper or paprika

Slice the stalks and leaves from the fennel, reserving the
leaves. Cut out the round core of the fennel bulb. Slice
1/4-inch slices across the bulb so it’s cut into hollow
circles. Set aside. Simmer the garlic slices in the oil
until they’re softened but not browned.

Pat the cleaned fish dry with paper towels inside and out.
Rub the cavities of the fish with lemon and place some of
the garlic slices inside. Rub the outside of the fish
thoroughly with oil, leaving some garlic and oil in the
skillet for the fennel slices. Finish stuffing the cavities
with chopped fennel leaves, saving some for garnishing the
finished dish. Place the fish on greased fish rack, side by
side. Top with whole fennel leaves.

While you’re waiting for the coals, saute the fennel in the
skillet on medium-high heat until it’s lightly browned and
tender. Place the fish rack on the grill. Grill four to
five minutes per side. Remove the fish and serve with
lemon, removing the crispy external fennel leaves. Sprinkle
the remainder of chopped leaves on fish and fennel.

Ginger Salmon with Salad Greens Recipe

To save time, use some of the marinade for the dressing for
the salad greens. Serves two to three.

2 salmon steaks or fillets (7-9 ounces each)
About 4 cups mixed greens from the garden or a grocery mesclun mix (add arugula or watercress for a more peppery taste)
2 green onions, sliced diagonally, or 1 small red onion, sliced into thin circles
10 cherry tomatoes, halved, or homegrown tomatoes, quartered

2 large garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
tablespoon ginger root, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons sesame oil (or canola oil)
1 tablespoon tamari (soy sauce)
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Freshly ground pepper

Mix all marinade ingredients well in a blender. Wash the
salmon in cold water and pat dry and place in a glass
casserole or pie plate. Pour only half the marinade over
the fish. Turn the fish so both sides are covered. Save the
rest of the marinade for the salad. Cover the fish with
plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.
Wash and dry the salad greens and prepare the salad without
the dressing. When the coals are medium hot, grill the
salmon for five minutes on each side (per inch of
thickness), basting with the marinade if necessary. Discard
any unused fish marinade. Toss the salad with the reserved
dressing and arrange on a large plate. Serve fish on top of
the salad.

Swordfish Steaks With Herbs Recipe

Any firm-fleshed fish steak will work. Herb-pesto marinade will add flavor to mild-flavored fish.

4 swordfish steaks, cut to about 1 inch thick for ease of grilling (about 1/2 pound) each. If they’re large, you may want to cut them in
2 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup fresh (curly) parsley
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup lime juice and 1/4 cup lemon juice (or all lemon
1/4 cup olive oil

Rinse the fish in cold water and pat it dry. Place in a
large covered plastic bowl or dish. Chop the garlic,
cilantro, and parsley in a food processor (or mince by
hand). Blend in the rest of the ingredients so that the
marinade resembles a pesto. Smear the pesto on each side of
the fish and stack the steaks in the bowl. Cover and
refrigerate them for at least 30 minutes, but not more than
two hours. While you’re waiting for medium-hot coals, place
the steaks on a platter. Spread the marinade on the steaks
and salt and pepper them. Grill four or five minutes per
side and transfer to a serving platter. Be sure not to
overcook them or they’ll be dry. Serve with grilled
potatoes and a green salad.

Fast Fish Recipe

This is for when you’re in a “let’s slap the fish on the
grill and throw on a few hot dogs for the kids” mood. This
works best with fish steaks that have a firm flesh.

3–4 firm-fleshed fish steaks or fillets (tuna,
swordfish, shark, halibut, salmon, or even catfish)
1 cup of your favorite bottled salsa (we use Arriba smoked
tomato salsa) or your homemade salsa
2 tablespoons lime juice
Freshly ground pepper
Chopped cilantro leaves (optional)

Place the fish steaks in a shallow pan (like a glass pie
plate), patting them dry with a paper towel. Mix together
the salsa, lime juice, and ground pepper in a small bowl.
Spoon over the steaks, flip the steaks over, and spoon onto
the other side. Cover with plastic wrap and start the fire.
Grill the steaks when the fire is ready for about 10
minutes (5 minutes per side) an inch. Serve them
immediately, topped with cilantro.

Fish Grilling Tips

• A cold fish sticks to the grill, so remove the fish
from the refrigerator just before you start the fire.
• When you’re preparing the coals, add some mesquite
or other wood chips to give the fish a distinct smoky
flavor. Soak the chips in water for at least 20 minutes
before using or add some at the start and again just before
removing the fish.
• Cook your fish on a medium fire, which means that
you can hold your hand six inches above the coals for three
or four seconds without screaming.
• To cover or not to cover? That depends. If you have
a Weber-style grill, you’ll probably want to at least
partially cover anything that you grill so it will have a
smokier flavor. With fish it’s best to only cover larger
fish steaks or a whole fish which takes longer to cook.
• Brush excess char off of the grill with a wire
brush, or clean a warm grill with wax paper. Let the grill
heat up, then brush it with olive oil, using a basting
brush or a new paint brush. The fish should sizzle when it
hits the grill.
• If you’re grilling a whole fish, it’s best to use a
rack so you can flip it over easily.
• If the fish are small, use a wire basket so they
don’t fall into the inferno.
• Cook the fish approximately 10 minutes per inch at
the thickest part of the fish (5 minutes per side). Turn
the fish only once. Don’t overcook, which will cause the
fish to be dry, but press the fish for firmness. Remove the
fish from the grill when it’s slightly underdone, not
watery but still a bit translucent, because it will
continue to cook as it sits.

How to Select Fresh Fish

• A fish should smell like a fish without having a
strong, fishy odor. (Don’t buy shark with an ammonia
smell.) Don’t be afraid to ask the store clerk to let you
smell it.
• If the fish is whole, look for clear, bright, intact
eyes; this alone isn’t always a reliable sign.
•If you’re buying fillets, look for flesh that’s shiny
and translucent instead of dull or dry.
•Avoid buying fish early in the week. Ask the store
manager which days the fish is delivered.
•Have the fish market scale, clean, or fllet the fish
for you.
• Avoid buying fish packed in plastic. The fish should
be on ice since the colder temperature keeps it fresh

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