Given the infrequent nature nature of my posts, it may surprise many of you that it is still summer here in Virginia. In the dense sticky heat of August, my appitite turns away from burgers and steaks on the grill to the lightness, and ease, of fish. There is a refreshing quality to a peice of seafood treated simply and served with a salad or some grilled veggies. Not only does it break up the monotony of burgers and dogs but fish can be accented almost effortlessly by virtually any flavor. You can serve fish with nothing more than a lemon wedge or a complex sauce from a French cook-book. Some chefs grill fish on a ceder plank to impart a whimsical hint of the North-West and others will baste fish with olive oil from an herb "brush". No matter how you treat fish, if you follow a few guidelines, you are sure to find a new summer pleaser.
It is the number one rule about buying fish and the most neglected rule - buy it fresh. There are a few barriers to buying fresh fish and I belive they are the the reason this rule is the first to fail.
For starters not everyone truly has access to store that sells fresh fish. Sadly, the chances are that if you live more than a few hours from the shore, you may have to to search a bit harder. There is a second, more subjective reason that fresh fish is harder to come by. Not everyone knows how to buy it. TV chefs and cookbooks tout many methods from examining the gills to checking for rigor mortis. They are all valid, but there is one trick that tumps them all - the sniff test. If a whole fish, fillet, oyster, crab, or clam smells of anything other than the sea, walk away. In fact, if the store itself has an overly strong fishy aroma, that could be an indicator to try someplace else. If they wince whine or moan about you wanting to smell the fish, hit the road.
The choice of species for this recipe is yours. I would suggest following your nose. Once you adopt the sniff method of selecting fish for any fish recipe, the results will always be better than trying to find exactly what is called for. Find the freshest, and if possable, the fish caught closesst to home. Whole fish is fine, but fillets are a lot easier to work with.
* 2 - 4 fillets of fresh fish weighing about 8 to 10oz each (leave any skin on if it comes that way)
* 2 whole lemons
* olive oil
* sea salt
* chili flake or 1 finely sliced whole chili (I like seranos for fish)
* basil - optional and only when in season
Season the fish with a sprinkling of salt and allow it to stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. During that time, heat a stainless skillet