Walking to the Friday farmers market, sunlight dancing on the waves of the Pacific and iconic Huntington Beach Pier as a backdrop, is one of the best perks of living where I do, besides the obvious: sun, surf, sand and laid-back beach culture that comes with living in Huntington Beach, the surf mecca of SoCal.
Kites make you smile 🙂 (Kite Festival in March) The farmers market is here every Friday.
It’s a rather small market but diverse enough to pick up everything you need for a farm-fresh, no-fuss dinner special enough to kick off the weekend in style. I feel delightfully European as I talk to the fish vendor while scrutinizing the fish varieties, some filleted, some whole, and decide on a fresh whole Branzino from a deep cooler filled with ice. I meander down the lane and pick up a variety of squash – your choice of 4 for $1.00, a three pack of berries for $5.00 – two raspberry and one strawberry, and gather up a bouquet of colorful flowers to adorn the kitchen counter.
To prep the fish, I simply slice a lemon into thin rounds, stuff them inside the fish cavity along with some sprigs of parsley, basil or thyme, whichever I have on hand (this time it was parsley and thyme), lay lemons on top, then wrap with kitchen string so the lemons stay put when the fish is turned . Then wash and slice the squash, drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil mixed in with a favorite spice blend like Barrier Reef from Savory Spice Shop or Mrs. Dash’s Zesty Lime or Table Blend seasoning. We’ll grill the fish and the vegetables and dinner is plated before us within 30 minutes! Pour a bright Sauvignon Blanc and let the weekend begin 🙂
- One 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pound fresh whole Branzino,* scaled and gutted
- 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- fresh herbs such as parsley thyme and/or basil
Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. A heavy grill pan can also be used. Grease the grill rack (or grill pan) using a paper towel dipped in oil.
Slice the lemon and stuff the cavity of the fish with a few sprigs of herbs and 3-4 lemon slices. Brush the outside of the branzino with olive oil, place a few slices of lemon on top and wrap with kitchen strings to secure the lemons: tie a loop around the tail and make a knot. Wrap the string, width-wise, all the way around the rest of the fish, and tie it off near the head.
Grill the branzino over medium-high heat, turning once, until browned and crisp and just cooked through, about 7 minutes per side. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.
*Trout may be substituted for branzino - it is a mild fresh water fish that is readily available in markets. Cooking fish on the bone gives it more flavor and, when the fish is cooked properly, removing the fillets is relatively easy – easier than filleting it when raw. Or, when sharing among friends, you can butterfly the fish (using a sharp fillet knife, cut along the curve of the gills to remove the head, then along the spine and lay the fish open) – and be able to remove portions of the fish very easily and eat “off the bone”. If the head and tail bother you, remove them prior to grilling.