Almost mid-summer, and the grill nuts are proliferating. But how about something unique and different besides the usual steak, hot dogs and franks? I know, some of you adventurous types have even taken to grilling lamb and pork chops. But how about a whole fish? Huh? What you say? Yes, cooking a whole fish on the grill. In Greece this is a very common procedure. It ain't that hard, kiddies. And the ingenuity and combination of flavors will leave your guests wanting for more.
Any firm-fleshed fish will do, bass, striped bass, flounder, rockfish, blue fish, monk fish, or fresh water trout. Have the fishmonger (or fish guy) clean and gut the fish, but with the head kept intact.
In terms of the grill, make sure it's well oiled. Soak a paper towel with canola or vegetable oil, then wipe the grill with it before cooking the fish. This will prevent the burning or sticking of fish to the grill. Also, while grilling, some recommend sprinkling lemon juice over the fish to keep it moist.
So guys, try grilling something out of the ordinary. Take that leap forward and expand your horizons. Become a real connoisseur of the grill. Besides, fish is brain food. Can't go wrong with that.
In a bowl, combine tomatoes, basil, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, garlic powder and oregano. Season to taste with black pepper. Let it sit at room temperature while you prepare the fish.
Preheat grill to medium high. Do not use high heat while cooking. High heat will burn the fish on the outside, while leaving the center uncooked.
With a sharp knife make 3 or 4 diagonal slashes on each side of the fish. This helps the fish cook evenly. Sprinkle salt liberally over the fish. Rub the fish in and out with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Now, here we have a difference of opinion. Some experts state that no other seasoning should be added since other seasonings, like pepper, will burn on the grill, and give the fish a bitter taste. Other experts state that seasoning the fish with additional pepper, oregano, and other spices will enhance the taste. This is your call. If you want it well seasoned, go with it. If not, save the seasonings for the end.
Stuff the inside of the fish with the lemon slices, garlic, and bay leaf.
Place the fish on the grill and cook for about 10 minutes. Rule of thumb is fish should cook 8-10 minutes per inch of thickness. Turn and cook the other side 8-10 minutes. It's best, when turning, to gently flip the fish over with 2 spatulas or 1 long one.
Fish is cooked when exterior is crisp and meat will flake easily with a fork. Carefully lift off the grill and set on a platter.
Serve fish topped with the tomato-basil mixture.