The aromas of burning charcoal, a mélange of spices and the trail of sizzling meat hanging in the air are, for me, the telltale signs of seasons turning and summer is just around the corner. Each year, as Spring days begin to warm up, I impatiently await the piquant fragrance to fill the neighborhood. I am not alone, I soon realize, as the neighboring gardens become a hive of industrious activity. The barbecues are brought out of hibernation and rubbed clean for another season filled with succulent marinated meats, sausages and vegetables.
At this time of the year however, when the summer warmth dwindles into a crisp, cool Autumn morning and the days begin to get shorter I see those barbecues, which dutifully and laboriously entertained us throughout a summer of friends, family and relaxing evenings, being packed and banished at the back of the shed.
The early Autumn days have been glorious and before we pack away our barbecue for the season I wanted one last hurrah, so to speak. Friends are invited, the table is set, cocktails mixed and a theme is picked, we wanted to celebrate the last barbecue of the year and look forward to the next one with eagerness. I usually set a theme and this time I picked Middle Eastern flavors, combining spices, herbs and ingredients that are well known in the Arabic countries.
A rosy pink salmon was filleted and marinated in an exquisite spice blend using ras el hanout and in the distinct herb flavored Za’atar. Vegetables like fennel, aubergine and sweet peppers were slathered in a nutty tahini sauce and a salad of mint and parsley added a refreshing highlight. Roasted, crispy potatoes sprinkled with ground cumin, coriander and sumac accentuate the meal further.
How to Grill Fish
Hamburgers, steaks and sausages are all common fare on the grill however, when it comes to grilling fish, many people tend to shy away for a variety of reasons; fish can be expensive, it can fall apart, it is hard to tell when it is done. There a few very simple tips and tricks to follow and once you master them you will discover a whole new facet to barbecuing.
- One of the challenges when grilling fish is getting a crispy charred exterior while ensuring that the fish will be soft, juicy and cooked all the way through. Fish that has a texture like beef can be grilled directly on the grate Tuna, salmon, halibut, and swordfish are all robust fish which will keep shape during the grilling process. More delicate fish, such as tilapia, sole, and flounder, often work better when grilled in a foil packet or a grill basket.
- One of the trickiest aspects of grilling fish on the grate is making sure that the fish does not stick to the grate. Make sure the fish is dabbed dry with paper towels, the heat of the grill is at the right level - medium-high and the grill is well prepared and clean.
- Turn the heat on the grill to high and prepare the grill grate. First and foremost make sure that your grill grate is as clean as possible. Loosely cover the grate with aluminum foil. The intense heat will cause the debris to break down and dissolve, which will minimize sticking. At its highest heat, this should only take about 10-15 minutes.
- Remove the fish from the fridge. If the fish has been marinating dab off access moisture with paper towels. Otherwise lightly brush both sides with oil and season with coarse salt and cracked black peppercorns and spices. Place the fish skin-side down diagonally on the grate. This not only creates those appetizing grill marks you, it also makes it easier to flip the fish because it's on an angle.
- Do not move the fish until the skin side has a nice sear and looks crisp. if you are unsure, try gently lifting the fish with a fine-edged spatula after a few minutes. If it does not lift off the grate easily, allow it cook a bit longer and check at 20-second intervals until it does.
- Forget the tongs! To flip the fish without breaking it I like to use two fine-edged long grilling spatulas and lift the fish fillet from both sides and flip it. Tom on the other hand prefers using two forks. The fork tines fit nicely between the grill bars and the fish fillets can gently lifted up, then turned over. The meat should be firm to the touch, flake easily with a fork, and appear opaque all the way through.
With these tips and tricks I am sure you will be grilling fish perfectly each time, without any fear.
Infusing the fish with additional flavors adds variety and can be done without much effort. It can be as simple as laying a bunch of herbs onto your grill grates. Then simply grill the fish on top of the herbs and flip as usual or whipping up a quick marinade of spices and oils. If you are marinating fish make sure you only marinate it for about 15 to 30 minutes, any longer at it will start curing.
For my Middle Eastern fish barbecue I used the alluring spice blend Ras El Hanout and Za’atar to marinate the salmon fillets in two ways. With the creamy chargrilled vegetables in the luscious tahini yogurt sauce and a the tangy and herby tabouleh the flavors of the evening were intriguing and comforting.
A divine meal shared with good friends on a glorious Autumn day. The candles flicker in the twilight and the air is filled with the sound of laughter and the unmistakable perfume of a barbecue reminiscent of a sweltering hot summer day. Wistfully we make promises of doing this again … next year when the seasons turn.
I am joining my lovely sister-from-another-mother at her Braai event Braai, the Beloved Country and bringing my Arabic flavored barbecue to join the party.
Dubai Food Photography and Styling Workshop Update
There are only 4 spots available at the Dubai workshop this October. Very thrilled to see participants coming from Bahrain, Doha and Abu Dhabi. For those coming from out of town we have reserved rooms at the CORP Executive Al Khoory Hotel, which is conveniently located near the Miele Gallery at the Dubai World Trade Center.
If you are interested in securing the last few places on the workshop come visit the Workshop Website for more details and the contents of the 2-day course. Register here quickly and I hope to see you in Dubai.
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