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Bring some flavor home with Branzino

Now that’s a fresh fish.

Something fishy: Try these recipes for Branzino this summer.

By Donna Zitter Bordelon

I thought he winked at me. Then his mouth opened as I was cleaning out the last pieces of detritus and debris from this already-gutted fish. Now that’s a fresh fish!

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He was one of several to be cleaned, dressed in their Sunday finest, and ready to become dinner. And what a delicious dinner it was. I make the usual fish dinners — cod, flounder, salmon and catfish — but since one of my sons is a Branzino fan, and the fish were available at my local supermarket, I decided to give them a try. I was not disappointed.

Sweet, mild Branzino is a cross between a striper and a sea bass. This Mediterranean fish is known by many names: In Italy, it is Branzinio, in France it is Loup de Mer or Wolf of the Sea, in Greece, Lavraki, and in Spain and Portugal it is known as Robalo. It is a tender, flaky fish, low in calories but with a healthy amount of Omega-3. It can also be farm-raised.

BAKED BRANZINO

4 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large onion, sliced thin

Salt and pepper

4 whole Branzino, about 1 lb. each, head and tail intact, gutted and cleaned

1–2 lemons, sliced thin, reserve a few slices to top fish

4 sprigs of fresh rosemary

4 sprigs of fresh thyme

4 Tbsp. minced celery with some leaves included

4 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced

¾ cup dry white wine

Juice from 1 lemon

2 Tbsp. butter, chopped

2 Tbsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In a large baking pan, arrange onion slices as a base for the fish.

Lightly salt and pepper the onions and turn to coat them in the oil.

(Reserve a few slices to put into fish cavities).

Arrange the fish in the pan over the onion slices.

Stuff a few slices of the reserved onion into each fish cavity, along with the rosemary, thyme, celery and parsley. Place lemon slices into fish cavities on top of herbs.

Pour the wine and lemon juice over the fish and dot each fish with some butter.

Drizzle a little oil over each fish and place a reserved lemon slice on top of each.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

GRILLED BRANZINO

1–2 Tbsp. olive oil per fish

1 whole Branzino, about 1 lb., head and tail intact, gutted and cleaned

Salt and pepper to taste

Herbs (A sprig of fresh rosemary, thyme, parsley per fish)

2–3 thin lemon slices, per fish

Additional oil

Rinse fish inside and out, and pat dry.

Rub oil inside and out of each fish.

Salt and pepper cavity of each fish, and sprinkle herbs inside cavity.

Put lemon slices inside cavity of each fish.

Oil your stove top or outside grill liberally with canola oil or cooking spray.

Turn hot grill to medium-high.

Place fish on oiled grill or in hinged fish basket, or make a “basket” using two cake racks wired together so the fish are held between them.

Place fish on oiled, preheated grill. Drizzle fish with a little oil, and allow to cook for 6–8 minutes.

Use tongs/spatula/potholder to carefully turn fish over. Drizzle a little oil on fish, and allow to cook for 6–8 minutes.

(Carefully flip fish only once and allow to cook through).

Serve with lemon wedges.

It really is quite easy to debone this fish. Carefully separate the head from the fish, and remove the tail. With the fish on its side, use a sharp knife to cut through the fish skin along the back to separate it into two fillets. Lift out the entire backbone. Remove any residue and any small, sharp bones that may remain around the perimeter of each fillet by scraping them away, or by cutting along the edge (the length of the fish) to remove them.

Eat well, live long, enjoy!

(Ques­tions or tips can be sent to Donna Zit­ter Bor­de­lon at WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the Times, 2 Executive Campus, Suite 400, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002)

Don’t forget:

Send in your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $100 ShopRite gift card. Mail your recipe to Readers’ Recipes, 2 Executive Campus, Suite 400, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002. Or email your recipe to WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com. Please include name, address and telephone number.

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