Whole fish is rubbed with salt and spices, steamed on a bed of wilted spinach then drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice before serving. Steamed fish with lemon and olive oil is simple and elegant.
The fish is a 600-gram pompano. Any firm and fleshy fish should be good to make this dish though. Whatever fish you decide to use, make sure that it has been properly cleaned and prepped before seasoning. Taking the gills and guts out is a service provided for free by fish mongers here. If the fish mongers in your area don’t do the same and you have to clean the fish yourself, make sure that the cavity is properly rinsed after the guts are taken out. Make sure too that the skin is scraped free from scales. Prying off scales after the fish has been steamed is not a good dining experience.
Letting the fish marinate for at least an hour is crucial to allow the flesh to absorb the flavors. To help the fish soak up the spice rub, score it on both sides. And remember to season the cavity too.
The bed of spinach is totally optional but if you decide to include it, simply blanch two handfuls of spinach, rinse and squeeze out the water.
The total cooking time, including the preparation, is 30 minutes. However, this excludes the time that the fish marinates.
- 1 600-gram whole pompano or your fish of choice
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1/4 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
- juice of one 1/2 lemon
- fried garlic lemon slices and cilantro (optional)
Score the fish: Lay it flat on a chopping board. With one hand pressing down the fish to keep it from sliding, take a sharp knife with the other hand and hold it at a 45-degree angle. Slash the fish, twice or thrice depending on the size, on both sides. How deep depends on the thickness of the flesh. I like depth of my slashes to be midway between the skin and the rib (spine).
Mix together the salt, pepper, ginger, garlic and lemon zest. Rub all over the fish including the cavity.
Place the fish in a covered container and allow to marinate in the fridge for at least an hour.
Pour water into the steamer pan and start heating.
Take the fish out of the fridge.
Smear the bottom of a heat-proof plate with half a teaspoon of olive oil.
Place the fish on the oiled plate and drizzle the remaining half teaspoon of olive oil over it. (If adding a bed of spinach, spread the squeezed spinach on the plate and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay the fish on top of the spinach.)
Steam the fish for 30 minutes.
Take the fish out of the steamer. Drizzle with lemon juice and more olive oil. Optionally, garnish with fried garlic, lemon sliced and cilantro before serving.