Grilled Red Mullet with Warm Fennel Salad and Oranges Recipe Recipe
Best Grilled Red Mullet with Warm Fennel Salad and Oranges Recipe Recipe

by Mario Batali

There is nothing quite comparable to whole grilled fish with a warm seasonal salad on a summer evening. My Barbecued Red Mullet with Warm Fennel Salad and Oranges is exactly that.

These fish have a distinctive flavor that contrasts perfectly the acidic citrus in this dish. Small red mullet show up at fancier fish stores in the United States and everywhere in the Mediterranean. Red mullet is sold whole and in fillets, both fresh and frozen. Whole fish are usually sold unprepared and thus require trimming, scaling and gutting. Red mullet is best bought from May to November, outside of spawning season, to protect stocks. If mullet is unavailable on those off months, use small snapper or even ocean perch for a similarly delicate substitution.

Nyons olives are one of my all-time favorite varieties to toss in salads or cook in pastas, or even to blend into a pesto, which is a favorite of my sons. These tiny, jet-black olives from southern France have a salty, mild bitterness whether dry-cured or packed in oil. If you're an olive novice, Nyons will romance you right from the first bite. As an alternative, arbequina olives are perfectly crisp, tiny and slightly bitter Spanish olives that pair nicely with the warmed fennel in this recipe.

Just as red mullet is best bought from May to November, oranges have a peak season as well. I really enjoy Valencia oranges in a summer salad because they are medium sized and have few seeds. And you really get bang for your buck as opposed to smaller citrus fruits like tangerines and nectarines that are filled with inedible seeds. While these are delicious substitutes in winter months, Valencia oranges are perfectly ripe at the moment and you'll get a lot of juice out of this variety.

This dish combines elements from three of my favorite parts of the world. Mediterranean red mullet with French olives and Valencia oranges make for the perfect summer evening meal.

Grilled Red Mullet with Warm Fennel Salad and Oranges Recipe

Serves 4.

1 fennel bulb

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

4 red mullets (about 1 pound), scaled, gutted and gills removed

Salt and pepper

2 oranges

1/2 cup tiny olives, such as Nyons or arbequinas

Grilled Red Mullet with Warm Fennel Salad and Oranges Steps

Preheat the grill or broiler.

Place a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Cut off the fennel stalks, reserving the fronds. Cut the fennel bulb in half and then into 1/4-inch matchsticks. Add 3 tablespoons of the extra-virgin olive oil to the hot pan and toss in the fennel. Sauté until lightly browned and wilted, about 4 minutes. Set aside.

Brush the fish with 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil. Season the fish with salt and pepper and place on the grill. Cook 3 to 5 minutes per side or to your preferred degree of doneness. Keep warm.

With a very sharp knife or zester, remove the zest from the oranges and reserve. Cut off any remaining peel and the pith, and then cut between the membranes to free the individual segments, working over a bowl to catch the juice.

Place the juice and segments in a large mixing bowl. Toss in the warm, cooked fennel, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, olives and reserved fennel fronds. Season with salt and pepper and divide among 4 plates.

Place a grilled fish on each plate and serve immediately.



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"Grilled Red Mullet with Warm Fennel Salad and Oranges Recipe"

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