Griddled Striped Bass With Pesto

PHOTOS BY MICHAEL PIAZZA

SERVES 4-6

A chunk of native striped bass cooked in a ripping hot skillet over a wood fire, with nothing but some salt and a squeeze of citrus, is my ideal summer camping meal—deeply simple and extravagantly delicious. If you want to dress it up a bit, the pesto gives the striper a hefty flavor punch. Heat some flatbreads on the grill grate and serve with slices of ripe tomato alongside.

Pesto: 
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
½ cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped
1½ cups parsley leaves and tender stems, rinsed and well dried
1 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems, rinsed and well dried
½ cup olive oil
2–3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste  
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Striped bass: 
2 pounds striped bass or other local white fish, skin on and scaled, cut into 4 or 6 pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling  

Kosher salt or smoked sea salt, to taste
1 lime, halved
2 cups fresh arugula

DO AHEAD: Place the garlic and almonds in a food processor and pulse until combined. Roughly chop the parsley and cilantro and add to the food processor; pulse until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow stream until the mixture is a loose, chunky paste. Transfer to a bowl and add the vinegar and salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Transfer to a lidded storage container and refrigerate until it’s time to pack the cooler.

AT THE CAMPSITE: Light a fire and let the wood burn until it’s white-hot (but not blazing). Shove the coals to one side of the fire pit and place a grill grate over the fire. Place a large cast-iron skillet over the hottest part of the fire. When the skillet is hot, add the oil. When the oil is shimmering hot, add the fish, skin side down (depending on the size of your skillet, you may have to do this in two batches). Press the fish flat with a spatula for 5–10 seconds as you add each fillet so the skin doesn’t curl up. Cook the fish for about 5 minutes on this side—it will begin to turn opaque on the side in contact with the skillet. Flip the fish and move the pan over to the cooler side of the fire pit. Cook for another 2–4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filet and the heat of the fire. When the fish is opaque throughout and flakes easily, it’s done. Remove skillet from heat and repeat with remaining pieces if necessary.

TO SERVE: Spread a few spoonfuls of pesto onto a platter to cover it. Pile the arugula over that, then place the pieces of fish over the arugula. Drizzle some olive oil over the top, along with another sprinkle of salt and squeeze of lime. Serve the remaining pesto on the side.

 

LEIGH BELANGER is the food editor at Culture magazine. Her second book, My Kitchen Chalkboard, about streamlining dinnertime for busy families, will be released this coming fall. She lives in Jamaica Plain.