Anyone who knows me knows that my love for figs runs deep, they are my favorite food on earth. Their season could never last long enough for me, because I could literally eat them everyday and never grow tired of them. The reality though, is that the fig fruit season is only during late summer and early fall, but fig leaves are on the tree for most of the year and you can actually cook with fig leaves. That means we get to keep fig-essence food in our diet for more than just a couple of months and one of our favorite ways to cook with the leaves is as fig leaf wrapped grilled fish.
Everything about fig leaf wrapped grilled fish brings me back to the times we have spent in Greece. If you have ever been to the Mediterranean region and had the privilege of eating fresh caught fish from the sea, then you have tasted some of the best seafood in the world. There is nothing quite like it. Branzini, or lavraki in Greek, is European sea bass that happens to be regularly available at our local Whole Foods. Because we care about how the seafood we eat is sourced, we typically buy most of our seafood from Whole Foods because of their strict quality standards (you can read all about their standards here). The branzini (larvraki) we procure from Whole Foods is imported directly from Greece, so it is literally a taste of hubby’s homeland available right here in Northern California.
Lavraki is probably one of the best fish in the sea. With tender, buttery flesh it is considered a delicacy in Greece. What better way to enjoy such an incredible fish than by wrapping it in fig leafs. If you have ever been near a fig tree than you will have surely experienced the sweet aroma emanating from its bark and leaves. It is a smell that envelops your senses with the musk of the Mediterranean, a fragrance that is unforgettable. When you wrap the fish in fig leaves and then grill it, the essence of the fig leaves infuse the flesh of the fish in a perfectly delicate way, while the fig leaves also keep the fish from sticking to the grill.
Because lavraki is such an incredibly flavored fish, we choose to keep it simple and just salt the fish inside and out with flaky salt. The fig leaves lend a mellow, smoky flavor to the fish once they are grilled which is perfectly complimented by the juice of grilled lemon squeezed over the flesh.
Simple, fresh, and luxurious, fig leaf wrapped grilled fish is a flavor revelation that you are sure to fall in love with. It is one of our favorite ways to enjoy seafood not only because it is delicious, but the entire experience from procuring the fresh fish, to gathering the fig leafs, transports us to the land we love so much – it is a true taste of the Mediterranean.
- European sea bass [branzino or larvraki] - 1/2 to 1 fish per person
- 3-6 fig leaves for wrapping (more or less depending on how large your fig leaves are)
- flaky salt
- lemon - 1/2 lemon per fish for serving
- cooking twine
- Your fish monger may offer to clean your fish for you - if so take them up on this offer
- Have your fish packed in ice to keep it the freshest
- Before you prepare your fish for the grill, make sure that they are perfectly clean - use the back of a paring knife & run it along the skin in the direction from the tail toward the head, to ensure there are no more scales on the skin
- Once you have removed any remaining scales, check the inside of the fish & make sure it is perfectly clean, with no innards remaining
- Give the fish a nice rinse under cold water & drain well before placing on a paper towel lined plate to dry - gently pat inside & outside of fish with a paper towel to dry off before moving on
- Cut three pieces of cooking twine in about 10-12" lengths & lay these about 2-3" apart on a work surface
- Lay your fig leaves down on top of the cooking twine on your work surface, overlapping the leaves as needed to ensure full coverage
- Salt the fish inside & out with flaky salt
- Wrap the fish with the fig leaves, securing with the cooking twine, one section at a time until the fish is fully wrapped
- Heat a gas grill over medium heat for about 10 minutes & then add the fish & lemon halves to the grill
- Close the lid & grill fish for 5-7 minutes, turn fish & grill the other side for 5-7 minutes
- Remove fish & lemon halves from the grill & serve each fish with a lemon halve
If you have never eaten whole fish, be mindful that there will be bones in the fish - eating a whole fish is a special experience (be prepared to use your fingers while you eat)