Dinner Rush! Whole Branzino with Grilled Peach Caprese

I’ve been called many things in my life, but a slave to fashion is not one of them. I don’t care what the calendar says. What, just because Labor Day has passed I should pack up and forget about all things summer? Fine, the white hot pants can retire for now, but I’ll be damned if the grill is being nestled back into the far corners of the garage. Not now. Not yet.

As the bounty of summer fruits has come pouring into my local farm stands, peaches and tomatoes are nailing it right now.  Chefs like to say that “if it grows together, it goes together,” and I, for one, couldn’t agree more. I love a good old fashioned watermelon-tomato salad during the warmer months, but slipping a few peaches into your caprese takes it to a whole other level. The flavor of the peach is heartier and totally satisfying, especially after a quick go with the grates of a hot grill.

For those of you squeamish about working with a whole fish, I make one simple request: try something new. Enjoying a whole fish is a great interactive eating experience that encourages lots of sharing of plates at the table (be mindful of the bones in the meat). Any reputable fish market will take care of all the mess work, too -- just ask them to gut the fish for you (they’ll even take the head off if that’s a bit too much for you.)

Sorry, one more request: don’t let the calendar tell you what to do, either. Enjoy the warm outdoor weather for as long as we’ve got it.

Whole Branzino with Grilled Peach Caprese
Yield:  4 servings
Prep Time:  5 minutes
Active Time:  20 minutes
Total Time:  25 minutes

For the fish:
2 whole branzino, gutted and scaled
Salt and ground black pepper
1 small chile (like an Italian cherry pepper), thinly sliced
1 lime, thinly sliced
2 sprigs basil
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the salad
3 ripe peaches, pitted, sliced lengthwise into four pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
16 basil leaves
1 cup bocconcino, halved
3 tablespoons high-quality extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper

Preheat a grill to medium-high heat.

Season the fish inside and out with salt and pepper.  Stuff the chile, lime slices, and basil sprigs into the cavity of each fish and tie the fish closed with a few lengths of kitchen twine.  Rub the outside of each fish with olive oil and grill, flipping once, until cooked through, about 6 minutes per side.  Cut the kitchen twine from each fish.

While the fish are grilling, toss the peach slices with olive oil.  Grill the peaches until marked and slightly softened, about 2 minutes per side.  Let cool.

Assemble the salad by shingling the grilled peaches with the tomato slices and basil leaves.  Scatter the bocconcino over top and dress with the extra virgin olive oil and some salt and pepper.  Serve with the grilled fish.

Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary teams for Food Network stars Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, Marc Forgione and Bobby Deen, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following him on Instagram at  @patrickwdecker  or visiting his website at patrickwdecker.com .

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