Roasting is one of the easiest ways to cook whole fish, filets and steaks. Baked at high heat without liquid, the fish cooks rapidly and doesn’t dry out. Unlike grilling, it poses no risk that bits of fish might fall between grill bars. Because you don’t have to contend with the barbecue’s searing heat, there’s less risk of overcooking or scorching the fish.
To keep the fish moist during roasting, drizzle it with oil or melted butter with minced garlic, lemon juice and herbs such as thyme, oregano, dill or rosemary. For extra zip, spice it with coriander, cumin, curry powder or cayenne pepper. Up to three of these flavorings, along with salt and pepper, are enough to gently accent the fish’s taste. In the oven the fish acquires a light golden hue, but you might like to sprinkle a pale fish with paprika before cooking.
Here I use pistou, a popular accompaniment for fish in Provence. It’s a simple pesto of basil, garlic and olive oil, often--unlike its Italian cousin--without cheese, which might compete with the flavor of the sea. It also contains no ground nuts. Pistou’s color is brightest if you use it right away, but you can keep it for a day in the refrigerator.
Before roasting fish, measure its thickness to estimate cooking time. Most fish require 10 minutes an inch at a temperature of 425 to 450 degrees. Check the fish after seven or eight minutes, which may be long enough for some fish, such as salmon, if you like it medium (slightly pink in the center). When you’re buying fish, freshness is vital. Choose fish of good color that does not appear dry and does not smell fishy. Ask to have any scales removed. If the market sells only wrapped fish, check the “sell-by” date. Refrigerate the fish promptly and cook it by the next day.
Faye Levy is the author of “1,000 Jewish Recipes.”