The best summer cooking, perhaps just the best cooking, is simple. Delicious goes without saying.
The easy way to hit these marks is by starting with the best local ingredients. However, fish is often an exception I make to using local ingredients.
Fortunately, thanks to fish farming in various parts of the United States, there is increasingly more local choice. Barramundi, a mild and meaty fish originally from Australia, is now farmed in western Massachusetts, close enough to qualify as local. Some tilapia comes from Virginia and Arkansas. Monterey Bay Aquarium Sea Watch declares all domestically raised tilapia a Best Choice.
And last week, I bought orata, aka sea bream and daurade, farmed on Long Island, New York. It was the freshest, sweetest, best fish I have ever had short of catching it myself.
Trout is a great fish to cook simply. Can't catch your own? Trout is farmed in about 25 states, including by small producers who bring their fish to local farmers markets.
To see how good a simple dish can be - there are 4 ingredients and prep time is 5 minutes - liberally season trout with black pepper, top it with lemon slices and bake it in your oven or on the outdoor grill.
The thin lemon slices and pepper create true lemon-pepper flavor. I recommend using organic lemons if you can and slicing them thinly using your sharpest knife. On an outdoor grill, be sure to use indirect heat.
American Institute for Cancer Research
Lemon Baked Trout
•Olive or canola oil cooking spray
•4 4-ounce trout filets,
•Freshly ground black pepper
•2 to 3 Meyer lemons
Set rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Or, preheat gas or charcoal grill to medium-hot and prepare for cooking with indirect heat.
Lay large sheet of heavy-duty foil over large baking sheet. Coat lightly with cooking spray. Arrange trout filets on foil, spacing about 1-inch apart and leaving at least 2 inches around edges. Coat fish lightly with cooking spray. Sprinkle each filet with a pinch of salt and 5 or 6 grinds of pepper.
Cut off an end of a lemon and slice into the thin slices. Using the tip of the knife, flick the seeds out of each slice. Arrange 3 to 4 lemon slices down the center of each trout filet, overlapping them slightly. Lay another sheet of foil over fish and roll edges together to seal fish.
Bake trout for 15 to 20 minutes, or until fish is opaque and flakes easily at thickest point.
If using an outdoor grill, slide packet with fish onto grill and later slide it back onto baking sheet to help lift off grill.
To serve, transfer each filet to a dinner plate. Encourage diners to eat lemon slices with the fish.
Nutrition information per serving: 170 calories, 6 g fat (2 g sat fat), 7 g carbohydrates, 24 g protein 3 g fiber, 42 mg sodium.