Karl’s Balık Izgara Lettuce Cups (Turkish Grilled Fish)

I, and my family, do not listen to NPR radio when we are at home, only when we are driving. As we listen to the shows, there are frequently little bits of factoids that must be shared with the rest of the family, usually over dinner. Those conversations always start, “Driving along listening to NPR….”

Karl’s Balık Izgara Letuce Cups (Turkish Grilled Fish)

Karl’s Balık Izgara Letuce Cups
(Turkish Grilled Fish)

Yesterday I took the girls, Eilene and the French girl, to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Driving back to San Jose listening to NPR’s All Things Considered, Peter Kenyon talked about Turkish grilled fish. I was not listening too closely, the traffic was heavy, but Eilene was. She issued the challenge, “make that!”

There were many recipes for grilled fish, but I finally decided that I would go for simplicity. A little olive oil, salt and real charcoal (rather than brickets) would all I would use for this dish.  Marinades, spices or other additions would only detract from the clean flavor of grilled fish.

I had a thought to make balik ekmek, grilled fish sandwich, but I was also planning to make kisir, Turkish tabbouleh. I needed to buy lettuce for that dish. I thought, instead of another starch, what if I make the twist of using lettuce cups? It seemed like a good idea to me. Jan and Chris are contaminating me with healthy living.

Karl’s Balık Izgara Lettuce Cups (Tutkish Grilled Fish)


2-3 lb. whole fish (sea bream, bass, bluefish, etc.)
2 pinches Flor de Sal
1 Tbs. olive oil

1- 20 lettuce cups
1 tsp. salt in a small bowl
1 lemon wedge per person


1. Clean, gut and scale the fish.

Tip: Do not remove the head.

Note: Today the striped bass looked good in Lion Market.

2. Rub salt on the inside and outside of the fish.

Tip: Normally I would use Kosher salt, but it did not seem appropriate for a Turkish fish.

3. Rub olive oil on the inside and outside of the fish.

4. Clean and oil the grill so that the fish does not stick.

5. Lay a hot bed of coals and push them to the back of the grill.

Tip: You want to have the rest of your meal ready before you start grilling your fish. You want your fish hot and crisp. If you tent the fish with foil to keep it warm it will turn soggy and unappealing.

6. Lay the fish with the head closest to the coals, but not directly over them.

7. Grill for about ten minutes (per inch).

Tip: Keep a close watch during the last five minutes. You want to be ready to flip the fish before it burns.

8. Loosen the skin that has stuck to grill and gently roll the fish over.

Tip: Slide the loosened fish away from the coals before you role the fish so that it does not end up directly over the coals.

9. Grill for another 5-10 minutes.

Tip: Do not wander off at this point. You want to remove the fish from the heat before it burns.

10. Serve immediately with lettuce cups, salt and lemon wedges on the side.

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Filed under Main Dishes, Seafood

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