Fresh Fish Recipes Perfect for a Father’s Day Feast

Stuffed whole fish

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Celebrating a grill master this Father’s Day? We’ve partnered with Nikki Baxendale, founder of Literally Life, to see how to create fresh fish recipes perfect for a Father’s Day dinner.

This is part two of our Father’s Day series. Check back next week for part three.

Father’s Day carries its own traditions for many families. For the Kuesis family, one of their greatest traditions is fishing. Dan, Cindy, Max, Oreana and Finny Kuesis live on a lake in the beautiful town of Barrington, Ill., along with quite a few free-roaming chickens and ducks. It couldn’t be more idyllic.

After breakfast, Max taught my son Hudson some basic fishing skills, and both could be heard squealing with delight when Hudson made the first catch of the day. This will certainly be a memory both boys will hold as dear as their childhood friendship.

Lining fishing pole
Boy fishing
Boys fishing lake
Boys holding fish
Boys fresh catch

Watching the boys quietly passing the day, sharing the occasional secret joke,  I couldn’t help but wonder what this picture would be like years from now when the boys were grown and looking back, just as Dan does when he remembers sitting as a boy on the dock fishing with his best friend.

Boys fishing dock

I asked Dan why fishing was so special to him:

“There seem to be endless life lessons when you look at fishing. Probably the best thing it taught me is patience and persistence, and I feel this is one of the hardest things for them to develop in this fast-paced world. The kids now have their own tackle boxes and can spend hours showing each other their prized lure collections. I am glad that my whole family loves it as much as I do.”

Dad boys fishing
Showing off catches
Girls fishing
Kissing fish
Fishing lures

Preparing the Fresh Fish

With the fish safely back in the lake, it was time to share our Father’s Day gift with Dan and Mark. Cindy and I had invited head chef Vince and his sous chef Patrick from Zeal restaurant in Schaumburg, Ill., to offer some tricks of the trade and prepare a family fish feast.

To start off, Patrick took us through some basic fish preparation and shared some tips.

  • Allow for approximately two pounds of freshly caught fish per person.
  • When working with a fresh catch, have ice or ice water on hand to keep your fish super fresh unless you can refrigerate them immediately. The fish will be safe in ice water for two hours or in a refrigerator for up to four hours. Otherwise you must freeze them to maintain freshness.
  • When scaling, use a kitchen glove to avoid the sharp bits. Hold the tail firmly in one hand, angle your knife at 45 degrees and with the sharp side pointing toward you, scrape in long strokes down the fish body to remove the scales. Rinse the fish in cold water.
Cutting fish gills
Cutting fish
  • To gut the fish, start at the base right next to the tail fin. Insert the tip of your sharp knife, and run the blade as far as it will go up to the jawbone of the fish. Using your hands, pull out the internal parts and discard. The cavity should be completely clear.
  • Your fish is now ready for a nice bath. Using cold water and some freshly squeezed lemon juice, immerse your fish, gently running your hands over the outside and inside cavity to fully clean.

Serving a whole fish will be dramatic; however, this prep does take some practice. If you are not out camping, a good fresh fish merchant will happily provide these ready to cook.

Fresh Grilled Whole Fish Stuffed with Citrus Slices and Garnished with Charred Vegetables

Chef with fresh fish

I believe that when making a rustic dish, simple whole ingredients really look fabulous and taste even better. Your garnishes only taste as good as they are fresh, so try to select them from a good source (ideally your own garden), and pick on the day you prepare your feast.


  • 2 whole yellowtail snapper
  • 5 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • Cilantro to taste
  • 3 scallions
  • Sea salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 bunch of asparagus stalks
  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 red pepper
  • Arugula to garnish


Set grill to high and allow to preheat.

Now that your fish have been scaled, gutted and bathed, squeeze the juice of one lemon across the outside and inside of each cavity. With a sharp knife, score each fish about six to eight times on each side about 1/4 inch deep.
Slice one lemon for inside of each fish. Prepare cilantro and scallions. For scallions, remove the “mustache” end of the scallions, clean and slice lengthwise. Sprinkle inside cavity with a large pinch of sea salt and then place all prepared ingredients within.

Stuffing fish citrus

Drizzle exterior with olive oil and rub with sea salt and lemon zest. Don’t be shy here. You really want to encourage the flavors, so rub well. When finished, place the fish in your grill basket. Slice lemon and arrange halves in spaces around the fish.

Whole fish basket

Grill for approximately eight to 10 minutes on each side. You will want the fish to be white but still moist. At the same time, grill asparagus, zucchini and peppers. To add a little flaming theater and that great charred look to the fish, douse the grill with a little oil. If you plan on trying the same, please always use caution.

Stuffed fish grill

Once the fish are ready, display on a platter and squeeze with your charred lemons. For a side, toss scallions, charred asparagus, zucchini and peppers with arugula in sea salt, olive oil and a little juice from the charred lemons. 

Whole fish platter

The only thing left is to serve and enjoy! I adore this platter. With so many options for display and the true rustic feel it brings, it combines perfectly with our Father’s Day theme.

Grilled Yellowtail Snapper on a Bed of Quinoa with Peach Mango Salsa and Asparagus

Should you prefer to serve fillets rather than a whole fish, here is another delicious recipe that’s perfect for summer celebrations.

Ingredients – Peach Mango Salsa

  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 mango, diced
  • Peach, diced
  • 1/2 orange, diced
  • 1 teaspoon cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon parsley
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • Pinch crushed red peppers
  • 1/2 cup roasted corn

Instructions – Peach Mango Salsa

Dice all the ingredients and combine in a bowl. Tip: Prepare ahead of time to allow the flavors to evolve. This can be made the day before and will last a couple of days in the fridge.

Mango peach salsa

Ingredients – Grilled Yellowtail Snapper

  • 4 yellowtail snapper filets
  • Butter, melted
  • Lemon
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cracked pepper
  • Finely chopped parsley
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup red bell pepper
  • 1 cup squash
  • 1 cup zucchini
  • 1 cup asparagus

Instructions – Grilled Yellowtail Snapper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Prepare the quinoa and brown rice according to package instructions and allow to cool.

Brush fillets with butter. Add a squeeze of lemon, along with a pinch of salt and cracked pepper, and finely chopped parsley. Grill fish in oven for five to seven minutes on each side. At the same time, grill red pepper, squash, zucchini and asparagus.

Combine cup of diced red pepper, squash and zucchini with quinoa and rice. Mix together and arrange as a bed on your serving dish. Place grilled fish, top with a generous scoop of peach mango salsa and finish with asparagus.

Eating fish dinner

Vince’s Fish and Chip Sticks

Girls eating fish chip sticks

These were simply brilliant and tasted fantastic! Growing up in England where every Friday was fish and chips night, I was thrilled to see a contemporary version that my children could enjoy, and I could make easily for them.

Homemade Tartar Sauce


  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon sweet relish
  • Lemon
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

Instructions – Fish and Chip Sticks

Simply take mayonnaise, and stir in sweet relish, squeeze of lemon, sprinkle of salt and pepper, and paprika for color. Mix and chill.

Ingredients – Fish and Chip Sticks

  • Bamboo skewers, presoaked
  • 4 Chunky cod fillets, cut into strips approximately 1.5 inches by 3 inches
  • 4 Egg whites
  • All purpose flour
  • 4 cups O’Brien potatoes (small diced potatoes, baked until edges are browning)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Using chunky pieces of cod, cut approximately 3 inch by 1.5 inch chunks and insert a bamboo skewer into each strip. Roll skewer in a tray of flour and then roll in a bath of egg whites. Repeat, then roll and coat skewers in O’Brien-style potatoes.

Spray heavy skillet with vegetable oil and bake cod for 15 minutes. Serve with a smear of homemade tartar sauce, and watch for the smiles!

Fish chip sticks

Julienne Refresher Salad

Julienne vegetable salad

When thinking of sides, my idea was to contrast the drama of a simple rustic fish dish with a delicate and fresh julienne salad. This recipe uses a delicious drizzled lime and yogurt dressing.


  • 1 cucumber, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise
  • Asparagus stalks, sliced lengthwise
  • Scallions, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Pinch of ground black pepper


Mix together Greek yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, sea salt and ground black pepper. Set aside.

Slicing vegetables salad

Using a mandoline, cut wide, long slices of cucumber and zucchini. Using a peeler, slice asparagus and trimmed scallions lengthwise. Arrange on a platter and drizzle with the yogurt dressing. Serve.

Rainbow Pasta Salad

Rainbow pasta salad

Kids just love this one. It’s so pretty!


  • 2 cups bowtie pasta
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh spinach, chopped
  • Sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon ginger rice wine vinegar or red wine vinegar


After cooking your pasta, rinse under cool water immediately. To prevent further cooking, transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Combine olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice and toss with the pasta. Refrigerate until ready to use. You can make this the nigh before, and it actually tastes better the next day.

When ready to serve, combine garlic, sprinkle of sea salt, ginger rice wine vinegar (or simply a red wine vinegar) and toss with pasta, spinach and tomato. Drain any excess juices.

Top with julienne red pepper strands for color and a few leaves of fresh parsley.

Curly Carrot Salad

Curly carrot salad


  • 6 rainbow carrots, sliced lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Japanese ginger vinegar
  • Lemon zest
  • Lemon juice
  • Crushed black pepper
  • Sea salt
  • Mini sweet peppers
  • Scallions, sliced lengthwise


Using a mandoline, finely slice rainbow carrots and scallions lengthwise. Place in a colander and immerse in an ice bath for about two minutes, which will create the curl on your carrots.

Cutting curly carrots

Toss the carrots in a mixed dressing of  1/4 cup olive oil, two tablespoons Japanese ginger vinegar, sprinkle of lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice, crushed black pepper and sea salt dressing. Arrange on your serving plate, with sliced scallions and a sprinkle of mini sweet peppers.

Rustic Lemon Mandoline Tart with Lavender Crème Fraîche

Lemon mandolin tart

There couldn’t be a more perfect way to end this feast than a delicious citrus tart. I have made this recipe so many times, and it never ceases to delight. The real zing of the lemon contrasted with the salted shortbread is divine. I love to pair it with an exquisite lavender crème and display on a rustic platter.

Ingredients – Lavender Crème Fraîche

  • 1 cup crème fraîche
  • 1 teaspoon agave syrup
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried lavender blossom
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions – Lavender Crème Fraîche

In a heavy pan, simmer 1/2 cup of crème fraîche. Remove from heat.

Sprinkle in lavender. Cover and allow the flavors to evolve for 30 minutes.

Using a fine mesh sieve strain the blossoms from the crème mixture and chill for a couple of hours.

In a large bowl, fold in the remaining 1/2 cup of crème fraîche with chilled mixture. Add agave syrup and vanilla extract and beat until glossy peaks form. Spoon into individual bowls and garnish with a lavender blossom.

Lavender creme fraiche

Ingredients – Salted Shortbread Crust

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons fine salt
  • 3/4 cup room temperature, unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

Ingredients – Tart Mandoline Lemon Filling

  • 3 to 4 Meyer lemons
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2/3 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Spray 9-inch quiche dish with coconut spray or nonstick spray of your choice.

When making the crust first, combine flour, corn starch and salt in a bowl. Add in diced butter and confectioners’ sugar. Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, combine on low for two minutes until it resembles large bread crumbs. Pour mixture into dish and press to form a smooth compact crust, allowing edges to form around the dish. Bake in oven for approximately 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, thinly slice lemons using a mandoline, removing any seeds. In another bowl, mix honey, lemon zest and sugar.

Arrange a layer of lemon slices in a bowl and spoon part of the sugar mixture over the top, repeat with another layer of lemons and then sugar mix until all are used. Leave this mixture to rest until the honey mixture has dissolved. Cover and refrigerate.

Just before you remove the crust from the oven, finish the filling. Whisk eggs and egg yolks together to combine. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt and cornstarch. Mix eggs into cornstarch mixture, then whisk in your lemon juice and follow with chilled lemon slice mixture.

Remove shortbread crust from the oven as it is just browning and pour in the filling. Lower oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Serve with individual bowls of lavender crème fraîche. Then garnish each bowl with a spring of lavender for a delicious summer fresh dessert.

Eating lemon tart

Watching the sun set and being with our lifelong friends, this really is a Father’s Day we will never forget!

Boys fishing

For more grill recipes to try this Father’s Day, check out the Crate and Barrel Grill and BBQ Recipes Pinterest board.


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