Chris Schlesinger & John Willoughby
(more info)

Grilled Orange-Cumin Mahi Mahi with Smoky Summer Vegetable Hash

from License to Grill (William Morrow and Company, 1997)

Mahi mahi, aka dolphinfish ( but no relation to the Flipper variety of dolphin) is a true grilling fish. The slightly pink flesh is sweet and mild, and the large- flaked texture holds up extremely well to the grilling process. Although mahi is thought of as a tropical fish, many are landed along the East Coast during the summer months. This independent fish doesn't travel in schools, and is caught with hook and line rather than nets.

In this recipe, the cumin helps form a crusty, flavorfully crisp exterior, which is set up by the tender vegetables that are grilled and then chopped up in a hash-like concoction. If you can't locate mahi mahi, you can substitute steaks of mackerel, tuna, bluefish, mako shark, pompano, or swordfish, adjusting the cooking time accordingly.

Serves 4

  • 2 ears corn, husked, desilked, in blanched in boiling salted water for 2 minutes, and drained
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1-inch planks
  • 2 medium summer squash, cut lengthwise into 1-inch planks
  • 1 red onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch rings
  • 1 red bell pepper, halved and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
  • 5 to 7 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 4 8-ounce mahi mahi steaks, about 1 inch thick
  • Zest of 1 orange (orange part only), removed in strips and minced
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1. Put the corn, zucchini, summer squash, onion, and bell pepper into a medium bowl along with the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste and toss well to coat the vegetables. Lay the vegetables out on the grill over a medium-hot fire and, as they brown, flip them over; turn the corn several times. When each vegetable is nicely browned and cooked through, pull off the grill. You should count on 3 to 4 minutes per side for the bell pepper; 4 to 5 minutes per side for the zucchini, summer squash, and onions; and 5 to 7 minutes for the corn.

2. As soon as the vegetables are cool enough to handle, cut the corn kernels off the cob and cut all the other vegetables into bite-sized chunks. Combine all of the vegetables in a bowl, add the garlic, cilantro, oregano, lime juice and Tabasco, toss well, set aside.

3. Sprinkle the mahi mahi with salt and pepper to taste. In a small bowl combine the orange zest, cumin, and vegetable oil and mix well. Coat the mahi generously with this mixture and grill over the medium-hot fire for 5 to 6 minutes per side. To check for doneness: Cut into one of the mahi steaks and peek inside; it should be opague with no pink. Remove the fish from the fire. Put a generous helping of the vegetable hash on each plate, top with a mahi steak, and serve warm.


Chris Schlesinger grew up in Virginia and, at age eighteen, dropped out of school to wash dishes. He soon graduated to fry cook, went on to receive his formal training at the Culinary Institute of America, and subsequently cooked in restaurants ranging from Hawaiian burger joints to New England's finest dining rooms. In 1985, he and partner Cary Wheaton opened the East Coast Grill in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in 1987, they opened Jake and Earl's Dixie Barbecue next door.

John Willoughby was born and raised in Iowa and graduated form Harvard University in 1970. He has worked as a community organizer, legal services advocate, health administrator and free-lance writer in the Boston area, and for three years worked part-time with Chris Schlesinger in the kitchen of the East Coast Grill. He has published articles about food in several national magazines and is the feature writer for Cook's Magazine.


   Published: 1999