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Whole fish are easy enough for a child to make—I know because that’s when I first cooked one. After fishing with my dad, I’d stuff the trout we caught with lemon slices and throw it in the hot oven. This version isn’t much more complex. Have the fish gutted and scaled at the store and, once home, coat the skin with oil and spices, which will roast into a very savory crust. A medley of vegetables in and under the fish turns into a natural side dish, making this a one-pan meal that you can walk away from while it’s roasting. You really don’t need anything else to make this a complete dinner, but good crusty bread or steamed rice never hurt.
Limon omani gives great acidity to the fish without adding extra liquid. Its tartness is complemented by garlic and bay leaves, along with the grassy freshness of savory and the rounded heat of Aleppo pepper.
4 to 6
Lior Lev Sercarz, from "Mastering Spice" by Lior Lev Sercarz
1 whole limon omani (dried Persian lime; 4 grams)
4 whole dried bay leaves
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons dried garlic slices (8 grams)
1 teaspoon dried savory (1 gram)
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (2 grams)
2 whole white fish (1 pound each), such as branzino, sea bass, dorade, or orata, gutted and scaled
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 large shallots, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 fennel bulb, halved, cored, and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
Lemon wedges, for serving
Crack and crush the limon omani into smaller pieces by pressing it against a cutting board with your palm, then transfer the pieces to a spice grinder along with the bay leaves and garlic. Finely grind them together and immediately mix with the whole savory and Aleppo.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Using a sharp knife, cut four or five 2-inch-long, 1⁄2-inch-deep slits on both sides of each fish. Drizzle and rub oil all over the fish to coat both sides. Sprinkle the spice blend all over the fish and inside their cavities.
Stuff some of the shallot and fennel slices inside the fish cavities. Put the tomatoes and remaining shallots and fennel in a small roasting pan, half sheet pan, or shallow baking dish. Generously drizzle with oil, season with salt, toss to coat, and spread in an even layer. Season the fish evenly with salt and place on top of the vegetables.
Roast until the flesh is opaque (you can tell if the flesh is opaque by peeking into the slits) and the blade of a paring knife inserted into the thickest part and removed feels warm when you touch it to your lips, about 25 minutes. Let the fish rest for a few minutes, then serve with the vegetables and lemon wedges for squeezing over the fish.