Garlic Basil Mahi Mahi on the Grill

Some friends created a recipe-sharing group on Facebook a while ago, and it’s been a great resource, especially when I’ve been stuck on a particular food bent, or when I’ve simply been feeling uninspired to make dinner. As frequently happens in these types of online food communities, certain recipes seem to gain celebrity status – everyone has to give them a try! One of those recipes for this group is Jamie Oliver’s Tender and Crisp Chicken Legs with Sweet Tomatoes.

It’s a truly delicious recipe and I love making it. The recipe calls for tomatoes and basil, as well as 90 minutes of oven time. This is an issue for me because tomatoes and basil are summer produce, but summer around here means a “cool” day is when it gets down to 90 degrees. So, I am not going to be running my oven. But in the cooler weather months when I don’t mind baking, basil and tomatoes are not nearly as readily available or as good. I thought I’d come up with a version that I could make on the grill that captures the basic flavors of this recipe without needing the oven.


Isn’t this the epitome of summer bounty?


Enter mahi mahi. While it’s not exactly chicken, it picks up flavors well and is easy to cook. I like buying it frozen from Trader Joe’s. It’s cheap and can live in my freezer until I’m ready for it.


God bless Trader Joes.

First, make an aluminum foil bed for everything on top of a rimless baking sheet. I like to fold up the sides of the foil twice, like making a hem, so the juices don’t leak.

If you're smart, you'd also think ahead to add your wrapping foil under everything now. I wasn't smart.

If you’re smart, you’d also think ahead to add your wrapping foil under everything now. I wasn’t smart.

I also changed the recipe by adding summer squash. You can guess what grows well in my neglected, drought-affected garden: tomatoes and squash. I didn’t even intentionally plant the tomatoes this year; they just grew as volunteers from previous years’ crops. The yellow pear and red cherry tomatoes go right from my garden into the tin foil bed after a quick rinse, whole. The squash was chopped into hefty fork-size pieces.


You’ll need a lot of aluminum foil.

Then I add the garbanzo beans and fish. You might be thinking that the beans are weird. They are not. They are the favorite part of the dish for my picky eaters! They get this wonderful crispy texture and pick up all the flavors of the dish. (Cannellini beans also work well, but tend to disintegrate more.)


Salt and pepper are a must.

Last, on go the whole, peeled garlic cloves and basil leaves, pushing them down in between the fish pieces, and then add a drizzle of olive oil. The garlic cloves will practically melt by the time this is over, so don’t hold back.


Don’t be shy with the garlic! It mellows!

I took two more long pieces of foil and put them under the main tray, perpendicular, and wrapped everything up at the top. What would have been smarter is prepping the long pieces of foil in the first step, but I didn’t think about that. Oh well. No biggie.

Foil ready to wrap

Foil ready to wrap

Then it’s time to transfer to indirect heat on my preheated grill. The rimless baking sheet makes all the difference in carrying this huge thing.

The huuuuuuge foil burrito

The huuuuuuge foil burrito

After about 20-30 minutes, check for doneness. The fish should be cooked through and the veggies should be soft. The tomatoes cook down into a sauce, the garlic turns into a melty, spreadable, mild treat and the beans get crispy and tasty.

Don’t panic! The basil turns dark.

So in the midst of me making dinner tonight, my husband was buying our family’s flights to visit Thailand and Cambodia. The opportunity to go there came up for the first time yesterday afternoon and today we bought the tickets. Crazy. We’ll be going with a toddler and a first-grader. It’s going to be insane. I’m excited-terrified. Anyway, the reason I mention this interesting turn of events is that I was distracted and ended up cooking everything a bit too hot and too long. Don’t be like me. Plan your vacations well before you buy tickets.


Straight out of the grill.

The fact that the dish was a bit overly cooked didn’t stop us, though. I plated up our portions…

So pretty, right? I wish you could smell this.

So pretty, right? I wish you could smell this.

And within minutes, almost the entire meal was consumed. This is the foil with the burnt bits of veggies sticking to the bottom.

Can you tell how every bean was picked up?

Can you tell how every bean was picked up?

So there you have it. Our group describes the original recipe as Leg-en-dary, and I hope that the basic flavors are still in this one, without the need to heat up the oven.

Garlic Basil Mahi Mahi on the Grill
  • 16 oz fresh cherry tomatoes or any assorted small tomato, washed, any remaining stems removed
  • 2-3 large zucchini or other summer squash, quartered and sliced into chunks
  • 1 can garbanzo beans (or cannellini beans), drained and rinsed
  • 1 package (approx 3 lbs) mahi mahi, defrosted
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 8-12 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1-2 cups basil leaves
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  1. Preheat grill to 350, prepare for indirect heat.
  2. Lay a large piece of foil on a rimless baking sheet. Fold up edges slightly to make a tray. Add two long pieces of foil underneath, perpendicular, to wrap up everything later.
  3. Layer the tomatoes, squash, and beans onto the foil. Add the fish and generously season with salt and pepper. Evenly distribute the garlic cloves, pushing them a bit down into the nooks and crannies. Distribute the basil leaves and push them down. Drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Fold up the loose foil to make a packet, sealing gently at the top. Transfer to grill.
  5. Check for doneness after 20-30 minutes. Cook longer as needed. When the fish is flaky, remove from grill by sliding the rimless baking sheet under the foil (wear potholders).


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Posted in: Food projects