Whiting salad or whiting with lemon and oil goes back to the old days of the Italian American Kitchen. Whiting salad made frequent appearances on the summer Food Table along with its alternate, conch salad. While the conch came from the beach in front of our house and which we collected ourselves, the whiting came from the docks at Cold Spring Harbor. For fishermen, whiting was a throw away. I think they just gave them to us. In my memory, I see them being thrown from the boats to the dock, free for the taking. My brother, who is a Charleston weekend fisherman, tells me that whiting are little more than trash fish. The other time that was had whiting salad was for Christmas Eve dinner. This is the dinner that these days is commonly called the Dinner of the Seven Fishes. Curious to tell, no Italian I know ever called it that.Christmas Eve dinner had no special name. But it did have a very special menu: fish, fish and more fish in every possible preparation. Whiting salad was always the very first course.
I’ve tried to research the whiting salad I recall from childhood. I went to Google Italy and many other sites. I went through every cookbook I have including Pasternack, Bastianich and Ripert but with no results. Even Clifford Wright’s epic “A Mediterranean Feast” does not mention whiting.
What I have set out in this recipe is based entirely on childhood memories. Whiting is a very, very mild fish. In many respects, I think the whiting is more a vehicle for enjoying the olive oil and lemon. White fish salad is a wonderful and simple first course. I think it might also go well with pickled vegetables such as cornichons or beets.
Garnish and Serve
Garnish or red onion, olive oil and chives.