I had been admiring this Black Sea Bass recipe from Gourmet (RIP) since it was published one year ago. It looked elegant and sophisticated; the perfect dish for an intimate summer dinner gathering. But when I eagerly walked up to the fish counter at Wholefoods, there was no Black Sea Bass to be found. Trying not to feel defeated, I asked the fish guys behind the counter which fish might be a suitable replacement. They pointed to a white fish with black skin labeled “MSC- Certified Chilean Sea Bass.” It looked a lot like the fish in the picture I’d been admiring for a year, so despite the fact it was basically out of my price range, I had to buy some. I mean, if you’re going to make something, make it right.
This dish was truly exquisite and not too complicated. I served it, as suggested with the rice with fennel and golden raisins recipe from the same July 2009 issue of Gourmet. It was one of those self-esteem boosting dinners where you think, “Wow, I made this and it’s awesome.” However, when I told people I’d made Chilean Sea Bass, they looked horrified. Apparently it’s an endangered species. I was mortified. Why would they sell an endangered species at Wholefoods? As it turns out, Chilean Sea Bass, also known as Toothfish, are in severe decline from rampant illegal overfishing. The MSC (Marine Stewardship Counsel) certification, however, indicates that the fish was farmed in a well-managed “sustainable” fishery near Antarctica. If you’re going to get Chilean Sea Bass make sure it’s MSC certified. In general, I would stick to Black Sea Bass as it is sustainable and what the original recipe calls for.
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
- 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 pound grape tomatoes (preferably mixed colors), halved if large
- 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes (preferably mixed colors), quartered if large
- 12 Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
- 4 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped oregano
- 4 (6-to 8-ounce) black sea bass fillets with skin, any pin bones removed
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 6 (3-to 4-inch) oregano sprigs
Mince and mash garlic to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in anchovy paste, vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Whisk in oil. Toss with remaining salad ingredients. Let stand, stirring occasionally, while fish roasts.
Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle. Oil a 1 1/2-to 2-quart gratin or other shallow baking dish.
Rub flesh sides of fish with 2 teaspoons oil (total) and season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper (total). Divide onion slices and oregano sprigs into 2 portions and sandwich each portion between 2 fillets, skin sides out. Score skin on top in several places with a sharp knife and drizzle with remaining 4 teaspoons oil.
Roast fish until just cooked through, about 15 minutes. Cut off string and cut sandwiched fillets in half crosswise. Serve topped with salad.
Rice with Fennel and Golden Raisins
- 1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
- 1 large fennel bulb (stalks discarded), chopped (2 cups)
- 1/3 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup medium- or long-grain white rice
- 2 cups water
Cook onion and fennel with raisins, fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in oil in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add water and bring to a vigorous boil. Tightly cover and cook over low heat, undisturbed, until water is absorbed, about 22 minutes.