One of my absolute favorite summer flavor pairings is fresh herbs with a sweet, white fleshed fish like sea bass. For this dish I was inspired by Italian salsa verde, or “green sauce.” This last minute sauce is perfect for basic pan-seared fish. I picked sea bass because I wanted a special treat (sea bass is pricey, but so worth it), but you could make this dish with any white fish like halibut or cod.
My recipe was influenced by the salsa verde lesson in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers. This book is great for learning to cook intuitively. The Zuni Cafe Cookbook includes several variations of herb sauce such as chimichurri, gremolata, and pesto. I encourage you to explore them all.
I hope you enjoy this flavorful, healthy, satisfying dish. Don’t be intimidated by the ingredients list. Once you’ve got everything ready (mis en place) the meal comes together quickly. Serve the fish over cooked black quinoa for a striking visual presentation. —la domestique
For the salsa verde
chopped fresh parsley
capers, rinsed and chopped
finely chopped preserved lemon rind
crushed red pepper flakes
extra-virgin olive oil
For the sea bass and cherry tomatoes
olive oil, plus more for cooking the fish
clove garlic, smashed
sea bass fillet portions (5-7 ounces each at about 1 1/2 inches thick)
Make the salsa verde by combining the parsley, basil, capers, shallot, lemon rind, crushed red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Pour the extra-virgin olive oil over the mixture, stir, and taste for seasoning. Add more salt, a pinch at a time, until it tastes right. Put the salsa verde in an airtight container and set aside until ready to use. Do not refrigerate as this will dull the flavors. The salsa verde should be made within an hour of the time you plan to serve it. Leftovers can be refrigerated.
Sautée the cherry tomatoes. Cut the larger tomatoes in half, but leave the smaller tomatoes whole. Heat olive 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium sized skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot but not smoking, toss in the crushed garlic clove and allow it to infuse the oil with flavor for a minute. Add all the tomatoes to the hot skillet with a bit of freshly ground pepper and a pinch of salt. Turn the heat down to medium. Cook, shaking the skillet occasionally, until the tomatoes are hot, wrinkled, and the mixture is simmering (about 10 minutes).
Meanwhile, cook the sea bass. Pour olive oil to cover the bottom of a medium sautée pan and turn the heat to medium-high. Pat the sea bass dry with paper towels and season with salt. Once the oil is very hot but not smoking place the fish fillets in the pan. Cook for about 4 minutes, until the underside is crisp and golden, then flip the sea bass to cook the other side. It should take about 2 minutes to finish cooking the fish. The flesh should be uniformly firm and a skewer inserted in the center of the fillet should come out warm to the touch; do not overcook.
Serve the sea bass over black quinoa, surrounded by the sautéed cherry tomatoes. Spoon the salsa verde atop the fish and place extra sauce at the table.