Last month my father-in-law went on a fishing trip to Alaska with some friends and family. He fished daily on lakes, rivers and in the ocean for a few days and stayed in a cabin. It wasn’t until his photos started coming through via text that I realized just how amazing this trip really was.
It looked like this most mornings, he said. And then there are the fish.
The largest Halibut in this photo weighed in at 164 pounds.
My father-in-law, Dennis, is on the left, behind Ling cod, black rock fish and orange roughy that was the catch that day.
Another shot of those huge halibut.
So naturally, when we were in Red Cloud last weekend, we brought home a selection of the catch: Salmon, orange roughy, sea bass, ling cod and plain cod. We’ve already tried the halibut — amazing — and the sea bass, which I decided to share here. It’s a beautiful fish with a spotty skin and each hunk we brought home turns into four or sometimes five filets.
I’ve prepared it simply, starting it in a skillet and either finishing it there or in the oven, and topping it with fresh, seasonal ingredients: zucchini, a roasted pepper and tomato sauce made with locally grown vegetables and potatoes from my husband’s grandfather’s garden in Red Cloud. The fish is firm and flavorful. I think I might have liked the halibut a bit more than this sea bass, but this recipe would be good with almost any kind of fish. It allows the protein to sing against the other fresh ingredients.
Sea Bass with Warm Vegetable Salad
For the fish
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
5 5-ounce skinless sea bass fillets
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
For the sauce
8 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for baking sheet
8 ounces plum tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
1 red bell pepper (12 ounces), quartered lengthwise and seeded
4 medium cloves garlic
Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
For the salad
8 ounces new potatoes, scrubbed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 ounces zucchini, cut into 1/4-by-3-inch matchstick strips
4 ounces haricots verts, trimmed
4 ounces broccoli florets
1. Start the sauce
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet. Combine the tomatoes, red pepper, and garlic on prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with 6 tablespoons oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to combine. Roast until vegetables are soft, and brown around the edges, 45 to 50 minutes. Squeeze garlic pulp from skins; discard skins. I roasted the sauce ingredients in a counter top roaster oven, and used my regular oven to start step two. You could cook the sauce and the potatoes together in the same oven if that’s not an option.
2. While sauce is cooking, make the salad
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place potatoes in a large baking dish. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast until golden and tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, keep warm.
Put a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a skillet and cook zucchini until tender. Remove from pan and repeat with haricot vert and broccoli. I tossed a half cup or so of water in with the beans and the broccoli, put a lid on the skillet, and quick steamed both. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper, toss, cover, and set aside.
3. Finish the sauce
Transfer vegetables to the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add vegetable mixture, thyme, and vinegar and cook until heated through. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
4. Cook the fish
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet. Dry fish with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Place in pan skin-side down. Cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn, and cook until golden brown and medium-to-medium-rare in the center, about 5 minutes more.
To serve, Place a spoonful of sauce and some warm vegetable salad in the center of each plate. Top with a piece of fish. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with pepper.
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living magazine