Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pan-Seared Sea Bass with Olive Tapenade and Lemon Arugula

bass_websize.jpgWith the summer in full swing, I have been very keen on cooking simple flavorful meals with crisp and fresh flavors. I was inspired by one of Jamie Oliver's recipes in which he paired monkish with an olive salsa. Bass was the fish we had on hand though, so bass it was! I often turn to Jamie Oliver when I'm looking for great flavor combinations that transform into rustic and colorful dishes. Fish can however be a little tricky to cook, as fillets such as this one cook relatively fast and over-cook pretty fast too. Loyal to my culinary school knowledge, I crisped the fish skin in a hot skillet and finished the cooking in the oven. It turned out well, and the whole dish came together nicely. The rest of the olive tapenade was then used on crusty bread. I have been deliberately writing out my blog recipes more liberally than I used to. I find it difficult to set exact quantities of salt, or oil to be used. That depends on not only taste, but the size of your pan, the quantity of vegetable that you have on hand, the weight and thickness of the fish or meat that your are using etc. I have learned a lot about cooking by learning how to taste my food. I now taste my food constantly as I am cooking it to adjust seasoning and flavor. I have also learned to use ratios in the kitchen rather than exact quantities. For salad dressings for instance, the standard ratio is usually 3 parts fat to 1 part acidity. This ratio works for olive oil and vinegar dressings as it does for lemon and oil ones. Let me know if you have any comments on this new setup of recipes as I do intend them on being as clear as can be!
Recipe: (for 2)
2 bass fillets
Lemon juice
Salt and Pepper

Olive Tapenade:
A good handful of good quality black olives, finely diced
1/2 tomato, diced
1 tablespoon of capers, drained and sliced
Lemon juice
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
A handful of fresh oregano and basil, finely chopped

Arugula Salad:
A handful of arugula
Lemon juice
Salt and Pepper

Make the tapenade by mixing the olives, capers, herbs and tomatoes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Drizzle in some balsamic vinegar and lemon juice and taste again. Add a good drizzle of olive oil to bind all the ingredients together. You can also do this in a blender. Reserve.Preheat your oven to 400 F. Pat the fish dry. Season generously with salt and pepper. Heat a skillet to medium high heat and add some oil. Once the oil is hot, add the fish, skin side down, and press it down with a fish spatula to make it doesn't curl up and crisps evenly. Leave to cook for about 2-3 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. Shake the pan at times to make sure the fish does not stick. Once the skin has crisped and browned nicely, flip the fish over on the flesh side and cook for 30 seconds. Put the skillet in the oven and cook for 2-3 minutes until cooked through. The fish is done when it's flaky but still slightly bouncy to the touch.Toss the arugula with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. The ratio should be 3 to 1 with 3 parts olive oil to 1 part lemon. Serve the fish on top of the arugula and spoon over the tapenade. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy!

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