How to Cook Sea Bass

Black bass is in season, a great perch-like fish! Also known as sea bass, blackfish, rock bass, and tallywag, in Massachusetts it is a very sustainable fish. Caught by our local fishermen, it is usually just hours out of the water when we get it.

It’s hard to recommend a sustainable fish if you are not near a dock that brings in fresh fish, because some fish travels so far from where it has been landed. Even here on Martha’s Vineyard, the fish markets have most of their fish coming from great distances, off the large rigs that create havoc in our world of sustainable fisheries.

If you live in Massachusetts, black bass is a great CATCH! But go to Rhode Island and all of the black bass is coming off the big trawlers. It’s so hard to know and choose. Talk to your fishmonger and ask questions.

Black bass ranges in size from 3/4 of a pound to 2 pounds. I like to leave the skin on and briefly sear on the skin side so it’s nice and crispy. Other times I throw the whole cleaned fish on a skillet and cook it on both sides. Yes, it has bones— but oh, it’s so fun to eat.

Sea Bass Fillets
Heat a cast iron skillet or heavy pan and pour in 3 Tbsp. olive oil.
Add fish fillets, skin side down, and cook for about 3-4 minutes (depending on the size of the fish).
Flip the fish and cook 2-8 more minutes, until it is translucent.
Garnish with fennel fronds.

Summer Sauce for Sea Bass
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped fennel
4-5 fresh tomatoes (dropped in boiling water for 1 minute and peeled), chop into small pieces, juice reserved
1/2 cup chopped basil
1/4 olivesIn a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil.
Add the onions and fennel and cook for about four minutes, until just soft.
Add the tomatoes and their juice, basil and olives and allow to cook for about 10 to 12 minutes.
Place the cooked fish on top of the fresh tomato sauce.

I love this with a good fresh salad of romaine lettuce and corn, with maybe some green beans or zucchini and a lime dressing.

Summer Salad
Look for local organic corn on the cob. Shuck the corn and cut the kernels off.
Heat 2 Tbsp. of oil in a pan and cover the bottom of the pan with kernels—not too many—and cook for just a minute or two, until the corn turns a bright yellow. Do not overcook!
If using zucchini, slice in 1” pieces and sauté in a pan for two minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool. I love zucchini that is just a tad undercooked. Sprinkle with salt and/or za’atar.
Spread some Romaine lettuce leaves out on a platter and sprinkle with the corn, beans or zucchini and fresh parsley or chives, and drizzle with the dressing.

Summer Dressing (I always make a batch of this, as it will keep a week in the fridge)
1 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
4 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
6 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lime juice
2 Tbsp. minced shallots
2 tsp. dijon mustard
Put everything together in a glass jar and with the lid securely on, shake well.

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