By Chef Ignacio Lopez of The Merchant in Boston
Striped Bass and heirloom tomatoes are two of the hallmarks of summer, brought together here for a dish that’s bright and bursting with flavor.
For Red Wine Vinaigrette
1 large shallot, peeled and minced
Leaves from 4 sprigs fresh thyme, lightly chopped
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Juice of one lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup canola oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the Salad
4-6 ounces of mixed tomatoes per person
½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half
½ red onion, peeled and sliced thin
2 Fresno peppers (or Anaheim pepper), sliced thin, seeds removed
½ cup of good quality feta cheese, buy whole and then crumble
Leaves from 6 sprigs of fresh oregano
4 handfuls of mixed greens (may use other greens like arugula, romaine, or bibb lettuce)
2 tablespoons capers for garnish
Thyme flowers for garnish (optional)
For the Striped Bass:
1 lb skin-on striped bass fillet
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
For the red wine vinaigrette:
Place minced shallots and thyme in a small mixing bowl. Sprinkle with a touch of kosher salt and let stand for 15 minutes. Add mustard, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar. Mix well. Slowly add canola oil while whisking, then add extra virgin olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning.
For the striped bass:
Pat fish dry on both sides with a paper towel. Check on the sides of the fish for any bones and remove them. Cut the bass into desired portion sizes.
Using a very sharp knife, score hash marks on the skin of the bass, making sure that only the skin is scored. This will ensure an even crispy skin. If you don’t want the skin, remove it now. Season both sides with salt and freshly ground white pepper.
For the salad:
Using wide dinner plates, arrange the tomatoes on the plates.
A note about tomatoes: Use tomatoes that are ripe, but not over-ripe. Use a mix for varying textures and flavor. Slice the large ones thin to cover the plate, and quarter others to place on top. Always remove the core from large tomatoes (the part where the tomato attaches to the plant). Use tomatoes that are room temperature - the fruit tastes better that way. Once on the plate, season the tomatoes with kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Place greens separately in a medium mixing bowl.
To cook fish and assemble:
Place a large skillet on the stovetop (largest burner) and set the flame to high heat. You may use a non-stick pan.
Put a couple of tablespoons of canola oil in pan (or any other oil with a high smoke point).
Once the pan has reached the smoke point (slight bit of smoke rising out of pan) gently place bass fillets in pan, skin side down. (If not using the skin, then place topside down.) The pan needs to be hot enough to get a nice brown color on the fish and, if using cast iron or a stainless-steel pan, it will prevent it from sticking.
Cook the fish on the skin side until a nice golden-brown delicious color is reached, about 5 minutes. The skin should be crispy.
Gently turn fillets over and continue cooking until just cooked through, another 3 to 4 minutes. The skin of the fish is nutrient-rich, and when cooked properly, can provide a crunchy texture and amazing flavor.
While fish is cooking, garnish the tomatoes with salt and pepper, red onions, dressing (reserve some for greens), olives, feta, peppers and oregano, in that order.
Once fish is almost cooked, dress greens, mix well, and place on plate.
Finish by placing fish on the plate.
Garnished with capers and thyme flowers, if you have them.