Our series, Hooked: Newlyweds in the Kitchen, is where Boston-based couple Kim Watson Ito and Justin Ito-Adler chronicle their love of seafood and a whole lot of quarantine cooking. Follow their adventures here and on Instagram and Facebook at #hookedonwulfs
What do Elgin Baylor, Moses Malone and black sea bass have in common? They are all HIGHLY underrated. If you haven’t guessed, it’s Justin here, kicking this article off while Kim is in the other room. In this bizarre episode of 2020 life: there is playoff basketball in September, California is on fire, and many people have not heard of—or eaten—black sea bass. I blame its more glamorous relative, the striped bass, for stealing the limelight. Yes, “stripah” is delicious, but black sea bass has a unique pleasure all its own. It’s small. It’s mighty. It’s sustainable. It’s the Gary Payton to striper’s Shawn Kemp. The Klay Thompson to Steph Curry. Dumars to Isaiah. Pippen to Jordan. McHale to Bird… oh no, Kim’s back…
Kim: I think I’m going to enjoy this fish about as much as I enjoy listening to you talk about basketball. It doesn’t seem sashimi-able, and I doubt it pairs with French fries. But I’ll give it a shot.
Justin: I have always loved this fish. I think the black scales are gorgeous. It is a smaller fish so you can eat a whole filet. It is great raw, as ceviche, cooked… You will sometimes see this on restaurant menus mislabeled as branzino. It is also different than the river dwellers that you probably caught as kids. Black sea bass is a mild little fish that is available for the majority of the year. It is sustainable and delicious. If you can’t tell, I’m super into it.
Our First Prep: Raw
Kim: Much like basketball, this fish is not for me.
Justin: I had a couple bites raw as I considered how to dress it. I wanted to try a prep that I wouldn’t necessarily try with striped bass. Black sea bass has a more compact grain and less of a briny/mineral flavor. I sliced it on a sharp bias into long thin pieces and overlapped them. We dressed it with salt, chive oil (chives/salt/garlic blended into EVOO and strained), lemon zest, red onion and chili oil. In retrospect, I would have omitted the chili oil. It was a mild oil so you could still taste the fish, but it hit a bit awkwardly with the other ingredients. Less is more sometimes… It was better with some rice to space out the flavors a bit.
This fish is a true underdog, but with a little acid and some spice, it can be a true fan favorite.
Our First Prep: Ceviche
Kim: This is much more like it. It’s chilled and oniony and has a kick to it. Everything I like.
Justin: This was my favorite. So simple. So good. Grapefruit. Salt. Red Onion. Jalapeño. EVOO. Time… Nothing complicated but looked gorgeous and ate like a dream.
Our Last Prep: Paella
Kim: I really like this too! The fish doesn’t stand out in the paella, it tastes like it could really almost be anything. But I do love a nice ricey dish for a change.
Justin: This was solid, but kind of a waste if you ask me. There are so many cooked methods for this fish. Classic sear in a pan. Oven roasted. Fried. Stuffed. I plan on trying them all.
Manu Ginobili, Robert Horry, Draymond Green, Mitch Richmond, Alex English, Grant Hill… OK, OK, I’ll stop Kim. My final thoughts? This fish is a true underdog, but with a little acid and some spice, it can be a true fan favorite. Go Celtics!