The fish on the end of my line flopped wetly on the ground. Loose weeds and grass seeds stuck to its sides as I got control of it. It was too small, and would have to go back to its pond home. Still I was glad to see it. A very hot early spring lead to an algae bloom, which clouded the water. Normally, I'd be able to stand on the bank and see schools of bass swim by, but not this year.
There are several types of bass. They are among the world's most popular sport fish. The flesh is wonderfully firm, white and mild, and the fish puts up a fight that delights fishermen. The word bass is a Middle Ages is a term meaning barr. It makes sense when you look at the sides of a bass, which is marked with multiple lines- like sheet music! Our farm black bass have a larger black line and the others seem to fade. The lines are prevalent nonetheless and are a good way to identify this family of fish.
In the kitchen, I like to celebrate this fish by using simple cooking methods to prepare the fillet. Classic, fresh and seasonal sauces and accompaniments are as complicated as I like to get.
Today's recipe looks wonderful. Cut from Martha Stewart Living in January, 2002, it calls for one of my favorite food items: blood oranges. I first encountered blood oranges in Lucca, Italy, in the form of juice on my breakfast tray. I still remember the color: a deep maroon with just a hint of orange. The flavor was similar to the color. The potent acidity and citrus tang of a common orange faded and a more mild, raspberry flavor took over. Blood oranges are amazing, but still hard to source in America- at least where I live. This is a special dish, so I would certainly try to find them, but of course, a standard naval orange would work too.
6 blood oranges
4 six-ounce fillets striped sea bass (with skin), skin scored
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
6 tablespoons unsalted cold butter
2 shallots, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 ounce small pitted green olives, cut into quarters
Squeeze 3 to 4 oranges to make 1 cup juice; set aside. Remove and discard the peel and pith of the remaining oranges. Using a sharp knife, remove the segments, and set aside in a small bowl.
Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish, skin side up, cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Turn fish over, reduce heat to medium, and continue to cook until fish is opaque, and completely cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer fish to a serving dish; keep warm.
While fish is cooking, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring until light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add orange juice, and bring to a simmer. Cook until juice has reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and whisk in the remaining 5 tablespoons cold butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Stir in orange segments and olives. Pour sauce over the fish and serve immediately.