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Local Fish with Citrus, Fennel and Arugula

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I was already craving some gorgeous fish for dinner and contemplating whether it should be sea bass, salmon or seared tuna when my neighbor popped over and told he had gone fishing on the Chesapeake and caught more rockfish than he could ever use. Talk about a happy twist of fate! Wow! Rockfish! Local Rockfish! Local rockfish caught that day! Amazing.

If you haven’t had rockfish, it’s a mid-Atlantic delicacy, very light and creamy with a subtle sweetness, a beautiful snowy color and mild taste. To me, it’s like a cross between sea bass and orange roughy, if you’re familiar with those fish. Anyway, it’s not a fish you want to overcomplicate, especially not when it is so fresh.

We decided to just broil it simply with good quality olive oil, sea salt, pepper and lemon. I wanted to celebrate this simple preparation with a salad of locally sourced seasonal greens and citrus. It turned out to be an amazing dish and it all came together in under 15 minutes.

We paired it with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and rounded out the meal with some mango sorbet for dessert. You could do this dinner with nearly any flaky, tender and mild whitefish, and if it is not quite as fresh as mine was, just marinate it for a few minutes in the salad dressing before broiling and you’ll love it! Enjoy!!

First, make the salad dressing:

2 (5 oz.) rockfish fillets
3 Tbsp EVOO (use the best quality olive oil you can find)
Juice of ½ orange
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt and pepper to taste (use sea salt or fleur de sel if possible)

Next, prep the fish:

  1. Check for small bones and remove any that you see.
  2. Line a broiling pan with foil and place the fish, skin side down on the pan.
  3. Season the entire fish with salt and pepper. If fish is not right-from-the-bay, pour a bit of the dressing over it and let it sit for about 15 minutes before broiling.
  4. If keeping it simple, just drizzle a little olive oil over the fish and brush it to coat evenly, adding lemon slices on top.
  5. Preheat broiler to high and place pan in oven with door ajar.
  6. Broil about 10 minutes until fish is opaque and the lemons are slightly caramelized on top.

While fish is cooking, make the salad:

4 cups baby arugula
1 small fennel bulb
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
¼ cup basil leaves, cut into ribbons
¼ cup almonds, slivered
1 cara care navel orange
1 blood orange or regular orange
1 tangelo or clementine

  1. Slice the fennel very thin, using a mandoline if available and toss in a large bowl with the baby arugula leaves.
  2. Add the almonds and crumbled feta cheese.
  3. Remove rind and pith from the citrus fruits and add just the sections into the salad. If you only have plain oranges, that’s totally fine. I just showcased what I happened to already have since citrus season is coming to a close.
  4. If you’re an olive fan, sliced kalamata or oil-cured black olives would be a wonderful addition to the salad – I just didn’t have any.
  5. Add dressing and gently toss all ingredients together. Transfer and divide onto plates, and remove the fish from the broiler.
  6. Add the fish on the side and enjoy both together.

The sweetness of the fennel is an amazing complement to this tender fish and the arugula adds just the right amount of pepperiness. That together with the briny element of the feta (and the olives if you add them) and the brightness of the citrus fruits is a real winner.

If you absolutely must have a starch, I‘d do polenta, couscous, or simple basmati rice. Or, you could have some crusty warm bread, to mop up the excess dressing. I was truly satisfied without it, because the dish was gorgeous to look at, smelled sublime, filled my whole plate, and thanks to the fennel and almonds, had a perfect crunch to it.

Bon appetit!

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About Daphne Wotherspoon