This is a classic riff on "pesce al forno" from the region of Liguria. The Ligurians take all the ingredients and roast them together with a whole fish, usually branzino. We take that same branzino, pan sear it and make a salad out of the potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and basil, then puree the olives to make a makeshift dressing for the salad. It's so delicious and excellent for summer.
- 2 (6-ounce) pieces branzino, scales removed, skin-on
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup fingerling potatoes, cut in half
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 1 cup black olives, 1/2 blended, 1/2 left whole
- 1 cup halved very ripe cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- Lemon wedges, to serve
1. The night before you plan to serve this dish, put the fish filets on a plate lined with a paper towel, flesh-side down and place in the fridge to chill overnight (the fan in the fridge will dry the skin so you can get a really nice crust).
2. The next day, preheat the oven to 375°F.
3. In a medium-sized sauté pan, under medium heat, add a nice drizzle of olive oil and when oil is hot, add the potatoes, flesh-side down and season with kosher salt. Transfer to the oven and cook for 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, in another medium-sized sauté pan over medium heat, add another drizzle of olive oil. Dab the fish with a paper towel to make sure it's completely dry, season the flesh with kosher salt well and place in the sauté pan, skin-side down. Place a fish weight on the filet (or you can use a smaller pot to weigh the fish down). After the fish has cooked all the way through, you'll see flesh just turn white, turn off the heat and allow to rest in the pan.
5. To make the salad, rub the garlic clove in the bowl to get the perfume. Add the olives, olive puree, tomatoes, basil leaves, lemon juice and finally warm potatoes from the oven. Mix well with a little more olive oil. Serve alongside the beautiful, crispy fish and wedges of lemon.