Hyperbole. Yes, this will sound like hyperbole, but, supported by the fallibility of memory, I mean it: This was the best fish I have ever tasted.
Note: along with everything else it had going for it, there was just the right amount of crustiness to the bass when it arrived on the plates.
The meal began with what I had assumed would be a pretty ordinary mix of tomato and a bitter green, and in fact I had decided to add it to the meal mostly because I had one special yellow heirloom tomato that had been a little bruised on the way home from the Greenmarket the day before. It didn’t make sense to include it on the entrée plate with another yellow vegetable I was anxious to serve with the fish, so I called up some arugula and some spicy basil and made room for a starter (the two red cherry tomatoes were an indulgence on the side of more color). That course too turned out far more delicious than I could have imagined. The colors were great fun, but the taste was pretty marvelous.
In each case it was the quality of the ingredients that did it, but in the case of the bass, there was an extraordinary novelty this time, buds of the common milkweed. Beyond that, it was certainly also about the very simple Mark Bittman classic sautéed white fish fillet recipe, one with which I have become increasingly familiar and, I guess, judging from the results this time, somewhat proficient.
- a handful of arugula from from John D. Madura Farms and 2 leaves of radicchio from Hawthorne Valley Farm, both torn into fork-size pieces and arranged on 2 plates, topped with wedges of a single Striped German heirloom tomato and halves of 4 of ‘The Best Cherry Tomatoes’ from Stokes Farm, drizzled with a fine Campania olive oil, D.O.P. Penisola Sorrentina “Syrenum”, Maldon sea salt (our table salt and my normal finishing salt), freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, and a white balsamic vinegar, sprinkled with chopped Thai basil from Norwich Meadows Farm
- slices of a rustic, 7-grain bread, Grandaisy ‘Sette Grani‘
- two 6-ounce sea bass fillets from Pura Vida Fisheries, dredged in seasoned coarse stone-ground flour which had been spread across a plate, then dipped in a mixture of one egg from Millport Dairy Farm whipped with a few tablespoons of chopped parsley from Stokes Farm, sautéed for a couple minutes in a mixture of butter and olive oil, skin side down, inside a heavy long copper pan, then turned, sautéed for little more than another minute (until the fish was cooked through; the time will vary each time with the size of the fillets and the height of the flame), removed from the pan, the heat now turned off, sprinkled with what there was of the juices remaining there, into which I had first scattered some oxalis aka ‘wood sorrel’, stems removed, from Alewife Farm, followed by a squeeze of an organic lemon from Whole Foods, the fillets finally dressed with more (fresh) oxalis leaves
- two small yellow summer squash from Norwich Meadows Farm, tossed in olive oil, sea salt, and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, pan-grilled, removed, sprinkled with chopped milkweed buds from Down Home Acres
- a small bunch of agretti (grows near the sea, and is a great accompaniment for seafood) from Hawthorne Valley Farm, washed, trimmed, the larger portion of the stems removed, heated in olive oil and arranged on plates, where it was squeezed with lemon juice and given a drizzle of olive oil
- the wine was a California (Mendocino) white, Elizabeth Spencer Sauvignon Blanc Mendocino 2015
- the music was a portion of, ‘The Music Of The Habsburg Empire‘, which is a 10-disc set [well, it was a very big empire]