Pan-Seared Branzino (Mediterranean Sea Bass)
Fuyu Persimmon “Pico de Gallo”
The fuyu’s shape and size, plus its firm but supple texture is somewhat reminiscent of a tomato…which gave me the idea to try it as a substitute for that unseasonal fruit in a wintery version of pico de gallo. The Korean market where I often shop has huge displays of both fuyu and hachiya varieties of the persimmon, in season through February. This salsa fresca is savory but has a hint of honey-apple sweetness. It has bracing acidity from the fresh lime juice and medium spiciness from the jalapeno. In addition to making a bright refreshing topping for this sea bass we thoroughly enjoyed it paired with a crispy-skin salmon too.
Persimmon Pico de Gallo Recipe
Slice ripe fuyu persimmon horizontally. Cut the slices into squares, removing the skin. Then cut the squares into a medium dice.
2 ripe fuyu persimmons, diced
1/4 c. white onion, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 T. fresh lime juice
1 T. fruity olive oil
salt and pepper
Mix ingredients together then set aside while preparing the fish. Before serving, fold in a handful of rough chopped cilantro leaves.
Pan-Seared Branzino Recipe
I have the fishmonger de-scale and gut a fresh whole branzino. With a very sharp knife, I make a perpendicular cut just behind the pectoral fin. Then starting near the head, make a one inch incision all the way down the back to the tail, as close to the backbone as possible.
Using the tip of the knife, in a smooth motion, cut the flesh away from the bones all the way to the belly of the fish. Slice the flesh away from the tail fin. Flip the fish over and fillet the other side.
Season fillets with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Dust with Wondra (finely milled) flour. Shake off excess flour. Let the fillets come close to room temperature before cooking.
Heat a non-stick pan over high heat. Add olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the fillets, skin-side down. Turn the heat to medium-high to prevent the oil from smoking. Press the flesh of the fish with the back of a spatula to keep the fish from curling. Continue to press down with the spatula, squeezing out any air pockets between the skin and the flesh. When the skin side is nice and browned, turn the fillets over and briefly cook the other side. Serve immediately, skin-side up.
Plate branzino fillets, spoon pico de gallo and juices around the fish. Garnish with lime wheels and cilantro sprigs. Serve with white rice on the side.