Pan-Seared Branzino, Cucumber Salmoriglio, Borage Blossoms
Here we are on the sparkling azure Mediterranean. I’m in the cucina with Chefs Norma and Debi, cooking for opening day of our virtual ristorante Ciao Fiore! Norma is in the process making ricotta fresca for the extravagant antipasti tavola, and Debi is using sodium alginate and calcium chloride to craft the strawberry caviar which will top her lavender & mascarpone panna cotta as a part of the fabulous dessert course.
My job is to execute the main course, and with the risotto already done, imagine my delight as the fishing boat pulled up to the dock, loaded with just-caught branzino! Fresh from the sea pan-seared fillets will be served with salmoriglio, a Sicilian fish sauce made with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and herbs. For our grand opening, this particular version of the classic sauce will be enhanced with Meyer lemon confit, red chiles, cucumber, and Castelvetrano olives. Borage blossoms will finish the dish, with their sweet cucumber flavor accenting the sauce while their bright blue hue mirrors the sea.
Pan-Seared Branzino Recipe
I have the fishermen de-scale and gut the branzino. First, I sharpen my knife. Next, 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, continue to cut the flesh away from the bones all the way to the belly of the fish. Slice the flesh away from the tail fin. Don’t worry if the edges are not perfectly smooth. The fillets shrink while cooking and the edges end up looking fine. Flip the fish over and fillet the other side.
Season 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 crisp, turn the fillets over and briefly cook the other side. Serve immediately, crispy skin-side up.
Cucumber Salmoriglio and Salad Recipes
4 T. olive oil
3 T. meyer lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 t. dried oregano
3/4 t. finely chopped thyme
1/3 c. small dice cucumber (no seeds)
1 T. fine dice meyer lemon confit (recipe here)
1 small finely sliced red chile pepper (no seeds)
handful of castelvetrano olives, whole
sea salt to taste
Whisk the first five ingredients together. Gently stir in the cucumber and preserved lemon.
Season to taste. (Add the olives after dressing the salad).
medium dice cucumber (no seeds)
Toss all four ingredients together. Lightly dress the salad with salmoriglio.
Plating the Branzino Course
Place a few thinly sliced Meyer lemon wheels on the plate. Top with the salad.
Place the branzino over the salad, skin-side up. Ladle salmoriglio over the fish.
Garnish with borage blossoms.
The Sommelier at Ciao Fiore! recommends enjoying the branzino with a crisp dry white wine.
She suggests a Maso Canali 2009 Pinot Grigio from Trentino’s finest hillside vineyards.
It’s well-balanced with light citrus aromas, fresh acidity, and a long clean finish.
Ciao Fiore! is a Virtual Restaurant
The 5 Star Makeover Cooking Group “Restaurant Wars” Competition
Update: Now view the entire restaurant, the fabulous dishes,
plus the lovely seaside terrace and gardens here!
36 thoughts on “Pan-Seared Branzino, Cucumber Salmoriglio, Borage Blossoms”
As I said this is so colorful and “exotico”… Your talent leaves me speachless….
Oh my goodness, Lori Lynn, you are one adventurous soul!
Love the mediterranean composition with the Sicilian note and the accompanying wine from the Trentino region up north.
Buon appetito a tutti,
What a beautiful and colorful dish! I love filleting fish myself, makes me feel even more a part of making the meal 🙂 You did a great job here! Very lovely fish dish.
The colors just pop off the plate in true ‘taste with the eyes’ fashion. Great looking dish.
Just gorgeous! I love the colors here. the cucumber Salmoriglio is such a nice refreshing addition.
Stunning, as always, LL! I love the Salmoriglio you’ve paired with the fish…such a bright, refreshing meal!
My, oh my! Looks delicious!
I’m so in awe of this dish, partly because I’m rather hopeless at cooking fish and admire people who do it so well. Mainly though, you have used the most incredible ingredients for your dish and put them all together in a way that takes my breath away. Please set up a real Ciao Fiore! so I can go and eat there! 🙂
Holy moly, you guys are too much!!!! Incredible. I want to eat at your restaurant so badly!
In true L.L. form—just beautiful! I really love the arugula and cannellini bean salad too!
Wow, this is definitely worthy of a 5 Star restaurant!! So beautiful and tasty!! Although absolutely everything you share looks like it came from a fine establishment. Congrats on the well deserved Top 9 today!
This is sinfully gorgeous, Congrats on Today’s Top 9!
This is just absolutely beautiful! I think the borage blossoms give this dish a lovely pop of color!
I am in LOVE. This fish is gorgeous. What type of lens to you shoot with?
Hi Dara – thank you. I usually use two lenses. Canon Compact Macro Lens EF 50mm and Canon Zoom Lens EF-S 18-55mm. I change them during the shoot, so I can choose what type of images to put on the blog later.
Thanks for your comment!
Wow. This looks fantastic. Thanks for a delightful recipe!
Wow…these pictures are beautiful and looks scrumptious! Love branzino…sea bass is just no replacement for it. Can’t wait to try this and congrats on top 9!
Just stunning pics and what a wonderful dish. I have never tried that fish and love it with olives though. The theme is so awesome. great following round-up post!
I would every bite of every meal cooked in your restaurant. You can tell how well you all worked together and had culinary symmetry, and a similar aesthetic. I vote for your restaurant to win on looks, menu graphics, photos and menu.
Oh Angela – you are so sweet. Thank you for the “vote.” Your delightful squash blossom dish would have been a terrific addition to this garden menu too!
what a beautiful, beautiful dish! it suggests its environment, and is visually stunning. very impressive.
My chin was on the ground. This is one stunning dish. I am in awe of your talent.
Thank you Kim – I was proud of this one, branzino is an incredible fish to work with, great texture. And I like to fillet it myself. The dish is pretty (I love the colors), but also tasted heavenly!
My borage blossoms just happened to bloom in time for this competition. That was luck!
what an absolutely lovely dish! never tried (or heard of) salmoriglio, but it sounds just delightful 🙂
Oh my goodness, what a dish this is…just amazing! Perfectly balanced and perfectly beautiful in every way!
Holy cow, I want to go to your restaurant. I’d certainly go to a restaurant that served food like this! It’s a gorgeous plate of food.
The colors, flavors and textures are perfect. A kick-ass dish for sure. Love the choice of branzino, great fish.
Oh my Gosh,this has got to be one of the most amazing taste delights of the summer for me,,such an exquisite plethora of flavors has left left me satiated and drooling until I serve it again.Thank you so much,,I did however use Basa fish
Oh Mattie! I am so excited that you prepared this dish! Thanks for letting me know, you made my day. I need to research Basa. So glad you enjoyed it…
The plating is quite nice. It excentuates the freshness of the ingredients and is reminiscent of the natural world itself.
What a truly stunning looking dish. I would be blown away if someone served me something that looked so beautiful.