Chef Mike Lata of FIG and The Ordinary advocates simple techniques for cooking fish at home, such as steaming. “(It) showcases the flavor and integrity of fresh fish beautifully,” he says. “If you don’t have a steamer at home, I recommend it; it’s very inexpensive and a great tool to have.”
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 pint cherry tomatoes
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 small shallot, minced
2 to 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
4 (6-ounce) fillets black bass, skin on
2 sprigs mint, leaves sliced into thin ribbons
2 sprigs basil, leaves sliced into thin ribbons
4 sprigs thyme
Preheat broiler to high and position an oven rack about 4 inches below the heat. Add pine nuts to a large skillet. Place over medium-low heat and toast, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Keep an eye on the pan, as pine nuts can burn easily. Remove pine nuts to a small bowl and reserve; allow skillet to cool.
In a medium bowl, toss cherry tomatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and a few turns of freshly cracked pepper. Pour tomatoes onto a sheet pan and place under the broiler. Cook just until the skins of the tomatoes start to blister, about 30 seconds. Remove pan and pour tomatoes back into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes, or until ready to use.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, shallot, garlic and crushed red pepper to the large skillet that you used to toast the pine nuts (no need to clean it). Place over medium heat and cook, stirring, until garlic and shallots become soft and lightly golden, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Stir in sherry vinegar and the blistered tomatoes, including any juices that may have released.
Over medium-high heat, quickly bring the mixture to a simmer. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon each of mint and basil and stir to combine. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Using a sharp paring knife, score the skin of the fish and season both sides with salt. Rest an 8-inch steamer basket inside a slightly larger (at least 10-inch) skillet. Pour enough water in the skillet to reach about half of an inch up the side of the steamer basket. Place a piece of parchment paper inside the steamer and place fillets, skin side down, directly onto the parchment. Lay a sprig of thyme on top of each fillet and drizzle with remaining olive oil.
Cover the steamer basket and place skillet over medium-high heat. Bring the water to a simmer and cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Keep an eye on the water level as it can evaporate easily, adding more as needed. The fish is done when a toothpick can be easily inserted into the center of a fillet without resistance.
To serve, lay a piece of black bass in the center of the plate and spoon the blistered cherry tomato sauce around. Garnish with remaining mint and basil and toasted pine nuts. Serve with a side of steamed rice or roasted potatoes.