By: Chef Alan Zox
Date: May 22, 2018
Preparing Salad Nicoise is one of those labors of love. It takes a while to compile all the ingredients but it’s not difficult and the flavors are sublime. Tuna is often used as a center piece - usually it’s made from the best canned tuna fish you can find; or, if you wish to go “up scale” you may prefer fresh sushi quality tuna.
Today’s recipe uses Striped Bass because it’s one of my favorites and because the fish is becoming more plentiful this time of yearduring the late Spring season as the species begin to return to the streams and rivers of its spawning grounds.
The popularity of the Striped and Black Bass are particularly noteworthy among the Chinese and Asian communities on the East Coast who serve black bass as a centerpiece to their restaurant seafood menus.
Some of my most memorable fishing experiences have involved Striped Bass— sometimes catching them on headboats several miles offshore, in creeks and streams in the Hamptons and Cape Cod, and in back water tributaries of Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Early Sunday mornings come to mind when dreams of monster stripers in excess of 28 inches draw a smile upon my face. And every fishing trip triggers culinary memories of extraordinary meals we look forward to eating again and again.
Here’s one I believe you will enjoy.
Chilled Nicoise Salad With Roasted Striped Bass
Step 1 - Making the Vinaigrette
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
1/4 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons diced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 large shallot, minced
Combine all your dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk until you reach an emulsion— where vinegars are suspended in fat like olive oil. Set aside.
Step 2- Preparing & Assembling the Salad
1 Fillet each side of the fish. Remove the skin and all bones including the center bone and the smaller pin bones on the sides of the fish. Place both fillets on a cutting board and cut each fillet into quarters and place on a plate in the refrigerator.
2 Next, season the Bass inside and out with the juice of 1/4 lemon, salt, pepper and ground fennel. Place on a sheet tray, covered with parchment paper, and roast at 425 F without turning for 15-20 minutes until opaque. Remove from oven and set aside until the fish can be handled easily.
3 Assemble Boston lettuce, romaine, arugula, radicchio, and water Cress- wash gently and air dry. Chop and cover with paper towels and refrigerate.
4 Wash and cut in half 6 new red potatoes and add to a medium size saucepan. Add water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat for 12 minutes. Do the same with the beans then drain, chill and set aside.
5 Boil the eggs in their shells in a separate simmering bowl for 5 minutes and remove to a separate bowl. Chill the remaining vegetables—capers, black sliced olives, and radishes sliced. And leave in fridge.
6 Peel the shells off the eggs and cut them in half, lengthwise and return to fridge in separate container to continue chilling.
7 Wash and roast the whole beets—40- 45 minutes covered with aluminum foil or place in an oven friendly ceramic bowl until a knife can easily be inserted. Cut beets into quarters with a drizzle of the vinaigrette. Set aside and chill.
8 Using a large serving platter, place chopped lettuce in the middle of the serving platter with a tong. Using a long spatula carefully layer each of the Striped Bass quarters on top of the lettuce.
9 Arrange each ingredient in separate rows on the platter. Drizzle vinaigrette over all ingredients including the Striped Bass quarters. Season with salt and pepper, tossing basil and scallions over the entire salad. Cut the lemon into quarters and distribute around the fish. Complete your design by placing the egg halves next to the lemons. Drizzle any remaining vinaigrette over the platter, including the fish and serve. So beautiful and delicious.
There are several steps here but it’s worth the time and attention it takes. It looks great and it tastes even better. A cup of warm potato —leek soup is a nice starter. Chill the soup if it’s very warm outside. This changes the name of the soup to become Vichyssoise. Lemon squares and espresso are complementary sweets for dessert.
Contact Chef Alan Zox with comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org