This is a spring and early summer dish with a wonderful combination of vegetables and fresh herbs in varying shades of green. The key to success with this recipe is to dress the vegetables when they are hot; they will absorb all the flavors of the lemony dressing and herbs and the taste will be transformed. The dish will look striking with all the different textures against the simple cooked fish.
-Bart Van Olphen & Tom Kine, co-authors of Fish Tales.
4 to 6
2 fennel bulbs
bunch of asparagus
salt and freshly ground pepper
10 1/2 oz fava beans, shelled (frozen are fine)
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 place fillet per person, skin on
3 sprigs of fresh mint
3 sprigs of fresh basil
handful of arugula
Preheat a large grill pan with a metal handle that can go into the oven. Slice the fennel in half through the root, remove the tough outside layer, and trim the heart but leave it intact so that it holds the bulb together. Slice each half into six thin slices, cutting to the heart each time so that the small fan shape is held together at the bottom.
Take the asparagus and snap each one wherever the stem naturally breaks. The part toward the spear will be most tender; discard the tough base. Lay the asparagus flat so that they are all pointing the same way. Slice the stems into three even lengths, diagonally, so they resemble penne pasta.
Place the fennel slices and the asparagus pieces in a bowl, add a splash of olive oil, and season with salt and black pepper. When the grill pan is hot, sear the fennel slices and then the asparagus for 2 minutes on each side.
Meanwhile, bring a pan of salted water to a boil. Cook the fava beans until al dente, about 2-3 minutes, then drain. Mix together the grilled fennel, asparagus, and beans. Season with salt and pepper and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the lemon juice, and vinegar.
Preheat the oven to 400F. Keep the pan hot after you have cooked the vegetables in order to cook the fish. Rub the skin side of the fillets with a little oil and season with salt and pepper. Lightly oil the grill pan. Place the fish skin-side down in the pan and cook for 2 minutes, then carefully lift the fish, rotate it slightly, and replace it on the same side on the pan. Cook for another 2 minutes, then transfer the whole pan to the oven. Bake the fish for 4 minutes.
Coarsely chop the mint, basil, and arugula and mix them with the cooled vegetables. Check the seasoning again and serve warm or cold with the grilled fish fillets. Spoon the olive oil dressing over the fish. If you like, you could add some crispy cooked strips of pancetta to the vegetable mixture for additional texture and flavor.
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