Wandering through the local farmers market a few weeks ago I spotted the most beautiful early savoy cabbages, almost miniature in comparison the traditional mammoth cabbage of the autumn-winter season. The verdant leaves unfolded as if they were petals of a spring blossom. Without hesitating I selected one of these perfect specimens, knowing that inspiration would soon follow. At a nearby stall some glistening Pacific bass caught my eye, the two were destined to become one; Seared Bass with Savoy Cabbage it would be.
The crinkled leaves of Savoy Cabbage are generally tender and sweet; this one being so small I anticipated it to be even more so. Anchovy and garlic would add just the right balance to the mild, textured leaves creating a flavorful base for the freshly caught bass.
A simple sauté of the prepared cabbage after seasoning the oil with the garlic and anchovy is all that is needed. The tender leaves don’t require much cooking, a bit of a crunch adds complexity to the finished dish.
As with any protein be certain to season both sides with salt and pepper before searing. If your fish monger does not have bass, no problem just select another white, somewhat firm fleshed fish.
Seared Bass with Savoy Cabbage makes an impressive dinner with little fuss or muss. You may not be as fortunate as I to find early cabbage so let your instincts be your guide and substitute your favorite mild tasting green.
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- 1 pound of Savoy Cabbage, preferably harvested late spring
- 6 anchovy fillets - preferably salted, rinsed and trimmed
- 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled & crushed
- 3 Tbs. olive oil
- Light tasting vegetable oil to coat the skillet for the fish
- 1 pound of fresh bass fillets
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbs. freshly chopped parsley leaves
- Bring a large pot of fresh water to a boil. In the meantime, wash the whole cabbage and gently towel it dry. Cut into quarters through the center and remove the core. Slice each quarter into 1 inch strips. Once the water comes to a boil, add about a tablespoon of salt along with the cabbage and give the pot a good stir. Boil gently for 5 minutes and immediately drain into a strainer. Press out any residual water and set aside. This step can be done earlier in the day.
- Season the bass with salt and freshly ground black pepper on both sides, set aside.
- Have two skillets on the stove, a large one to accommodate the cabbage and a second for the fish.
- In the large skillet add the three tablespoons of olive oil, crushed garlic and anchovy fillets over medium heat. Allow the garlic to become slightly golden as the anchovy fillets melt into the oil, stir intermittently. Once this happens add the well drained cabbage and sauté for 5 minutes; the cabbage should not be overcooked. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper; the anchovies are salty so be sure to taste carefully before adding too much salt. Remove from heat and set aside until you are ready to sear the fish.
- The second skillet should be rubbed with a light coating of the vegetable oil and heated until hot. Once the pan is hot, add the fish, skin side up and allow it to brown undisturbed for 5 minutes, at this point gently peek at the surface to be sure that the fish is browned - if not cook for another 2 minutes.
- At this point turn the heat under the cabbage skillet on low to bring it up to temperature for serving.
- Turn the fish fillets over, reduce the heat to medium-high and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes. The finished fish should be opaque, but not overcooked and flaking into segments. The total cooking time will depend upon the type and thickness of the fish you have selected.
- To serve cover a platter or individual plates with the warm cabbage, top with the seared fish. Garnish the fish with the chopped parsley leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.