Oven-baked Branzino with Blanched Spring Vegetables, Gourmet Mushrooms & Mint-basil Pesto

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Oven Baked Branzino.

Branzino, or Mediterranean Sea Bass, is a wonderful moist and flaky white fish. In this dish, the combination of crunchy, simply blanched vegetables goes really well with sweet fillets of Branzino. When serving for a big crowd, simply layer one big dish with asparagus spears in a cross thatch pattern, scatter some fava beans in between the spears and some snow peas cut in half lengthways along the rim of the platter. Scatter some quickly sautéed mushrooms, thinly sliced radishes and purple potatoes. Top the vegetables with the fillets and serve along with mint-basil pesto on top.

Ingredients.

Blanching is a great way to preserve all the vitamins, color and crunchiness in vegetables. For it, you would need a pot with salty rapidly boiling water and a bowl of salted water with ice. For this particular dish, I blanched all the vegetables one by one, leaving the fava beans to be the last.  Then “shocked” the vegetables in the ice-cold water to stop the cooking completely.

Ingredients.

When buying asparagus, look for a bright green bundle without any dull brown look to them with tips closed and spears firm and green. If not using them the same day, keep the bundle refrigerated in the cup with water. As to the fava beans, look for the long, plump, bright green pods without any blemishes since that may mean that the beans are rotten inside. Fresh or frozen baby lima beans or edamame can be a great substitute in this recipe and will work just as fine.

Branzino fillets.

Branzino: Wash the fillets and pat them dry. Spray the baking sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray. Place the fish fillets on the baking sheet skin side down in a single layer. Generously drizzle with good quality olive oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Top each fillet with fresh basil leave and two thinly sliced pieces of lemon. If not using immediately, cover your fillets with a plastic wrap and refrigerate. Let the fillets stand at room temperature for 10-20 minutes before baking in the oven.

Blanching the Vegetables

Peel the asparagus spears.

Asparagus: Snap off or simply cut off two inches from the bottom of the asparagus spears. Using a vegetable peeler, shave another two inches off its outer skin for softer results.

Cut the spears in half lengthwise.

Cut the spears in half lengthwise. Blanch for one minute in salty rapidly boiling water.

Shock the spears in ice-cold water.

Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer the spears into the ice-cold water and let cool to stop them from cooking. Drain well and set aside.

Clean the fava beans.

Fava Beans: One of my new discoveries this year were f ava beans, tender legumes which once shucked and cooked, look like little green kidneys. They are rich and meaty in texture and can be used in various dishes from gnocchi, soups and purees to pastas, stews and salads.  Simply blanched the beans in rapidly boiling water for one minute and then plunge them into ice water. Once the beans are cool enough to handle, using your thumbs, release them from tough, unappetizing outer skin. Set aside.

Blanch the snow peas.

Snow Peas: Blanch the snow peas for one to two minutes until bright and crunchy. “Shock” them in the salted water with ice. Drain well.

Cut snow peas in half lengthwise.

Cut snow peas into strips.

 Cut them in strips, lengthwise. Set aside.

Slice radish thinly.

Radishes: Using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, thinly slice radishes and then, if desired, cut into small strips. Place the strips into the ice water to keep them crisp and bright. Drain well before serving.

To Make the Mint-Basil Pesto 

Pesto ingredients.    Blend mint, basil, nuts, cheese, lemon juice, olive oil together.

Blend the mint, basil, nuts, cheese, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper in a food processor until the herbs are finely chopped. With the machine running, gradually blend in olive oil until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Saute mushrooms.

Mushrooms: Sauté the mushrooms in a pan on medium high heat in some olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper for 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm if not using immediately.  

Start platting the vegetables.

If serving for a big crowd, layer the asparagus spears in a cross thatch pattern on one big oval dish. Then scatter some fava beans in between the spears, some snow peas cut in half along the rim of the platter and a thin layer of refreshingly sweet pea shoots (optional) on top.

Oven-baked Branzino with Spring Vegetables, Mushrooms & Mint-basil Pesto.

Artfully scatter some quickly sautéed mushrooms, thinly sliced radishes and purple potatoes. Top the vegetables with Branzino fillets and serve along with mint-basil pesto on a side.
 

Bon Appétit!
Svitlana

Oven-baked Branzino with Blanched Spring Vegetables, Gourmet Mushrooms & Mint-basil Pesto

recipe details

Serves 6

Ingredients

For the fish 

  • 6 medium sized Branzino fillets
  • 6 small basil leaves
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mint-Basil Pesto

  • 1 ½ cups lightly packed fresh mint leaves
  • 3/4 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Vegetables

  • 12 asparagus spears
  • 3 oz. snow peas
  • 2 pounds Fava beans (fresh or frozen baby lima beans or edamame instead)
  • 2 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz. Organic Chef’s Sampler Gourmet mushrooms from Mycopia brand
  • 6 small purple potatoes
  • 1.5 oz. organic sweet pea shoots (optional)

Directions

    1. Bring a large pot of salty water to a boil. Prepare a bowl of water with ice and salt in it.
    2. Asparagus:  Snap off or simply cut off two inches from the bottom of the asparagus spears. Using a vegetable peeler, shave some of its outer skin for softer results.
    3. Cut the spears in half lengthwise and blanch for 1 minute in salty rapidly boiling water. Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer the spears into the ice-cold water and let them cool completely. Drain well and refrigerate with a little bit of olive oil if not used immediately.
    4. Snow peas: Blanch snow peas in the same water for 2 minute until bright green and crisp. Cut in half lengthwise in 2 or 3 strips. Set aside.
    5. Fava beans: At last, blanched the beans for 1 minute then plunge them into ice water and once cool enough to handle, using your thumbs release the beans from pale skin that surrounds the beans. Set aside.
    6. Mushrooms: Sauté the mushrooms in a large pan on medium high heat in some olive oil for about 5 minutes until soft and fragrant. Season with some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm.
    7. Purple potatoes: Skin on, boil potatoes for 10 minutes in salted water until cooked but not mushy. Once cool enough to handle, cut into thin slices.
    8. Branzino:  Wash the fillets and pat dry. Spray the baking sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray. Place the fish fillets on the baking sheet skin side down in a single layer. Generously drizzle with good quality olive oil on top, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Top each fillet with fresh basil leave and 2 thinly sliced pieces of lemon. If not cooking immediately, cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Let it stand at room temperature for 10-20 minutes before roasting in the oven.
    9. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F with the rack in the middle and roast the fish for 12-15 minutes, depending on the size of the fillets.
    10. Mint-basil pesto: Blend the mint, basil, nuts, cheese, lemon juice, garlic, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a food processor until the herbs are finely chopped. With the machine running, gradually blend in 1/3 cup of oil until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
    11. If serving for a big crowd, layer the asparagus spears in a cross thatch pattern on one big oval dish. Then scatter some fava beans in between the spears, some snow peas cut in half along the rim of the plate and a thin layer of refreshingly sweet pea shoots (optional) on top. Liberally scatter some quickly sautéed mushrooms, thinly sliced radishes and purple potatoes. Top the vegetables with Branzino fillets and serve along with mint-basil pesto on a side.

    Wine Pairing: Bader Mimer Chateau de Chassagne-Montrachet, Burgundy, France 2008

    For this dish I used a recipe of Giada Di Laurentiis for the mint-basil pesto (slightly adjusted to my liking).

5 comments

    1. Vera, all it takes is 12 minutes for the Branzino in the oven and simple blanching for all your favorite vegetables. Mint-basil pesto is a perfect condiment! Bon Appetite!

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