The flavors of smoky, porky chorizo and briny black olives bring me back to Spain. It’s been several months since I completed the Camino de Santiago, but I often daydream of my carefree days walking through the Spanish countryside, with nothing more than my camera and what I could carry on my back.
Today, I’ve combined these Spanish-inspired ingredients with a wilted salad of peppery baby arugula and tomatoes (the tomatoes are locally grown [hydroponically] from Shushan Valley Hydro Farm, Shushan, NY). A quick toss in some hot oil brings out the tomatoes’ inherent sweetness.
Instead of a traditional basil pesto, I went with an arugula and pistachio version, which can easily be prepared a day or two in advance (if you have any leftover pesto, it’s great tossed with pasta for a quick and tasty dinner. Two meals in one).
The final piece of this dish is the fish. Some people might feel intimidated when cooking fish, but it’s really quite straightforward. You want to do most of the cooking with the skin side down (flesh side up), until the skin is nice and brown and crispy, and releases easily from the pan. You may be tempted to fuss with/move the fish once it’s in the pan, but it’s best if you don’t. Once the skin is nice and brown, and the fish is three-quarters of the way cooked through, you can flip it and cook quickly on the flesh side. It should need no more than about one minute. Easy as that.
On a side note, I regularly notice when eating out that people who order fish often leave the skin on their plate. When the skin is nice and crispy, it’s one of the best parts of the fish, no (kind of like the crispy skin on chicken)? Just something I’ve observed and always wondered about.
As far as the fish itself, you can use just about any variety, such as sea bass, mackerel, blue fish, snapper, etc. Since I’ve teamed up with Australis, I went with barramundi (which you can find here and here). Barramundi is mild in flavor. It’s a white, flaky fish similar in taste and texture to sea bass. Australis barramundi has zero traceable mercury, PCBs, and other contaminants, and is raised without antibiotics, hormones, and colorants. It’s also high in omega-3 fatty acids (on par with Coho salmon).
This dish is easy to prepare and comes together in a manner of minutes. With minimal planning, you can enjoy this meal any day of the week.
Pan-Sautéed Fish with Arugula-Pistachio Pesto and a Wilted Arugula and Chorizo Salad
4 large fillets of (skin-on) fresh fish (such as sea bass, mackerel, blue fish, snapper, barramundi, etc.)
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 ounces chorizo, thinly sliced
20 cherry tomatoes
1 ounce pitted black olives
7 ounces arugula leaves
arugula pistachio pesto (recipe to follow)
chopped pistachios for garnish
Pat the fish dry. Season both sides of the fish with salt (season the flesh side with pepper as well). Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick pan. When hot, place the fillets skin side down. Cook until the skin is golden brown and crispy, and easily releases from the pan. Flip and cook on the flesh side for another minute until cooked through.
Meanwhile, heat another tablespoons of olive oil in a separate pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the tomatoes and cook a few minutes until they start to soften. Reduce the heat to medium and add the chorizo and olives. Saute another minute or so. Add the arugula and stir until just wilted, 30 seconds.
Portion the tomato, arugula, chorizo salad in the center of each plate. Arrange the fish fillets on top of the salad. Stir the pesto and drizzle around the outside of the plate. Sprinkle some chopped pistachios around the plate. Serve immediately.
Arugula Pistachio pesto
2 garlic cloves
2 ounces shelled pistachios
2 ounces arugula
1 ounce Parmesan
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Crush the garlic with a little sea salt until it forms a paste. Put the pistachios in a food processor and pulse into coarse bits. Add the arugula and continue to pulse until you have a crumbly paste. Scrape into a bowl. Stir in the garlic paste, Parmesan, and olive oil. Whisk to combine.