Sunday, April 18, 2010

Branzino all’Acqua Pazza (Sea Bass in “Crazy Water”)

Tonight I'm calling this Seafood in Crazy Water because I did not use Sea Bass: I substituted lobster.

recipe from "Rustico", by Michele Negrin

Serves 4

1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp chili flakes
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
20 basil leaves, sliced
¼ cup salted capers, rinsed and chopped
20 cherry tomatoes, quartered
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ pounds sea bass fillets, boned, cut into 3-inch pieces*
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a sauté pan over a medium-high flame. Add the chili & garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the parsley, basil, capers, cherry tomatoes, salt, and 1 ½ cups of water. Bring liquid to a gentle boil, then add the seafood in a single layer and reduce to a medium heat.
Cook for 8 minutes without allowing the liquid to return to a boil (some fish might flake if it does). Distribute the seafood and its broth among 4 bowls, and serve hot, sprinkled with the pepper.
Great accompanied by a rustic Italian bread.

*I have prepared this dish with numerous types of seafood. It is best to use a firm, mild-tasting seafood such as sea bass, halibut, and lobster. Any fleshy white seafood will work, but the caution about the cooked fish falling apart is something to consider. The original recipe calls for Sea Bass but it is expensive and sometimes difficult to obtain. Consider a wider set of options.

When I began the food preparation I discovered that my Italian parsley was a bit wilted..

I trimmed the ends and submerged it in a bowl of ice water for about 45 minutes to rehydrate

and it perked right up!

This dish is very simple to construct. It is important to have all the ingredients prepared before you actually begin to cook on the stove.

Two beautiful lobster tails (huge: they weigh a total of 2 lbs!)

turn them over so you can visualize the little swimmerettes on the underside of the tail.
Using kitchen shears, cut right down the middle.

Start at the large end and cut to the tail.

Once cut, open the shell to facilitate removal of the lobster meat

Once the shell is opened the meat is quite easy to extract.

This is a lot of lobster meat!

Cross-cut the lobster tail, then cut those sections into 1-1.5 inch cubes.
Don't get too caught up in the exact size: the main thing is to get the sections fairly consistent
which makes it easier to cook them evenly.

Cut the entire amount of seafood, place in a bowl, cover with wrap,
and refrigerate until ready to cook.
Be sure to rinse your cutting board, kitchen shears, and knife.
I wash everything in hot, soapy water, and all but the knife goes into the dishwasher.
I rarely, if ever, wash my knives in the dishwasher, but I compulsively wash them with near-boiling water. I'm a bit of a fanatic about food-safety.
It is probably a side-effect of having been a surgical nurse....

A little sideline: I don't have cutting boards dedicated to specific tasks. I have several plastic cutting boards, several good (sharp!) knives, and I use several sets of them when I cook. If I cut meat, chicken, or seafood on a board I rinse it and put it in the dishwasher, clean the counter and get another set of tools out for the next step. If you don't have multiples, be sure you wash your tools with hot, soapy water and clean off the work counter frequently. I DO NOT use bleach in my kitchen. I use Mrs. Meyer's cleaning products. I have a ton of dish towels and I use a bunch of them when I cook. I wash my hands after each step. That is really enough to keep the kitchen clean and the food safe.

I get a large bottle of cleaning solution and reconstitute it in these spray bottles.
My favorite scent is basil. It cleans well and is very non-toxic.
Ok, where was I? Oh, I remember.....

Basil! I LOVE basil!
I went outside and clipped 4 sprigs. I need about 20-25 leaves.


This is what summer smells like to me.
I frequently cut a bunch of basil and put it in a vase.
I adore it!

Wash it under the faucet.
Lay the stalks on an absorbent towel to pull off some of the moisture.

After the basil leaves are a bit dry, pick them off the stems
and "stack" them about 5-10 deep. Put them aside until just before adding them.
If you cut them too soon they will bruise.

When you cut them, roll them up and slice through the roll.

I usually slice each stack about 4 times.
Note the little bowl on the cutting board.
Everything goes into a separate bowl.

Chop the parsley and set aside.

Cut the tomatoes into quarters and set aside.
I put each ingredient in a separate dish because it keeps me organized.
Note that I used both yellow and red cherry tomatoes. Why? Because this is what I had on-hand!

Sideways bottle of capers (sorry about that)

Capers need to be rinsed. They are packed in a salty solution.
I put the capers in a strainer and ran quite a bit of water through them
before coursely chopping them.
Often, people don't like capers because of the salty flavor, and it is because
they need to be rinsed!
Here are all the prepared ingredients, oil, water, and red chili flakes.
I placed everything next to the stove for convenience.

Once olive oil is heated add red chili flakes and chopped garlic.
Cook until it becomes aromatic.

Then add parsley & basil...

The lovely tomatoes....

and the water.
Bring it to a gentle boil.

Add the seafood to the pan in a single layer.

See how some of it is beginning to look whiter, more opaque?
I gently turned the pieces to assure they were cooked through.

Ladle the seafood, along with the "crazy water" into a bowl.

Italian comfort food!
Serve in warmed bowls, if at all possible.
Great with a crusty Italian rustic bread.

I served this dish with freshly sliced red pepper
and a dollop of roasted red pepper hummus for dipping.

For dessert: A lovely assortment of fresh berries
Buon Appetito!


  1. Looks divine. Were you using the hat cam tonight? I am jealous. Cooking with a camera around my neck...cause for steam in lens.

  2. I had a photography assistant for a few shots. Still managed to cut myself....