Pan Roasted Sea Bass and Couscous with Clementines, Chickpeas, Olives and Dates

Everyone needs a really good fish recipe; one we know is absolutely killer and that we can make for anyone and feel like we’ve done ourselves proud.  One that we know will turn out just right every time we make it.  One that’s not hard to put together, but sophisticated and very, very good.

Well, folks.  I’ve got your back on that one.  Here is without a doubt one of the best fish dishes I’ve had in recent memory.  It’s awesomely delicious and pretty spectacular to serve.  We’re talkin’ about fresh, moist sea bass (cooked to perfection), settled ever so nicely on a bed of couscous that’s studded with bits of Clementine mandarins, green olives, dates, chickpeas, mint and other wondrous flavors.  But we’re not done yet.  Oh no.  Now we’re going to drizzle the whole thing with a lovely orange juice reduction and those lovely pan juices, finished with a little butter and chopped mint.

If this doesn’t just set your hair on fire, I don’t know what will, my friend.  We’re covering every taste sensation…sweet, salty, sour, savory, bitter, umami and some that haven’t even been discovered yet. 

I found the couscous recipe in Bon Apetit and loved the idea of combining chunks of clementine, olives, dates, chickpeas and mint.  I decided to pair that with a lovely pan-roasted sea bass and then the orange reduction sauce seemed like a natural.

OK, now we get to the part where I have to make some confessions because otherwise I won’t be able to sleep at night or look myself in the mirror.  The photo above is the first version I made, not exactly the one you will find in this posting.  Gasp!

Before you judge me too harshly, let me explain. The Gourmet recipe called for regular couscous, but I just wasn't in love with how the texture of the couscous worked with the other ingredients.  So I made it again and swapped it out for some Israeli (or pearled) couscous) and well, my goodness, if it all just didn’t come together in some kind of blissful harmony.  The textures were now in perfect sync with the flavors and well, it was just really good.  What can I say?

I hope you’ll forgive me for not having a photo of the final version.  We were hungry.  I’d already made this twice.  It was getting late.  No time for photography.  I’m sure you understand.  Perhaps forgiveness will be forthcoming when you've had a chance to taste this for yourself.  I encourage you to do so.  Quickly.

Pan-Roasted Sea Bass and Couscous with Clementines, Olives, Dates and Chickpeas
Adapted from Bon Apetit magazine
Makes 6 servings
For a printable recipe, click here

For the couscous:
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
6-7 oz Israeli couscous (or 1 box of toasted couscous pearls (such as Casbah)
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
3 clementines
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
12 large green olives (such as Cerignola), pitted, quartered lengthwise
6 Medjool dates, pitted, diced
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped (reserve 1 tablespoon for garnish)

Bring broth to boil in small saucepan.  Add ½ tsp salt, the chickpeas and the couscous.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.

Using a microplane grater, remove the zest of the clementines and set aside.  Peel the remaining skin from the clementines and cut segments into 1/4-inch pieces.

Add the olives, dates, mint, and clementines to the couscous. Stir to incorporate evenly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the Sea bass:
6 5-oz portions of fresh sea bass filets (skin on)
olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ½ cups orange juice
2 tsp fresh, chopped mint

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees
Pat dry the filets dry and season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat.  Drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat the surface.  When the olive begins to smoke, add the sea bass filets, skin side up to the pan (careful not to crowd them in the pan) and sauté for 5 minutes or until a rich golden brown.

Turn the fish over and sauté another 2 minutes and then place the pan in the oven for about 10 minutes.

Remove the fish from the pan and keep warm.  Place the sauté pan back on the stove and add the orange juice and zest to the pan drippings.  Bring to a boil and let simmer until this is reduced to about ½ cup.  Season with a little salt and pepper and the fresh mint.

To serve:

Place a good amount of the couscous on a plate and top with a sea bass filet.  Drizzle with the orange juice reduction and a sprinkling of fresh mint.