By Teri Tsang Barrett
Believe it or not, this meal takes about 20 minutes from start to finish (okay, it might take a few more minutes to preheat the oven!).It’s worth it to use meyer lemons, which are in season during the winter; the peel and seeds are edible, with the overall fruit tasting sweet and tangy. If you have a handheld slicer, use it to slice the fennel; otherwise, a sharp chef’s knife will do the trick. You can also swap cod or halibut for the sea bass, but neither will be able to mimic the buttery richness that plays so well with the tartness of the salad. And the best part? Once you’ve made this dish, you’ll never need to follow the recipe again.
2 bunches thin asparagus, woody ends snapped off
1 large bulb fennel, trimmed, halved lengthwise, cored and very thinly sliced
2 meyer lemons or 1 large navel orange, trimmed and cut into 1/3-inch cubes
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
Four 8-ounce fillets striped sea bass
1. Preheat the oven to 450°. In a large bowl, drizzle the asparagus with 3 tablespoons olive oil, toss and season with salt and pepper. On a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, arrange the asparagus in a single layer, reserving the bowl. Transfer to the oven and roast until tender and slightly shriveled, about 15 minutes.
2. While the asparagus is roasting, arrange the fillets on another parchment paper-lined baking sheet; season generously with salt and pepper and drizzle each fillet with about 1 tablespoon olive oil. Transfer to the oven roast alongside the asparagus for the last 10 minutes of cooking; the fish will be opaque and the flesh will easily flake.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the fennel: trim and remove the tough stalks, reserving about 1 tablespoon fennel fronds from the base (these are the softest and sweetest fronds). Halve the fennel bulb lengthwise, and cut out and discard the triangular-shaped core; very thinly slice the fennel bulb. Add the fennel to the reserved bowl.
4. Prepare the lemons: trim and discard the ends, then slice crosswise into ¼-inch-thick rounds. Stack the rounds and slice into ¼-inch-thick batons. Stack the batons and cut into ¼-inch-thick cubes. Add the cubed lemons and any juice to the fennel and toss. Season with salt and pepper, add the champagne vinegar and toss; drizzle with about 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss. Season to taste.
5. Divide the asparagus among 4 dinner plates and transfer a fillet to each plate; top each piece of fish with the citrus-fennel salad.