Columns by John

John Brown has been a wine and food columnist in West Virginia since the 1980’s. His regular columns appear in the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail under the title Vines & Vittles and in The State Journal - a statewide business weekly

On the menu: roasted sea bass on pastina with an arugula salad

 Today, I’m going to tell you about a great warm weather meal beginning with a simple salad, followed by a light, spicy, yet rich, seafood entrée.  Oh, and by the way, I’m going to suggest a couple of complementary wines that will make this a meal to remember.  
Some years back, a good friend was kind enough to present me with some arugula seeds which had somehow found their way into his luggage on his return from a trip to Italy. This was about 15 years ago and arugula was an exotic, rare and highly prized salad green.  I planted the seeds and fortunately the arugula flourished.  
Consequently, each spring and early summer we have enjoyed this aromatic, peppery and nutty tasting perennial vegetable in salads and in pasta dishes. Nowadays, you can find arugula in many grocery markets and from smaller fruit and vegetable vendors (The Purple Onion in Charleston’s Capitol Market usually has a good supply). The following recipe feeds four. 
The Salad                       
You'll need: one-half pound of arugula cleaned and dried ; one-half Vidalia or Osso Sweet onion thinly sliced; one bulb of thinly sliced fennel; one seedless orange, peeled and sectioned; two ounces of shaved Parmigiano Reggiano; three ounces of extra virgin olive oil  and the juice of one lemon; Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. 
To make this salad, simply clean the arugula, dry it and then dress it with olive oil, fresh lemon, sweet onions and salt and pepper. To this mixture, add thinly sliced fennel (from the bulb), sectioned seedless oranges and top the salad off with thinly sliced (one inch long) pieces of Parmigiano Reggiano.  
The Fish  I visited my favorite seafood purveyor -Joe’s Fish Market in Charleston - and purchased four six-ounce fillets of Chilean sea bass.  For those of you who have not experienced the exquisite flavor of truly fresh fish, I suggest you travel to Joe’s and let the experts there tempt you with their deep sea goodies. While this entrée would work just as well with grouper, halibut or some other firm, yet mildly flavored fish, this dish works best with Chilean Sea Bass.  
1.  Pre -heat your oven to 400 degrees  
2.  Dredge the sea bass in a dry mixture of flour, salt and pepper and sauté in two ounces of extra virgin olive oil for about two minutes a side and remove from the pan. 
3.  In the same sauté pan, add more olive oil and lightly brown  (until translucent) a  teaspoon of freshly chopped garlic, one-half cup diced sweet onions along with one diced sweet yellow pepper.
4.  Add to this mixture one cup each of freshly cored and peeled sweet tomatoes (canned tomatoes will do in an emergency) and one-half cup of dry white wine (preferably the stuff you will be drinking with the entrée).  
5.  Cook vigorously for another three minutes then add pitted and chopped Greek or Italian black olives, and two teaspoons of capers. Remove from the heat and cover the mixture.  
6.  At the same time, boil one cup of pastina (the tiny pasta that is about half the size of a grain of rice) in two quarts of water until cooked al dente,  drain and add a teaspoon of butter, salt and pepper to taste and set aside.     
7.  Place the fish in a shallow oven pan (rubbed with olive oil) and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes until it is firm, but not overdone.   
 8.  Spoon the pastina onto a plate and put the fish on top of it. Then ladle the pepper and tomato mixture over top the fish and Viola (that’s pronounced Vie-ole-la where I come from), and you’ve got yourself some good eating. 
This is a dish which needs a light to medium-bodied white and I’ve got a couple of recommend ions for you.  

 2007 Clos Du Bois Sauvignon Blanc ($14)   This wine has very balanced flavors of melon, herbs and citrus that meld beautifully with the dish   

2007 Geyser Peak Chardonnay ($15) Ripe apple flavors and a creamy mouth feel highlight this well-balanced chardonnay that has just a kiss of oak. Matches very well with the richness of the sea bass. 
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