Saturday, 25 June 2011

Baked Sea Bass with Olives and Nostalgia ( Branzino- Orata in Tortiera)

Every morning she opened the window to look at the sea...

The blue sea

  And every morning... the boats sailed over the "blue" as the sun burnt the Earth like it was  midday.

Watching the boats
 From far away, the smell of chamomile, made stronger by the sweet Summer breeze, reminded her of a Sunday morning, by the sea, when she gathered shells and dried  seaweed and the ancient olive trees danced, over the other side of a busy road, as if they were running towards the water... It must have been early June, as the chamomile was ready to be picked: it had a rich, sunny scent... From the tiny flowers, the fragrance of a hot Summer's day, and a memory from the past... or maybe the future. Can you have memories from the future? What is time, anyway?


I so crave the sea and the colours of "HOME" in the Summer season. I remember all the adventures I had, with my father, catching crabs and shrimps, buying ice cream, swimming in the sea and finally, going back home.

Sea urchins and shell fish we caught in the Adriatic

I was looking at pictures taken one and two years ago, in Italy... the sea is so beautiful and so blue... How can that sea be so beautiful, so blue, so immense...  bigger than the Ocean? Does my love make the sea appear deep and full of promise? How could the Greek Traveller fail to obey the song of the Mermaids? That is exactly what I hear... it's that song which allows me to "travel" so I can go back to life, as it used to be...

Well... I was obviously feeling very nostalgic, today, and a bit homesick. I miss  my sea, in Summer. So... I had to cook a VERY Southern  Italian dish, which would fill the house with "happy" aromas. May not seem poetic to you, but to me, it does... it reminds me Summer and of of home!
Here it is what I cooked ( not very poetic, but very good, indeed!)

Branzino in Tortiera
Baked Sea Bass with olives

Sea bass and sea bream

Serves 2
2 medium sized sea bass
a handful of olives
2 cloves garlic, chopped
some parsley
4-5 tomatoes halved or quartered
some olive oil
black pepper
a generous sprinkling of Pecorino cheese
some dried origano
Optional: a few fresh mussels
for added flavour

I washed my fresh sea bass, cleaned it by discarding its fins and tail, then placed it in an ovenproof dish. Next,  I added my chopped garlic, parsley, and arranged my tomatoes ( I used tiny plum tomatoes) and olives round the fish.

Ready for the oven

I added some water ( a couple of glasses- do not cover the fish!)) a generous glug of olive oil ( I also went over the fish with the oil!) followed by some grated cheese, salt, black pepper and some origano. I also added a few mussels to my dish, for added flavour. It worked! This dish is called  "Pesce in Tortiera" a "tortiera being the name of the pan in which the fish is cooked.
I made a foil "lid" for my tortiera, which was then placed into a hot oven (200 C- Gas 6-400F) for as long as it took, really. I kept checking my fish and I knew it was cooked when it looked golden, a lot of the water had reduced, producing a fantastic sauce and the steam which came out of the oven made me think:"Hmmmm...." Translated, that means about 30 to 40 minutes!

My beautiful sea bass is ready!


  1. This is one of my favourite fish. Thank you for providing the recipe. Recently I grilled some bass and was disappointed to lose the skin to the grill.
    I will certainly be making this dish.
    Your childhood memories of Italy are so special and you bring alive my fond memories of this beautiful country (I feel it is my second home) and I go there whenever possible.

  2. Anna, what a beautiful,nostalgic piece. You have made me think about my summer memories of holidays with my family. I have never cooked sea bass but this recipe looks very tempting...Jane x

  3. Helen, I like having a "place" where I can share my memories and I am happy to be able to bring "your" memories alive, too!

    Changing subject, next time you grill fish "paint" some olive oil all over the fish to prevent it from "sticking" to the grill. Otherwise, follow my recipe, or place your fish onto a piece of foil, pour some olive oil and lemon juice over it, followed by some chopped garlic and parsley, salt, black pepper and a slice of lemon. Make a parcel and bake for twenty or so minutes, or you could try barbecueing. It's delicious, healthy and you won't "lose" the skin!



  4. Welcome back, Jane! I hope you had a fantastic break in Paris. You were missed...
    Thank you for a lovely comment. I'm so glad you enjoy reading what I write... it may sound like a lot of romantic stuff, but, well... that's how I feel!

    Try the fish... sea bass or sea bream are very delicate and moist and not too fishy.

    A DOPO...


  5. Ciao Anna!
    Thank you for stopping by, glad you've pointed me to your lovely blog!
    The time capsule smelling of Borotalco and Palmolive soap put a smile on my face :-)
    Special greetings from Venice to Mrs. Rosa!

    Michela x

  6. Hi Michela! Thanks for the special greetings. I enjoyed looking at your blog, especially the post about Venice at Christmas. I think that Venice should "be" seen in Winter. The architecture and the "colours" of Venice somehow seem to suit a gray, melancholic Wintery, but all the same very romantic mood!