- 12 ounces cherry tomatoes, preferably heirloom
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 6 large egg whites (about 3/4 cup), lightly beaten
- 7 cups kosher salt (about 2 1/2 pounds), plus more for seasoning
- 1/4 cup ground fennel
- 2 whole branzino (about 1 1/4 pounds each), cleaned
- 1 1/4 pounds zucchini
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup basil leaves, plus more for garnish
How to make this recipe
Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil and fill a bowl with ice water. Using a sharp paring knife, score an “X” on the bottoms of the tomatoes and blanch them in the boiling water for 5 seconds; drain immediately and chill in the ice water. Drain again. Peel the tomatoes. In a small bowl, toss the tomatoes with the shallot, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate.
Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large bowl, stir the egg whites with the 7 cups of kosher salt, the fennel and 3/4 cup of water until the mixture resembles moist sand. Spread a scant 1/2-inch-thick layer of the salt in an oval baking dish large enough to hold both fish. Pat the salt into a neat oval and place the fish belly to belly, on top. Pack the remaining salt on top of and around the fish. Poke a hole into the crust at the thickest part of the fish, behind the head. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the hole registers 135°. Transfer the dish to a warm place and let the fish rest for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, quarter the zucchini lengthwise and cut out the seed cores; discard the cores or save for soup. Cut each quarter into 2-inch pieces. In a small saucepan, combine the zucchini pieces with the remaining 6 tablespoons of olive oil and the garlic and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the 1/2 cup of basil leaves and cook for 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to a blender. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and pulse to a chunky puree.
Run a serrated knife horizontally around the base of the salt mound and carefully remove the top crust. Transfer the fish to a work surface and fillet them, removing the skin. Transfer to plates. Spoon the zucchini <em>pistou</em> around the fish and garnish with the tomatoes. Drizzle some of the tomato marinade on top and garnish with basil leaves. Serve right away.
Minerally, medium-bodied southern French white.