Saffron Marinated Branzino with Romesco & Fennel-Citrus Salad

By Chef Zachary Neman (@cheffinwithzach on social media)

This saffron marinade for the fish was actually stolen from my dad, who would always marinate our fish in saffron, lemon, and tarragon. It’s such a magical combo for fish. I used Branzino here but any kind of fish would work here (he’d usually use this marinade for salmon). I grilled mine over charcoal but it is absolutely not necessary, feel free to cook it in the way that’s easiest for you.



For Saffron Marinated Fish

  • 2 lbs whole branzino (or fish of choice), scaled, gutted, deboned, fins removed
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • ¾ tsp saffron
  • 2 Juice of lemons
  • ¼ c olive oil
  • 2 tbsp tarragon leaves, finely chopped

For Fennel Citrus salad

  • 2 cups thinly sliced fennel
  • ¼ c fennel leaves, chopped
  • 1 orange, supremed (or 2 clementines)
  • 1 heaping tbsp pitted olives, halved
  • 1 heaping tbsp capers
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • ¼ c olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste

For Romesco

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 3 roma tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 c almonds
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp cayenne powder
  • ½ Juice of lemon
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • ¼ c olive oil


Step 1

Season fish to taste with salt & pepper. Let sit while you prepare the marinade: crush saffron and transfer to a bowl and squeeze lemon, incorporate and let sit for a minute. Add olive oil and chopped tarragon. Pour marinade over fish and let sit in the fridge, covered, for at least 30 minutes.

Step 2

Prepare the fennel citrus salad. Pick fennel leaves off, removing any thick stems. Chop and set aside. Remove fennel tips and thinly slice, preferably using a mandolin to get perfectly even slices. Add fennel and its chopped leaves into a bowl along with supremed orange wedges, along with olives, capers, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust salt and/or vinegar if necessary. Cover and let sit in fridge until serving.

Step 3

If supreming an orange seems too tricky for you, feel free to substitute clementines for orange.

Step 4

If using a grill for this recipe, we want a medium-high heat. Transfer marinated fish to a grill basket. Grill, skin side first, alongside bell pepper and tomatoes. Flip fish when skin takes on some color and is crisp. Finish cooking flesh side and remove. Char bell pepper and tomatoes all over and remove.

Step 5

If you don’t have access to a grill, you can bake your fish or sear in a hot pan. Broil bell pepper and tomatoes in the oven until charred all over.

Step 6

Remove skins from bell pepper and tomatoes. Transfer to a blender or food processor. Add garlic, almonds, salt, paprika, cayenne powder, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar. Blend until smooth, while streaming in olive oil.

Step 7

Serve by first spreading a layer of the romesco, followed by some salad, then lay the fish on top.

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