This recipe is about flexibility Italian style. Though fish and potatoes define the dish, it's the "accent" vegetable that reflects the season. In this version, the accent is artichokes for spring. But you can substitute everything from asparagus to zucchini. What I like about artichokes is how they contrast with the sweetness of the potatoes. Experiment with what you find at your local farmer's market, remembering that the "flexible" vegetable will only be in the oven for about twenty minutes, so it might have to be precooked. In a pinch, you can also use steamed frozen artichoke hearts; they're not quite the same, but an easy substitute.
2½ pounds baby artichokes (or substitute globe artichoke hearts and bottoms or frozen artichoke hearts)
1 pound Idaho potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick (3 cups)
4 teaspoons sliced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
4 canned plum tomatoes, drained and cut lengthwise into 6 slices
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup vegetable stock
Four 7- to 8-ounce wild striped bass fillets
¼ cup dry white wine
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
2. Fill a bowl with water. Cut the lemon in two and squeeze the juice into the water. Add the squeezed lemon halves to the water, too. If you are using baby artichokes, peel the outer leaves from the artichoke until you reach the part where the leaves are mostly a creamy yellow. Cut the top inch off the artichoke and trim away the stem so that you are left with a golf ball-sized heart. Slice into ¼-inch pieces and place in the lemon water. (For globe artichokes, remove the tough outer leaves and cut the artichokes into wedges. Remove the choke and the soft curly leaves above it. Slice and place in the lemon water.) Set aside. Drain before using.
3. In a large bowl combine the artichokes, potatoes, garlic, rosemary, basil, tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the olive oil and toss to coat.
4. Place the potato mixture in a large ovenproof baking dish, add the vegetable stock, and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. Spoon out a quarter of the vegetables into a bowl. Reserve.
5. Season the fish with salt and pepper and rub the fillets with a little olive oil. Arrange the fillets on the potato and artichoke mixture and add the wine. Cover the fish with the reserved potato mixture. Bake, uncovered, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through. Serve.
WINE SUGGESTION: I like wines with the slightly mineral taste of grapes grown by the sea here. Look for whites from the area of Maremma, like Litorale Vermentino. A Pinot Grigio would be good, too.