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Garden Fresh and Sea Savory: Black Sea Bass with Garlic Scape Pesto

Grilled Black Sea Bass with Garlic Scape Pesto

Its spring on Cape Cod and two seasonal events occur that when combined showcase the very essence of eating local: The garlic is up in our fishing families’ gardens and they’re catching black sea bass in Nantucket Sound. 

Black sea bass is a white flaky fish, typically served whole but in this case we filleted and left the skin on and  seared it in oil on a high heat.   By leaving the skin on black sea bass, it not only enhances the nutritional value but also improves the culinary qualities of the dish. 

To achieve crispy skin, pat the skin dry before cooking. Season with salt and cook skin-side down in a hot, oiled pan without moving it until the skin is crispy and golden brown. Cooking with the skin on helps to keep the fish moist and tender. The skin can impart a rich, savory flavor to the fish, especially when seasoned well.

Garlic scapes are the flower stalks of garlic plants, which emerge in late spring to early summer. Harvesting these scapes allows the garlic plant to focus its energy on developing robust bulbs, which will be ready for harvesting later in the summer. You can typically find garlic scapes at local farm stands or farmers markets during their short season of June and July.

Grilled Black Sea Bass with Garlic Scape Pesto 


  • 1 pound black sea bass fillets with skin on

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • 1 lemon (zested and juiced)

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  • Lemon wedges for serving

  • 1/8-cup of garlic scape pesto (recipe below) 


  • Prepare the Fish: Pat the black sea bass fillets dry with paper towels. This helps to ensure a crispy skin. Brush both sides of the fillets with olive oil and season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

  • Preheat the Pan: Preheat the pan to medium-high heat :

  • Cook the Fish: Place the fillets on the grill, skin-side down. Grill for about 4-5 minutes without moving them to allow the skin to crisp up. Carefully flip the fillets using a wide spatula. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes on the other side, or until the fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.

  • Add the Lemon and Butter: During the last minute of cooking, add butter and lemon juice and spoon over fish.

  • Serve: Remove the fillets from the pan and transfer them to a serving platter. Pour garlic scape pesto over the fish.  Serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side.

Serve the fish with fresh or sauted greens from the garden.  

Garlic Scape Pesto Recipe

Making garlic scape pesto is easy and requires only a few ingredients. Here’s a simple recipe for you to follow.


  • 1 cup garlic scapes, cut into 1-inch pieces

  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • Salt to taste


  • Prepare the Ingredients: Wash the garlic scapes and trim any tough ends. Cut them into 1-inch pieces.

  • Blend the Scapes: Place the garlic scapes in a food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped.

  • Add Pine Nuts: Add the pine nuts to the food processor and pulse until they are well combined with the scapes.

  • Add Parmesan and Lemon Juice: Add the grated Parmesan cheese and lemon juice to the mixture and pulse until combined.

  • Add Olive Oil: With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the pesto reaches your desired consistency. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times to ensure everything is well mixed.

  • Season with Salt: Taste the pesto and add salt as needed. Pulse a few more times to mix in the salt.

  • Store or Serve: Transfer the pesto to a jar or container. If you’re not using it immediately, you can store it in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze it. Small Containers: Freeze the pesto in small containers for easy use later. Ice Cube Trays: For portioned servings, freeze the pesto in ice cube trays. Once frozen, transfer the pesto cubes to a zip-top bag and store in the freezer.


  • Pine Nut Substitute: If you don't have pine nuts, you can substitute them with walnuts, almonds, or sunflower seeds.

  • Flavor Variations: Feel free to add other herbs like basil or parsley for a different flavor profile.

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