A mixture of tomatoes, garlic, and water, acqua pazza (“crazy water”) is Italy’s answer to court-bouillon. Other flavorful small fish, such as orate or black sea bass, can stand in for the branzini (Mediterranean sea bass).
In a 12-inch skillet, combine water, tomatoes, garlic, hot pepper, parsley stems, lemon slices, and oil. Season well with salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 1 hour. Season fish inside and out with salt and pepper and let rest 5 minutes. Add fish to skillet – the crazy water should be just rippling, not bubbling – cover, and poach 6 minutes. Turn fish, cover, and poach another 6 minutes. Remove fish from water and let rest 5 minutes. Skin and filet the fish. Serve in shallow bowls, with some of crazy water and tomatoes spooned over the top. Garnish with a drizzle of your best olive oil and sea salt.