In a shallow, oven proof dish, combine the water, lime juice, and salt. Turn the slices of fish in the mixture and leave to marinate for 1 hour in the refrigerator. Turn over once halfway through the marinating time. In a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder, combine the peppercorns, coriander and cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. Grind the spices to a powder. Add the garlic and pound to a paste with the spices. In a large saucepan, combine the spicegarlic paste with the vinegar, water, oregano, bay leaves, toasted whole cloves of garlic, salt, and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat. Add the olive oil, red wine vinegar, and 1 1/4 cups water to the pan, and again bring it up to a boil. Set the escabeche aside, covered. Shake the fish slices dry. In a large skillet, heat the safflower oil until very hot. Fry the slices of bass
for about 3 minutes on each side, then place on a serving platter and pour the hot escabeche mixture over them. Cover the dish and let marinate for 2 hours, at room temperature. When ready to serve, flake the fish and serve with some of the escabeche mixture.
To toast dried herbs and garlic, heat a small non stick pan over medium heat. Toss the oregano for a few seconds, then remove from the pan. You are only toasting it enough to release the flavorful oils. Toast the garlic in the same way, with its skin on. When the skin is browned, remove from the heat, peel, and use as directed.
c.1997, M.S. Milliken & S. Feniger, all rights reserved