Much of California's squid catch, which exceeds 50 million pounds each year, is frozen at the docks and shipped overseas. But in midsummer, freshly caught and quickly cooked squid is as impressive as any seafood, anywhere, anytime.
The Pacific Ocean is home to two types of halibut: Pacific halibut and California halibut. The former is much bigger and a little oilier, but because all halibut is lean, it's crucial not to overcook it. Prepared well, the flesh is firm and mildly sweet.
Despite high demand for Dungeness crabs in recent years, the supply in the Pacific is more plentiful than ever. Dungeness crabs are larger than East Coast blue crabs, and (good news for hostesses) one makes a meal.
With skin as black as coal and flesh as tender as cream, black cod (a.k.a. sablefish or butterfish) carries the flavors of marinades beautifully and proves an excellent substitute for overpriced and overfished Chilean sea bass.
True sole comes from Europe, and most of what is advertised as sole in the United States is really flounder. But petrale sole, a Pacific Coast fish, has no reason to apologize for its pedigree. Quick-cooking and mild, it won't overpower other ingredients.