Slice the eggplant into rounds and place them in a shallow baking dish or on a large platter. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and dried rosemary and thyme (or herbes de Provence) and let rest for about 15 minutes while you prep the fish. I cut the swordfish steaks into rounds to roughly match the eggplant rounds in size. Coat the fish with olive oil and dust with black pepper. Grilled the veg and the fish, salt to taste when cooked, then assemble the towers, layering with chopped tomato and fresh basil. I served these with a creamy, tangy caper sauce made from capers, mayo and lemon juice.
20-24 prawns / circa 450-500 grams of meat once shelled
1 large red bell pepper
2 large tomatoes
1 red onion
2 or 3 cloves garlic
2 Tbls chopped fresh parsley
olive oil & salt
Peel 1 eggplant entirely and the other 2 partially (in strips) and dice all three into about ¾ inch cubes. Transfer to a large platter or large baking dish and lightly sprinkle all the cubes with salt. Let rest for 15 minutes. (I don’t always purge/bleed eggplant, by the way. If the veg is super fresh, you could actually skip this step.) In the meantime you can prep the other ingredients.
Peel and de-vein the prawns if needed. When they are cleaned you should have at least 450 grams of meat.
Score and boil the tomatoes for 5 minutes. Remove them from the water and let cool.
Thinly slice the onion. Peel and smash the garlic cloves. Clean and finely chop the pepper. Chop the parsley.
The eggplant will have bled out its liquid after about 15 minutes. Drain off what liquid you can and pat off some liquid with paper towels if necessary.
Cover the bottom of a very large pan generously with olive oil and heat. When the oil is very hot, add all the cubed eggplant and toss immediately to cover the pieces with oil. Cook on medium-high heat for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The eggplant will shrink as it cooks, releasing more liquids and softening, which makes getting the ‘right’ texture a bit tricky. I think this is a matter of personal taste. Some say the eggplant in a caponata should be crisp (good luck with that); others prefer a softer texture. I judged mine to be ready when the eggplant was soft and tender. Scoop out the eggplant and place in bowl.
Peel and deseed the tomatoes, which should be cool now. Smash up the pulp and set aside.
Turn the pan back on medium-high. Add another tablespoon or two of oil if necessary. Add the onion and cook until soft, then add the garlic and pepper and cook until soft, then add the tomato, turn the heat to low, and stir well. Now add the prawns, making sure they cook in contact with the bottom of the pan. Turn after a few minutes or when they are cooked on one side. Cook another few minutes and now add the eggplant to the pan. Stir all very well and correct for salt. Add the parsley, gently combine, and let rest for a few minutes before serving.
You don’t really need a recipe to make fish tacos, which is part of their charm. Fry, steam or sauté your favorite (usually white) fish, warm the tortillas and assemble the tacos with fixings of your choice. I’ve made fish tacos with a range of different fish, like perch, cod, and halibut. Salmon, swordfish, and snapper work well, too. The tacos pictured here are made with deep-fried perch, shredded cabbage, sour cream, spicy tomato salsa and green onions. Experiment with flavors and textures to create your own favorite version!
Cooking mussels on the grill is not as crazy as it sounds. Once I got it in my head to make these, I started digging around on the internet for inspiration and quickly found a fab recipe courtesy of the classy, sharp cooks behind The Bitten Word. I’d noticed these fellows back when I was developing BSG, a period that involved a good deal of spying on other food bloggers, and I remember coveting, just a little, The Bitten Word’s clever concept and unique angle on food blogging. I particularly like their philosophy on sharing bad recipes. Check ’em out!
Back to the mussels. I ended up making them two ways. For the first batch I selected the smallest from a 3-pound bag of mussels, which came to about two-thirds the total quantity, and laid them in aluminum trays that would go right on the grill.
About 1 kilo / 2 pounds of mussels
1 large bunch of fresh parsely
2 or 3 dried red chili peppers (optional)
250 mls / 1 cup of dry white wine
Clean and thoroughly scrub the mussels. Get your grill going. Cover the bottom of the aluminum tray(s) with olive oil. Put half the batch of mussels in each tray (or all of them in one large tray if your grill will accomodate it). Rinse and roughly chop the parsley and sprinkle over the mussels. Pour about ½ cup of white wine over them. Break the chili peppers and toss them in. Seal the tray with a large sheet of aluminum foil and place on the grill, once the coals are nice and smoldering. After about 5 minutes, the mussels should start to open up. Put on some heavy oven mits and give the trays a good shake on the grill. After another 5 minutes shake them again. Tear a small hole in the foil for a peek. They should be opened and ready. (I estimate mine cooked 12 minutes altogether.) Dump the entire contents, shells and juice, into a large glass bowl. This is very like a traditional zuppa di cozze. Serve with really good French bread or a baguette.
The Bitten Word’s recipe was amazing (and I’m so glad I served their version second). I had set aside the larger mussels for this one.
About 2 pounds of mussels (I only had about 1 pound circa that night. Not enough!)
125 grams / about 1 stick of butter
2 or 3 cloves garlic
1 small bunch of fresh parsley
1 or 2 lemons
Mince the garlic and parsley, blend into the butter, and melt. I did this right on the grill (below). Slice the lemons in half and place on the grill, together with the mussels. When the mussels open up the juice spills out, but that’s okay. Let them grill a couple minutes more, and they take on a different flavor and texture, becoming meaty and smoky (yes, those are the technical terms). Transfer them to a large bowl and pour the garlic butter over them and toss well. Garnish with the grilled lemons. This was truly a divine eating experience. Thanks to The Bitten Word!
Clean them with a new sponge you’ll then toss out afterwards.
Cook them the same day they are cleaned.
Always toss out mussels that do not open during cooking (opened a little bit is okay; it’s the still totally sealed ones you have to toss).
Let me start this post by clarifying one thing: I’d been in the mood to make something kinda weird for a couple weeks before reading this. Then a few days ago my husband quips, ‘We’re not eating enough fish—make something fishy!’ So when I saw Sardinian bottarga di muggine, or cured mullet roe, this past Friday at the grocery store, I thought, Why not? It’s as good a time as any to find out what bottarga is all about. It certainly met the ‘weird’ and ‘fishy’ pre-reqs. Turns out it meets all kinds of other requisite ‘food-asshole’ rules, too.
Bottarga is expensive. The kind I picked up was on sale for €69 a kilo (about €4.80 for 70 grams), marked down from €100 a kilo. When I told my mother-in-law I’d bought some bottarga, she said, ‘Oh? How does one use it?’ Uh oh, I thought. If a Tuscan housewife and life-long cook has never used bottarga, it must be fairly obscure. What else? Right: Authentic, local, disgusting. Bottarga is all these, too! Though to be fair, it’s only disgusting if you think about what it is. Otherwise, it’s really tasty. Here are two pasta dishes with bottarga sauces.
Linguine with tomato, parsley & bottarga
350 grams (about ¾ of a pound) linguine or spaghetti
3 to 4 tomatoes
1 small bunch fresh parsley
1 garlic clove
70 grams (about 2 &½ ounces) of finely sliced bottarga, plus a little more for garnishing
Set a large pot of water to boil for the pasta, and a smaller one for the tomato. Slice the bottarga with a very sharp knife into small medallion-like pieces. Score the tomatoes and boil them for 5 minutes, drain and cool. When cool enough to handle, peel and chop up the tomato into a kind of pulp. Then strain most of the liquid from the pulp and set aside. Chop most of the parsley and the garlic medium-fine. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan. Add the garlic and parsley and cook for a minute, then add the tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes on low heat. Add the bottarga slices and simmer for another 3 or 4 minutes. Cook the linguine al dente, drain and toss with the sauce, garnish with the rest of the parsley and grate some bottarga on top.
Seafood ravioli in bottarga and butter sauce (I used mezzelune allo scorfano, or half-moon shaped ravioli stuffed with red scorpion fish, but any seafood-stuffed pasta will work.)
500 grams (about 1 pound) of seafood ravioli
4 tablespoons butter
60-70 grams bottarga
Boil the water. Slice the bottarga as above. Melt the butter in a pan and add the bottarga, gently nudging and pressing the pieces to melt them some. Cook the ravioli and strain. Add to the bottarga sauce and toss gently. Grate some bottarga over the ravioli, and top with fresh ground black pepper. Remember to feel sufficiently self-righteous as you serve bottarga to your (hopefully) intimidated guests.
This (modified) recipe comes courtesy of BBC Good Food, a fantastic resource for recipe ideas. I served these crunchy and delicious cakes with a simple escarole salad and yogurt sauce. BBC’s recipe called for a fancy-pants salad: tomato, avocado, and watercress with a lemon and Dijon mustard dressing. In any case, the salad and its dressing signify nothing with fish cakes this good. Garnish as you like.
2 large salmon steaks
500 grams potato
125 grams of broccoli florets (about 1 cup)
oil for frying (BBC used sunflower oil; I used olive)
1 cup circa bread crumbs
1 egg (optional)
1 bunch fresh dill
salt & pepper
1 250-gram container of whole yogurt (about 1 very full cup)
Juice the lemons and roughly chop the dill. Set both aside. Prepare the salad of your choice and arrange on a serving plate. Add about 1/3 of your dill and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to the yogurt. Salt to taste, stir well, and store in the fridge.
Cut the potatoes in half and bring them to a boil in salted water. Boil for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are soft but not mushy. About 5 or 6 minutes into the cooking time, add the broccoli pieces to the potatoes. You’ll want the broccoli to cook about 3 or 4 minutes. Then strain everything and let cool.
Poach the salmon steaks until they are pale in color throughout when you flake them open. Remove from the water and set aside while you return to the potatoes.
When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the skins. Roughly mash them into a large bowl together with the broccoli. Some chunks of broccoli are nice, but tried to get most of the potato mashed up well. Back to the salmon.
If some areas of the salmon steaks are still a bit raw, close to the bone for instance, no worries since you’ll soon be frying them. Flake the fish into the bowl of potato and broccoli, being careful to remove all the bones and skin as you proceed. At this point I suggest adding one egg to the mixture, which was not included in BBC’s recipe. To me the egg was absolutely essential to shaping cakes that would keep their form, but feel free to try without. Mix everything together thoroughly with a fork. Add the lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper, and mix a bit more.
Using your hands, give the salmon mixture another good blending. Start forming your cakes. If you’ve not done this before, a good technique is to form a ball shape, about the size of a lime, then gently compress it to a medallion-like shape. Use your fingers to repair any breaks on the edges by pressing back into the form. Set each cake on the plate of bread crumbs. Proceed until you have finished all the mixture. Coat the cakes thoroughly with bread crumbs.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan. When it’s super hot, gently place the cakes in to fry (use a spatula). Fry about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn the cakes once only. Check the bottoms often by lifting gently with your spatula before turning them. They are ready to turn when golden, and tangibly firmer from the crunchy outer crust forming. Fry another 4 to 5 minutes on the second side. Transfer to a paper towel-covered plate or tray and lightly salt. Serve with the salad and yogurt sauce.
Admit it. The title got your attention.
I’ve been taking a cooking class this month, four lessons of exclusively fish and seafood recipes developed by a local chef named Sauro Ciani. Needless to say, I’ve enjoyed myself. This recipe, from our first lesson, calls for grouper fish (cernia), which was not available at the fish counter I frequent so, per Sauro’s recommendation, I used an even funnier-named fish, tub gurnard, or tub fish (gallinella) instead.
700 grams (1 & 1/2 lbs) grouper or tub fish fillets
700 grams of boiled potatoes (about 4 medium potatoes)
2 yellow onions
1 clove garlic
1 bunch of fresh chives
1 bunch of fresh parsley
8 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 Tbls olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
Boil the potatoes with the skins on until they are al dente (cooked but still firm, not mushy). Drain and let cool. When cool enough, peel off the skins and slice the potato into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Set aside.
Prepare the fish. Rinse the fillets. Using a sharp, long knife, slice the fish into small ‘scallop’-shaped pieces, working with the natural structure of the flesh (not against), and at a low angle, almost sideways. As you proceed, most of the skin of the fish will come away pretty easily, but don’t worry if some remains. It will fry up nicely. You will have several scallops roughly the same size as your potato rounds. Flour both sides of the scallops in rice flour and leave aside, directly in the flour on a plate is fine.
Peel and thinly slice the onions. Rinse the parsley and finely chop it together with the garlic.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan. When the oil is hot start frying the potato slices. When the first side is golden, gently flip the rounds and sprinkle with some of the parsley and garlic. (You might end up doing this step more than once, depending on the size of your pan, so do not necessarily use up all the parsley on the first round of frying). When the second side of the potatoes is golden, lift out the rounds, place them on a paper-towel covered plate, and dust with salt. Keep going until all the potato slices are cooked.
In the same pan begin frying the scallops of fish. You might need to add more oil. Cook for about four minutes on each side, or until very golden and slightly crunchy. Remove to paper and salt.
Still using the same pan, fry the onions (lower the heat a bit). While these are cooking, begin making the towers. On a serving platter, prepare a layer of potato rounds. Then, on top of each round place a slice of fish. Keep ‘building up the tower’ until you have finished the ingredients, checking on your onions periodically while you do so. Don’t worry if your towers are neither entirely vertical nor immune to toppling. When the onions are golden and slightly crunchy sprinkle them on top of the towers, now garnish with the thyme and/or chive.
Okay, I admit I’m using the term niçoise a bit loosely here. This version, with smoked salmon instead of tuna or anchovy, is far more popular in my house, and just as healthy and delicious.
250 grams (8-9 ounces) smoked salmon
3 hard-boiled eggs
1 small jar of olives, niçoise if you can get them, but taggiasche are also a good choice
1 small red onion
1 small handful of capers (optional)
1 large ripe tomato
1 lettuce head or bag of mixed greens
olive oil, salt, pepper
Boil the eggs for no more than 10 minutes and let cool. Tear and wash the lettuce and place in a large bowl. Thinly slice the onion and add to the greens together with the olives and optional capers. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Toss these ingredients well and transfer to a salad bowl or platter. Peel and quarter the eggs and lay on top of the salad. Add the strips or chunks of smoked salmon. Slice the tomato, remove the seeds and pulp, and add slices to the salad. Serve with lemon wedges.
For a traditional niçoise, see David Lebovitz’s recipe, which includes fava beans and is dressed with a French vinaigrette. It’s also a good read.
I usually make this prawn & avocado salad as a side to accompany grilled fish. That way you can make use of your grill to cook the peppers, the prawns, your main fish course, and grill your bread, too, if you wish.
About 2 lbs (1 kilo) of fresh prawns (only 50% will be edible meat once the prawns are cleaned)
2 perfectly ripe avocados
3 green onions (aka scallions)
3 to 5 small cherry peppers
1 16-ounce container (about 450 grams) of crème fraîche or sour cream
lemon juice, salt and pepper
Make the pepper sauce first. Clean the peppers by slicing the tops off and removing the seeds with a teaspoon. Grill the peppers over hot coals or blacken over a range top burner, turning them frequently so they blacken evenly. Place the blackened peppers in a large glass bowl and cover with foil. When they have cooled enough to handle, removed the blackened skins. At this point, the brave of taste bud should sample one of the cooked peppers to judge how hot they are after cooking (peppers always vary in this, in my experience). If they are sweet bordering on hot, go ahead and use all five. If they are very hot, use three, or even two. This is truly a matter of personal taste. Put the flesh of the peppers in a large clean bowl and mash with a fork until they break down. Then add your cream and blend with a wand mixer until you have a smooth, pretty pink sauce. Salt to taste, starting with a couple pinches. Store the sauce in the fridge while you move on to the prawns.
Cleaning prawns is a bitch. It’s time consuming and thoroughly unpleasant work. I recommend using whatever tools you have at your disposal (read: spouse or adult child) to help with the task of removing the shells and de-veining. If you are new to this task, have a look at this video demonstration courtesy of About. It’s very good.
If your grill is still hot, put your cleaned prawns on a large piece of heavy duty foil, folded over and sealed, and place on the grill. Cook for about 4 to 5 minutes. Watch them closely (cut a little hole in the foil). They are cooked when the flesh has turned white and pink. Remove the foil container to a plate, tear open the foil a bit (being careful not to burn yourself) and let cool to room temperature. If you are not grilling, you can saute the prawns in a little butter and lemon juice until they are white and pink. Let them cool.
Slice the green onions. Take the pepper sauce from the fridge and let rest at room temp a few minutes.
Put the prawns in a low, wide bowl. Add the onions and a few squeezes of lemon juice and toss well. Open your avocados and slice or dice them (however you prefer) and gently toss with the prawns and onion. Now arrange the salad on your serving plate, drizzle generously with the pepper sauce, and dust with fresh ground pepper (optional). This salad is great with a baguette or good sourdough. The extra pepper sauce, should you have any, is very tasty on omelettes or steamed or grilled vegetables. Enjoy!