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Alici Marinate con Cipolla e Peperoncino (Marinated Anchovies with Onion and Hot Chili Pepper)

29 Jul

Marinated anchovies is a tasty, cold antipasto that can be served with homemade bread (pane casereccio) or enjoyed as a main dish with a fresh salad. The simple dressing prepared with olive oil, lemon juice and vinegar enhances the flavor of the anchovies, so reminiscent of the sea, while the onion and chili pepper make this dish even more flavorful. This is a typical Mediterranean dish, and fish is the star ingredient. Anchovies are native not only to the Mediterranean sea but are also found in the Baltic Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. They are tasty, rich in protein, iron and omega-3 fatty acids, (very important for regulating lipid metabolism and blood fluidity). You can enjoy anchovies either fresh or preserved in salt or olive oil. They are excellent for preparing sauces and, of course, on pizza – do not forget the tasty Neapolitan pizza! Marinated anchovies are something you can prepare in advance, because they keep well in the refrigerator for several days.

Preparation time: 20 min.           Marinating time: 6 hours            Servings: 4

Alici Marin
600 g (21 oz) fresh anchovies
2 cloves of garlic
1 white onion, sliced
1 hot pepper, sliced
2 lemons, juiced
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. First, prepare the marinade. In a bowl mix well oil, vinegar, lemon juice and add garlic cloves, a pinch of salt and pepper
2. Clean the anchovies. Flake with a knife, remove the head, cut the anchovies open lengthwise along the belly, remove the entrails and the spine and other bones. Wash thoroughly under running water and pat dry with paper towels
3. In a large glass or ceramic bowl (see note) first pour in a layer of marinade, then a single layer of anchovies, and then sprinkle with some of the onions and peppers. Repeat this process until all of the ingredients have been used, so that the anchovies are completely covered by the marinade. Marinade for at least 6 hours in the refrigerator until the flesh of the anchovies is white and firm.

Note: When you purchase anchovies you can verify the freshness from its color; it should be bright and intense, the body should be firm. The marinade is a process during which the meat is cooked by the acids contained in the liquids used. It is important not to use aluminum or copper containers, because in contact with the acids can release toxic compounds. – Paola



Linguine con Seppie e Pomodoro (Linguine with Ink Squid and Tomato)

2 Jul

Linguine with ink squid and tomato is a delightful pasta dish with the intense flavor and aroma of the sea, perfect for an elegant summer dinner. This recipe is prepared with ink squid, fresh or canned tomatoes, garlic and a shallot, all flavored with wine and squid ink, which gives just a very particular taste. Needless to say if you want to prepare a good sauce, the trick lies in the freshness of the squid: the fresher it is, the tastier the sauce! The ink contained inside the sack is expelled by the squid when it is threatened. In the past this dark liquid was used as writing ink, but nowadays its use is only culinary.  It is rich in melanin, mucus and amino acids. It is commonly used as a condiment for pasta (very common in Sicilian cuisine) and risotto. The preparation of this recipe is simple and fast but does require some skill to clean the fish. To facilitate this step, you can ask your fishmonger  to clean it, without doubt the most complicated part of the whole recipe.

Preparation time: 40 minutes    Cooking time: 20 minutes    Servings: 4

Linguine con seppie e pomodoro

340 g (12 0z) linguine, artisanal pasta (Faella, Martelli)
400 g (15 oz) small ink squids (each about 4-5 in. long)
450 g (1 pound) tomatoes, San Marzano or Roma (peeled and diced) or 300 g (10 oz) canned San Marzano tomatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
2  garlic gloves
1 shallot, finely sliced
120 ml (½ cup) dry white wine
3 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Clean the squid as follows: pull out the bone, cut off the head from the rest of the body and remove the skin. Remove the interior organs and the tooth. Set aside the ink sack (be careful not to break it) . Cut away the eyes with scissors. Wash well under running cold water. Dice the body into strips or squares
2. In a saucepan, bring 3 liters of salt water to a boil
3. In a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat sauté the garlic and shallot in the olive oil. Add the squid and cook for 5 minutes stirring frequently, add the white wine and continue cooking until it evaporates. Add the tomatoes and squid ink from one or two sacks. Cook over medium heat for about 10-15 min. The meat should be tender and soft. Season with salt and pepper, and add the parsley
6. In the meantime, while the sauce is cooking, toss the pasta and cook for approx. 10 min. (according to the instructions on the package). Drain the linguine and pour into the pan with the sauce, mix well and sauté for a few seconds, then serve.

Note: You can replace the plain olive oil with chili pepper-flavored oil, which makes this dish – very elegant and impressive in any case – a touch spicier … and aphrodisiac ;-)! Paola


Insalata di Polpo con Patate (Octopus and Potato Salad)

16 Apr

Octopus and potato salad, a refreshing and light dish that reveals the exquisite taste of the octopus.  It is a Mediterranean delight to enjoy either as an appetizer or a main course, served either warm or cold and accompanied by a glass of dry white wine.  The simple dressing made with olive oil and lemon juice brings out the flavor of the octopus and the potatoes. This is a lovely way to eat octopus, a low-calorie and lean seafood, and is an ideal way to get protein, minerals (especially iron), vitamins and antioxidants, without taking in too much fat.  The name of octopus derives from Greek,  octo eight and pous piede, with eight feet. Octopus is delightful, but it can be tricky to cook it, with possible results ranging from soft and tender to tough and rubbery.  The cooking time is critical for the best results, and I would recommend tenderizing it with a meat hammer (see note) before cooking.

Preparation time: 1 h       Cooking time: 40 min.               Serving: 4

conchiglia con polpo

1 whole octopus, about 900 g (2 pounds)
1 carrot
1 celery rib
1 yellow onion
2 bay leaves
1 black pepper corn
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 garlic gloves, finely chopped
8 medium size potatoes
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 tablespoon capers, washed and dry
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Wash and clean the octopus, removing the ink sack and the internal parts
2. Prepare a pot of a vegetable stock with plenty of water and the carrot, celery, onion bay leaves, black pepper corn and vinegar.  Bring it to boil, and dip in only the tentacles (holding the head) 4-5 times to curl and soften them.  Then drop the whole octopus into the water, cover and cook on low heat for approx. 40 minutes
3. Meanwhile cube the potatoes and cook until tender in salted water
4. When the octopus is done boiling, remove it from the water with tongs, chop off the head (there is not a lot of good meat in it) and cube the tentacles in small pieces 2, 5 cm (1 in)
5. In a small bowl prepare the dressing by combining olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, parsley and garlic
6. In a large bowl combine the octopus, the potatoes and the capers and season with the dressing.  Place it on a serving plate or in a shell.  You can either serve it warm or cold. You can, alternatively, also set the potatoes on a serving dish and place the octopus in the center, then add the dressing on top.

Note: When you buy the octopus, you can verify the freshness from its color; it should be bright and intense.  The octopus meat is soft and tender, but it can also rubbery depending on the preparation.  Traditionally, the octopus was beaten on the rocks to tenderize its meat.  If you don’t have a rocky coast just outside your kitchen door, you can tenderize it with a kitchen hammer for 10 min.  -Paola


Tortino di Asparagi e Salmone Affumicato (Asparagus and Smoked Salmon Pie)

15 Mar

Every season has a flavor all its own. Spring should arrive soon with its delicious vegetables, and asparagus is one them. Actually it is available year-round, but Spring is the best season to enjoy fresh asparagus. Asparagus comes in different colors and varieties: green, white, violet or purple, wild. These varieties are interchangeable in recipes; the major difference is the color of the final dish. This pie is an elegant, impressive, colorful (don’t forget that we enjoy food first with our eyes) and flavorful dish made with fresh asparagus (violet-purple variety, typical of Italy), leeks and smoked salmon. It is a delectable dish to serve as a starter or enjoy as a main course accompanied by a salad. The mild onion-flavor of the leeks blends well with the distinct taste of asparagus and the tangy, intensive texture of smoked salmon. Asparagus has been considered a delicacy since ancient times (3000 BC), being used both as a vegetable and a medicine (diuretic). It is low in calories, and it is a good source of vitamins (B1,B6, A, C), minerals (zinc, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium) and dietary fibers. It is one of my preferred Spring vegetables; I can eat it with just about anything! In fact, it is a versatile vegetable which can be prepared in a number of ways as an appetizer, vegetable side dish, main dish accompanied by eggs, fish or first course with pasta, risotto and soups. Let’s enjoy asparagus for the next few months!

Preparation time: 55 minutes      Baking time: 20-25 minutes     Serving: 6-8

Tortino di Aspar-Salmone_small

Pasta Brisee
330 g (2 cups) flour 00
160 g (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, chilled and diced
1 egg yolk
80 ml (1/3 cup) cold water
¼ teaspoon salt

1,350 g (3 pounds, or 3 bunches) asparagus
4 large leeks, white part only, finely sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
300 ml (1 ¼ cups) heavy cream
200 ml milk
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
280 g (10 ounces) smoked salmon, coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 170°C – 180°C (350°F)
Pasta brisee (Brisee crust)
1. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt
2. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs
3. Stir in water, a tablespoon at a time. Add the egg yolk until mixture forms an elastic ball
4. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

1. Wash the asparagus under running water. Trim ends (see note), bind in bunches (7-8 asparagus each) and blanch in a pan of boiling water or in the microwave with 2 tbsp water on high for 3 minutes. Test doneness with a fork. It should be tender but not mushy. Cut in 1-inch pieces keeping 4 cooked asparagus for decoration
2. While asparagus is cooling, in a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté leeks, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes. Add ½ cup of water and cook for about 10 minutes until leeks are soft. Cool for about 10 minutes
3. In a sauce pan mix cream, milk and flour with a whisk. Bring to boil stirring continuously for about 6-8 minutes until it starts to thicken. Cool and set aside
4. In a large bowl mix the leeks, the asparagus, the salmon and the cream mix. Season with salt and pepper
5. Flatten the chilled dough on a lightly floured board, then transfer to a 30 cm (12 in) ceramic or glass pie or tart baking dish. Gently pat the pastry dough in the pan to 4 mm (less than ¼ in) thickness, to line the bottom and sides. The edge should have a slightly thicker layer of pastry than the bottom, about 5 mm.
Prick the pastry bottom with the tines of a fork (four or five times is sufficient), then spread with the mix, decorate with some asparagus on top (I like to slice the 4 stalks in half, lengthwise, and arrange them like spokes on the pie)
6. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until custard is set and golden on top
7. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for about 10-15 minutes before serving
8. Serve in wedges with salmon slices and fresh dill

Note: Look for asparagus with firm heads, stem should be firm but not dried up. Try to bend the stem, you will notice that at certain point it will not break, that’s the point where the stem begins to be tough. When shopping for leeks look for ones with straight and firm stalks, dark green leaves without yellow spots (a sign of lack of freshness). Leeks can be kept in the fridge for about two weeks. Before using leeks, trim the dark portion of the leaves down to the light-green white part. Clean carefully to remove any dirt. -Paola


Tortino di Porri, Patate e Triglie (Leeks, Potatoes and Red Mullet Pie)

17 Feb

This is a simple, versatile and absolutely delectable recipe.  It is a tasty dish to serve as a starter or enjoy as a main course accompanied by a salad.  The distinct but mild onion- flavor of the leeks blends well with the starchy potatoes and the delicate texture of the red mullet, a light-pink fish found mainly in the Mediterranean sea.  Leeks were used in Egyptian cuisine as early as from the second millennium BC, both as vegetables and as aromatic herbs.  In Roman times Emperor Nero loved leeks in his soups believing that they improved the resonance of his voice.  Nowadays we still enjoy leeks in our soups, risotto, pasta, frittata (omelets), or just raw and finely sliced in salad vinaigrettes.  Leeks are often used to flavor dishes such as fish, pork and lamb.  For example, you can use them as “ natural container” to wrap up food (especially fish) during cooking, to give it an enhanced flavor.  Leeks can be served as delicious vegetable side dish, boiled and then baked with butter and cheese, or simply seasoned with oil and lemon.  In addition, leeks are a nutritious and healthy vegetable, rich in water (over 90%), in vitamin A and C, as well as containing moderate amounts of B vitamins and few calories.  We should not underestimate the aphrodisiac aspect of the leeks, a commonly known since ancient times.

Preparation time: 45 minutes          Baking time: 20 minutes              Serving: 6

tortino porri e triglie 3 small

4 large leeks, white part only, finely sliced
1 medium yellow scallion (or small onion), finely sliced
5 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
120 ml (½ cup) water
4 medium sized potatoes
900 g (2 pounds) skinless, boneless red mullet filets
250 ml (1 cup) heavy cream
230 g (½ pound) puff pastry sheet
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 170°C (350°F)
1.Wash the potatoes under running water.  Put them in a pan and cover with cold water.  Turn on the heat and bring to boil.  Cook for about 6-8 minutes until potatoes are done but not soft.  Cool, peel and dice them
2.While potatoes are cooling, in a large saucepan over medium heat sauté leeks and scallion in olive oil, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes.  Add ½ cup of water and cook for about 10 minutes until leek mixture is soft.  Cool for about 10 minutes
3.In a large bowl mix the leek mixture, the diced potatoes and the cream.  Season with salt and pepper
4. Place puff pastry in a 30 cm (12 in) baking dish, pour in the vegetable mix
5. Bake for about 20 minutes or until custard is set and golden on top
6. Remove from the oven and arrange the fish filets on top of the pie
7. Bake for additional 5-7 minutes until fish is done
8. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for about 10-15 minutes before serving.

Note: At the time of purchase, I would suggest to look for leeks with straight and firm stalks, dark green leaves without yellow spots (a sign of lack of freshness).  Leeks can be kept in the fridge for about two weeks.  Before using leeks, trim the dark portion of the leaves down to the light-green white part.  Clean carefully to remove any dirt.  You can also substitute red mullets with salmon fillets cut into thin and small pieces.  -Paola


Spaghetti al Pesce Spada e Capperi (Spaghetti with Swordfish and Capers)

1 Nov

Pasta is a great ingredient for preparing quick and delicious meals and is a real treat to make for someone special.  Spaghetti with sword fish, capers and cherry tomatoes is a tasty first course to enjoy before your non-pasta secondo (like we Italians eat it), or as a solitary main dish, fast and easy to prepare.  It is made of fresh and flavorful ingredients from Sicily, land of sea, sun and an extraordinary food tradition.  Since Italy is a country with thousands of miles of coast, it is understandable that fish is a big part of our diet.  This particular pasta sauce blends the delicate taste of sword fish with the intense flavor of the capers, either the edible flower buds or the fruit (cucunci in Italian, pronounced cu-CUN-chi) of a Mediterranean plant found in rocky terrain.  The best capers, the ones I love with my Martini (!) and like to use in my recipes, are the cucunci from the Pantelleria and Salina islands, which are preserved either in salt or vinegar.  They are used to season or garnish salads, pizza, pasta sauces, meat dishes and fish dishes. 


Preparation Time: about 20 min.        Cooking time: 7-8 min.           Servings: 4

340 g (12 oz) spaghetti (Faella Pasta)
450 g (1 pound) swordfish filet
450 g (1 pound) cherry tomatoes
90 g (½ cup) capers (sotto sale, preserved in salt)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoon olive oil (Extra Virgin)
80 ml (⅓ cup) dry white wine
2 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


  1. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and set aside
  2. Remove the stem from the cucunci capers (the flower bud capers are stem free)
  3. Wash the capers under running water to remove the salt and set aside
  4. Wash and dry the filet with paper towel.  Remove skin and dice
  5. Drop the pasta in boiling water at this time (see below)
  6. In non-stick skillet on high heat sautè the garlic with olive oil.  Add the fish filet and cook for 3 min on high heat, add the wine
  7. Add the tomatoes and cook on medium heat for 5 min
  8. Add the capers, some salt and  fresh ground pepper to taste.

In a large pot of salted water, at the same time you are cooking the sauce, cook the spaghetti al dente (for about 7-8 min, read the cooking time on the package).  Drain and transfer the pasta to the skillet, mix gently.  Before serving garnish with the parsley.

Note: If you cannot find capers from Pantelleria, make sure to choose the biggest ones you can find, as they taste better and make a better visual impact in the sauce.  You can also substitute the spaghetti with linguine, a flat, spaghetti-like pasta from Liguria, which is often served with pesto or with seafood. -Paola

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