When you have super fresh fish — and I mean FRESH — caught an hour or two back by a local fisherman, sold directly to the fishmonger and put into your hands, freshly cleaned by said fishmonger seconds after you have pointed at it and said “one of those” (or several in our case), the best thing to cook with it is…not at all. And thus, we have the appetizer of Menu Number 2 at the vacation house.
Menu Number 2:
Appetizer: Tuna Tartar with fresh mint
Primi: Linguini Aglio e Olio with breadcrumbs and bottarga
Secondi: Peche Aqua di Mare – fish in water of the sea
Salad: lemons with anchovies
Dessert: Cactus fruit with citrus blossom honey, Granite, 2 kinds – purple mulberry and almond, local plums and grapes
We enjoyed this menu even more than the first – because quite a few of the dishes were really new for us.
Let’s get started. Have a drink of this:
This turned out to be a huge surprise, because what happened was…my mother described the wine she had had at lunch to Giuseppe, telling him at length how much she had enjoyed it. He and Esmeralda asked a few questions, trying to identify it, showing her a few photos on an ipad, debating back and forth what it could have been. And then…Giuseppe mysteriously disappeared. And reappeared about 30 minutes later with the wine in hand! Crazy man! (Amazing host 🙂 ). He had gone down to the local village and found the wine to bring it back to my mother and to all of us to drink with our dinner. Talk about hospitality….wow.
Anyway, time to get cooking.
Appetizer: Tuna Tartar.
Truly, there is not much to this. Chop up some fresh mint, chop your tuna into about centimeter-sized cubes. Mix both with some lemon juice and olive oil and salt. Put it in the fridge to rest a bit (perhaps 20 minutes) and then take it out. Drain off the liquid. Add lemon juice and olive oil again and mix. Taste for seasoning – add some fresh mint and a bit of salt if you need it. Plate it up with a slice or two of fresh fennel and some pillows of arugula. Serve with some fresh bread. Or even toasts with a little garlic and salt.
Ummmm. Fresh and good. Taste the sea.
Primi: Linguini Aglio e Olio. (With breadcrumbs and bottarga – tuna roe/eggs)
This is one of the most basic pasta dishes you can make. It only has around 4 ingredients in it. Pasta – boiled in salted water until al dente, as usual. In a pan, some breadcrumbs lightly browned with an anchovy for a few minutes (anchovy removed after) and set aside. Again, in a pan, warm some oil, a clove or two of garlic, and some chili – either fresh or dried – you want to flavor the oil, not toss the pasta with chilies. When your pasta is almost done, drain it and throw it into the pan after removing the chilli/garlic.
Let the oil gently coat the strands of pasta. Pour in a little of the salted water if necessary to finish the cooking process. When the pasta is glossy, toss it with breadcrumbs and plate it up. Either grate or sprinkle a little bottarga over the top (very salty and fishy – but in a good way),
and serve extra breadcrumbs on the side. Such a simple thing, and so satisfying.
And next we must discuss salad. I can’t wait to make this one again. Simple and mouth puckering good. When we discussed this salad, I explained I only knew a similar thing with oranges and fennel and olives. Esmeralda explained that what I was describing was a winter salad, not a summer one. And so here we have it, summer salad in Sicily: lemon salad with anchovies.
Slice the skin off all your lemons and then slice them thin. I will make them even thinner than in the picture next time. Chop up some green onions, chillies and anchovies. Sprinkle them over the top. Cover with some streams of olive oil. A little salt. Done. Sour! and Salty! but sooo soo good.
The secondi this time was a dramatic thing. Here we have a Pauro fish – local. Very flavorful, and this guy was big – enough to feed at least 6 people with all the dishes we had.
It was put in a big oven dish with a sheet of parchment covered with some olive oil. In went salt water – ideally you use sea water, but if not, just tap water with salt – and a big glass of white wine. A few tomatoes cut in half, a clove of garlic and a leaf of basil. Some sprinkles of chili. Turn your oven all the way up to 200 Celsius and let this fish bake for an entire hour. It will come out moist and perfect. Filet it carefully and pile the fish chunks onto plates along with a drizzle of olive oil and a little of the liquid the fish poached in. Also note: you can use that liquid in your pasta the next day as a base!
Pure flavors of the sea on a plate.
And finally, dessert. Three of them. (Oye!)
First one – go outside and pick cactus fruit from your cacti. You don’t have cacti? Pity. Because after you pick them, you carefully remove the skin and simply place a fruit on a plate with a spoonful of honey that has been made with citrus blossoms from your orchard. You don’t have a citrus orchard?! Waaaa? Ok. Buy some honey. Buy some cactus fruit. Or alternatively you might use….a kiwi? That might work. Dip the fruit in the honey. Lovely. Light. Refreshing.
Refreshing is the key word for the second dessert. The amazing local ices they call “Granite.” A million flavors. But the flavor you absolutely want is Almond. No question. All this stuff is, is sugar and ground up almonds/milk from almonds frozen into a slushy kind of format. You eat it with a spoon/you slurp it with a straw. They sell it everywhere. What we learned is that the Sicilians eat it for breakfast. No lie. They get it and pour a scant teaspoon of espresso over the top of it (sooooo delish), and scoop it up with sweet brioche bread. I didn’t try it that way but I can oh…so…imagine how lovely it is.
Or course for our hosts, ONE flavor was not enough. They treated us to two – Mulberry in Italian is apparently “Gelsi” – and you can get the white or the purple mulberries. It was very nice as well, but the almond with the espresso blew it away. Really, I could eat a scoop of it right now and it’s freezing here in Munich.
Apparently it’s quite easy to make with some marzipan. I need to look into a recipe and maybe even try it out on Thursday or Friday.
Our third dessert was fruit again – local plums and red grapes. Sweeet and refreshing as well.
And that’s a wrap. Our second amazing dinner with the D’ursos. Thank you again: Esmeralda, Sandra, Giuseppe. We look forward to cooking with you again!