Fish

Salmon Carpaccio with Robiola di Roccaverano and Caramelized Pears

Salmon carpaccio is everywhere. You can eat it as “sashimi” in Japanese restaurants, or under the name of “gravlax” in the Swedish cuisine. You can find it with fresh arugula salads, in gourmet sandwiches or – for the less bold – smoked.

What I like about it is its creamy consistency and sweet flavor. Moreover, it combines well with several ingredients, from fruit to cheese, to spicy or sour sauces and herbs. Salmon may seem quite difficult to cook, but it’s pretty versatile instead.

This recipe comes from a food experience I had some years ago in a beautiful restaurant in Concordia, a small town in the Emilia Romagna region. The chef served us salmon carpaccio prepared in a very Italian way.

As you may know, salmon is not so common in Italian traditional cooking. It’s a Nordic ingredient, and Italian people generally know its smoked version as a delicatessen to eat during the Christmas holidays. So 80s…

What I love about this dish is the fact that it mixes salmon with some of the best Italian ingredients. You have oranges, lemons, the wonderful Robiola di Roccaverano cheese and some little caramelized pears to go with it. Because, as we say here in Italy, “don’t let the farmer know how good is the pear with the cheese”!

Believe me when I say that this is the perfect match. Fresh, full of flavor and it looks fancy but it’s so easy to make! You’ll fall in love with this salmon carpaccio at first bite.

Salmon Carpaccio with Robiola di Roccaverano and Caramelized Pears (4 servings)

600 gr. fresh salmon, cut into thin slices (by your fishmonger!)

200 gr. Robiola di Roccaverano (you can use cream cheese if you can’t find it, but well….you know)

1 orange (juice and zest)

1 lemon (juice and zest)

2 Bosc pears

icing sugar

black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

a fresh baguette to serve

 

LET’S DO IT! 

Preheat the oven at 180° C (356° F).

Cut the pears in very thin slices, then put them on a baking tray with baking paper and sprinkle them with icing sugar. Bake them for 30 minutes, or until they are browned and lightly burned on the sides.

At this point, squeeze the orange and the lemon, add some black pepper and some drops of extra virgin olive oil: this is the marinade for the slices of salmon. Cover the salmon with the marinade and let it rest in the refrigerator for an hour.

Now, let’s prepare the Robiola. Very easy. Mix the cheese with black pepper and the zest of lemon and orange, then add a tbsp of oil. Let it rest.

Time to serve. Put 3 to 4 slices of salmon on each dish, then some slices of caramelized pears and a quenelle of Robiola. Serve it with a fresh baguette, previously warmed in the oven. Enjoy!

 

 

Fish, Pasta

Spaghetti with Stracciatella, Datterini Confit and Prawn Tartare

Yes, it sounds strange. And wrong. For all your life, you’ve been taught that fish and cheese is not a good marriage. And when it comes to something so delicate and unique as prawns, it gets even worst. No cheese, no cream, no butter. Nothing but extra virgin olive oil, maybe some lemon zest and – if you’re very brave – some basil or parsley.

But since cooking is all a matter of bravery and a touch of recklessness, today I want to break all the rules. Yes, I’m going to use prawns AND cheese. In the same dish. Try to stop me if you can.

It’s a rainy morning in Venice, and the fish seller has a wonderful variety of shellfish. Prawns are among my favorite kinds of crustaceans, so I’ve decided to buy some of them. I’m going to meet my dear friend Sara for lunch. I think that prawns are the perfect ingredient for two gourmandes as we are.

The secret of this simple pasta dish is balance. Prawns are sweet and salty at the same time, so you’ll need a sour element – but not too sour to balance their flavor. Datterini tomatoes confit play this role. They give a touch of sourness to the dish, still keeping their sweetness. For the creamy side, I’ve decided to use stracciatella. This cheese has a very mild flavor and an interesting texture – imagine strands of mozzarella soaked in cream. Yes, it’s THAT good.

You’ll love it. Plus, it’s the perfect dish if you want to stun your guests with almost no effort. In fact, you can prepare the basic ingredients in advance, then put together the dish at the last moment.

Spaghetti with Stracciatella, Datterini Confit and Prawn Tartare (4 servings)

4oo gr. spaghetti

16 prawns

250 gr. Datterini tomatoes

250 gr. Stracciatella cheese

extra virgin olive oil

lemon zest

sea salt

sugar

black pepper

thyme

1 tbsp of colatura di alici (optional)

 

LET’S DO IT! 

First of all, let’s prepare the datterini tomatoes. The confit technique takes time. You can cook them in advance, even the day before. Cut them in half and place them on a baking tray, with the cut side on top. Sprinkle them with fresh thyme, sea salt, sugar, black pepper and some drops of oil. Bake them at 120° (248°F) for about two hours, or unless they are dried out.

Now it’s time to clean the prawns. Remove the shells and the heads by pulling and twisting. Use a sharp knife to create a slit down the back of the prawns to remove the vein. Clean them with a dry paper towel and cut them thinly to have a nice tartare. Season the prawn tartare with black pepper, olive oil and some lemon zest. Add some salt, if needed.

Bring the water to a boil, then add a tbsp of salt and the pasta. Cook the spaghetti following the instructions on the package, keeping them al dente. When they’re ready, drain them and cream them in a large pan with some oil and a tbsp of colatura di alici. Add the datterini tomatoes and keep stirring. Now you’re ready to serve.

Create a nest on the plate with the spaghetti. Put a tbsp of stracciatella cheese inside each nest, then add a tbsp of prawn tartare. You can give a final touch by adding some black pepper, lemon zest and some drops of the best extra virgin olive oil you can find!

 

 

 

Fish, Lactose free, Veggies

White Asparagus Soup with Scallops and Prosciutto Crudo di Parma

I’ve read an article on the Huffington Post titled “Everything you Need To Know About White Asparagus”. Now, the article wasn’t so thorough as it promised, but I liked the definition of this lovely spring ingredient as the “vampire of the vegetable world”. Not only it highlights its mysterious nature, but also its rarity.

As you may know, white asparagus are not white just because. They become white after a forced procedure where they are grown underground. The absence of sunlight prevents the formation of chlorophyll and ta-daa! No green color on them. But there’s more. I’m not a scientist, so I can’t explain how it happens, but they also become more tender and sweeter than normal asparagus.

Plus, they are SO fancy! White asparagus are certainly among the fanciest ingredients you can possibly eat during springtime. I’ve found an even fancier way to cook them. There’s a soup (dah..), but there’s also Prosciutto crudo di Parma (look here for another way to serve it) and sweet scallops. In a word, a real orgasmic food experience.

I’ve tried the combination white asparagus-prosciutto crudo in Berlin, three years ago. At the beginning of Spring, farmers markets proliferate with these delicacies. In the baskets, white asparagus are close to ready-made hollandaise sauce and already cut and packed prosciutto.

Apart from the dubious quality of the last two ingredients, the idea is very nice! Boiled asparagus served with high quality prosciutto and homemade hollandaise sauce is a fantastic recipe! So, try it too.

Now, here’s my soup. Very simple, very fancy, friends will love you AND this dish. Maybe, not in this order.

White Asparagus Soup with Scallops and Prosciutto Crudo di Parma (4 servings)

1 big bunch of white asparagus

2 spring onions

2 big potatoes

1/2 lt. of vegetable broth

150 gr. Prosciutto crudo di Parma

4 scallops

extra virgin olive oil

sea salt

black pepper

 

LET’S DO IT! 

Bring the broth to a boil. In the meantime, thinly cut the spring onions and the potatoes. Begin to cook them in a large casserole with 2 tbs of extra virgin olive oil. While they cook, cut the white asparagus into small pieces, then add them to the other vegetables and stir.

Add some salt and pepper, and let the vegetables cook for 5 minutes. Then, add the broth and turn the stove down to a minimum. Let it cook for about 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are very tender. Add salt if necessary, then blend the vegetables to obtain a creamy soup.

In a small pan, roast the prosciutto slices on both sides – they should become very crispy. Put the slices on a kitchen towel, then roast the scallops in the same pan. They will roast in the grease left by the prosciutto (yum!). Cook the scallops for 3 minutes on each side, until they’re nicely browned.

Time to serve! Pour the soup in small bowls, then add two or three slices of prosciutto, one scallop for each bowl and some black pepper on top. Lovely!

Fish, Veggies

Sea Bass in Salt and Herbs Crust with Sicilian Salad

Walking by in the morning and say hello to the fish seller of the Giudecca island is one of the thing I love the most. Fresh sea bass, sea bream, black cuttlefish and precious shellfish look at me from the counter. They come from the Venice lagoon. Their marine, clean smell permeates the street and mingles with the salty wind from the Giudecca canal. And that’s one of the best thing about living in Venice.

Baking in a salt crust is an ancient cooking technique. The salt insulates the food, cooking it gently and evenly. That’s the reason why it works so well with such a delicate product as fish. By protecting the sea bass with the salt crust, the fish will stay moist and fragrant. The addition of herbs and lemon zest to the crust enhances the fresh flavor of the sea bass, without altering it.

In my opinion, there is no need to add anything else! Just a few drops of extra virgin olive oil, some black pepper, and that’s it! I have decided to serve it with a fresh Sicilian salad with fennel and oranges, and simple boiled potatoes. Enjoy this healthy and delicious dish!

 

 

Sea Bass in Salt and Herbs Crust 

1 kg. table salt

1 kg. cooking salt

sea bass (1 kg. for 2 persons)

4 egg whites

1 clove garlic

1 lemon zest

an aromatic bouquet with: rosemary, sage, thyme, parsley and bay laurel

black pepper

 

Sicilian Salad 

1 fennel                                                                                        sicilian salad

1 orange

black olives

a pinch of chili pepper

sea salt

extra virgin olive oil

 

LET’S DO IT! 

Preheat the oven at 200°C (392°F).

Let’s begin by preparing the crust. Thinly slice the herbs, together with the clove of garlic and the lemon zest. Keep 1 table spoon of sliced herbs aside: you will need it to season the fish. Whisk the egg whites and add the herbs. Then add the salt to the mixture and stir. You’ll obtain a grainy crust.

Gut and clean your seabass. Brush and season the inside with the herbs. Now take a large baking tray and cover it with baking paper. Spread half of the salt crust on the baking tray, following the shape of the fish. Then put the fish on top of it and cover it completely with the rest of the salt mixture. Gently press it.

Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. Break the crust with a small hammer and serve the sea bass fillets with Sicilian salad and some simple boiled potatoes, seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, salt and black pepper.

For the salad Thinly slice the fennel and the orange, previously peeled. Season the vegetables with extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of chili and add some black olives.

 

Fish

Scallops with Vodka White Sauce, Almonds and Fried Croutons

I’m a huge fan of all kinds of shellfish. If you want to eat fish for dinner, there’s nothing faster and easier to cook. Plus, they offer a great variety of different flavors and textures. And they always bring me back to childhood. I ate these scallops for the first time when I was ten years old. And I kept cooking them since then.

There used to be a nice little restaurant close to home some years ago. It was called Osteria dei Ricordi. The chef was Livia, an old lady with a strong passion for French cooking. She was a fantastic chef, and I still think her to be one of the best pastry chefs in the world. Her creations were a revelations.

Livia passed away some years ago, but her recipes didn’t get lost. My mom, a great cook herself, learned a lot from her. Livia loved giving her her recipes and cooking secrets. I think she saw her as a sort of daughter. So this is the story behind these scallops! I’m sure that Livia’s touch will reach you as soon as you taste them.

The presence of the vodka is so eighties-style, I know! But it’s perfect with the sweetness of the scallops and the creamy texture of the white sauce. The fried croutons and the almonds give to this dish the final crunchy touch!

 

Scallops with Vodka White Sauce, Almonds and Fried Croutons (4 servings) 

4 scallops, with shells

40 gr. almonds, thinly sliced

40 gr. butter

30 gr. all-purpose flour

400 ml. milk

a pinch of nutmeg

a pinch of sea salt

40 gr. breadcrumbs

a shot glass of vodka

extra butter to grease the shells

 

LET’S DO IT! 

Carefully wash the scallops from the sand. Dry the shells with a cloth. Now it’s time for the white sauce. Heat up the milk with a pinch of nutmeg. In another pot, melt the butter. When it’s completely melted, add the flour and stir vigorously. Cook the mixture for 2 minutes while you keep stirring.

Now add the warm milk and mix with a whisk to avoid clumps. The white sauce should cook for 5 minutes more or less, or until it grows together. Keep beating the sauce. At this point, add a pinch of salt and the shot glass of vodka. Stir until you obtain a creamy sauce and let it cool.

Preheat the oven at 200° C (392° F). Now take the shells and grease them. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on them. Gently put the scallops each one in its greased shell. Add a pinch of salt, then pour the white sauce on them.

In a pan, roast the almonds without burning them. Pay attention, since they’re very thin and they burn easily. When they have a nice brown color, take them away from the pan.

Bake the scallops in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until they are slightly brown on top. Add the roasted almond. You can serve them with croutons fried in a pan with some butter.

Fish, Gluten free, Lactose free

Salmon Fillet with Pumpkin Red Rice, Arugula and Orange Vinaigrette

I’m always looking for ideas to make my lunch less solitary and monotonous. I love mixed salads, but they can become quite boring after a while. So today I’ve decided to lose myself through memories of last September, when I was traveling with my husband in the South of France. Camargue sea salt and wild red rice, salmon fillet, winter vegetables and lunch is ready on your plate! This recipe is light and healthy and it evokes the smell and sound of the ocean during winter. Something I’m obsessed with!

The Camargue is a national park in the South of France. Everyone knows it for its swamp flora, the typical white horses and the flocks of flamingos. There are also enchanting villages where you can wander around. Les Saintes Maries de la Mer, Aigues Mortes and Arles are only some of the places we’ve visited, and they’re all absolutely breathtaking. But I have to admit that I knew Camargue for, let’s say, more “culinary” reasons! Specifically, the sea salt and the red rice, two of the best products in the world.

For this recipe, I serve the red rice like they do in Camargue: as a side dish. Its crunchy texture combines perfectly with the creamy cubes of pumpkin. The sweetness of the salmon contrasts with the bitter flavor of the arugula and the salt flakes. One more touch? The orange juice, which gives freshness and balance to the whole dish. No need to wait now: get ready to cook!

 

Salmon Fillet with Pumpkin Red Rice, Arugula and Orange Vinaigrette (4 servings) 

4 salmon fillet (250 gr. each)

400 gr. pumpkin

320 gr. Camargue red rice

zest and juice of a half orange

Camargue sea salt

black pepper

rosemary

awesome extra virgin olive oil

100 gr. arugula

 

LET’S DO IT! 

Bring to boil water in a big casserole. For 320 gr. of red rice, you’ll need about 1 lt. and a half of water. When it’s boiling, add a tsp. of salt and the red rice. Cook it for 50 minutes. The rice will still be a bit crunchy, but don’t overcook it, otherwise it will lose its peculiar characteristic. In the meantime, cut the pumpkin into small cubes and fry them in a pan with some extra virgin olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, and some rosemary. Let it cook until tender and browned.

For the orange vinaigrette, use the juice of a half orange, some extra virgin olive oil and Camargue sea salt. Beat the mixture until it becomes a bit creamy. If it’s too liquid, simply add some more oil and beat until you have the desired consistency.

When the rice is cooked, drain it and mix it with the pumpkin cubes. Add a bit of oil if the final result is too dry. In the same pan where you’ve browned the pumpkin, cook the salmon fillets for 3 minutes, first on the skin side. Turn the fillets, cover and cook them for 2 more minutes. The interior should remain a bit raw.

Now you’re ready to serve! Put some arugula in a corner and season it simply with salt and oil. Then add the rice with the pumpkin cubes and the salmon fillets. Use the orange vinaigrette on all the elements and enjoy this wonderful mix of flavors!