pasta with seafood

Happy Holiday Table!

Spaghetti alla pescatrice e finocchio

Spaghetti alla pescatrice e finocchio

Yes I am still around, just had a busy few months and writing took a backseat. If you're interested in finding out what kept me so busy, I just finished writing and end-of -year-recap newsletter which you will receive soon. This year, I had to pare down from last December's 12 Days of Christmas recipes extravaganza. For the 2015 Holiday table I am sharing 2 recipes, a pasta with monkfish for Christmas Eve and a rabbit with olives which can make a lovely dish anytime throughout the season.

I developed and taught both these dishes while leading my food tour of Maremma last September. More details on it and on upcoming tours for 2016 will be in my newsletter, or you can email viola@violabuitoni.com for details.

Just one more reminder: cooking classes make great holiday gifts, check my newsletter for details on where I will be teaching in 2016.

Please enjoy the merriest of holidays!

 


Spaghetti con pescatrice, finocchio e pinoli tostati al profumo d’arancio

Spaghetti with orange scented monkfish, wild fennel and pine nuts sauce

 

for 6 to 8 people

3 sweet yellow onions

2 cups wild fennel

1 whole monkfish of about 3 pounds, skin off

(or fillets will do in a pinch and skate or a small bass can sub for the monkfish)

salt and pepper to taste

grated zest of one orange

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup pine nuts

1 pound box spaghetti

 

Slice the onions in very thin half moons.

Clean and wash the fennel very well. Dry it and chop it quite finely.

Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper.

Reserve 1 tablespoon of chopped fennel and one pinch of grated zest.

Heat the olive oil in a shallow, wide mouth sauce pot add the onions, all but the reserved fennel and zest and a generous pinch of salt.

Slowly soften everything over gentle heat for about 20 minutes, until the onions appear translucent and quite soft.

Raise the heat and add the monkfish. As soon as the color of the fish changes to whitish, deglaze it with the white wine.

When you no longer smell the acidity of the wine, add 1 cup of water, turn the heat down and cover the fish.

Braise it slowly until the eyes are sunken in the orbits and the flesh is falling off the skeleton, it should take about 30 minutes.

Check it often and add a little bit of water to the bottom of the pot if it looks like it’s sticking or too dry.

In the meantime, toast the pine nuts on low heat until they are gold, appear oily and you can effortlessly smell their distinctive flavor.

Remove the fish from the pot being mindful to let all the liquid, onions and fennel fall back into the sauce.

Pick the flesh off the bones and spine. There will be some gelatinous parts that come from the spine and fins, keep them as they will make for just the right sauce texture.

Also, do not forget to pick the cheeks and all the tasty little bits off the head.

Return the bits of fish to the pot and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, just so that all the ingredients come together well.

Adjust salt and pepper.

Drop the spaghetti in salted boiling water and cook quite al dente, about 4 minutes less than the recommended time.

Strain the pasta from the water using tongs or a handheld strainer and add them to the pot with the sauce in it.

Add a bit of the pasta cooking water and finish cooking the pasta with the sauce, tossing and turning all the while.

You might need to add a little more pasta water, but do so gradually as to not overcook the pasta.

When the spaghetti reaches your preferred toothsomeness, sprinkle with olive oil, turn off the heat and toss with energy.

The oil and starch in the cooking water will bind, giving the dish just the right creaminess and moisture.

Scatter the toasted nuts on the pasta, toss and transfer to a warm platter.

Dust with the reserved fennel and zest and serve right away.

 


Very tasty rabbit

Very tasty rabbit

Coniglio alle olive in teglia

Stove top rabbit with olives

for 4 people

1 rabbit

salt to taste

1 cup black olives with pits

2 sage sprigs

2 wide strips orange peel

2 garlic clove

olive oil

1/2 tablespoon grated orange zest

1/2 cup red wine

1 cups hot chicken stock

pepper to taste

 

The day before making the dish, have the butcher cut your rabbit in 8 to 10 pieces.

Salt the pieces generously, cover and refrigerate.

When ready to start cooking, remove the from the refrigerator and place on the counter to come to room temperature.

In the meantime, rinse the olives well and place them in a small bowl. Squeeze them lightly with your fingers to loosen the flesh.

Pick the leaves off 1 sage sprig and rub them and the orange peel strips between your palms to release their essence. Smash the garlic clove without peeling.

Add the rubbed sage and orange and the smashed garlic clove to the olives then cover everything in olive oil. Leave to marinate while you get the rabbit started.

Mince the garlic to a paste with a generous pinch of salt and mix with the grated zest.

Pick the leaves off the remaining sage sprigs and rub them between your palms to release their essence.

Select a sauté pan wide enough to accommodate the rabbit pieces in one comfortable layer. Pour 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil in it and add the zest and garlic mince.

Set on gentle heat and add the sage leaves. Soften very gently for 2 to 3 minutes stirring often to prevent burning and sticking.

Add the rabbit and bring the fire to medium to brown lightly on both sides, still stirring to ensure the garlic doesn't burn.

Raise the heat to high and deglaze with the wine. When you no longer smell the acidity, but just the sugar, pour the stock all over the meat.

When the stock start boiling, lower the heat to medium low and cover the pan.

The rabbit will need to cook for about 20 minutes at a lively simmer. It will get quite tender. You will have to return to it often to ensure it is not burning nor sticking and has a bit of liquid on the bottom.

In the meantime, remove and discard the garlic clove from the olives and pour out some of the excess oil. Stir them into the rabbit.

Braise for another 10 to 15 minutes, adjust salt and pepper. Transfer the rabbit pieces to a warm platter and pour the cooking liquid over them. Serve warm to hot.

Note that there should be a good amount of slightly dense sauce. If it seems too liquid, remove the rabbit and keep it warm by covering the warm platter in aluminum, let the sauce boil a little longer to thicken slightly before pouring it on.

Waste not want not, leftovers from an Italian Christmas

Though the quickly ending year is leaving quite a bit to be desired behind, all in all I can say that there were nothing but upsides this past December 25th. They are:

Christmas morning
Christmas morning
  • Spending Christmas morning in bed with the amore piccolo and the amore grande watching "The Interview"
  • Finding Christmas joy in cooking and hosting a meal for 30, and managing to sit them all
  • Knowing at least 30 people who understand that the first item on this list completely justifies delaying festivities by 3 hours
  • Discovering that the 12 days of Christmas START rather than end on Christmas Day (did everyone know that? If so, shouldn't someone have told me on by Day 2 or 3 of my Italian holiday table series??)
  • Having enough leftovers to continue the series for several days
Christmas dinner 2014
Christmas dinner 2014

First up: repurposing that lone octopus tentacle swimming in its own perfect broth. This one accounted for 2 meals, one of spaghetti-below and one of risotto-coming soon...


Spaghetti al sugo di polpo piccante

Spaghetti with spicy octopus sauce

 

for 6 people

lone octopus tentacle from recipe described here

1 garlic clove

1 handful basil leaves

2 tablespoon tomato concentrate

1 cup octopus stock olive oil

red pepper flakes to taste

splash dry white wine

salt to taste

 

Cut the octopus tentacles in very small morsels. Smash and peel the garlic clove.

Stack the basil leaves, roll them longitudinally and slice them in very thin ribbons.

Heat the octopus stock and dilute the tomato concentrate in it.

Pour 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil, the garlic clove and half the basil in a sautè pan. Gently heat everything until the fragrance of the garlic wafts to your nostrils.

Discard the garlic clove and add the cut octopus. Warm for a couple of minutes and deglaze with the wine.

Wait until the wine smells caressing rather than acrid then add the octopus stock with the tomato concentrate.

While it is gently simmering to slightly reduce, cook the spaghetti in salted boiling water.

Using a handheld strainer transfer the spaghetti into the sautè pan about 4 minutes before the suggested cooking time printed on the package.

Finish cooking by gradually adding small amounts of the water in which the spaghetti cooked. Be mindful to add the liquid in small amounts so that the pasta has a chance to absorb it. If too much liquid is added, one is bound to end with with either overcooked or soupy pasta.

When the spaghetti have reached the consistency most palatable to you, finish with a short stream of olive oil and serve immediately in a warm platter after garnishing with the remainder of the basil.

NOTES

  • You might have noticed that I omit the salt from this recipe except for what goes in the water for the pasta. That is by design in that the octopus stock is more often than not salty enough to carry it on to the rest of the dish, however, I do suggest that you try the sauce to make sure it is agreeable to your preferred level of saltiness

Cooking in Italy: linguine with limpets

Panarea viewThis is what I have been waking up to in the last 4 days. Ernesto and I are staying with friends on the splendidly choreographed island of Panarea, part of a volcanic archipelago called Eolie off the northwest coast of Sicily. The inches where water and stone meet all around the island's coastline are dotted with limpets-patelle in italian-prehistorical looking, ridged, cone shaped shells that stick to the rocks hiding an oval of flavor and texture equal to only its own. I have never seen limpets in a fish market, but in times much past, my mother taught me to forage them.

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She showed me that by wedging the tip of a small knife under the shell then slowly wiggling it, one can kindly break the kiss between rock and limpet, then catch the valve as it falls, and-she told me-the patience required by the task would be well worth it in taste. As it happened, I got lost in how "far patelle"-gathering limpets ate my summer afternoons in the sweetest of way, motions and sounds of ebb and flow could hold my focus for hours.

The reward for my efforts lay in watching my mother dose her kitchen skills to shape the bittersweet springiness of patelle into one more brick for the house of my memories.

Yesterday afternoon I found out that patelle magic still holds, when I passed the secret on to my child and his friends, with the same motherly promise that their harvest would find new purpose through pots and pans. The children harvested until 7pm, at 8:30, I kept my promise.

 

Linguine alle patelle Linguine with limpets

for 6 people 2 pounds freshly harvested limpets salt to taste 1 pound linguine 1/2 handful basil leaves 1 to 2 garlic cloves 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil pepper to taste

Rinse the limpets several times under running water. Limpets live on rocks, so usually a few vigorous rinses are plenty to scant any grit they might contain.

patelle in cucinaPlace a colander in a bowl filled with salted cold water-sea water is ideal if you have easy access to it. Pour the limpets in until you are ready to use them.

Mince the garlic into a paste using a generous pinch of salt. Stack the basil leaves and roll them lengthwise. Slice them into very thin ribbons.

Place the olive oil into a saute pan with the garlic and basil mince. Heat gently until the minced fragrances are kind of melting. In the meantime, drain the limpets.

Place the linguine into a pot of salted boiling water.

Throw the limpets into the pan and saute over lively heat no more than 4 to 5 minutes. You will see the limpets becoming slightly smaller and some of them detaching from their shells.

 

Taste the linguine, they should be about half way through cooking, meaning they will fold without stiffness but will still have quite the uncooked soul inside. Remove the pasta from the water using a set of tongs and add it to the limpets.

Turn the heat back on and finish cooking the pasta by adding small amounts of cooking water to it and letting it absorb before adding more while moving the pan around almost constantly to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom.

Linguine alle patelleWhen the preferred doneness is reached, add a last splash of cooking water and the remaining olive oil, turn off the heat, toss well to give a creamy mouth feel and serve immediately.

The children will gobble them up, I promise.

Cooking in Italy: spaghetti mediterraneo-fresh anchovies, cherry tomatoes and arugula

My last day in Positano, dinner at the famed Buca di Bacco awaits tonight, but until then my heart is set on that boat and its charming young captain who will valiantly take me to Arienzo, the beach where for the last week I've been basking in the sun, swimming and enjoying house specialty after house specialty made with perfect homegrown vegetables and locally caught fish.

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I sprint on those last few meters, lest it take off without me. My right sandal slides from under me dragging my left leg behind it. Next I know I'm on board, feigning more faintness than I fairly should, while the charming young captain (his name is Adriano, I learn) tends to the abrasions running from my left foot all the way up my left knee.

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At the other end of the ride, the charmer's employer, Peppe, awaits with medication and an invite to enjoy the best yet house specialty, spaghetti mediterraneo, made with fresh anchovies, cherry tomatoes and arugula. Because of my injuries, Peppe receives special dispensation from his wife, the genius at the stove, to share the recipe for me to share in turn.

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And though my favorite sandals are no longer shell-studded and my leg is badly bruised, I learnt today that even slipping and falling can be a good thing in the right place. Oh, and, ladies, I also just found out Adriano is single.

Spaghetti Mediterraneo Spaghetti with fresh anchovies, cherry tomatoes and arugula

for 6 people 1 pound fresh anchovies 1 cup cherry tomatoes 1 to 2 garlic cloves olive oil salt and pepper to taste 1 pound spaghetti 3 generous handfuls wild baby arugula

Clean the anchovies: remove the heads, open in half, remove guts and spine. Quarter the tomatoes. Smash and peel the garlic cloves.

Heat the olive oil with the garlic cloves and as soon as you start smelling the garlic, throw in the tomatoes. Sprinkle to taste with salt and pepper and let the tomatoes cook until they are slightly soft.

Add the anchovies fillets and sauté over lively heat until they change color to whitish silver and are still soft, approximately 3 to 4 minutes.

Lower the spaghetti in boiling water and cook until very al dente, about 4 to 5 minutes less than the time advised on the packaging. Transfer to the pan with the tomatoes and anchovies and, over high heat, add some of the pasta water. Cook until you have received desired toothsomeness, the spaghetti should be quite al dente still.

Finish with olive oil and pour on a platter over which you will have scattered the arugula. Serve immediately.

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