mercoledì 24 marzo 2010

Divine fish salad

First and foremost: the picture of this recipe is the most mediocre I have in my food pics set, but that's because it belongs to an old cooking session when I didn't have a proper camera at hand.
The recipe is one of my favorite with fish: I am not a big seafood fan but this salad - which I serve as a main course - is absolutely delicious and healthy.
It was elaborated on a quiet basic (but equally tasty) recipe by aunt Liana, my brother-in-law's aunt: born in Ancona and living in Ostia since marriage (aaages ago), you can tell she is used to living near the sea and, as a consequence, used to cook fish more often than what one does when living in the city.

I made some adjustments and found that they really worked for Ioska and I: we added pesto, dried tomatoes, more fresh basil and taggiasche olives preserved in extravirgin olive oil (no bone!) and the blend was almost moving.

If you invite people over for dinner during summer it is a terrific hors d'oeuvre served on crusty, lightly toasted bread. My suggestion is that you prepare it one day in advance leaving time for the aroma to reach its peak, yet don't forget to take it out of the fridge at least 20 mins before serving so the taste is not inhibited by the bite of cold. To make it

-150 gr shrimps (INCREDIBLE: the frozen version works BETTER than the fresh, which is too delicate and will eventually be overwhelmed by the other ingredients)
- a can of GOOD QUALITY (Mediterranean "pinna gialla" is the best) tuna fish. 120 grams in total would do
-250 grams freshly steamed octopus (you can find it at supemarkets already chopped in generous bits) OR same amount of cattle fish (the smaller the better)
-2 spoonfuls of taggiasche olives preserved in EVOO (substitute with kalamata if you can't find the exquisite taggiasche from Liguria)
- 100 grams of dried tomatoes
- 50 grams fresh pesto; the salad doesn't need to go green but I know that pesto is addictive so follow your taste and add- or remove (!!) as much as you feel like using.
-2 tablespoons lemon juice
-salt for the water
- a dash of garlic powder


1. heat up a small pot of water (2/3 liters) and let it boil. Add a flat coffespoon of salt. In Italy coffeespoons are those we use for espresso so they are tiny compared to the rest of the world's equivalent utensil. Bear that in mind when you measure my coffeespoons!
2. Add the dried tomatoes to the pot and let boil until you can smell the sweet smell of tomato in the air (5 to 6 minutes)...ah! marvellous. Remove from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and let cool on a cutting board until you can easily touch them: slice them in rough bits and add them to the serving bowl where you will mix all the ingredients before serving.
3. Add the frozen shrimps to the boiling water: this is the quickest way to thwart them. It only takes 2 minutes for they don't need to be cooked as the frozen type is pre-cooked (pink in color in fact). remove with a slotted spoon and add to the serving bowl spreading them on the bottom to help cooling.
4. Now, having been steamed previously, the octopus could be added directly to the serving bowl: me, I have a thing for hygiene so I drop the octopus in the boiling water for 30 secs before I add it to the other ingredients. Just for a rinse! The octopus normally comes in large bits so once it has cooled down bite-size it.
5. IF YOU ARE USING FRESH SMALL CATTLE FISH: rinse it, drop it in the boiling water and wait until it becomes pearlish white. The legs will curl up and that is a sign of doneness. I like them very tender so don't let over-cook...or do so, it's your fish after all. Let cool before adding to the serving bowl.
6. Once all the fish and the tomatoes are ready and added to the serving bowl, add the tuna fish (oil discarded), sprinkle with lemon, pepper and garlic powder. Once blended add pesto in dollops. Pesto is great but can overcome tastes, so be aware that adding to much could ruin the balance of the dish.
7. Garnish with fresh basil and serve.

Serves 3-4

martedì 2 febbraio 2010

Zucchini and Smoked Salmon lasagne: Kitch'n Dahling never gives up


I have taken health quiet superficially lately, so –it appears -  God sent his wrath on me by giving this MAJOR cough resulting from the explosive mix of tonsillitis, laryngitis and pharyngitis.

And let me tell you how this ain’t the fun part yet: the cough was (is) so harsh and deep that the continuous coughing tore my back muscles (right hand side of the lumbar region). Everytime I cough now is like being stabbed in the back with the addition of a lot of moaning and weeping. And that’s how my pneumologist prescribed 2 weeks of absolute rest and LOADS of medication…

To cut it short, do you think this prevented  me from having a friend over for lunch last Sunday? Nope,not, nay!:)

To be honest,I made this really good lasagna the day right before my back completely collapsed: symptoms had shown with a little back ache so the cooking wasn’t feeling so demanding to know better and rest properly all day long.

These incredible creamy lasagne are a recipe from my friend Sonia, who made it for us on Jan 1st when we joined to celebrate the new year together: they are so easy to make and so hard to go wrong, that I challenge you to mess ‘em up.


12  very thin pasta sheets (like Rana’s sfogliavelo)

1/2 spoon of butter to grease the casserole

6 medium zucchini (about 500 grams)

2 spoons of olive oil

2 shallots thinly sliced

1/2 liter of besciamelle sauce

150 grams Parmigiano Reggiano

whole milk if needed (about 3-4 spoons)

200 grams good quality smoked salmon cut in small pieces ( I normally buy the already sliced version you would normally use for sandwiches and cut it in smaller bits with scissors)


1.Wash the zucchini and slice them with the aid of a mandolin. Heat a wok  with the oil on medium heat, add the shallots and let them become translucent, 2 or 3  minutes.

2.Add the sliced zucchini, let them fry without turning them for 2 minutes: when it’s time to,  try not to use a spoon to do it, cause the zucchini are rather fragile; I suggest you flip the wok as the Chinese cooks do so you will prevent the vegetables from breaking. Add salt and pepper and cook for 7-8 minutes in total (the veggies will easily finish cooking in the oven).

3. Now, if you have the besciamelle  ready, or use the canned one, all you need to do is wait for the zucchini to have cooled down a bit and add the sauce to the veggies. If the mixture is too thick add some milk, for you want it to be creamy enough to easily spread it on the pasta sheets. Add the diced salmon.

4. Let’s put the layers together: after greasing it, litterally line the casserole with the first layer of pasta, making sure the sides are well covered. Spread one thick layer of the  vegetables/besciamelle/salmon mixture, add a generous sprinkle of grated parmesan and proceed with the same pattern until the pasta is over ( I make at least three layers with 12 sheets, you can make up to 5, but I suggest you don’t make your lasagna too thick or it will be harder to cut it in clean servings ).

5. Put a thicker layer of parmesan on the upper layer, so the lasagna will brown nicely: put in the oven at 200°C for 30 to 45 minutes, until the surface is brown and bubbly. Let cool for 5-7 minutes (not in the oven or it will dry out!) and cut in pieces.

Serves 4 to 6

Tip: I like my lasagna moist and creamy, so the besciamelle is not "just one of the ingredients”, but THE INGREDIENT: don’t be  stingy with it and if it is too thick (or if you think your pasta sheets are thick) add enough milk to cream it further (remember that additional liquid helps to cook the pasta sheets through) .

You will simply love the feeling in your mouth!  ENJOY

 creamy zucchini and smoked salmon lasagne original picture by Kitchn Dahling