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