Seafood Cous Cous

The final dish in the series of Sicilian dishes I cooked for my parents is a seafood cous cous. I’m hesitant to refer to it as “Cous Cous Siciliano”, because I used a few shortcuts. You see, traditional cous cous in Sicily is made from scratch from coarse semolina flour and water, and then steamed in a terra cotta pot with holes in the bottom called a cuscussiera. The cuscussiera is sealed to the pot with simmering water underneath by a simple dough of flour and water. Instead, I used store-bought cous cous (also made from semolina flour) and followed the instruction on the package for cooking it, which says: combine the cous cous with an equal amount of hot water or stock, cover, and wait 7 minutes. That is indeed a whole lot easier, and although I didn’t do a side by side comparison the cous cous didn’t seem any different from what I remember from trying it in Sicily.

In Sicily, cous cous is flavored with bay leaf, cinnamon, almonds, parsley, onion, and garlic, and served with a tomato-fish stock and fish. I made up this recipe using this general guideline and using gurnard (“rode poon” in Dutch) and mussels as the seafood and we loved it. They keys to great cous cous are fresh fish, homemade stock, and not overcooking the fish. When using store-bought cous cous, it’s not that hard.  Continue reading “Seafood Cous Cous”

Scallops with Radishes and Sorrel Sauce

Life is full of coincidences. One day my friend Jeroen mentioned sorrel during our wonderful dinner at Bord’Eau, and then the next day I noticed sorrel available at a local supermarket. After deciding to buy it, I had to pick something to prepare. Sorrel can be used for salads, soups, or sauces. As a sauce it is usually used for seafood, and that is what I decided upon. I thought it would pair nicely with radishes, and so Scallops with Radishes and Sorrel Sauce it would be. Since I had some pancetta as well, I decided to use a bit of that for some additional flavor. I was happy with the result and really liked the flavor combination. I will definitely make something like this again. If you can’t find sorrel you can also use the greens of the radishes instead, but it won’t have the special tart flavor of the sorrel. Continue reading “Scallops with Radishes and Sorrel Sauce”

Eel in Tomato Sauce (Anguilla in Umido)

Eel is caught locally in the area where we live and we love smoked eel. Eel is also available fresh to be used for stewing, but I don’t care much for the Dutch/Flemish preparations. My curiosity was piqued though when I saw a post by ChgoJohn on eel stewed in tomato sauce Italian style (or to be more precise, in the style of Le Marche). I did some research and it turned out that this dish is known as Anguilla in Umido in most of Italy, and that it originated in Campania, the region of Naples. Anguilla in Umido is traditionally eaten between Christmas and New Year’s as a symbol to drive out the evil for the New Year. Eel looks like a serpent, and by eating it you conquer it. How simple was life back then.

So why am I preparing this dish in summer? Because fresh eel is available around here between May and October only, that’s why. And this year because of the cold, I only noticed eel at my fishmonger for the first time last week. It was very expensive (because eel is starting to become scarce), but I’m glad I bought it anyway because prepared this way it was absolutely delicious! The eel gives off a very nice flavor to the tomato sauce, the eel is tender and juicy without tasting too greasy, and the flavor of the eel is not at all overpowered by the tomato sauce. Continue reading “Eel in Tomato Sauce (Anguilla in Umido)”

Swordfish Salmoriglio

Swordfish is more meaty than most other fishes. So meaty in fact, that if the swordfish is really fresh and you cut away the ‘blood meat’, you could probably fool someone into thinking he’s eating meat rather than fish. There is one issue with swordfish and that is that it is often overcooked and dry. With swordfish this happens even more often that with other types of fish. By cooking the swordfish sous-vide, it will be very tender and juicy without risk of overcooking. The nice thing about cooking fish sous-vide is that it only takes a short time, so it is possible to cook the fish sous-vide without having a sous-vide water bath. You only need a digital thermometer for this to work. Continue reading “Swordfish Salmoriglio”

Broiled Cod alla Romagnola (Grigliata di Pesce alla Romagnola)

On the Adriatic seacoast of Romagna, all kinds of seafood are marinated with parsley, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice, and then coated with breadcrumbs and grilled or broiled. The marinade gives the seafood a nice flavor, whereas the breadcrumbs help to keep the seafood tender and moist. This recipe is quite similar to ChgoJohn’s recipe for Bacala alla Griglia, which is not surprising since the Marche region where is family comes from is just south of Romagna. Continue reading “Broiled Cod alla Romagnola (Grigliata di Pesce alla Romagnola)”

Vongole with Pancetta

I was intrigued by PutneyFarms’s combination of clams with bacon, so I decided to give this a try even though I had never heard of this in Italy. Of course I did have to Italify things slightly by using pancetta rather than bacon and parsley rather than thyme. The combination of vongole with pancetta worked well: the tastes complement each other. It is nice to serve with crusty homemade bread to soak op the juices, although those turn out quite salty. This dish has a lot of taste for the small amount of work involved. Ingredients For 3-4 servings as an … Continue reading Vongole with Pancetta

Scallops and Shrimp with a Vanilla Sauce, Pea Puree and Parsnip Puree

Wine is often paired with food, but it can be inspiring to take a bottle of wine as the starting point and try to cook something that will go well with it. Oak barrels can give a hint of vanilla to wines, and so I thought it would be fun to make a vanilla cream sauce to go with a creamy oaked chardonnay. It worked out really well, and the pairing was outstanding. The wine went well with the vanilla creaminess of the sauce as well as with the seafood. The combination of scallops with parsnip and peas is something … Continue reading Scallops and Shrimp with a Vanilla Sauce, Pea Puree and Parsnip Puree

Fish soup (Zuppa di Pesce)

My parents came over for dinner and my dad’s favorite dish is fish soup filled with different kinds of seafood. There are many varieties of this type of soup, including bouillabaisse from France and zarzuela from Spain. It can’t be a surprise that my version is Italian style and therefore called zuppa di pesce. The quality of this soup depends solely on the freshness of the seafood used, and there are hardly any ingredients besides the seafood itself. It is a very elegant dish that looks great to boot. From sous-vide cooking we’ve learned that the ideal temperature to cook … Continue reading Fish soup (Zuppa di Pesce)

Home-made Sushi

Today calls for a special post, since I am very proud that the 100th follower has just joined this blog! As it happens we made sushi last night, and blogging about that will certainly be special as this will be the longest post yet with over 40 pictures! Making sushi together is a lot of fun, and although the sushi will probably not be as good as sushi at a specialized sushi restaurant, home-made sushi will taste much better than ready-made refrigerated sushi. It is not a coincidence that I like Japanese food besides Italian, as both rely to a … Continue reading Home-made Sushi

Seafood Paella (Paella de Marisco)

Paella is probably the most famous Spanish dish. There are different versions of paella, many of them containing meat such as chicken, rabbit and chorizo, as well as seafood. My version is seafood-only. Paella is traditionally made in a special paella pan, but I like to serve it on individual plates. Like many stock-based dishes, the taste of the paella depends on the quality of the stock. So it definitely pays off to make your own stock! Ingredients For 2 servings as a full meal 2/3 cups rice suitable for paella (risotto rice works fine) 1 1/2 cups shrimp stock … Continue reading Seafood Paella (Paella de Marisco)

Dining in Italy: La Mola, Varazze

During our weekend in Italy we did not only stay in Turin to eat at Combal.Zero, but we also stayed at a friends’ house at the seaside in Varazze with an amazing seaview and the sound of the crashing waves lulling us to sleep. Her brother recommended La Mola just around the corner, and we liked it so much that we had dinner there the second evening as well. La Mola is the type of restaurant that you can find a lot in Italy: simple but good and honest food with friendly service for reasonable prices. Outside of touristy areas, … Continue reading Dining in Italy: La Mola, Varazze

Hot-smoked Scallops (Coquilles St. Jacques)

I remember very well the first time I tasted a scallop, which was at the christmas party of PricewaterhouseCoopers (one of my first employers) in 1998 as an hors d’oeuvre. Scallops, also known as Coquilles St. Jacques, are perfect as a hors d’oeuvre because they taste fantastic and are exactly the right size. I didn’t know what they were, but liked them straight away and they have been one of my favorite foods ever since. Although I had never heard of hot-smoked scallops, I thought it would work well and so I tried it and found out that it works … Continue reading Hot-smoked Scallops (Coquilles St. Jacques)

Risotto ai gamberoni (Risotto with jumbo shrimp)

When you are cooking with jumbo shrimp, always try to buy them with heads and shells on and peel them yourself. It is a little bit of work, but you can make a delicious stock from the heads and shells that is excellent to make a risotto or paella or to use for pasta sauce. If you are not using the heads and shells straight away, just throw them in the freezer until you do. Next time you will be able to make this very tasty risotto, for which you will need more heads and shells than than you will … Continue reading Risotto ai gamberoni (Risotto with jumbo shrimp)

Pasta with mussels and broccoli (Orecchiette alle cozze e broccoli)

This is a simple but healthy and delicious pasta dish that we eat regularly. The combination of mussels and broccoli works very well, and the ‘juice’ that is left from cooking the mussels makes a very tasty sauce. Ingredients For 2 servings as a full meal or 4 servings in a larger menu 1 kg (2.2 lbs) mussels 500 grams (1 pound) broccoli 150-200 grams (1/3-1/2 pound) of flat short pasta such as orecchiette or farfalle 1 onion 125 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine 3 anchovy fillets 1 glove garlic dried chilli pepper extra virgin olive oil salt some … Continue reading Pasta with mussels and broccoli (Orecchiette alle cozze e broccoli)

Attempt to recreate Torre del Saracino dish from memory

On December 23 we had dinner at one of the best restaurants in Italy, La Torre del Saracino in Vico Equense. The chef Gennaro Esposito is a master at making very simple local dishes with high-quality but simple ingredients taste delicious. The simplicity can be a bit misleading, because you don’t get two Michelin stars for ordinary food. Since we liked one of the dishes with oysters, cauliflower, pecorino cheese and pasta so much, I decided to have a go at recreating it from memory. I did not ask the chef how he had made it, I just tried to … Continue reading Attempt to recreate Torre del Saracino dish from memory