Genève’s Kitchen

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A Meal to Remember

June 3rd, 2006 · 1 Comment

frutti di mare1.jpgThere’s nothing I love more about food than its ability to recapture memories of special places in time. Last summer Kareem and I spent a relaxing week in the little town of Positano, Italy along the majestic Amalfi coast. We spent our days under umbrellas on the beach reading, taking walks to find gelato, and occasionally dipping into the cool blue Mediterranean. The evenings were anticipated events that we talked about during the day, as we pondered which of the many restaurants we would be feasting at that night. Such were the most pressing questions we had to contemplate. We had many great meals but one of our favorites was Frutti di Mare (fruits of the sea). This dish boasted the fresh abundant delicacies of the region: clams, mussels, and shrimp. A light tomato sauce would accompany the fresh fish and it was always served atop homemade pasta. A pitcher of the house wine paired perfectly with the dish.

When I try to recreate this dish at home I am transported again to the narrow winding streets of this quaint little town lined with restaurants and shops that overlook the sea. I try to stay true to the simplicity of Italian cooking in my rendition of Frutti di Mare. I buy the freshest ingredients and when I’m very ambitious I’ll bring out my little pasta machine and make the pasta from scratch. On a normal day, though, I rely on the pre-made stuff. It doesn’t take long to pull this meal together but it will definitely be impressive. Whether I enjoy this delicious dish in an exotic locale or on my own little balcony it’s definitely a meal to remember.

Frutti di Mare

The measurements for the fish don’t need to be too precise here and you don’t need to choose this exact assortment, see what looks fresh at your market. This amount will be enough sauce for approx. 4 people)

1/2 – 1 lb. Mussels
3/4 lb. Little Neck Clams
1/2 lb. Small or medium sized scallops
1/2 lb. Medium sized shrimp (I usually buy the pre-deveined and shelled ones)
1 Medium yellow onion, diced
2 Cloves garlic, chopped
1 15oz. can of crushed fire roasted tomatoes
2 T Tomato puree
2 T Olive oil
1 Cup of white wine (just choose a wine that you like to drink)
6 Anchovy fillets (you’ll find these in the area of the supermarket where you find the canned tuna)
A few pinches of lemon zest
A pinch of red pepper flakes
A pinch of dried oregano
A few leaves of fresh basil
Salt/Pepper to taste
Your favorite type of pasta (I used parpadelle)

Preparing the Fish

Before beginning with the sauce it’s a good idea to have the fish ready to go. The mussles and clams should be gently scrubbed to rid the shells of any grit, if you come across an open mussel or clam pinch it closed for a moment and if it stays closed when you release then the mussel is still good. If it remains open however and won’t shut with your prompting then that’s an indication that it’s a bad mussel and should be discarded. The opposite holds true after the cooking process – if once the clams and mussels have been cooked there are any that remain closed those aren’t good and should be thrown away. The shrimp should be deveined and shelled – just leave the tails on. I make things easy for myself by buying the pre-shelled and deveined shrimp. Scallops occassionally have a muscle atttached to one side which is how they anchor themselves to their shell, this part is tough to eat so it’s best to remove it simply by pulling it off. You’ll know what I mean when you see the scallop – they are smooth and slightly transluscent while the muscle is white and less shiny. You can easily remove this part by hand.
Preparing the Sauce

1) To begin add the olive oil to a large sauce pan (use a sauce pan that has a lid which you’ll need for later on). Turn the skillet to medium-low heat and once the oil is heated add the chopped onions and garlic – you want to hear a soft sizzle when you add the onion to the pan. You’ll want to saute them for about 10 minutes or so until they are translucent. Make sure the heat isn’t too high because you don’t want the onion or garlic to turn brown and color, you just want them to slowly cook and sweat-out. After about 5 minutes or so add the red pepper flakes and the anchovies – break apart the anchovies as they cook with your spoon.

Now I feel like I need to say something about anchovies because I know a lot of people don’t like them and I used to be one of them. When anchovies are cooked they literally melt away and lose their fishy flavor instead adding a unique salty and nutty flavor that is vital to this sauce. I urge even the biggest anchovy hater to please trust me on this and include them when making this dish. You won’t be sorry.

Also, I usually start to boil my water for the pasta at this stage so that the water will be ready and boiling when I want to start cooking the pasta.

2) Once the onions have become translucent and the anchovies have ‘melted’ it’s time to deglaze the pan. This process simply means that you’ll add a liquid, in this case the white wine, and the goal is to loosen the bits of flavorful onion, garlic, etc. that has browned on the bottom of the pan. Allow the wine to cook for a few minutes while you use your spoon to scrape up all the carmelized goodness from the pan. Once the wine has had a chance to reduce slightly (some of the liquid from the wine has evaporated to concentrate the flavor) add the tomato paste and stir it – then add the can of crushed tomatoes. Add the pinch of oregano at this point and a little bit of freshly cracked black pepper. (I hold off on adding any salt because I find that the mussels and clams add some salty flavor when they are cooked in the sauce so after they are added then taste sauce again to see if salt is needed.) Allow the sauce to come to a simmer.

3) Once the sauce is simmering it’s time to add the clams – once they’re in put the lid on the pan. After a minute or so add the mussels and again replace the lid. (The steam is what cooks the shell fish and causes them to open). When the mussels are starting to open – after about 3 minutes – then I’ll go ahead and add the scallops and shrimp. I keep the lid on to help the mussels and clams steam. If you have any clams or mussels that don’t open after steaming for 3-5 minutes then they are no good and should be thrown away. The scallops and shrimp don’t take long to cook at all – the shrimp are done when they are pink and the scallops will no longer have that translucent look to them. (Add the pasta to the boiling water at this point).
4) The last thing I do to finish this sauce right before serving is to stir in the lemon zest and add the freshly torn basil. Make sure to taste the sauce too and make sure that the flavors are to your liking. This sauce can be kept on a low heat while the pasta finishes cooking or you can turn off the heat and keep the lid on. Serve it over the pasta and enjoy!

Tags: Entertaining · Entree · Fish

1 response so far ↓

  • Ivonne // Jun 4, 2006 at 4:14 pm

    Geneve,

    I can see why you would be transported right back to the Amalfi with such a dish. Superb! I can taste the Mediterranean as I look at that photo.