Who said that the days of magro (days of fasting or meatless) cannot be flavorful?
Do you know that during the Middle Age, the Christian’s observance of Lent and the various religious fasts added up to an estimated 130 days a year?
The Italian cuisine is rich of exquisite meatless dishes based on fish and vegetables, and today I am going to share with you My Friday night dinner. Two recipes, simple enough to require only a handful of ingredients and only 30 minutes of your time, but at the same time, rich of flavor, comforting and satisfying.
Pesce Spada in salmoriglio (Swordfish in Salmoriglio), with a side of Melanzane a funghetto.
Both dishes are perfect examples of Mediterranean diet. In fact, fish, vegetable, olive oil, and aromatic herbs are the staples of this diet.
The pesce spada in salmoriglio is a typical recipe of both the Calabria and the Sicilia regions. The melanzane a funghetto is a contorno (side dish) typical of the Neapolitan cuisine. For the eggplant, I use my mom’s recipe which also happens to be my husband’s favorite. In the most canonical version of the recipe, the eggplants are deep fried, the tomato sauce is cooked separately and the two ingredients are combined only at the end. My mom’s recipe, however, is a little lighter, because the eggplants are not deep fried.
The swordfish is simply grilled or – when it’s cold outside – seared in a skillet, and it is then drizzled with the salmoriglio, which is a raw sauce made with olive oil, fresh parsley, fresh oregano, lemon, garlic, and capers. As often happens, there are several variations of this sauce, some with capers some without, some where the sauce is simmered a bagnomaria (wet bath) and some where the ingredients are simply emulsified. I do use the capers and I do the wet bath.
I shall say that in the preparation of the salmoriglio the use of the fresh oregano is important because is less pungent than the dry oregano, but I have to confess that last night I realized too late that my oregano’s plant had not survived the winter and that I had forgotten to buy a fresh spring at the market. Solution: use dry oregano, a little stronger flavor but, still good.
Well, I am sad to say that the oregano was not the only thing missing. . . the whole herbs section went forgotten! The BASIL!! How could I have forgotten the basil for my eggplant? Oh, I have an excuse: at the end of summer I freeze my fresh basil. Few weeks ago, however, my freezer broke and I was forced to throw away everything. . . including my basil. My mom’s melanzane a funghetto without the sweet scented basil would have been a big NO-NO, yet my husband and I enjoyed the dish and were happy to have leftover for today’s lunch.
RICETTA PESCE SPADA IN SALMORIGLIO
Swordfish is Salmoriglio Sauce
Ingredients for 4 persons
4 swordfish steak, not too tick
A handful of flat-leaf parsley
2 sprigs of fresh oregano
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon of capers ( I prefer caper in salt)
The juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp of grated lemon zest
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper.
Start with the salmoriglio sauce. Finely chop the garlic, oregano and parsley with a knife or, like me with a mezzaluna (half-moon chopper) – did I tell you this is one my favorite kitchen gadget? – and set aside.
In a small bowl wisk together ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil, the lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Wisk the ingredients, set the bowl in a small pan with simmering water on low heat – this is the bagnomaria (water bath) – and add the minced garlic, parsley and oregano, wisk and let the sauce slowly warm up.
Lastly add the chopped capers and the grated lemon zest. One more wisk and it’s ready!
For the fish, grease a grill grate with olive oil and set it over high heat. Sprinkle both sides of the fish with kosher salt and black pepper.
Once the grill is hot, cook the swordfish, for about 5 minutes per side ( 3-4 minutes for thin steak).
The flash has to be opaque. Make sure it is nice and browned at least on one side.
Plate the swordfish and drizzle with the sauce on top.
Doesn’t it look delicious?
And to go along . . .
RICETTA MELANZANE A FUNGHETTO
(In Naples these are called Mulignane a fungetiello)
Ingredients for four persons
4 eggplants (possibly the Italian kind, long and small)
1 can of chopped plum tomatoes ( San Marzano are the best)
extra virgin olive oil
1 glove of garlic
few leaves of basil
Dice the eggplant, transfer to a colander sprinkle with salt, cover with a flat plate and put something heavy on top. Let sit for 1 hour so the eggplant will release all the bitter water out of the eggplant. Rinse, squeeze and pat dry.
In a frying pan heat 6 tablespoon of olive oil with a clove of crushed garlic. When the oil is warm and the garlic is golden, add the eggplant, stir well so they are coated with the fragrant oil and cook for 10-15 minutes on medium heat.
Add the chopped plum tomatoes and salt to taste.
Cook 10 more minutes. Lastly add the hand chopped basil – NO BASIL IN MINE THIS TIME! –
This is not just a delicious side dish, think of it as a great appetizer along with some fresh mozzarella or, on top of crostini (toasted bread bruschetta style).
NOTE: A funghetto, means in a small mushrooms style. When the eggplants are diced in small cubes and fried the are indeed similar to mushrooms.