Page #7 – The scent of Mediterranean Sea

As soon as the sun visited London, even if the days and especially the nights are still quite cool here in London, Violetta couldn’t resist and offered you two fragrant and fast fish recipes perfect for these warmer days.

Coming from a city not far from the Mediterranean sea, Violetta is feeling nostalgic thinking about the fishmongers on the seafront, but also for the fish stalls at the municipal market, where she was always able to find a great variety of fresh Mediterranean fish and seafood.

Here in England the choice is not as wide, but it must be recognised that the quality of the cod is excellent and the sea- bass (although farmed) is also very fresh and fragrant. It is also really convenient to buy clean and filleted fish at the supermarket, ideal for those who want to indulge in a tasty dinner without too much effort.

The combination of fish with tomato and white wine is characteristic of the Mediterranean cuisine, where you can find an infinite number of soups, stews and fish broths. The addition of fresh herbs such as parsley or oregano and a pinch of chilli can help give flavour peaks that enhance the delicacy of white fish.

The original recipe of Livornese style cod actually involves the use of salt cod, which used to arrive to Italy from the Northern Countries and did not require refrigerators for transport and storage. For this reason, as well as for the low cost, the cod was recommended by the Catholic Church which, with the Council of Trent, established some days of “lean”, ie in which it was prohibited to eat meat. Although the recipe is traditionally traced back to Livorno, it must however be said that the cooking of salt cod, and today also of fresh cod, with tomato and olives is quite widespread throughout Italy (a mention deserves the Calabria style salt cod with potatoes and olives).

The ”Crazy water”, on the other hand, is a typical recipe from southern Italy, made with whole or filleted ​​white sea fish. The fish is cooked in water with white wine, salt, oil, garlic and tomato and the final addition of parsley. The authorship of the dish is attributed to the fishermen of the island of Ponza, but it is also claimed by the island of Capri. In any case, it seems that fishermen used this cooking method to cook freshly caught fish on boats, using sea water. It became particularly famous in the 1950s thanks to the famous Italian comedian Totò who used to ask for fish cooked this way in restaurants on the Amalfi Coast and Capri, so that the restaurateurs began to include it in their menus.

Photo from Fredrik Öhlander from Unsplash

With all this talking about Ponza, a wonderful island located a short distance from Violetta’s hometown, and about boats and fisherme, I know that Violetta is now remembering when she was still a child and used to participate in fishing nights with her father and other relatives and friends, on the beaches of the Tyrrhenian sea between Sabaudia and San Felice Circeo. For her, fishing was an excuse to soak all night in the warm water of the Mediterranean, and eat the tasty and fragrant pulp of fresh crabs. Then, once they got back home all together around four in the morning, her mother used to clean the fish they caught, grill it and serve it with a seasoning made with extra virgin olive oil, white wine, garlic, parsley and lemon, that I still remember for its incredible perfume.

After eating, and a shower, they all went to sleep when the rest of the world was waking up. For Violetta, that subversion of the rules was as exciting as Christmas Day, the suspension from the routine a magic that she has continued to associate throughout her life with the taste of fish and the scent of Mediterranean.

– The Stove

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