Tuscany: Lucca and the North West
West of Firenze and southeast of Lucca.
Review: Da Delfina
We stopped for lunch at Da Delfina, a Buon Recordo restaurant on the day we moved from Florence to Vellano in the hills behind Pescia.
Da Delfina sits at the bottom of the village, but on the top of the hill that looks out to the south over rolling hills covered in vineyards for as far as the eye can see. On this particular day, the smog haze which is common most of the time, wasn’t too bad, and we could see a long way. It also looks out on Villa Artimino, a Medici hunting lodge. This was the place where the boys would go off alone for a bit of hunting, leaving the women back at Poggio.
On this particular day, we were seated at the table on the veranda right at the front next to the railing, with a canvas awning overhead and a cooling breeze easing the heat. Several hundred metres around the ridge from us was the hunting lodge (about the size of the Carrington at Katoomba), with a great marble staircase facing us, and a bridal party having their reception. This was to our left, and from there on, the rest of our vista were the rolling hills of vineyards. Probably the most stunning setting for a restaurant we have had, even rivalling Positano, which considering my affinity with the sea, is saying something.
Our waiter wasn’t going to crack it for a smile, or enter into even polite conversation, so we gave up trying and didn’t let him spoil the occasion. Ches now has a theory that if we don’t pre-book, they get shirty. Mary doesn’t think it is an issue, but who knows. Anyway, several of the other waiters were cheerful enough and the other diners added to the atmosphere, so we had a wonderful lunch.
Ches had Bean and Pinenut Salad and the plate dish Rabbit with Black Olives. The beans were cannelini, cooked, cooled and drizzled with olive oil, with raw pinenuts and parsley-delicious. The Rabbit was sensational, a tad salty, probably from the olives. Ches has come a long way, now eating the occasional olive, but these were too much. I had Penne with Rabbit Sauce which was very good without being sensational, and Grilled Lamb, which turned out to be six baby lamb chops that occupied the entire plate. Again, we had forgotten that you have to order vegetable separately. Nevertheless, they were wonderful on their own.
As Mary later explained, sheep are largely kept for their milk to make cheese. They don’t have grazing country, nor can they spare land for it. Consequently, the lambs are butchered very young, and really is "spring lamb".
We again stuck to the house red (a half jug) and a bottle of mineral water. The house reds are always of a great standard. When I wouldn’t know what to order from the wine list anyway, the jug of house red has never let us down. (Here at Vellano, Mary buys her red in bulk from one of the locals, and decants it as she drinks it. Works out at L3,000 per bottle, and it is fabulous.)
With time running out if we are to get back to Poggio for the next opening, we suddenly struck up a conversation with an English couple at the adjoining table. Their daughter (3 or so) had been really well behaved throughout the meal. They have been to this area for eight of the last ten years, and raved about it and the local wines.
Recipe: Coniglio in Umido Con Olive Nere
PL - "A Tuscan in the Kitchen"
This should be close to the dish served at Ristorante Da Delfina. Serve with a smile. Our waiter wasn’t exactly contributing to the atmosphere. While eating, picture a view out over a Medici Hunting Lodge, and rolling hills and valleys covered in olive groves for as far as the eye can see.
Preheat oven to medium. Marinade rabbit overnight and mince rabbit interiors. Cover bottom of oven proof pan with olive oil. Heat on top of stove to medium and sauté Odori (see recipe above), adding interiors as the odiri start to colour. Add salt, pepper, tarragon and thyme. Turn to high and add a half glass of red wine vinegar. When evaporated, add rabbit pieces and stir to ensure it absorbs all the flavours (and browns). Cover with chicken or vegetable broth, two glasses of wine, and a small amount of tomatoes (tinned or fresh but mashed in own juices), and black olives. Cook over high heat to reduce liquid, cover and put in oven and start checking after 45 minutes. Flesh should be tender and white.
Recipe: Melanzane ai Funghi
RB - "Lazy Days Out in Tuscany" Da Delfinam at Artimino
Cut medium size aubergine in half lengthwise, and scoop out the inside. Sprinkle inside of shells with salt and stand upside down to drain. Dice the aubergine flesh. Heat oil in pan, and saute garlic and a quarter of a bunch of chopped basil for a minute. Add 100 gm of mixed wild mushroom, including some porcini (all chopped) and the aubergine and 50m gms of chopped tomato, and simmer for 5 min. Season.
Rinse and dry shells, pack with the filling, sprinkle with parmesan and bake (200c/Gas6) for 30 min until tops browned.
In the mountains behind Cararra.
Review: La Ceragetta (di Poli Marco)
We arrived at the restaurant (La Ceragetta (di Poli Marco), Isola Santa) at around 2.00pm and were concerned that we might be too late for lunch. Almost no such thing in Italy. We still don’t know how or why, given Mary’s instructions, but we ended up on a road that hooked back northeast from Isolasanta, and the restaurant is actually some kilometres along this road, all on its ownsome in the middle of nowhere. More than a restaurant, it is a substantial "hotel", built with no semblance of a plan out of the local stone and slate roofs. It wanders around the side of the mountain on different levels.
While there is a large dining room upstairs, primarily used for functions, the restaurant is quite small with maybe 12 tables and a capacity of 50 or so. There were about 20 diners at table when we arrived. The room is built right in under the eaves of the roof, with small windows set high in the walls, so not exactly opened up to the views. What views. A vast, steep and deep valley below us, and on the other side, towering mountain peaks, bare of any vegetation at the tops, forests in sections and unbelievable, the odd terraced sections of mountainside. We still don’t know what they were growing.
The deal with lunch is that they just keep bringing food. You eat what you want, and cry for mercy when you are full. They then produce a bill, which is very reasonable. Most people were either eating their secondi piatti or desert. We really were starting late for this type of meal. The waiter had almost no English, and yet was the most helpful, accommodating we have had to date (later we suspected he is the owner or part of the family).
He brought us a glass of icy cold Prosecco (it’s the sparkling white wine from the Veneto region). Then all these plates began appearing (Antipasti). Warm cod fritters, slices of meats (brawn, prosciutto and lard), bean salad, farro salad (farro with finely diced carrot, potato, mozzarella and mortadella sausage-fantastic), pickled cabbage and sweet corn, pickled vegetables, mixed bruscetta of plain garlic, tomato and cheese and mushroom.
Then the prima piatti. Lasagne in a sauce, which we think, was a combination of cheese, pesto and béchamel, and farfalle with tomato, basil and carrot. Next a liqueur glass each of icy cold lemon vodka to cleanse the palate.
On with the secondi piatti. A platter of crumbed lamb cutlets, beef with artichokes and sliced cheese, thinly sliced pork and prosciutto with béchamel sauce. Roasted potato chunks and a salad. Declined the cheese course and cut straight to fruit and custard slice, panna cotta with a berry coulis and custard sponge. One espresso. A bottle of house red and jugs of water. L57,000 ($53.00). That’s it. Not each. TOTAL L57,000. On the way out, we bought a bottle of Lemon Vodka. Now every night we have to decide between Vodka, Stregga and Sambuca. Well, I do. Ches goes straight for the vodka.
As we were finishing our meal, an electrical storm ripped through the other side of the valley. The mountains vanished into cloud and driving rain. Lightning flashed and thunder went off like cannons. I’ve said it before, but electrical storms are amazing in Italy. Never heard anything so loud. Lasted for fifteen minutes and blasted us with wind, and then cleared to a brilliant clear sky.
Recipe: Farro Insalata alla Isolasanta
GC - Gavin Crawford
My attempt to recreate a farro dish served as part of the Antipasti at La Caragetta.
Cook farro and cool. Blanch very small dice of potato and carrot. Cool and stir through farro with finely diced mortadella or other sausage and olive oil.
Recipe: Infarinata (Polenta)
RB - "Lazy Days Out in Tuscany"
La Ceragetta (di Poli Marco), Isola Santa (wonderful fixed price restaurant, where they just keep bringing the food till you surrender).
Use a heavy based saucepan. Bring 1.2 litres water and 2 teaspoons salt to the boil. Add 300 gm of Polenta in a thin stream while stiring to prevent lumps. Add 400 gm of finely diced vegetables (carrot, celery or onions, spinach, kohlrabi or chard, cooked borlotti beans) Cook gently for 40 minutes stiring constantly. It is ready when it can easily be pulled away from the side of the pan. Pour into a damp glass bowl, rest for 10 minutes, turn out on a board and slice into 1 cm thick slices. Serve drizzled with olive oil.
Alternatively: Deep-fry till crisp.
LUCCA Review: Canuleia
We stayed in an apartment on Piazza s.Frediano, so decided one day to dine at Canuleia which is listed in both Cadogan and Rough Guide. How appropriate is "rough". Cadogan says "...serving food with some surprises and usually some vegetarian dishes" and Rough Guide "Excellent cooking, with odd deserts like salumi di cioccolata. Good value given the quality."
It is in a small street near the Amphitheatre, which isn't listed in any of the maps, so we decided to check it's location in the morning and book if necessary. I make this point because it is not as if it is in a street that tourists would pass regularly. To visit this restaurant, you have to search for it, and even then it isn't easily found. My tip, don't waste your time.
To be fair, Ches looked at the menu and asked if I was sure I really wanted to dine there. She couldn't see anything that looked to be particularly interesting on the menu, and the prices weren't exactly the "inexpensive/moderate" claimed by Cadogan and Rough Guide. I had the chance to choose another restaurant, but I stuck to my initial choice.
We turned up at 8.15 or so, just in case it was likely to fill up with locals at 9.00. They know better! The waitress just waved us in the general direction of the outdoor garden section. I must admit that it is one of the prettiest garden restaurants we have eaten in.
Unfortunately there was a speaker in the tree beside our table, turned up way too loud (I love loud music, but not in this setting). There was a man and his son(12) sitting in one corner, 3 Americans, 4 Americans and 1 German. At the same time as we arrived, 3 Italian girls came in and 15 minutes later 2 Americans and a little later a sole Italian. O.K.!!!! Not exactly bustling. All being accommodated by what I believe was the owner/chef (woman), two kitchen hands, 2 waitresses and a woman who sat at a desk who kept check of the bill. That's 6 people to look after 18 people spread over a 3 hour period. You'd think it would translate into excellent service.
It took 10 minutes to get one of the waitresses to our table. They spent most of the night loitering and hoping that the other would actually do the work. We managed to get a menu out of her, but no offer of water or wine. Fifteen minutes later she returned to take our order. Food O.K., water, O.K, wine - not O.K. - no vino di cassa as such but a bottle for 10 euro was the offer. I noted later that most tables had the said bottle with very little drunk from it. The German had one glass of his. Ours just never came. The water was good.
An hour after we arrived, our food was served. It wasn't as though we were bored. We were entertained by the owner/chef abusing her kitchen staff (we could see into the kitchen from the garden) and the 12 y.o. kid ordering the waitresses around as plate after plate was delivered to their table. We later deduced that this was the husband and son of the owner/chef, and we suspect that she has recently bought the restaurant.
Anyway, to hell with the service and dramas unfolding around us, we are here for the food. OH, MY GOD!!!!!!!! Ches was served a water glass filled with salad vegetables standing upright, and a small bowl of nondescript mayo/aoli dressing for dipping. I had "riso con zucchini de fiori". I know, your thinking a lovely light zucchini flavoured risotto with zucchini flowers! No, the most insipid risotto drowned in a rich tomato sauce and a bowl of parmigiana.
Three quarters of an hour later, the mains. The waitress only came near us once, and that was five minutes before the food was actually served, to explain that because Ches had ordered an eggplant "soufflé", it was taking time. We had heard something smashing 5 min. earlier, and suspect it was the soufflé on its way to us, and they had to make another. It turned out to be more like an omelette in a casserole dish. The eggplant was tough and chewy. I had the Coniglia. It was sensational. One of the best rabbit dishes I have ever eaten ... I thoroughly enjoyed all three miniscule slices of it. Turned out to be 5 euros per slice.
You wonder what we had for Dolci????? What, you think I'm a total fool? We called it quits. Not even espresso. God knows they could have put me off it for life.
O.K. That's 2 cover charges of 3 euros each, mineral water at 3 euros, no wine ... remember, NO WINE. Two entrees and two mains. Thanks very much sir, that will be 59 euros.
The following day, we dined at La Mora. It is elegant, fantastic service and we had four courses, wine, desert wine and aperitifs for 87 euros. We loved La Mora so much we returned for a second meal later in the week.
To summarise, we suspect that there is a new owner of Canuleia. She probably doesn't get any local business and is capitalizing on overseas tourists. The three Italian girls at one point picked up a plate to bring it close to their eyes to make the point about the small portions. The owner sat down with her husband and son late in the evening, and tucked into a massive bistecca. She smoked a cigarette as she ate and lectured one of the waitress. At some point, she has to be dropped off the Cadogan and Rough Guide lists, and then she will have to earn her business. As we walked home, we passed two trats. that were still packed.
I have never been so angry and bitter about a dining experience. For the first time in my life, I actually responded to a waitresses query as to how I had enjoyed my risotto. I said "just O.K.". No wonder she didn't come near us again for 45 min.
I'm still angry 2 years later.
Recipe: Agnello in Umido con Olive Nere (Lamb)
RB - "Lazy Days Out in Tuscany"
Ristorante La Buca di Sant Antonio at Lucca.
Heat 5 tblsp Olive oil in casserole. Add 2 cloves finely chopped garlic, half an onion finely chopped, and a sprig of rosemary chopped, and cook till soft. Add 1 kg cubed lamb (5cm chunks-leg or shoulder) and brown all over. Increase heat and add a glass of white wine and while evaporating stir in 4 tblsp tomatoe puree, s&p. Pour in 500 ml meat stock, cover and cook slowly for 50 min or so, adding 200 gm of bitter olives for the last 15 min.
Review: Trattoria Leo
Trattoria Leo, one of Mary’s recommendations. Great atmosphere with a mixture of locals and tourists. They don’t appear to compromise on their cooking. It was fine in most respects, although we feel the chef has a thing about salt. Everything was just a tad too salty. Ches had Porcini risotto and rabbit and olives. I had Penne and rabbit ragu, and two mains.
What happened was that I couldn’t decide between the Trippa, and a roast pork spareribs dish. I was only trying to enquire how each was prepared/served, and which one the waitress recommended. She misunderstood, and thought that I didn’t know what either of them were. Her solution was to offer to serve me a half serve of each. Fine. The Trippa was excellent, but a little salty. The roast pork, a disaster of fatty pork and soggy potatoes.
The atmosphere was great. Really friendly and helpful staff, locals enjoying their lunch, the owners dog strolling through the tables and the "matrone" who was, resetting the tables. The decor was imitation "bell epoch", painted flowers on the windows and doors, the walls painted with Doric columns and squares to "frame" a mixture of pictures - some black and white photographs and Lutrec style prints.
Recipe: Trippa alla Fiorentina
LF - "A Table in Tuscany"
Leslie attributes this receipe to Trattoria Sostanza dal 1869, Via del Porcellana 25, Florence. I had it at Tratteria da Leo, Via Tegrimi, 1, Lucca.
Boil tripe (800gm) water for 10-15 minutes, with half an onion and a stick of celery.
While it is boiling, finely chop onion (half) and celery (I stalk), a carrot and 30 gm of pancetta. Saute in olive oil. Drain and slice the tripe, and add to pan with 500gm chopped tomatoes. Season and add 1 1/2 teaspoons marjoram. Cover and simmer over low heat for approx 30 min. Remove heat and turn up heat to thicken sauce, stirring to ensure it doesn’t burn. Serve with parmesan.
Review: Ristorante Bargo Giannotti
We discovered Ristorante Bargo Giannotti, in the street of the same name, outside the old town walls. We shared a Farro and Seafood salad and a Cannellini and Prawn salad, and two Pizzas. One a mistake - four types of cheese and tomatoes, the other a seafood. The highlight though was focaccia cooked in the wood fired oven. It had rock salt sprinkled on top and was moist and flaky and fabulous. We bought some to take home for dinner, but discovered it has to be eaten straight from the oven. It dries out in no time flat, and goes all chewy. Good value and an interesting experience.
One guy eating alone, demolished a seafood platter, a bottle of red wine, basket of bread, bottle of mineral water a coffee and a glass of grappa, and was still there when we left. No tourists at all, but packed with locals.
Recipe: Tagliolini con Gamberetti e Rucola
RB - "Lazy Days Out in Tuscany"
Enoteca Giovanni at Montecatini Termi
Heat olive oil in frying pan and add crushed garlic, and sauté for several minutes. Chop 50 gm of prawns, and add to pan with 50 gm of whole prawns and a tblsp white wine and sauté for three minutes or until pink. Stir into pasta and stir in a tblsp finely chopped parsley and a bunch of rocket finely chopped. Season and serve.
From Ponte de Mezzo, we walked up Borgo Stretto. It is not a particularly wide street, for one of the main streets, but it is quite beautiful in that it is lined both sides by porticoes. They are wide, give plenty of shade from the sun, and we assume shelter from the rain in winter. There are plenty of excellent shops and bars, and being not far from the university, plenty of young people sitting out front of the cafes.
Review: La Nuova Pizzaria del Bargo
We wandered off into a side lane Vicolo del Tinti, that ran parallel on the right, where we discovered a pizza restaurant, La Nuova Pizzaria del Bargo. They served the largest Pizzas we have ever seen, and took some time to get under control. When we arrived, the only other customers left were two women, who had a dog the size of a horse. He was kind of lying on the path beside the tables that occupied most of the lane, and not too many pedestrians tried to venture past.
Recipe: Tagliolini con Gamberetti, Piselli e Asparagi
RB - "Lazy Days Out in Tuscany"
La Mescita at Pisa
Heat olive oil in frying pan and add crushed garlic, and sauté for several minutes. Chop 50 gm of prawns, and add to pan with 50 gm of whole prawns and a tblsp white wine and sauté for three minutes or until pink. Stir into pasta and stir in a tblsp finely chopped parsley and a bunch of rocket finely chopped. Season and serve. Add in 100 gm of precooked peas and 6 asparagus spears (chopped) when stirring the pasta through, and add chopped parsley.
It is 7.50 am, and I have just returned from the Pescia, Saturday markets. From 7.00am every Saturday, the piazza and another small square are closed to traffic, for the morning markets. I drove down the mountain and down the valley at 6.30am, and parked on the other side of the river. A fisherman was working his way through the clumps of tall reeds, over the beds of river gravel and boulders strewn on what is the riverbed during the wet and snow melt season. I walked over the pedestrian bridge and noticed a dog several hundred metres upstream, inquisitively sniffing and pawing at the rocks in a shallow part of the stream. I looked down from the bridge at the river, which at this time of the year is a stream that occasionally runs with white water over a cluster of rocks and boulders, but more often than not, is slowly moving over a gravel bed through clumps of reeds. Under the bridge, thirty or so trout are nosing into the current, just working hard enough to remain stationary and waiting for whatever insects will be brought down stream. I know nothing about trout fishing, and can only assume that the fisherman several hundred metres down stream, has elected to ignore these ones for better game down there.
I crossed the bridge and walked the hundred metres or so to the main piazza. Most stands were still setting up; all the usual clothing, shoes and junk. I returned to the small square, and inside discovered that at 7.00am, all the fruit and vegetable stalls were already doing business.
Mary had told me that apart from the usual big stalls, there is often the odd stall with just a few items; set up by elderly small farmers, with just their own produce. This was my first stop. An elderly, stooped gentleman, helped me select a bunch of asparagus, bunch of spring onions, fresh peas and zucchini. On my return journey, I started kicking myself. I had noticed a separate bunch of straggly thin asparagus stalks and tips, but had passed them over. Now it dawned on me, that I had missed an opportunity to buy wild asparagus. On to the next stand for watermelon, fresh borlotti beans, cucumber and tomatoes, and the next for cherries, eggplant and fennel. Mary had said that the cafe in this square serves the best coffee in Pescia, but it still hadn’t opened, so I returned to the car, and headed back up the valley.
Recipe: Pollastrino al Mattone
Cecco, Viale Forte 84, Pescia
LF - "A Table in Tuscany"
Split a small chicken down the breastbone, open up and pound flat. Marinade in Lemon juice, garlic rosemary olive oil salt and pepper.
Place in frying pan and place a heavily glazed terracotta brick on top and fry over low heat for 20 min. Turn and do the other side for 20 min.
PONTE A MORIANO
North of Lucca.
Review: La Mora
We decided to have lunch at La Mora, a Buon Recordo restaurant, on the day after our disastrous dinner at Canuleia in Lucca. As Cheryl noted in her diary "..we had the most sensational meal with exquisite service in lovely surroundings – it almost obliterated the appalling meal we had last night ... although it did illustrate (again!) how ripped off we were!!"
The owner, Sauro Brunicardi as maitre d’ greeted us at the door, seated us and introduced our two waitresses. One was a young girl with reasonable English doing work experience while on summer holidays from her hospitality college. Immaculately groomed, attentive without any self-consciousness or pretentiousness and setting standards that only several other waiters have matched. We decided to order only seafood. Cheryl would go with the freshwater dishes and I would order saltwater. We therefore ordered a bottle of Bucci 2000, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jessi. After our experience at Torcoletto in Porto Recanati we rate the Marche Verdicchio’s as the absolute best match with seafood.
Well, not entirely seafood. While still looking at our menus, glasses of Prosecco arrived and an Appetiser of zucchini flowers stuffed with pork (terrine texture) and served on a bed of minced vegetables.
Cheryl had the antipasto; Budino al Peperone Rosso Dolce, which she described as "sublime" while I had the Primo; Tagliolini con le Anguille. That’s right pasta with eel sauce. Wonderful rich salty seafood.
Secondi; Cheryl had the "plate" dish, "Cacciucco di Pesce d’Acqua Dolce", Seafood Chowder-chunks of eel, 2 or 3 types of fish and 6 gamberi in a rich tomato based sauce that in no way overpowered the seafood. I had the Fritto Misto di mare. The lightest, crispiest batter I have ever experience. Small pieces of calamari, octopus, whitebait, prawns, anchovies, sardines. I’ve had my fair share of Fritto Misto over the years but this would have to be the absolute best.
Dolci: Cheryl had the "Crema Caramallata" (crème brulee) beautiful slightly burnt taste of toffee offset by the very rich creamy custard. I had the Honey Baverese with Blueberry Sauce-fantastic. Both were served with a Moscato d’Asti, biscotti and aniseed wafers. These really were unique. Ground aniseed, flour and sugar pressed into a mould.
Sauro was at the door with our presentation plate to farewell us. We enjoyed the experience so much we decided to return for dinner on the Friday night.
We headed out a little early so that I could photograph the "hog back" bridge at Borgo Mozzano, just a little further up the river from La Mora.
Tonight we decided to sample the "game" and meat dishes on the menu. This time we were seated outside under the trellised and vine covered patio and the service was more formal than at lunch. That means we had the services of a sommelier as well as the very professional waiters.
Once we had ordered our food, the sommelier arrived and suggested we have the Terre de Cuscinieri 1999 Vigneto Wandanne, Monte Carlo Rosso.
Antipasto: Cheryl had the Spogliatina alla Verdura (small vegetable puffs)served with a creamy light tomato sauce, while I had the Pan di Coniglio (Rabbit Mouse) which had an amazing depth of flavour in such a light dish.
Primi: Cheryl had decided not to have anything, however the waiter decided that she shouldn’t have to sit with an empty plate while I ate, so he brought her a sings stuffed zucchini flower. I had the Risotto sul Piccione (Pigeon risotto). Again a great depth of flavour and less gamy than often is the case with pigeon.
Secondi: Cheryl’s Filetto di Manzo alla Erbe Aromatiche was a supurb medium rare cut of beef with a herb sauce that was a little heavy on the thyme, with a side dish of spinach. My Coniglio Farcito Agli Aromi (rolled rabbit stuffed with vegetables) ... paroxysms of delight. We had a side platter of fritto misto vegetables – onion, fennel, zucchini, and carrot.
Dolci: Tortino di Coccialato (Hot Chocolate Souffle with chocolate sauce) and scallop shaped fine biscuit served with chantilly cream and fresh strawberries and blackberries.
Aniseed wafers, biscotti and Moscado di Asti again ... and again, just a sensational experience.
Recipe: Red Pepper Mousse
- 3 sweet red peppers
- 4 ounces creme fraeche or mascarpone
- Salt and white pepper to taste
- 4 whole eggs plus 1 yolk
- 3 or 4 thin slices smoked salmon
- Anchovy Cream (recipe follows)
Place the peppers in a pan and put the pan in a 350 F oven for 45 minutes, until the peppers wrinkle and start to collapse. Turn off the oven, cover the pan with a towel and leave it in the oven. When the peppers are cool to the touch, peel and seed them. This can be done up to two days in advance.
Combine the peeled peppers and cr?me fra?che or mascarpone in a food processor. Puree until smooth, then season to taste with salt and white pepper. Add the eggs and process again until smooth.
Butter six 4-ounce timbales or custard cups. Place the salmon on a large plate or cutting board. Use one of the timbales or custard cups to cut six rounds of salmon. (If the timbale is not sharp enough, use it as a guide and cut the salmon with a sharp knife.) Set the slices aside and cover them with plastic wrap to keep them from drying out. Fill the timbales with the red pepper puree.
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Butter a large piece of parchment and cut it into six timbale-sized squares. Place each piece of parchment, butter side down, on each timbale. Put the timbales in a baking pan and pour hot water in the pan around the timbales to a depth of 1 inch. Bake the timbales for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are just firm to the touch. Let them stand 5 minutes before removing the parchment.
Place a smoked salmon round on each mousse and invert to unmold them onto small plates. Serve with a dab of Anchovy Cream. Serves 6.
Recipe: Anchovy Cream
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 ounce anchovies, rinsed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/2 shallot, coarsely sliced
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a food processor or blender, puree the mayonnaise, anchovies, lemon juice and shallots, scraping down the inside occasionally, until smooth and fluffy. Season to taste with salt (if necessary) and pepper.
Recipe: Fritto Misto di Mare
From Kyle Phillips at About.com
Little can be more refreshing, or more picturesque, than a fritto misto di mare on the coast. It requires absolutely fresh fish however, and care too, because otherwise it becomes heavy and difficult on the digestion. The traditional fritto misto includes representatives of most of the watery families, including mollusks and arthropods. There's also what's known as a fritto di paranza, which is just very small (2 inch long including head and tail) fish rolled in flour, fried, and served with lemon wedges. You eat them heads and all (unless they're a little larger than normal), and purists frown on cleaning the fish because the intestines provide a slightly sharp flavor contrast. I prefer my fish cleaned and you may well too. But if the heads are small they're pleasingly crunchy, and the tails are perfect handles.
In any case, to make a fritto di paranza to serve six you'll need about 2 pounds (1 k) of assorted tiny, minnow-sized fish. To make a more standard fritto di mare you'll need 2 1/2 pounds (1.2 k) of mixed small fish, including fresh sardines and anchovies, baby squid, baby cuttlefish, small crabs, scampi and other assorted crustaceans, reef mullet and tiny whiting, sole, and whatever else your fishmonger suggests.
You'll also need 2 cups flour for rolling the fish, abundant oil (it's best to fry in several pots so what fries first will still be hot when the last things are cooked), salt, several lemons cut into wedges, and sprigs of fresh parsley to serve as garnish.
Wash, clean and pat the fish dry. You can bone the minnows, opening up like a book to remove the spines, but it's not indispensable. If you are using something like sole, filet it. Cut away the mouth parts of the squid and cuttlefish, remove the innards without breaking the ink sacks (you can use them to make a risotto with squid ink), and remove the bones from the cuttlefish (give them to a friend who keeps caged birds). Cut the bodies of the mollusks into rings, and keep the tentacles together in bunches. Shell or don't shell the crustaceans depending upon how hard their shells are.
Coat the fish thoroughly with flour and fry it, beginning with the mollusks and then the crustaceans, followed by the larger and then the smaller fish. As the fish rise to the surface and turn golden remove them with a strainer and drain them on absorbent paper. Transfer the fish to a platter, season it with salt, garnish it with parsley, and serve it with the lemon wedges and a chilled bottle of Trebbiano di Romagna or Castelli Romani. Or, if you want to splurge, a nice Gavi di Gavi.