If, like us, you're an enthusiast of simple, no-frills home cooking without gimmicky food television-type hooks, there's a new cookbook, Fish: Recipes From the Sea, that should be in your Italian kitchen arsenal. The 200 seafood recipes have been culled from the Silver Spoon cookbook series, with plenty of deboning step-by-step guides and tempting photographic additions (the latter not an area the early Silver Spoon cookbooks excelled in).
In terms of recipes, think sardines al forno (baked sardines stuffed with breadcrumbs), razza in salsina verde alle erbe (skate with green herb sauce), bucatini al sugo do cozze (bucatini with mussels) and risotto speziato ai gamberetti (spicy shrimp risotto with saffron). Yeah, we're considering swinging by our seafood market right now, too.
The chapters are divided by general fish variety (“White Fish,” “Oily Fish,” “Freshwater Fish”) and begin with full-page descriptions of the fish featured in each chapter.
So in that “Oily Fish” chapter, we learn from the encyclopedic entry on herring that the fish averages 7 to 14 ounces in weight and is primarily fished in Northern Europe, as well as by Pacific Coast fishermen in the U.S. and Canada. We also get a mini lesson on how to prepare both fresh and preserved herring, as well as a few Trivial Pursuit nuggets: “In the United States, herring are often sold canned and labeled as sardines.” After all the studying, you get to the recipes: Calabrese-style herring (mashed in red chile-garlic paste and served on toasted bread), herring and cauliflower salad in a red wine vinaigrette, herring with grapefruit and fennel. Not your average sardine sandwich sort of fare.
The last chapter, focusing on basic seafood preparation techniques, is one of the best we've seen on that topic in a good many linguini with sea urchin (p.262) suppers. After illustrating how to trim and scale fish, the chapter skips the generalized filleting and skinning info that you find in most home cook-friendly books.
Instead, here we get a focused look at preparing specific types of fish based on their shape — there is a section on filleting and skinning round fish, one on flat fish, another on small oily fish and one dedicated solely to monkfish (“because monkfish have a different bone structure and a loose skin” compared to other fish, we are told). Octopus, squid, scallops, oysters, mussels and prawns also get their own dedicated, photo-heavy, step-by-step pages here.
Which gets us back to the recipes, like this one for crab with artichokes and farfalle. Simple and speedy enough to make on a weeknight, interesting enough to justify swinging by your neighborhood Italian wine shop for that bottle of crisp white wine.
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