As the seasons change, so do our appetites and nutritional needs. Between the spring and summer, our food habits undergo a gradual metamorphosis. By the time the hottest months have arrived, most of us are naturally inclined to avoid heavy foods and the long cooking preparations required for them. Leggero (light) or restare leggeri (staying light) is the Italian credo in the summer—fresh, light, colorful and simple foods are what everyone craves on hot days.
Italians tend to eat lukewarm or cold food in the summer; tables are often laden with all kinds of variations of salad—from lettuce-based and raw vegetable salads, to insalata di pasta (pasta salads), insalata di riso (rice salads) and insalata di mare or polpo (seafood or octopus salad).
Insalata di mare (Seafood salad) is a delicate preparation usually made with boiled fresh octopus, clams and mussels; the shellfish open when cooked in a covered pan. Sometimes this salad includes shrimp—previously boiled and cleaned—and baby calamari. Crabmeat or other fresh seafood can also be added. The freshness of the fish, the quality of the extra virgin olive oil and the addition of good-quality lemon make all the difference. The dressing for this salad is made simply with two essential ingredients of the Italian cuisine—lemon and olive oil, along with a bit of garlic, parsley, salt and white pepper. Insalata di polpo (octopus salad) is another favorite in Italy, especially along the coasts. It consists of just boiled fresh octopus and tiny slices of celery, seasoned with the same dressing as in the seafood salad. Sometimes it’s served cold or at room temperature, but it can also be served warm with potatoes.
- 2 fennel bulbs with tops
- 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms, such as shiitake, porcini, or button
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 3 1/4 cups low sodium chicken broth, heated
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 cups fresh crabmeat
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
Trim fennel bulbs, reserving tops. Quarter bulbs lengthwise and slice. Measure 1 cup sliced fennel. Snip enough of the fennel tops to measure 1 tablespoon; set aside.
In a large saucepan heat olive oil and cook the 1 cup fennel, the mushrooms, pepper and fennel seed in until tender. Stir in rice. Cook and stir over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the 1/4 broth and bring to a boil.
Gradually add the remaining warm chicken broth, one cup at a time, until all the broth is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
Remove saucepan from the heat. Stir in crabmeat and green onions. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in the snipped fennel tops and serve. This dish can also be served at room temperature.
- 1 pound homemade or refrigerated pizza dough
- 4 medium plum tomatoes, sliced
- 8-10 oz cooked shrimp (cut in half lengthwise)
- 3 tablespoons snipped fresh oregano
- 1/2 – 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
- Fresh basil leaves
Lightly grease a baking sheet; set aside. Unroll the pizza dough onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 16 inch rectangle. Cut dough into eight squares.
Place squares about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. If desired, fold over about 1/4 inch of the dough on each edge; press with a fork.
Bake in a 425 degrees F oven for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.
Divide tomato slices among the squares. Divide shrimp among the squares. Sprinkle with snipped oregano and crushed red pepper. Sprinkle with cheese.
Bake for 5 to 6 minutes more or until cheese melts. If desired, garnish with basil.
Fettuccine and Scallops in Wine Sauce
- 1 pound fresh scallops
- 6 ounces fettuccine or linguine
- 3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
- 4 medium carrots, thinly sliced (2 cups)
- 8 green onions, sliced (1 cup)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- Juice and zest of half a lemon
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Cut any large scallops in half.
In a 4 to 5-quart Dutch Oven, bring 3 quarts of water to boiling. Add pasta; return to boiling. Cook for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, carrots and green onions. Return to boiling.
Cook, uncovered, for 5 to 7 minutes more or until pasta is tender but al dente and vegetables are crisp-tender. Drain pasta and vegetables; keep warm.
Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl stir together wine, lemon juice and cornstarch; set aside.
In the empty pasta pot melt butter. Add garlic; cook over medium-high heat about 1 minute. Add scallops, wine mixture, lemon zest, Italian seasoning, parsley and pepper to the pan.
Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes more or until the scallops turn opaque.
Arrange pasta mixture on a large platter. Spoon the scallop mixture over the pasta mixture. Makes 4 main-dish servings.
Seafood al Cartoccio (Grilled Red Snapper and Shellfish)
- 4 red snapper fillets, 6 ounces each, skin on, scaled and bones removed
- 6 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined or clams or mussels or a combination of all
- 1/2 cup fresh cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chives, chopped
- 2 basil leaves, chopped
- 2 oregano sprigs, chopped
- Juice of 3 fresh lemons
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Aluminum foil, heavy strength
- Olive oil cooking spray
To make the herb butter
1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until butter is blended evenly.
2. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
To make the foil packets
1. Cut 4 sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil, approximately 14 x 18 inches in size.
2. Place sheet of foil shiny side down, narrow edge toward you, on the work surface.
3. Spray the foil with cooking spray. Arrange 1 fish fillet skin side down, 3 to 4 shrimp, a few scattered cherry tomatoes and scallions on each foil sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Using a teaspoon, place several small dollops of the herb butter on the fish and shrimp.
4. Fold the foil over the seafood and bring the top and bottom edges together. Fold the edges over several times to make a tight seal and turn edges up.
1. Preheat grill to highest setting.
2. When ready to cook, place the foil cartoccio(skin side down) in the center of the hot grate. Cover the grill and cook until foil pouches are dramatically puffed, approximately 7 to 9 minutes.
3. Remove the packets directly from the grill to a plate. Using a sharp knife, cut the center of the foil pouch lengthwise and open. Be careful of the hot steam.
Marinated Seafood Salad
- 1/2 pound fish fillets of choice
- Poaching liquid
- 1/4 pound small bay scallops
- 1/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled, deveined
- 1/4 cup sliced celery
- 3/4 cup black olives, halved
- 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
- 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- Pinch cayenne pepper
Gently poach fillets, scallops and shrimp in liquid of your choice: water, broth, white wine or a mixture of the liquids.
When fish and shellfish are firm to the touch and cooked through, remove from poaching liquid and cool.
Cut fillets into 1-inch chunks.
Combine fish, scallops, shrimp, celery, olives and green onions in a large mixing bowl. Season with olive oil, lime juice, parsley, salt and cayenne.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
- Insalata di polpo (Octopus salad) (duespaghetti.com)
- My Seafood Fettuccine With A Garlic Lemon Sauce (lindalouhamel.com)
- Salad Night (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Caprese Salad Tomato Stacks (mccallumsshamrockpatch.wordpress.com)