I’m traveling and finding seasonal, local food to eat and sometimes cook has been a particular interest. Italy has it down. Fish and produce markets in Venice, streetside bins of favas and blood oranges in Rome, in addition to daily fresh markets everywhere. Eating seasonally and within the character of a particular region is not something Italians exclaim about – it’s just the way it is. Seasonal and local. All year round.
After having visited the fish and produce markets in Venice the other day, and later the neighborhood wine shop for a liter of Pinot Grigio, I had ingredients for a minor feast. In Venice you can buy bulk wine, fill up a recycled plastic bottle with a very decent red or white from nearby. A great bargain. I cooked a meal that night that came together easily, is typical and very simple.
Branzino – Snapper or Trout – with Steamed Spinach Recipe
The recipe that follows was prepared with Branzino, a Venetian lagoon fish, and fresh spinach; in Rome a few nights later it was fresh anchovies on a bed of chicory; in Washington it could be the spinach with halibut, snapper or trout.
Mix 1/4 C olive oil with 2 or 3 T vinegar or lemon juice until it has emulsified. Set aside.
In a large pan, briefly saute’ 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic in several tablespoons of olive oil. Add a BIG pile of fresh spinach – 7 or 8 cups will cook down to 2 or 3. Stir gently, add no additional water, cover and steam for 2 or 3 minutes. Lightly season with salt and pepper and set aside.
I cooked a couple of whole Branzino in plenty of olive oil, seasoned and with slices of lemon on the inside of each. Halibut, Snapper, or if you’re lucky fresh trout, would be great PNW fare. A few minutes on each side and it was done, with a skin worth savoring as much as the tender meat of the fish. To serve, place a spoonful of the dressing on each plate, top with a serving of the spinach, and then top that with fish and a squeeze of fresh lemon.
I wish I’d taken a picture. I guess I was too busy, too hungry, and it was late. It was beautiful and so good. We ate the fish following bowls of spaghetti with tomato sauce and loved it all. Fresh, sweet strawberries from southern Italy for dessert – they’ll be local for Washingtonians in another six weeks or so.
Substitute a piece of halibut or snapper for the Branzino and you’re on your way. I really believe that eating regionally/locally can be just as easily accomplished in the PNW where we have wonderful fish and good produce year- round and California, our Sicily, nearby. Bon Appetito!