Monday, August 8, 2016

Zuppa di Mare

     A Traditional Zuppa di Mare!
     Italy was known for great food long before vegetables from the new world were introduced during the Columbian Exchange.  There were no sweet potatoes, potatoes, corn, chile peppers or tomatoes before the age of Columbus and this is reflected in traditional Italian recipes.  
     Today's Zuppa di Mare has no tomato or chile peppers in the recipe, like many modern Zuppa di Mare recipes do.  Pre-Columbian Exchange Zuppa di Mare recipes were nearly always made with a clear fish broth or seafood broth.  The broth was sometimes thickened with a flour slurry.  No cream was added.   
     The Italian word "Chiara or Chiaro"  translates to "clear."  The word Chiaro can be used to designate an old traditional Zuppa di Mare recipe that contains no tomato, but this is not really necessary in Northern Italian fine dining restaurants that place value upon originality.
     Today's Zuppa di Mare recipe is simple and it is always cooked to order (a la minute).  I learned this recipe while apprenticing in a Northern Italian fine dining restaurant that was managed by an Italian Monk that had a thorough knowledge of Italian food history.  The chef said that this style of old fashioned Zuppa di Mare was best, because the soothing light flavors reflected upon simpler times.
     The selection of seafood for making Zuppa di Mare is a personal choice or it is based upon availability.  The seafood should be a combination shellfish, squid or octopus and fish.
     Many Venetian chefs like to add baccala (dried salt cod) to the mixture, to increase the umami flavor.  Sun Dried Anchovies are a nice option for increasing the umami flavor too.  During the times of ancient Rome, Garum would have been added to give the Zuppa di Mare a strong umami flavor, which was en vogue back in those days.  Garum is a classic condiment that is basically liquified fermented fish guts, which is rarely used in modern times.  
      Zuppa di Mare:
     This recipe yields 2 portions.  (About 4 1/2 cups)  
     Zuppa di Mare is made to order and it should not be made ahead of time.  There should be a high proportion of seafood to broth in this soup!  
     The clams at the local food market looked awful the day that I made recipe photo example, so none were added.  Small whole clams are traditionally part of Zuppa di Mare, so add a few if they are available.
     Zuppa di Mare is nearly always served with a small portion of pasta.  Fettuccine is the most popular pasta shape for this soup.   
     Step 1:  Cook 2 small portions of fettuccine pasta in boiling water over high heat.
     When the fettucini is al dente, drain the water off of the pasta.
     Cool the fettucini under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the fettucini.
     Sprinkle a few drops of olive oil on the pasta.
     Toss the pasta, so it becomes lightly coated with olive oil.
     Set the pasta aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a deep sauté pan (sauteuse pan) over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 2 cloves of sliced garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic is a light golden color.
     Step 3:  Add 1/4 cup of diced celery.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced carrot.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced onion.
     Sauté the vegetables till they start to become tender.
     Step 4:  Add 3 1/2 cups of light whitefish broth.
     Add 1 chopped imported Italian canned anchovy filet or 1 tablespoon of tiny sun dried anchovies.  (optional)
     Add 1 small bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of ground sage.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Step 5:  Simmer the soup till the soffritto vegetables are tender.
     Step 6:  Add 8 ounces of whitefish filet that is cut into six large bite size pieces.  (Cod, Snapper or Striped Sea Bass are good choices.)
     Add 6 ounces of scallops.
     Add 10 to 12 medium size shrimp.  (Peel, devein and remove the tails of the shrimp.)
     Add 10 to 12 small whole clams.
     Bring the liquid back to a gentle boil.
     *Do not stir the soup after adding the seafood or the fish pieces will break apart!
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Gently simmer till the seafood is fully cooked and the broth is rich with the flavor of fruits of the sea!
     Step 8:  Add 3 ounces of sliced small squid tops and tentacles.  (The squid will cook in just a few seconds, so always add the squid last.)
     Briefly simmer till the squid is fully cooked.
     Step 9:  Remove the bay leaf.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of virgin olive oil.
     Gently stir the zuppa.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     This recipe describes 1 soup presentation.
     Place 1 small portion of the prepared fettuccine in a shallow soup bowl.
     Use spoon to place half of the seafood around the pasta in the bowl.
     Pour about 1 3/4 cups of the hot broth over the pasta, so the pasta is reheated.
     Serve with sliced Italian bread on the side.
     No garnish is necessary!

     The soothing gentle seafood flavors can be tasted in every spoonful of this Zuppa di Mare!

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