It is summer time and I am sure, like me, you are enjoying the best produce season.
Tomatoes have flavor, the variety of fruits are endless, in short, life is good.
We are in Italy in our wonderful small mountain village in the Central region of Abruzzo and are enjoying warm sun, blue skies and delicious food.
The area is rich with small medieval villages and endless pasture mountains that look like velvet and are surrounded by rocky mountains. It is a gorgeous area little known and rich with flavor.
We love coming here any time of the year as every season is different and beautiful. We have made many friends over the years and always look forward to seeing them all.
We visited one couple we love the other day to make plans for lunch, I offered to cook.
He is an incredible cook himself and does not usually trust others to cook for him… Happily, I am one of the few exceptions.
He is a fun and very unique character, an artist and a crazy man and has shelves, fridges and freezers filled with all kind of projects: film sets, editing studio, his own tuna canning plant (homemade), olive oil bottling and frozen cows… Long story.
He went to his freezer and told us how he had bout a whole live monkfish “some time” ago and tried to cook a piece which turned out terrible. He said he was told he had to “age it” like beef and freeze it to make it more tender and edible… He handed me a bag of frozen Vintage monk fish and ordered me to cook it for lunch the next day. Ehem, what?
I went home and took an inventory of what I had laying around and designed the menu for the next day:
“Prosciutto e Melone”
Melon soup with Passito wine and mint, served with prosciutto on a bread stick
Linguine with monk fish home-dried Pachino tomatoes, capers and wild dill (which I picked in the mountain).
Zucchini and pecorino tart with salad
Saffron and Fig cake
Yes I had all those ingredients laying around…
The monkfish sauce was so good I decided to share it. The fish had a texture and flavor similar to lobster, the lemon zest and dill were a fresh addition to the earthy notes of the tomatoes and capers. Try it.
About 1 lb of monkfish
2 lbs of grape, Roma or cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp capers in salt
1 bunch of wild dill
2 cloves of garlic (skin on)
Zest of 2 lemons (untreated please)
Olive oil, salt, some dried herbs and a touch of sugar.
The same evening I received the fish, I cut the tomatoes in half, removed most seeds, sprinkled with sale, dried basil and parsley, a pinch of sugar and placed in the oven on very low heat and let them dry for about 3 hours.
In the morning, I sprinkled the 2 pieces of monkfish with sea salt and placed in a colander for 2 hours in the fridge to remove excess moisture. I then removed the salt and patted the fish dry.
I placed the tomatoes and capers (salt washed off) in a bowl with some olive oil.
cut the monkfish into small morsels.
In a pan, I added a bit of olive oil and the 2 garlic cloves and heated them a few minutes, then add the monkfish and sauté for about 2 minutes, add the tomato caper and sauté 2 more minutes and remove from heat and add chopped dill and lemon zest
Cook the pasta in salted water, add a ladle of water to the fish and when a minute or 2 from cooking time, drain the pasta and sauté with the fish for a minute or 2 and serve
The zucchini tart was very easy and was a nice savory crust, mix milk with pecorino cheese and 2 eggs and place at bottom of tart. Top with zucchini and bake for about 25 minutes.
Saffron tart (recipe upon request)