Here’s another one of those no-cook recipes when the summer heat has you fleeing your stove. It also is timely for those of you gardeners who have more an abundance of cucumbers. I’m not growing any in my small plot, but my niece Keri gave me a couple from her garden, and I think I put them to good use in this recipe, from Melissa Clark of The New York Times.
You’ll note there are anchovies in the recipe and they are listed as optional. But DON’T leave them out, even if you hate anchovies (are you listening, Marie?) You absolutely cannot taste them in this recipe, but I guarantee you, the soup won’t be as flavorful without them. Cucumbers are so mild that this soup needs the jalapeño, the herbs, the garlic, the vinegar and yes, the anchovies, to give it the umph it needs, lest it turn out as a bland bowl of puréed cucumbers. Trust me on this one, please. And don’t leave out the corn garnish. The extra texture and taste really lends it a nice finishing touch.
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There are so many reasons I love summer, including the delicious sweet corn that grows prolifically here in New Jersey. We’ve been eating it at least once a week, just boiled in water for three or four minutes.
With one of the leftover ears, I was inspired to make a summer pizza using more terrific Jersey produce – (we are the “Garden State” after all!) after seeing something similar on my friend Stacey’s blog.
The first time I tried it, I also added some zucchini and a bit of anchovy – just enough to give it a zing.
I can just hear those of you who are anchovy averse turning off at this point. But wait – the second time I made it, I added small cherry tomatoes and pancetta in addition to the corn and zucchini. In both cases, I used fresh oregano and basil (and mozzarella cheese of course).
For all you vegetarians, you can skip the anchovies or the pancetta and it will still be delicious, provided you have sweet corn in season.
Although I used a perforated pizza pan to bake the pizzas at a high temperature, the bottom crust just wasn’t getting browned enough. So after about 12 minutes at 475 degrees, I slipped the pizza off the pan and slid it directly onto the lowest of the oven’s wire racks for a few more minutes. Keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn on the bottom.
It worked beautifully and created a crispy, crunchy bottom crust, without burning the toppings.
So take your pick and choose either surf (anchovies):
or turf (pancetta). In either case, you’ll want to try this corn pizza while fresh corn is at its peak.
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2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (or several balls of fresh mozzarella, sliced)
1 ear of corn, kernels scraped (either raw or leftover boiled)
1 small zucchini (or half of a large zucchini), sliced thinly and salted
either – 2 anchovies in oil or 6 thin slices of pancetta, fried until crispy
8-10 red or yellow cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Whether using your own homemade dough, or store-purchased dough, put it in a bowl smeared with oil and let it come to room temperature and rest for about an hour. Punch it down and spread it out over a large perforated pizza pan.
Scatter the mozzarella over the dough, then place the zucchini and corn kernels and/or cherry tomatoes on top .
If using anchovies, lay them in a few places across the pizza. Do the same if using the pancetta.
Sprinkle with the fresh herbs and black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
Bake at 475 degrees for 10-12 minutes. If the dough is not browning on the bottom, slide the pizza from the pan directly onto the lowest rack of the oven. Let it bake for another 3-5 minutes, checking to make sure it doesn’t burn.
Wouldn’t you like to get away from the throngs of tourists following the same old itineraries through the same old well-trodden tourist sites? Sure, if you come to Italy you don’t want to miss the major art cities like Rome and Florence. But if you want to experience something unique, come to Abruzzo and eat on a trabocco, found only in this small area of Italy’s Adriatic coastline.
The writer Gabriele D’Annunzio, who was born nearby in Pescara, described these spindly wooden structures as “a colossal skeleton of an antidiluvian amphibian.”
Regular readers of this blog may remember a post I wrote a couple of years ago here introducing trabocchi (plural of trabocco). This year, I actually got to cook on a trabocco with the owners and enjoy an unforgettable meal cooked in a miniscule kitchen beside the sea.
This particular trabocco, Trabocco Punta Tufano, is owned by Rinaldo Veri and his wife Maria, and was rebuilt seven years ago, following a storm in 2006 that destroyed the former structure. But his family has owned a trabocco on this site, near San Vito Chietino, since 1777. They’re typically made of a wood from trees that grow nearby and are resistant to the weather, called robinia pseudoacacia, commonly known as the black locust, or false acacia. Large nets are lowered from the long wooden arms and fishermen haul in fish that live near the rocks, such an anchovies, squid and octopus.
Inside this wooden building is the kitchen where Maria guided me and a few other visitors in preparing a meal using traditional recipes from the region.
Starting with these anchovies – looking and tasting nothing like what we get in those small cans in the U.S.
Maria showed me the technique used in opening them with one swift move, and removing the skeleton to end up with a fillet.
Then marinating them in vinegar, lemon juice and white wine.
The octopus was cooked in a pot of water, wine, vinegar and lemon juice for about 40 minutes.
And emerged looking like this:
After it was cooled, it was cleaned of some of the suckers and placed in a pot with olive oil, onion, peppers and bits of cherry tomatoes.
Olive oil, garlic, cherry tomatoes and red pepper were also used in the preparation of these tiny clams.
Maria also showed us how to open mussels and mix the ingredients for stuffing the mollusks.
After they’re stuffed, they’re cooked in a tomato sauce and given a few minutes in the oven at the end.
A classic dish of this part of the coast is brodetto, a fish soup made using the catch of the day. In this case, it was scorfano (scorpion fish), merluzzo (cod), and dentice (sea bream or red snapper).
Brodetto is cooked in the traditional terra cotta pots made in the region.
By this time, our group had worked up an appetite and we were ready for a drink of prosecco and an appetizer.
We started with the fresh anchovies that had been marinated and served on slices of bread sprinkled with olive oil, cherry tomatoes, salt and parsley.
We moved on to the stuffed mussels, and octopus served over polenta.
The clams were next, loaded with flavor. We sucked every drop of liquid from the shells, before dipping our bread into the liquid left on the platter.
Then came the pots of brodetto, dotted with clams and mussels above the whole fish.
I’m sure I went back for two and three helpings.
Oh yes, and I can’t forget the marinated mackerel fish, bathed in olive oil and sprinkled with salt.
We had to finish with something sweet, and in this case, it was the classic ferratelle or pizzelle, from Abruzzo. All accompanied by various homemade liqueurs, including genziana, a plant that is omnipresent in the Abruzzo countryside.
Afterwards, Rinaldo demonstrated how the nets are lifted above the sea to haul in the fish.
I want to thank this handsome fellow – Fabrizio Lucci of Italia Sweet Italia, for inviting me and a few other bloggers who attended Let’s Blog Abruzzo to come along for this unforgettable experience. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more posts on other adventures in Abruzzo, courtesy of Italia Sweet Italia.