20.6.04

the catch of a day

moscardini
i'm beginning to think that blog is a contraction for backlog...

i just can't keep up with everything. i cook,i eat, i take pictures, (not necessarily in this order). the photos are then left to gather digital dust: not much time for choosing, editing, writing etc..

it was with a huge sigh of relief that i welcomed wena's nominating "the catch of the day" as the theme for this month's is my blog burning? day.

what a wonderful chance to indulge in some fresh fish while at the same time get to use up some stale old photos, i thought.
then i changed my mind.

this post will therefore describe the fishiest parts of a meal prepared last saturday with the catch of that day. we were on holiday in italy, guests of the very wonderful marina & stephen (via marina's sister francesca and her husband antonio who actually owns the place) in an heavenly house overlooking the golfo dei poeti.

the italians amongst you will have immediately recognized the alien blob pictured above for what it truly is: moscardini!

a moscardino is a baby octopus, usually no longer than ten centimetres. tentacles and all.
what i bought that morning from the fish market in lerici were a sort of teenager octopi (?): not fully grown but still half a kilo each. i had to feed 10 hungry italians so i bought a few.
they went in a shallow pan with water, garlic, herbs, tomatoes, celery, carrots. all cold.
the pan was covered with a lid and left to simmer for almost two hours which is a bit longer than needed.
(i wanted to play it safe: the previous day i had a bad experience with a reckless fisherman and a fully grown octopus: "cook it for twenty minutes" he said. "twenty minutes???" i said "twenty minutes!" he said.
i cooked it for twenty minutes.
it was so hard that i threw it on the rocks below where it bounced and bounced and bounced and bounced ...)
the moscardini were oh so tender, with a flavour to match.

triglie in the garden below the house and above the rocks where the octopus is still bouncing, there are a couple of lemon trees.
a previous experiment during a previous holiday proved that the usually neglected lemon leaves make a perfect complement for a delicate fish such as red mullet.
the typical mediterranean red mullet is a tiny, delicious fish, much smaller than the equally delicious version i can find here. i bought 1.5 kilos of red mullets and went back home with 40 plus little fishes, mercifully cleaned by the the fishmonger.
my original idea was to fill the cavity of the fish with rosemary and garlic and wrap it in a leaf frm the lemon tree. i did it before and it worked wonders. this time there were so many fishes and so little time. i took an oven tray, covered it in foil. i laid a layer of lemon leaves. the fish went on top, sprinkled with chopped rosemary and garlic. more leaves, more foil to seal, oven.
10 minutes are enough.
the smells of lemon, sea, garlic and rosemary are the essence of this dish.
i filled my lungs and i tucked in.

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