Lia Crowe photography

Bounty of the Sea

Seafood shines in three-course Italian il pasto

  • Mar. 10, 2021 7:30 a.m.

– Words by Chef Julia McInnis, Zambri’s Photography by Lia Crowe

Like many of you, I have spent the majority of my life living on the West Coast. For me, much of the appeal of life here is proximity to the Pacific Ocean. For the scenery, yes. But even more so, for the way the air smells: briny, savoury and delicious.

One of the aspects of cooking Italian cuisine that speaks to me is taking quality seasonal ingredients and presenting them simply to let the ingredients shine.

This time of year (when it feels like it always has been and always will be raining) it’s the ocean’s time to shine. The colder temperatures are ideal for freshness of product and firmness of flesh.

First, some notes on choosing quality products and keeping them as fresh as possible. General advice when handling seafood is: less is more. Try to buy the fish as soon as possible before you intend to eat it, ideally the day of.

When storing clams in the fridge, keep them in the mesh or plastic bag in which you bought them. This keeps them closed and less likely to open up and breathe in too much air. Wash your clams by placing them in a bowl and covering them with cold water, then agitating the clams around in the water, rubbing them against each other to release any sand caught in the crevices.

Pro tip: Lift the clams out of the water, don’t pour the water back out over them or you risk getting that sand caught right back in their shells. Repeat this at least three times or until the water is no longer cloudy when you agitate the clams.

When choosing white fish, pick a piece that looks slightly translucent and is uniform in colour throughout, free of dark spots on the flesh. To store in the fridge, remove the fish from the packaging and place it on a clean plastic, porcelain or glass container and wrap it well with saran wrap. Avoid metal as it may react with the fish and impart a tinny flavour. Handle the fish as little as possible to keep the heat and oils of your hands from disrupting the natural pH balance of the fish.

Below is a three-course meal built from my personal favourite winter comfort foods, and highlighting the best of the ocean’s bounty: warm and fragrant broth from the liquor of clams, white wine and butter, served with crunchy bread spread with parsley pesto; sweet buttery white fish cooked with savoury olives, salty caper bombs and tomato; anchovy breadcrumbs with white beans and bitter greens, which bring a nice richness of flavour in contrast to the salt and acidity of the fish dish; and for dessert, a citrus-rich olive oil cake to cleanse the palate.

White Fish Baked with Tomato,

Olive and Caper

Serves 4

1 tbsp vegetable oil

½ small onion, chopped fine

4 garlic cloves, sliced thin

½ lemon, zested

1 tbsp capers

3⁄4 cup olives, Sicilian hot mix or Picholine

1 pinch chili flakes

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

½ cup white wine

2 cups (500 ml) Zambri’s tomato sauce

1½ lbs white fish, rockfish or sole ideally

1 tbsp chopped parsley

olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Place garlic, chopped onion and vegetable oil in a medium-sized sauce pan. Turn heat to medium. Cook garlic and onion until soft and beginning to colour. Add a small amount of water halfway through to speed along the process. Add capers and olives and continue to cook for 1 minute. Add cherry tomatoes and continue to cook until cherry tomatoes are soft and beginning to burst. Add white wine and Zambri’s tomato sauce. Simmer 5 minutes to let the flavours get to know each other.

Prepare fish by giving a gentle rinse and patting dry on paper towels. Cut fish into 4 pieces of approximately the same size. Place fish in a shallow oven-safe casserole dish. Season fish with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over fish and place in oven. Bake 7 to 10 minutes or until fish is opaque throughout and just beginning to flake.

Serve immediately and garnish with chopped parsley and a drizzle of good olive oil.

Clams and White Wine with Garlic-Rubbed Crostino and Parsley Pesto

Serves 4

½ bunch parsley

½ tsp capers

1 tbsp grated hard-rind cheese

½lemon, zested

2 tbsp olive oil

½ loaf crusty, day-old bread (like a baguette)

3 lbs clams

4 garlic cloves

1 cup white wine (anything cheap and cheerful)

1 tbsp butter

1 pinch chili flakes

Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Cut bread in slices no bigger than one-inch thick. Place on parchment-lined baking tray. Drizzle with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Bake at 350 F for 7 to 10 minutes or until lightly toasted and dried most of the way through. Rub with one garlic clove on both sides of each crostino to “butter” the bread with the raw garlic.

Stem parsley and chop fine. Squeeze capers and chop fine. Combine chopped parsley, capers, cheese, lemon zest and olive oil in a bowl. Adjust seasoning as needed. Smear pesto on each crostino.

Wash clams as described above. Slice 3 cloves of garlic lengthwise as thin as possible. Place 1 tbsp of the olive oil, half of the butter and all of the sliced garlic in a cold, shallow sauce pot. Turn heat to medium low and heat the oil, butter and garlic until the butter just begins to foam. Add clams and stir around until the clams start to sizzle and begin opening. Add white wine and cover pan to trap in all the liquor from the clams.

After 2 minutes, remove the lid and move the clams around with a spoon. The clams will not all open if they are stacked on each other, so moving them around gives them the space to open up and fully cook. Clams are ready when they are all fully open.

Taste the broth and adjust seasoning as you see fit. Serve immediately in warm bowls with crostino.

White Beans and Bitter Greens with Anchovy Breadcrumbs

Serves 4

1 tbsp butter

1 tsp anchovies, chopped

3 leaves sage, chopped

½ cup breadcrumbs

1 tbsp olive oil

1⁄4 cup water

1 bunch bitter greens (such as dandelion greens,

apini or black kale)

1 can white beans, drained

Place butter and anchovies in a small, straight-edged sauté pan, ideally cast iron if available. Press the anchovies with a fork to break them up into smaller pieces. Cook together until anchovies have mostly dissolved and the butter begins to brown. Add sage and breadcrumbs. Cook together, stirring constantly for 2 minutes until breadcrumbs have absorbed all the butter and are light brown in colour. Remove from heat and place on a plate to cool. Set aside.

Prepare greens by washing if needed and gently patting dry. Cut into pieces approximately 1 inch in length.

Place a medium-sized saucepan on medium heat, and add greens, olive oil and water. Cover pan and let greens steam down until soft and water is mostly evaporated. If using rapini or kale, you should be able to squish the stems with your fingers. Add white beans and cook together until beans have softened slightly. Use a fork to mash the beans lightly until they are creamy in texture. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve in a shallow bowl and top with anchovy breadcrumbs and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve hot.

Citrus Olive Oil Cake

3 eggs

3⁄4 cup white sugar

1⁄3 cup olive oil

½ cup milk

2 tbsp orange juice

1 tbsp lemon juice

½ lemon, zested

½ orange, zested

1 tsp vanilla extract

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Oil an 8-inch round cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper. Using either a stand mixer or a handheld electric beater, beat eggs and sugar together until eggs are light and fluffy—approximately 1 to 1.5 minutes. While mixing, add oil slowly in a steady stream until fully combined with milk, citrus zest, juice and vanilla extract. Sift or mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Slowly add flour, baking powder and salt mixture to wet mixture, beating softly until fully combined. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula if needed. Pour batter into prepared dish.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Let sit in pan at least 5 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

FoodRecipes

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Hotel Zed Tofino has won a Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Award. (Westerly file photo)
Hotel Zed Tofino wins commercial building award

Vancouver Island Real Estate Board holds virtual gala.

The District of Ucluelet is fast-tracking temporary use permits for RVs/campervans as seasonal housing. (Westerly file photo)
Ucluelet reviews 11 applications for RVs as seasonal housing

“Housing is so essential to everyone, and an issue that cases a lot of stress to business owners.”

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht public works dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

The Village on Third in Nanaimo won the Judges’ Choice award as top overall entry at the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Awards. (Photo submitted)
Top developments north of the Malahat honoured by Vancouver Island Real Estate Board

Nanaimo’s Village on Third takes top honour at VIREB Commercial Building Awards

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are in the Comox Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Suspected bird strike grounds Snowbirds plane during training in Comox

Pilot followed protocols and landed the aircraft on the ground without any problems

The Village on Third in Nanaimo won the Judges’ Choice award as top overall entry at the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Awards. (Photo submitted)
Top developments north of the Malahat honoured by Vancouver Island Real Estate Board

Nanaimo’s Village on Third takes top honour at VIREB Commercial Building Awards

BCIT. (Wikimedia Commons)
BCIT apologizes after employee’s ‘offensive and hurtful’ email leaked to Métis Nation

BCIT says employee’s conduct has been investigated and addressed

An adult male yellow-breasted chat is shown in this undatd photograph on lands protected in collaboration between the En’owkin Centre and Penticton Indian Band with support through ECCC. The rescue from near extinction for a little yellow bird hinges on the wild rose in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, a researcher says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, A. Michael Bezener/ En’owkin Centre 2020 *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Rare yellow birds need wild roses to survive in British Columbia: researcher

The importance of local wild roses emerged over a nearly 20-year experiment

RCMP officers search around rows of luggage carts as screens block off an area of the sidewalk after a shooting outside the international departures terminal at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Police say gang conflict in Metro Vancouver may be behind shooting death at airport

Police said this generation of gangsters is taking things to new level and have no regard for community safety

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

Most Read