Photo: Sardine sandwich, from Seafood Alla Siciliana, courtesy of Toni Lydecker.
When the winds are whipping up off the Hudson and you’re wading across Broadway in ankle deep slush, Seafood Alla Siciliana is the cookbook you’ll want to curl up with and cook from. This glorious volume, chock full of recipes that rely on seafood prepared Sicilian style, will transport you on a sun- and sea-filled excursion to the isle of Sicily. There, author Toni Lydecker, (a disclaimer, Toni is a good friend) investigated the ways Sicilian cooks, whose island is surrounded by three seas, created a rich tradition of seafood cookery.
There are recipes, but there are also stories—lush tales that take you inside the kitchens Lydecker worked in throughout Sicily.
Among the preparations contained in this gorgeous volume are ones for pasta, antipasti, risotto, and soups. There are recipes for white anchovies with parsley and hot pepper, gnocchi with rock shrimp in creamy tomato sauce, and sea bass baked in a salt crust. Instructions are clear, and there’s a helpful guide to Sicilian wine and seafood pairings.
For the most part, ingredients are straight forward. They can be purchased at Fairway, Zabar’s, and other grocery and specialty food stores.
Mahimahi Stewed with Cherry Tomatoes and Capers
Lampuca alla matalotta
Lampuca â matalotta
Makes 4 servings
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 20 minutes
When I visited the southeastern tip of Sicily in October, everyone was feasting on lampuca alla matalotta, made from a delicious kind of blue-fleshed fish that approaches the coast that time of year; fishermen still lure this shade-loving fish by extending palm branches off the sides of their boats.
I learned later that this fish is also known as capone and that mahimahi is our closest equivalent. I especially like the version served by chef Lina Campisi of La Cialoma, on which this recipe is loosely based; she leaves out the green olives often included by other cooks.
4 fillets (about 1 1/2 pounds) cut from medium-firm fish such as mahimahi, bonito, grouper, sea bream, sea bass, cod, or snapper
Sea salt or kosher salt
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup halved or quartered cherry or grape tomatoes
1/3 cup Mediterranean olives, pitted or unpitted (optional)
Leaves from 1 or 2 flat-leaf parsley sprigs, chopped
1 heaping tablespoon salt-preserved capers, soaked in water for several minutes and drained
Hot red pepper flakes
1. Sprinkle the fish fillets lightly with salt.
2. Combine the onion, olive oil, and 1/4 cup water in a skillet large enough to hold the fillets in a single layer. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer briskly but not furiously until the onion is tender. Add the tomatoes, olives (if using), parsley, capers, red pepper flakes to taste, and another 1/4 cup water.
3. Once the cooking liquid returns to a simmer, lay the fillets on top, skin side down. Cover and simmer until the fish is cooked through, about 10 minutes. At this point, the tomatoes will have released their juices and there should be a small ladleful of brothy sauce for each serving; if not, remove the fish to a platter, add a little more water and heat briefly. Taste and stir in a bit more salt and pepper flakes if needed.
4. Ladle the sauce into shallow soup bowls; place a fish fillet in each one.