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

A mushroom grower plans to plan new mushrooms in fallen trees in the Kaslo Community Forest. File photo
Kaslo mushroom farmer given green light for unique project

Robin Mercy will plant mushrooms in the Kaslo Community Forest

Nelson dancers Glynis Waring, Slava Doval and Amanda Papailhou, and musician Nella Banner, premier Respired on April 11. Photo: Submitted
New dance work the latest online offering from Capitol Theatre

Local performers will unveil Respired beginning April 11

B.C's COVID-19 dashboard shows the peaks and valleys of cases prior to the record daily report of 132 on April 9, 2021. (Dashboard image)
Interior Health has record day of COVID-19 cases

132 cases reported Friday, April 9, more deaths in Vernon hospital outbreak

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

Most Read