Last week we provided three recipes that contained many of the same core ingredients, but used different preparation methods to create delicious, authentic dishes from southern Italy and Sicily. This week our recipes are quite diverse. Each takes a traditional favorite, but adds a bit of a twist to it. The Zuppa di Molluschi is an Italian recipe that would be at home in New England, where it is prepared (without the shells) as clam chowder. Rollatini di Melanzane is a classic eggplant dish, but in our recipe, it is not baked. Instead the freshness of the ingredients give the dish a different flavor than the eggplant rollatini that most are familiar with. Oreganata is most often prepared in this country as a clam dish. When made with shrimp, the dish goes from appetizer to a flavorful entrée that just happens to pair beautifully with the eggplant. Try these recipes and enjoy the results!
Zuppa di Molluschi
Whole clams in their shells produce a delicious, hearty soup. In Italy, the type of clam used is the Palourde. Try the recipe using either cherrystone or littleneck clams.
3 pounds clams in their shells, well cleaned
2 cups clam juice
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp celery leaves, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 medium potatoes, diced
3 cups whole milk
1 laurel or bay leaf
salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
Place the clams in a large saucepan with the clam juice and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and steam the clams until they open, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard any clams that have not opened. Remove about half of the clams from their shells and leave the remainder in the shell. Strain the clam juice through a fine strainer with cheesecloth to remove any grit and reserve for a later step. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan on a medium-high flame and then melt in the butter. Sauté the onion, stirring occasionally until golden brown, about 5-6 minutes. Add the celery and sauté for another minute. Add the flour and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring to evenly cook the vegetables. Add the strained clam juice, diced potatoes, celery leaves, milk and bay leaf and bring to a simmer on medium-high flame, while deglazing the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat and simmer on medium for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
Remove the bay leaf, season with salt and pepper. Add the parsley and the clams – both the ones in the shell and those removed. Cook for another 10 minutes and serve hot with crusty semolina bread.
Rollatini di Melanzane
Who doesn’t love Eggplant Rollatini? The recipe uses a liberal amount of garlic to punch up the sauce and the drained ricotta creates a firm body for the filling. This recipe doesn’t require baking and can be set up in advance, so all you need to do is cut, sauté and assemble for a family-pleasing dinner.
For the Sauce
3 cups Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely diced
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp basil, freshly chopped
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
For the Eggplant Rollatini
5 medium eggplants
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp salt
For the Ricotta Filling
1 lb ricotta, drained
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp coarse black pepper
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 cup Romano or Parmigiano cheese
The first step is to make the sauce. Mix all of the listed ingredients for the sauce in a bowl and let it sit for at least an hour. While the sauce is resting, drain the ricotta in a colander for an hour and discard any of the water. To make the eggplant rollatini, take each eggplant and cut off the bottom and top ends. Then cut off the four rounded sides until you are left with a rectangular brick. At this point, cut the squared eggplant into four to five rectangular slices, each about quarter inch thick.
Brush each slice of eggplant with the olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Grill each slice of eggplant on a stovetop grill pan, about one to two minutes per side. Once you have grilled all the eggplant slices, it is time to make the ricotta filling. In a large bowl add the drained ricotta, salt, pepper, grated cheese and chopped basil; mix well.
Place a heaping tablespoon of the ricotta mixture in the middle of each eggplant slice, then roll the sides over the filling. Pat it down so the filling spreads out without spilling out. Lay the stuffed eggplant rolls, seam down, on a serving dish and top with the sauce.
Many people prepare clams oreganata for the Seven Fishes Dinner on Christmas Eve and forget about the other ways to prepare oreganata during year. This wonderful recipe for shrimp will turn a meatless Friday dinner into an elegant event, creating a perfect way to begin the weekend.
1 lb jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (tail on)
¾ cup plain bread crumbs (best if homemade)
1 tbsp fresh oregano, finely cut
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
small bunch of Italian parsley, finely chopped
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp grated Parmigiano cheese
2 tbsp dry white wine
salt and black pepper to taste
1 lemon cut into wedges
zest from ½ lemon
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Rinse the shrimp under cold water and pat dry. Make sure to leave the tails on. In a mixing bowl combine the breadcrumbs, Parmigiano, fresh oregano, garlic, lemon zest, parsley and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix well and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Coat the bottom of a baking pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Make sure that the pan is large enough to hold all of the shrimp in a single layer. Add the white wine and then arrange the shrimp in the pan. Spoon the breadcrumb mixture over each shrimp and drizzle the top with a touch of extra virgin olive oil. Bake until the shrimp are cooked, 10-12 minutes. To add crispness and color, broil for an additional 2-3 minutes, until golden brown. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with lemon wedges.