Tag Archives: Ripe Tomatoes

ZUPPA DI COZZE SGUSCIATE (A thick soup made with mussel meat)

I have a tendency to always cook too much food and there are leftovers, but I enjoy transforming cooked ingredients into something different. You could say that I am being frugal.


This time I had some cooked mussels in their shells in some of their broth and I thought that I would use these ingredients to make a soup by adding red tomatoes;  I also added a lot of basil and some grated zucchini and the results were a thick, fragrant and highly flavoured soup.

This made a soup for 4 people.

If you do not have ready cooked mussels, this is what you can do:

Stage1: The mussels
Clean the mussels in their shells (about 500gm; remove beards, wash or scrub the mussels under running water.
In a saucepan, heat two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and add 2 spring onions chopped finely; sauté for 1 minute. Add mussels in their shells, 2 tablespoon chopped parsley and about ¾ cup of white wine. Cover, cook on high heat and bring to a boil.  Toss them around now and again until the shells open.
Once cool keep the juice (this is the broth) and remove the mussel meat from the shells. Keep a few in their shell for decoration.

Stage 2: The soup
Mussels and their broth, see above,
ripe tomatoes, peeled  and chopped, 800g
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
fresh basil leaves, some to cook with and some to add at the end
2 zucchini, grated
1 spring onion
black pepper or fresh chill (sliced thinly)
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 
salt to taste (mussel broth could be salty)

Place the tomatoes in a saucepan  add garlic, some of the oil and some basil. Leave uncovered and cook on low-medium heat until thickened (about 15 mins). This results into a tomato salsa which could also be used for dressing pasta.
In a  pan that is large enough to take all of the ingredients, heat the rest of the olive oil, add spring onion and zucchini and  cook until soft, stirring often.
Add the mussel meat, their broth and more water if necessary and simmer for another 5 minutes until heated through.
 Add fresh basil and serve.


SEAFOOD cooked simply, Sicilian style, Sciacca (Misto di pesce in tegame con pomodoro)

Part of extensive fishing fleet in Sciacca

Often readers who wish to travel to Sicily ask me for suggestions about places to visit. One place I am particularly fond of is Sciacca, a small and attractive town in the south of Sicily located west of Agrigento. Sciacca has very ancient origins and throughout the ages it was a principal Sicilian port with a varied and interesting history for trade and for its thermal and mud baths. It still has a large a fishing port with excellent seafood, ceramics and relatively few tourists – these three features especially make it particularly attractive.

Friend sitting on steps made from ceramic tiles

When I stayed in Sciacca I kept on returning again and again to the Trattoria Buongustaio. The family who run the restaurant and especially the father (Pippo) made us feel very appreciated and willingly  prepared for us some of the older traditional Sicilian dishes that were not on the menu. Both Pippo and Mauro (son) appreciated our interest in food and were passionate to engage us in conversation about Sciacca’s local cuisine. Looking at my notes, I see that I relished tripe cooked in broth, the Sciacca version of pasta con le sarde (a little tomato and plenty of wild fennel), maccu (hard to get in restaurants), stuffed artichokes, fried slices of ricotta and not surprisingly, the local fish.

Trattoria Buongustaio is located in Piazza Don Luigi Sturzo, a square in the historical centre of Sciacca, where Porta Palermo is located; this was one of the ancient gateways into Sciacca that was once completely surrounded by a defensive barrier of strong walls.

This following recipe called Misto di pesce in tegame con pomodoro (mixed fish cooked in a pan with tomatoes). It may sound rather ordinary, but the combination of the different fish, all caught early that  morning and delivered to the restaurant by the fisherman, cooked simply with very simple ingredients  was pretty fabulous.

I prefer to use sustainable fish classified as best choice by the Australian Marine Conservation Society and in Melbourne where I live I have access to the following seasonal fish: Sand whiting, King George Whiting, Leatherjacket, Mackerel and Trevally. I like to use a mixture of whole fish and fillets cut into even size pieces.

I estimate the following quantities:

mixed fish, 1.5 kilo,
tomatoes, 300g, fresh, peeled, seeded and chopped
parsley, cut finely ¾ cup
fresh oregano or basil, a few stems
garlic, 1-3 cloves (or more to taste, cut into fine slices)
extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Place oil in a shallow, wide sauce pan, add the slices of fish in one layer (if possible), top with tomatoes, oregano, some of the parsley and garlic and simmer with the lid on for about 10-15 mins.
Take off the lid and check for ‘doneness’; continue to cook without the lid if necessary.
A few minutes before switching off the heat, add the rest of the chopped parsley.

As a variation I have also added strong tasting black olives and at the same time as the parsley.