So far you've heard about the rugged, mountainous part of Abruzzo where I spent part of my vacation. But I also headed further East toward the Adriatic Sea to spend time with my husband's relatives, including some who live in Vasto Marina, a seaside resort town. One of the unique features of this part of the coastline are the wooden trabocchi you see along the shore. In some cases, these fishing contraptions are 200 years old, but they are constantly being tweaked to repair and replace the timbers used to construct them - wood that is often taken from the robinia pseudoacacia trees that grow nearby, commonly known as black locust or false acacia. Fishing nets are secured to long wooden arms and dropped into the sea to hopefully land a good catch.
At one time, fishing from the trabocchi was the main source of income for many families. Now however, due to overfishing in deeper waters, the huts are used mainly on weekends by families who maintain them as a hobby.
There was no problem finding fish for dinner though, starting with this arrangement I ate as a first course. I can't even remember everything that was on the plate, but it included an octopus salad, a seafood terrine, anchovies and raw salmon.
Next on tap were some gratineed scallops.
And stuffed mussels.
Couldn't forget the fried shrimp and squid.
Followed by the piece de resistance - a San Pietro fish. I'm still not sure whether a San Pietro fish is a John Dory or a tilapia, so if someone with more knowledge knows, leave a comment at the end of this post. Whatever it is, it was delicious.
I'd like to thank Antonella, the wife of my husband's cousin Ottavio, who treated us to this wonderful seafood dinner. Sadly, Ottavio was out of town, but we were also joined by their three young sons, Francesco, Riccardo and Luca - as well as my son Michael, who met up with me for the middle part of my trip.
Back home in Princeton, I tried to recreate two of the dishes - the mussels and the scallops. They may not have tasted exactly the same, but they're pretty darn close and delicious in their own right - even if there aren't any trabocchi in Princeton and the only water in sight is the bird bath in the back yard.
Here's how to make the mussels. Get a shallow pot and place about 1/2 cup of white wine on the bottom. Boil the mussels for just about one minute, or until the shells begin to open.
Loosen the mussel from the shell and place a small dab of tomato sauce on one side, then top it with the mussel.
Place a small bit of the filling on top.
The scallops are even easier - just lightly butter an overproof dish or scallop shell and place a couple of scallops inside.
Printable Recipe Here
For two dozen mussels:
3/4 cup bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
Place all the ingredients, except the tomato sauce, in a bowl and mix with a fork until blended. It should not be dry but it shouldn't be soppy wet either.
Bring wine to a boil in a shallow saucepan and place mussels in and cover. Cook only one or two minutes, or until the mussels are open. Remove mussels from the pan and let cool.
Once cool enough to handle, loosen the mussel from the shell. Place a spoonful of tomato sauce on one side of the shell, place the mussel on the sauce, then top with a spoonful of the filling and another dab of tomato sauce. Cover with the other side of the shell, place in an oiled casserole and bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes.
Use the same filling ingredients as for the mussels, (it should give you enough topping for two small casseroles or scallop shells) but add 2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese. Omit the egg if desired. Lightly butter scallop shells or an oven-proof dish and place a couple of scallops inside. Top with the crumbs, then sprinkle on a bit of paprika and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Bake at 425 for about 10 to 15 minutes or until browned.