12.08.2018

Learning to be Flexible in Palermo

Mark will tell you that, when shopping for the ingredients for a specific dish, I have been known to go into a tailspin if the exact ingredients aren’t available.

La Cattedrale di Palermo
Being the diplomat that he is, he tries to calm me down and suggest substitutions or alternative dishes. It is usually the moment when I am my least flexible.

Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio, "La Martorana"
“No, there are no substitutes!” Me? Stubborn?

Santa Caterina
It’s not stubbornness, really. It’s respect for the food.

Dinner at La Galleria
When we were in Palermo in October, we had our first meal out at La Galleria, thanks to our wonderful Airbnb hosts Fabi and Zoltán, who gave up their reservation for us. We had a pasta dish that was so good that I wanted to recreate it so that I could share it here with you.

San Cataldo
(This is another photo-filled post - please enjoy, and stay tuned for a couple more posts from our trip to Sicily.)

San Giovanni degli Eremiti
The main component of the dish was fresh tuna. Palermo is home to a major fishing industry, one that is known for its beautiful tuna.

Oratoria di Santa Cita
So this boy from the Arizona desert went in search of fresh tuna, as well as the other ingredients, in the famed Ballarò market.

The Ballarò Market
Alas, said boy from the desert had no idea there was a season for tuna, and this wasn’t it. D’oh!

The faces of the Palazzo Abatellis
No tuna was to be found and any of the dozen fish stalls. Mark sensed an imminent meltdown but knew better than to suggest a substitute.

I felt I had to make it - we had all the other ingredients. So, I put on my big boy pants, turned to Mark and asked, “What if we used swordfish instead of tuna?”

I thought he was going to faint.

Once upon a time... love is everything, and life is beautiful.
That day, I got a taste of flexibility. I am sure it will be a steep learning curve for me, but I am going to do my best to excel in this brave new world of flexibility.

Our beautiful apartment in Palermo
(Wish Mark luck!)

~ David

Linguine con Tonno (o Pesce Spada), Zucchine, Bottarga, e Lime
Linguine with Tuna (or Swordfish), Zucchini, Bottarga, and Lime

2 small zucchine
12 ounces linguine
olive oil, q.b. (quanto basta - Italian for however much you need)
1 small onion or 1 shallot, diced
1 pound fresh tuna or swordfish steak, diced
2 limes, finely zested and juiced, both reserved separately
salt and freshly ground pepper

grated bottarga di tonno (compressed tuna roe), q.b., for serving.


Using a vegetable peeler, peel the zucchine (in Italian this vegetable is feminine so ends with an “e” in its plural form, zucchina for just one) in long pieces. Cut the peel into 1-inch long pieces and reserve. Using the coarse side of a box grater, grate the flesh of the zucchine on all sides until you hit the seeds. Don’t grate the seeds; discard the seedy cores. Set aside the grated zucchine flesh.

Set a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Have all other ingredients ready to go.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and immediately start the sauce. Heat a couple of tablespoons oil in a large skillet and add the onion or shallot. When clear, add the reserved zucchine peel and grated zucchine. The grated zucchine will almost melt as you cook it. Add more olive oil if necessary.

Add the diced tuna and sauté until just cooked. Add the lime juice and cook a few minutes longer, being careful not to overcook the fish. Season with salt and pepper.

When pasta is al dente, drain it and reserve some of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the pan with the tuna and continue to cook a minute or so, allowing the pasta to absorb the flavors. Add some of the reserved cooking liquid if it gets even slightly dry.

Divide the pasta and pan sauce among four warmed pasta plates. Sprinkle with lime zest and then the grated bottarga. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.



30 comments:

  1. Looks like you had a blast in Palermo! I wish we had had more time to enjoy and savor the place. Had to give Ballarò market, sadly... and only saw the outside of quite a few of these places!

    And yes, this boy (not from the desert) didn't know there was a season for tuna, either... !

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    1. Frank - it was one of the most wonderful cities I have ever visited. You definitely need to go back for more exploration - especially the Ballarò! If you need a place to stay, Fabi and Zoltan's place was a block from Via Vittorio Emmanuelle, and equidistant to the Ballarò. Perfect.

      Glad I am not the only one who does think of tuna as having a season.

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  2. David, the photos look great and remind me that I must place Italy on my bucket list (have never been there yet). Your dish confirms that it;s not necessary to overload a dish with a heavy sauce in order to make it taste delicious. BTW, I see that the Italian word for tuna (tonno) is similar to the French 'thon.' However, once in France I got confused and asked for 'thym' (thyme) instead of 'thon' since they sound similar!

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    1. Thanks, Fran - yes, you must get yourself to Sicily! Stunningly beautiful and the people are so warm and friendly.

      That is a really fun story about thon vs. thym! That is so easy to do when speaking another language! At least they were both food items! :)

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  3. Your photos are gorgeous and thank you for posting them. Your pasta dish looks divine, I like what you did with the zucchini. I have to try it.

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    1. Thanks, Gerlinde - I did what the chef at La Galleria did, and it worked well. I am not sure he added the grated zucchini to the sauce, but it was really nice!

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  4. David, we are out of town, but I will make this when we get home! Sounds like a light meal that's full of flavor. Terrific recipe!

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    1. It is a nice, light meal, Marcelle! Hope you enjoy your trvels!

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  5. Oh sugar, David - you present us with photographic wealth such as this, add a couple of very handsome personal photos and seriously expect us to judge a recipe . . . well, having some multitasking abilities I have pretend-tasted the pasta as well, delighted at the treatment of the zucchine and ready to make as soon as can get some fish which still wriggles . . .

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    1. SO glad you liked the photos, Eha - it was hard to choose form the hundreds I took!

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  6. Your photos are beautiful, they really give us a feel for the essence of the place. It's amazing how simple the ingredients can be for a fabulous pasta. Bravo!

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    1. Sometimes the fewer ingredients we use, the more we actually taste them, Carolyne! I am learning this as I grow older...

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  7. Simple is always the best ! Lots of pining to do...

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  8. David, I see we share the same temperament when it comes to ingredients for a recipe. I always try and follow a recipe to the "T" the first time. This looks to be a grand recipe and one that I'll keep handy for when the tuna arrives back at our fishmongers. Fantastic images of Palermo as well as of you and Mark.

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    1. Ah, then.... we should go shopping together Ron! I would definitely try both the tuna and swordfish - both were amazing, and the swordfish was just a wee bit sweeter!

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  9. I must admit I too can be pretty inflexible when it comes to ingredients! But sometimes its good to just let go and change things up a little bit.

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    1. Emma - I let go again the other night. It was VERY liberating and forced me to be creative!

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  10. This was fun to read. Love that you've (maybe) started down a new path of ingredient flexibility. Let me know how it goes, as I'm exactly the same way. I've been known to make ridiculous drives through horrible LA traffic for just a teaspoon of something.
    Onward . . . the recipe sounds delicious with the swordfish and I love how it's cut into tiny pieces. Lovely!

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    1. Oh, Valentine - I think the LA traffic would be the best cure for this inflexibility from which we suffer - but, obviously, it is not. :) Now having made it with tuna and swordfish, I may actually prefer the sword!

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  11. Another beautiful story, another beautiful dish! xoxo

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  12. I definitely need to spend time in Sicily. Love the pictures! Love the recipe, too. And swordfish sounds like an excellent substitution. :-)

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    1. John - Sicily was truly eye-opening. We never dreamed of the beauty we ended up experiencing - just magnificent! Maker reservations and go! :)

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  13. Well at least you found bottarga! There really is no substitute for that! Beautiful pix. GREG

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  14. I'm such a lover of bottarga. Incredible stuff. I guess next time you guys plan a return to Sicily you'll need to time it with tuna season.

    I'm dying to get back to Sicily after reading your posts about it. Magical place. And how amazing is Ballarò market?

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    1. That market - and the Capo market were both wonderful. Our Airbnb was literally just over a block from the Ballarò... If I lived there, it would be trouble!

      Bottarga adds such great flavor.... glad it is catching on here!

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  15. gorgeous photos! And the recipe looks great! I am dying to use my bottarga!

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    1. Susan, When we were in Venice 5 years ago, Mark had tagliolini with flakes of sea bass, butter, lemon, and bottarga - it was wonderful, too! So many ways to use it!

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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