The essence of cooking seafood

02 May 2023

“Most of the goodness in seafood comes long before it’s in the pan.” Gennario D’Ignazio discusses how our relationship with the sea is more important than kitchen techniques.

Gennario D’Ignazio presents a Taste Workshop at Slow Fish 2023: but his interests go far beyond the kitchen, taking into account a series of good practices that are central themes at this year’s event.

Gennario D’Ignazio is the chef at La Vecchia Marina, in Roseto degli Abruzzi, on the Adriatic coast, which he’s been running for 20 years together with wife, sister and son-in-law.

From the turf to the surf

The Abruzzo region is traditionally known for its products of the land, but in recent times there’s been a seaward shift in outlook. “For us, the sea is almost a relatively-new discovery, you might say. As the older people around here will tell you, high level gastronomy here was linked to the land. The nobility, for example, would feast on lamb and spaghetti! Weddings didn’t generally include fish dishes; it wasn’t seen as a party food. But with the passing of time seafood cooking has become more popular, and represents an evolution of the area’s gastronomic traditions.”

A passion for cooking runs strong in the family. “My aunt was a cook. She’s the one who set me on this path. Her stories, her experiences were fundamental in my development. As a self-taught cook I’ve learned how to make the most of my knowledge of the marine world, together with the use of new techniques, above all the use of the cold as an element in the kitchen.”

“Most of the goodness in seafood comes long before it’s in the pan,” Gennaro continues. “What we buy, and the kind of relationship we instill with the sea; that’s more important than our technique in the kitchen. What becomes beforehand is more important.”

The Taste Workshop – Another sea is possible – June 3 at 1 p.m.

Another vision of seafood is possible, not based on a handful of over-exploited species. With Gennaro D’Ignazio, a great expert of Adriatic fish and chef at the Vecchia Marina in Roseto degli Abruzzi, we’ll learn some secrets of the sea, its’ economic dynamics and what happens between the boat and your plate.

Get your ticket now!

Seafood shopping: good practices

“What we choose to buy is fundamental. There are lots of variables which need to be taken into consideration here. For mantis shrimp, for example, I choose those caught right off the coast; for caramote prawns those caught a bit further out. For sole, I choose those caught with trammels, but mullet should be net-caught, and squid with traps.” As Gennaro explains the best fishing methods for each species it becomes clear why people come from far and wide to eat at his restaurant: for a guarantee of quality and sustainability.

Another factor to bear in mind is transport, which must guarantee an adequately-cold temperature to preserve the catch. And we should try to buy fish from fishers who’ve only been away one night: their fish is freshest!

Cleaning the fish is a delicate process, and can be a long one. “When we work with flying squid, often with crates of 20kg or more, and each individual animal weighs between 7 and 10 grams, you can imagine how much time that takes!” And each species requires its own method, and a team that knows what to do with them. “At my restaurant there are 14 of us in total, working all morning, to give you an idea of how much effort goes into our menu, hours before our customers arrive and order.”

From fried fish to soups: Adriatic aromas

If you can’t make it the Vecchia Marina, you can taste Gennaro’s recipes for yourself in Genoa at Slow Fish 2023!

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Not everyone can go shopping the way Gennaro does of course, but we can begin asking questions wherever we buy seafood, study the seasonality of the sea, vary our choices and give preference to lesser-known (and often cheaper) fish, in order to be more sustainable in our daily lives.

Want to try for yourself? If you can get your hands on fresh ingredients try:

Springtime fish soup with broad beans and peas, by Gennario D’Ignazio

Ingredients for 4-6 people

  • 4 cuttlefish
  • 2 large skate wings
  • 4 small sole
  • 4 tub gurnards
  • 300g of mussels
  • 2 handfuls of shelled pink shrimp
  • 2 handfuls of fresh broad beans
  • 2 handfuls of fresh peas
  • ¼ of an onion
  • 400g of cherry tomatoes
  • 700-800ml of extra virgin olive oil
  • Marjoram
  • Salt

Procedure:

Finely chop the onion and half of the cherry tomatoes, and cut the other half into wedges. Chop the cuttlefish and skate wings into large pieces. Fillet the gurnards so you get four fillets from each. Pour the oil into an aluminum pan and put on the heat, immediately adding the onion and then the cuttlefish and broad beans. Keep it on the heat for a couple of minutes on a high flame, then add the chopped cherry tomatoes. Let it cook for a few more minutes, then add 2-3 ladles of salted water. At this point, add the skate, mussels, sole, gurnard fillets, shrimp, peas, a clump of marjoram, and the chopped tomato wedges. Let cook this for 7-8 minutes on high heat and with the lid on. Then take off the lid, lower the heat and let it cook another few minutes until you get the liquid consistency you like best. Adjust the salt, with a few more sprigs of marjoram and some bruschetta. Serve piping hot.

by Silvia Ceriani, info.eventi@slowfood.it

Slow Fish 2023 is organized by Slow Food and the Liguria Region, with the support of the City of Genoa. We’re in the Porto Antico of Genoa from June 1-4. Sign up to the Slow Food newsletter for the latest updates. #SlowFish2023

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