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Recipes

Salt-baked sea grouper with wild herbs

Those who love fish know this well: the best recipes are those that manage to preserve its authentic taste, while enriching it with aromas, enhancing it with other flavours, creating original combinations.
Cooking fish in salt is perhaps one of the easiest and most satisfying ways to achieve this, especially if you can rely on the valuable advice of a trusted fishmonger. Dora wanted to surprise her guests by proposing a dish that is not rooted in Sicilian tradition, but which she has managed to transform into an exquisitely Mediterranean speciality. This is thanks to the freshly-caught fish, of course, but also to the wild herbs she has chosen to add to his recipe: daily foraging in the countryside, in fact, is one of those ancestral practices with which Sicilians maintain a strong link between their cuisine and the territory. This healthy and light recipe is a perfect main course for a large dinner party, with friends or family: visually impressive and easy to prepare, it can be served wherever fresh fish and seasonal vegetables are available.

Method

After lining a baking tray with aluminium foil, cover it with a layer of salt (about 1 1/2 kg). Arrange the whole fish on the baking tray and add your favourite aromatics to the inside of its belly, avoiding salt penetration.
In a large bowl, mix the rest of the salt and the egg white. Use this mixture to cover the entire fish well, leaving a protective “shell” of about 1 cm. Cook in a preheated oven at 190° C, 20 minutes per kilo: the salt will harden and start to brown slightly when the fish is ready. You can remove the pan from the oven 10 minutes earlier: the fish will continue to cook under the layer of salt. Break the crust and remove the larger pieces of salt, taking care not to damage the fish skin underneath. Move the fish from the pan to a clean surface and remove the skin and bones, making sure that all the salt has been removed. Serve immediately on a warmed serving plate, with the vegetable nests you have prepared in the meantime.

Method

While the fish is in the oven, wash and clean the vegetables, keeping only the tender parts. The cooking time always depends on the type of vegetable chosen: even a few minutes from when the water comes to a boil may be sufficient. Once you have blanched the vegetables leaving them green and crispy, drain them in a colander and keep the stock aside.

In a frying pan, sauté olive oil, grated garlic, chilli pepper to taste and sultanas already soaked in water. As soon as it starts to fry, add the pine nuts (they should remain white), half a ladle of the vegetable cooking stock and the vegetables themselves. Immediately turn off the heat and continue stirring to mix all ingredients.

Now you can form the nests and serve them with the fish: season them with a drizzle of oil, the sultanas and the pine nuts left in the pan. To finish, decorate with a few fresh chilli peppers.

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