So a week ago last Sunday, we … well I … cooked lunch for us (my husband and me) and his parents. Lunch is a big thing still in Italy, especially among their generation and especially on a Sunday. Il pranzo della domenica … Sunday lunch. It’s tradition, it’s heritage, it’s culture, it’s what’s important as far as meals go. Food fads come and go but this one has not lost its popularity in terms of family meals.
I too think that a luncheon can be a delightful event but only if it is special in some way, otherwise I much prefer dinner. Lunch for me is the time of day I feel a bit hungry and need to feed myself. A very basic biological need that needs to be met, nothing cultural about it. I tend to eat something left over from the day before or else cobble together whatever I find in the store cupboard or fridge. I ‘feed myself’ as opposed to ‘dine’, if you catch my drift. I am one of those who can easily be reading a book while munching on lunch. Dinner, supper, whatever you want to call it, is something else. To me it marks the time of day that has to be celebrated whatever else happened during the day, good or not so good. And that’s when I’ll have a glass of wine, or two, or three. I can’t drink at lunch, instead, not even one glass, it makes me very sleepy. In the evenings I seem to tolerate it very well and sooner or later, it’s bed time anyway. Another reason I tend to look askance at cooking a lunch is that: well, one has to get up early. Who wants to get up early on a Sunday? And the last reason is that I like to sip some wine while cooking but I can’t sip wine in the mornings and it would seem that coffee just doesn’t have the same effect on the cook in me as wine does. So, I have given you three good reasons why dinner is preferable in my world to lunch. That said, there is magic to a Sunday lunch despite it all. And that’s because it’s all about the people. The why we sit at the same table to eat. The meaning of sharing food and conversation.
Last Sunday I decided to go for fish.
I prefer to cook in my own kitchen but finish off the dishes at the Nonni’s flat. What you see is what we brought over to theirs. Let’s take a look at the menu.
For starters I opted for everyone’s favourite this time of year: courgette blossoms stuffed with mozzarella and anchovy fillets and fried in batter.
Clams for the pasta course: spaghetti alle vongole.
Vegetable side dish (contorno) number one: asparagus, served simply with olive oil and lemon juice.
Contorno number two: plain boiled potatoes seasoned with olive oil and chives. Salt and pepper too, of course.
Main course, boiled fish. No parsley sauce this time but home-made mayonnaise instead. The fish on the plate is seabream (orata) and salmon. The presentation looked prettier in real life when I brought it to the table with sprigs of parsley and the purple flowers of chives.
And this is the recipe du jour, the recipe for today’s post. Let me explain. I was going to serve fried squid rings (calamari) together with the courgette blossoms as a starter. But time was running out and I took a short cut. I brought the cous cous to life using the fish stock I drew from simmering the fish. And I simply cooked the calamari rings on the griddle, coated in olive oil. I seem to remember a good squeeze of lemon juice to add some panache. The friendly parsley and voilà: a dish is born ta da! It just goes to show that being a teensy bit lazy can prove fruitful at times. Had it been the evening, I would never have faltered before frying the calamari.
Dessert was a fruit salad of strawberries and bananas. Easy peasy.
I felt thoroughly chuffed about this new recipe. Takes hardly any time, is very tasty and I shall definitely be making it again.