On Sunday I went to the sea. Even though it’s September, although the schools have already started and this summer is running out, this was my first time at the sea. If I didn’t have to get back to the office, I wouldn’t have even had a shower, to keep the brackish smell of sea, sun and sand on my skin. Autumn and winter will be long, and I wanted to save the salty memories of a day at the beach with Claudia as long as I could.
We went to Castiglione della Pescaia in a tiny beach that stubbornly defends its golden sand and Mediterranean plants from the surrounding bathing establishments. It’s the same beach where I used to go as a child with mom, dad, my cousin and my aunt and uncle. Claudia was too young to remember it, but it’s there that she made her first bath in the sea and ate curious her first handful of sand.
Nothing has changed, the smell, the sounds, the light … everything was the same as in my memories.
The shortest route to the sea is winding and shadowed, it is the road where, as a little girl, I trained my stomach to face the carsick by focusing firmly on the final goal. At the beginning of the travel, along the road you can still find signs written by hand by local bartenders willing to promote panini and drinks down the street: these are old fashioned panini, thick slices of crusty bread with a generous slice of pecorino cheese and salty ham, mouth-watering and filling. Then for a while the traces of civilization disappear and you meet only woods, leafy trees and faded signs that lead to churches and monasteries.
Suddenly, going downhill on the other side of the woods, small villages begin to appear and little by little you spot shops that live just for a few months every year relying on families and tourists heading to the nearby sea. Just as in my childhood memories, they proudly display air beds, balls, sand shovels and beach buckets in bright colours: you can hear, smell and feel the sea, it’s getting closer. Then it appears, the blue expanse of the Tyrrhenian Sea, emerging behind a corner and playing hide and seek for a while behind the latest hills that separate us from the beach.
To remember this day at the beach today I’m presenting a fish dish. The tub gurnard, according to the Slow fish calendar, can be eaten in the Mediterranean area from spring to autumn. We are therefore in the right period to enjoy it. In addition to this, although it is considered a ‘poor’ fish, it is tasty and beautiful, with its rosy red tones. This is the main reason it is one of the most popular fishes in still life painters!
Tub gurnard fillets with herb dressing
- 250 g of tub gurnard fillets
- whole spelt flour
- extra virgin olive oil
For the dressing
- 1 tablespoon pickled capers
- 1 tablespoon black olives, stoned
- a few leaves of basil
- a few sprigs of thyme
- lemon juice
- extra virgin olive oil
- Flour the tub gurnard fillets with the spelt flour and a pinch of salt.
- Pour a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan and stir-fry the fish fillets for 2 minutes on each side, until they become golden and crispy. Place them in a dish lined with kitchen paper for a few minutes to remove the excess olive oil.
- For the dressing, chop the herbs, olives and capers with the knife, then mix them with olive oil and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
- Serve immediately drizzled with the herb dressing and a few flakes of Maldon salt.