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The Food Maven Diary


Neapolitan Seafood Salad (Insalata di Mare)

This is incredibly embarrassing: Only a week or so after the publication of Naples At Table last fall, Iris Carulli, my trusty sidekick, went to make our Neapolitan version of insalata di mare – seafood salad -- for some friends. Even though we both can make seafood salad in our sleep, we always make a point of following the recipes in the book. In case an error has fallen through the cracks, we can catch it that way. This time, however, the mistake was beyond huge: the recipe isn't in the book.

Somehow, the whole recipe fell through the cracks. Indeed, after checking it all the way through we discovered that the recipe never even made into my manuscript. We proofed the sucker several times, but we only found mistakes. We never considered that there might be omissions. Now we're surmising that because it was one of the very first recipes that we tested, retested, and re-retested – we're talking about two years before the manuscript was complete -- it somehow got lost in the computer shuffle. It was here all along, just not in the book.

I'm offering it today for a couple of reasons: 1) It's a terrific recipe and it's a season of the year when you can really enjoy it. And 2) I've been getting requests for recipes that are in Naples At Table that I can not share because of my contractual obligation to my publishers. Publishers get really angry, even litigious, when an author disseminates recipes from their books. You're allowed a few for promotion purposes, but not many. I already have my limit on this web-site. I hate telling people they have to buy the book when they ask for another recipe, but, after all, I did write the book so it would sell.

So here's a Neapolitan recipe that I am free to broadcast

Insalata di Mare
Seafood Salad
Serves 6

Insalata di mare is made all over Italy, but the traditional Neapolitan version is very particular and somewhat different and simpler than many other recipes. The seafood is always whole mussels and clams, small shrimp and cut-up octopus. The dressing is always olive oil, lemon juice and an "abundant" amount of finely cut parsley, as the old recipes always say. And it never contains onion or celery. The other typically Neapolitan aspect of this recipe is the way the seafood is cooked. First the bivalves are steamed open in a dry pan, then the broth they exude is used to cook first the shrimp, then the octopus. The resulting rich seafood broth can be recycled into another fish dish – say aqua pazza -- but it is not added to the salad.

2 pounds mussels (results in 1 1/2 cups cooked, shelled mussels)
1 pound Manila clams (results in 1/2 cup cooked, shelled clams)
1 pound octopus, without the head (results in 2 cups cooked)
1 pound small shrimp (results in 2 cups cooked and shelled)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 4 lemons (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
1/ 2 cup parsley, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt

Scrub the mussels under cold running water, removing any traces of beard, and place them in a bowl of cold water to soak for about 20 minutes. Change the water after 10 minutes. Scrub the clams under cold running water and let them soak for 20 minutes too, changing the water after ten minutes. Drain both mussels and clams, rinsing them very well under cold water.

In a large saute pan with a cover, place the shellfish together in one layer, cover and, over high heat, let the shellfish steam for 3 to 5 minutes, or just until the shells have opened.

Drain the mussels and clams, reserving the liquid they have exuded. When they are just cool enough to handle, remove the shells, discard them, and place the meat in a covered container. Refrigerate. Be sure to add any extra liquid to the reserved liquid which should now be filtered into a clean 2 1/2 quart non-reactive saucepan.

Rinse the octopus well, place it in the shellfish liquid and let it cook, covered, over medium-low heat until tender, for 30 minutes to an hour.

Remove the octopus from the cooking broth and set it on a plate to cool.

Rinse the shrimp well in cold water and place them in the cooking broth over medium-high heat. Cover the pan and bring to a slow boil. Make sure to remove the shrimp with a small strainer as soon as they are cooked, in about 3 minutes. Set them aside to cool slightly.
Slice the octopus into 1/4-inch rounds and place them in a salad bowl. Add the cooked mussels and clams. Shell the shrimp and add them.

In a small bowl, whisk together the rest of the ingredients and pour the dressing over the seafood. Toss gently with a rubber spatula, adjusting the seasonings to your taste.

Cover tightly and place in the refrigerator to marinate for at least an hour. If you leave the salad in for longer be sure to toss it from time to time to evenly coat the seafood with the dressing.

Remove from the refrigerator about a half hour before serving to take the chilly edge off the salad.

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