I recalled a remarkable day on the northern coast where I learned of 2 new ingredients for my Italian-American cooking, couscous and saffron.
We spent a delightful day in San Vito lo Capo lounging on the soft pink beach, swimming in the Tyrrhenian Sea with Tunisia on the horizon and exploring the annual couscous festival in the small town that hugs the coast.
As the sun began to set we headed back to our hotel in the hills overlooking Palermo. We stopped in a tavola calda in Monreale for a quick meal.
I asked the owner Filippo if he could grill swordfish for me simply seasoned with olive oil, oregano and lemon. It was one of his favorites and he was happy to make it for me.
We talked as he brushed the fresh swordfish steak with oregano-infused olive oil, laid it on the hot iron grate over the open fire and sprinkled it with sea salt. It was on the plate in a jiffy with wedges of lemon. Simply delicious.
On the way out we thanked Filippo for the wonderful meal. He went to the counter and came back with “Zafferano: Giallo il Colore della Felicita” (Yellow: The Color of Happiness), a booklet with dozens of Sicilian recipes made with saffron. He autographed it as a gift for me.
This is one of those recipes and the dish includes saffron and couscous, 2 ingredients that I added to my Italian-American pantry after that wonderful day in Sicily. It can be on your table in about 45 minutes.
The saffron bathes everything in a golden hue. The crusted veal is tender and moist, the vegetables soft and sweet and the nutty couscous absorbs the flavors of it all. Another delicious Italian dish influenced by North African cooking.
Couscous with Veal, Cauliflower, Red Peppers & Saffron
We trained to Naples from Rome and settled in to our apartment in the Spanish Quarter high above Via Chiaia and Via Toledo, Naples major shopping streets.
We have a half floor of an old palazzo and our landlady Filomene lives right next door. She gave us a tour of the apartment and the well-appointed kitchen. I have to light the stove with one of those sparking tools.
Filomene recommended an osteria around the corner for our first midday meal, an informal family run place. We were hungry and we went to eat before we even unpacked.
The owner welcomed us as he opened the door with his baby in his arms. We felt like we were eating in their dining room. The food was superb, a warm welcome to Napoli.
I had fiori di zucca as my appetizer, zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and anchovy, dipped in a light batter and fried. Next spaghetti a ragu, a flavorful dark red tomato sauce. Beef braciola, a beef roll stuffed with garlic, pecorino and parsley ended my meal.
I was out today to shop in the outdoor markets in the streets around our apartment. I couldn’t get vitello e piselli out of my mind, so that’s today’s recipe.
Tender cubes of veal with sweet spring peas in a garlic and oregano infused tomato sauce. This is one of my favorite comfort foods that my Mom made often.
Veal and peas is quick and easy if you use a good cut of veal. It can be on your table in about 30 minutes.