Steamed Shellfish with Sant'Erasmo castraure baby artichokes and Isole delle Rose extra virgin olive oil
Recipe from Nino Zoccali's cookbook The Venetian Republic
PREP TIME 30 minutes, plus soaking of vongole overnight, if using
COOKING TIME 30 minutes
This is another beautiful, simple dish that relies totally on the quality and freshness of its ingredients. Italians call dishes like this salads, even though they’re made almost entirely of seafood and – as in this instance – include only baby artichokes as the vegetable. Feel free to use any sort of seafood or fish here, just make sure it’s high quality. Do the same with the olive oil. The one I’ve used is a product from an absolutely stunning Venetian island called Isola delle Rose, which was built during the Fascist era and now boasts an amazing resort as well as a 100-year-old olive grove.
12 Sant’Erasmo castraure baby artichokes (any baby artichokes can be substituted)
2 whole spider or swimmer crabs
400 g (14 oz) mussels, vongole or razor clams
400 g (14 oz) raw large prawns, unpeeled
200g (1 cup) fresh mixed picked wild or cultivated herbs (chervil, parsley, oregano, micro basil, micro chard)
100 ml (scant ½ cup) Isola delle Rose extra virgin olive oil (any quality extra virgin olive oil can be substituted)
2 lemon cheeks or wedges
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
To cook the artichokes, simply put them whole in a pan of cold salted water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10–20 minutes or until just cooked through to the centre (you can check this with a skewer).
Once the artichokes are cooked, remove from the water and leave to cool; after that, they are very simply prepared by gently removing the outer leaves until you reach the leaves that are tender enough to eat. Trim the base of each artichoke, removing the fibrous exterior. Set aside until ready to use (they are served whole).
Prepare the crabs by removing the outer shells and then the feathery gills. Wash and chop the crabs in half.
If using vongole, soak them in cold salted water overnight to remove excess sand. Prepare the mussels by removing the beards and cleaning the shells. Prepare the razor clams by cleaning the shells.
Devein the prawns and scampi by using a toothpick to pierce the back of the head to a depth of a few millimetres, then lift up the end of the toothpick to scoop out the alimentary vein. Pull the vein gently to remove.
Next, using a large steamer or steaming oven, steam the shellfish for 5–10 minutes or until cooked. All the mussels and clams should have opened. All the shellfish will take about the same time to cook, depending on size.
Once cooked, remove the shellfish and place the baby artichokes into the steamer to heat. It will take about 1–2 minutes for the artichokes to heat.
In a small bowl, season the herbs with sea salt and pepper, drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil and mix together.
Serve everything warm on a big platter with the lemon cheeks and scattered with herbs. The scampi and prawns can be served whole, cut in half, and completely or partially peeled. Serve with finger bowls.