I come from a Venetian family where the imperative of every meal was to create the perfect bite. For my mamma, it meant getting up at five in the morning, while my five siblings and I were still asleep, to make homemade tortellini filled with a minced paste of delicious sopressa, parmigiano cheese, nutmeg, bread crumbs, parsley, eggs, and milk. The dough sat under a ceramic bowl for a bit before she rolled it out by hand, cut it in small circles, filled them with the paste, and finally shaped each one into a perfect delicious bite. With nine people seated around the table at every meal, we enjoyed the music—‘Mmm, che buono! Perfetto! Mamma mia! Delizioso!’—as well as the food.
A morsel of delicious Italian food is like one’s first kiss: it lingers on and on in one’s mind and never ceases to delight. Eat the perfect bite, and you’ll be set till the next meal. Eat the perfect bite, and your heart and your figure will remain fit.
Good food is an intrinsic part of the Italian psyche. In fact, Italians don’t eat to live. They live to eat. I often think of the time a classmate invited me to her house for lunch. The taste of the gnocchi with the sauce her grandmother cooked with fresh, home-grown tomatoes still stands out in my mind after more than 40 years. Many times I’ve tried to recreate that same extraordinary taste. And even though I don’t grow my own tomatoes, or knead the dough by hand, or stuff and shape the tortellini to perfection like my mother did, I—like most Italians—still aim to create the perfect bite.
One of my favorite dishes is salmone con salsa piccante because it tastes delicious, melts in your mouth and it never fails to give a dinner party un senso d’eleganza. You can serve it hot during dinner as an entrée, or cold as your pezzo forte during a cocktail party. And it can be ready in approximately 15 minutes, depending on the fish’s thickness.
SALMON WITH HOT SAUCE
1 whole salmon, fillet
¼ onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons capers
Two Roma tomatoes
1 red pepper
Juice of 1 lemon + lemon slices
Finely chop all of the herbs and vegetables and mix them with the olive oil, the juice from the lemon, salt and pepper. You may prepare the mixture in the morning and then store it in the refrigerator until it’s time to put the salmon in the oven.
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Place a sheet of foil on top of a baking dish and lay salmon in the center. Pour mixture on top of salmon. Cover with more foil, folding the edges together.
Cook salmon for15 minutes. Then check the thickest side with a knife to see if it’s done.
Garnish the dish with lemon slices and herbs.