Spring is the right time to buy cuttlefish, it’s their season. This is clear in my mind when I enter the Genoa covered market (Mercato Orientale) almost breathless, arms already loaded with innumerable bags and a tired son hang up to one of them.
A swirling ride through the market benches – overflowing vegetables, scattered boxes, mountains of dried fruit, people, colors, fragrance of bread, strawberries and artichokes – and we come to the curve of the fish counters.
There my cuttlefish. Sprawled, placid, between a shimmering two-metres spatula fish and a family of zebra-striped mackerels. We take 4 and run away, this without having being first presented with the giant head of the spatula fish! Someone, in fact, later on in the kitchen, will put on a miners’ torch and bent on the sink will study for hours the anatomy of a fish.
Cuttlefish mission, the last of the day, done. The chards that will serve to prepare “seppie in zimino” (cuttlefish with chards), the dish I thought as the fisherman was making my bill, are already in the fridge.
And then we come home, we close the door behind us, letting outside the world, we take off our shoes, put down the bags, get into the kitchen and start cooking the meal, together.
- ½ small white onion
- 2 ribs of celery
- ½ bunch of parsley (a handful)
- 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb (ab 500g) of cuttlefish already clean
- 1 bunch of small chards (about 0,4 lb), already clean
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- Chop the onion, celery and parsley (leave some leaves to garnish the dish).
- Pour three tablespoons of oil into a large saucepan and fry the vegetables for 3-4 minutes until they are lightly golden.
- Cut the chards into strips and add them in the pan. Cover with a lid and let it cook slowly over 10 minutes.
- Cut the cuttlefish previously cleaned into strings.
- Put a pot on the fire with a little water, it will serve to wet the cuttlefish further.
- As soon as the chards are soft, add the cuttlefish, adjust of salt and pepper and let it cook for another 10 minutes, always with the lid and on a slow fire.
- Then melt a tablespoon of tomato paste with a cup of hot water and pour it into the cuttlefish stirring well.
- Let it cook again for about 30 minutes.
- Serve the cuttlefish “in zimino” hot, garnished with chopped parsley, pepper and some drops of extra virgin olive oil and with a couple of slices of toasted bread.
More information about cuttlefish with chards (seppie in zimino)
Cuttlefish “in zimino” are a very ancient dish of the Italian Riviera (and the Tuscan) tradition.
The expression “in zimino” refers to those dishes where a main protein ingredient (cuttlefish, chickpeas, tripe, codfish) is cooked with chards (spinach in Tuscany) and tomato sauce. The term probably comes from the Arabic “samin”, which means a “dense sauce”, and indeed all of these dishes are very liquid, almost a soup, and should be tasted with slices of toast (maybe rubbed with a clove of garlic) .
It is a very simple dish to prepare, light and delicate. In my opinion it matches well both with white wine and with a light red wine, such as our rossese.
If you want to try another variant, I can recommend you the chickpeas and chards soup (ceci in zimino) recipe, a real soup and perhaps more suitable for a winter dinner.