Sometimes we find ourselves fond of something even if we have never seen it before. Sometimes it is a person met on a particular occasion (kindred souls who finally meet?), sometimes it’s an object that fit perfectly with our taste or which assume a profound significance, sometimes it is a food tasted for the first time that nonetheless unexpectedly recalls to the memory familiar sensations.
This happens to me few days ago. I was at my mom’s house, rummaging (as usual) in her crammed full armories, when I found wrapped in now yellow newspaper some small immaccolate broth bowls belonged to my grandmother. Well, I discovered my self already fond of those minute blue and white porcelains just unwrapping the second one. Perhaps because all that has passed through the hands of my grandmother for me simply has a special meaning. Or perhaps because I imagined those graceful bowls with their little twin handles gently pressed by a pair of white long hands in the gesture of blowing with closed eyes on the broth (the memory of a past life?). Maybe I do not know, whatever it is, without a second thought I brought them at home.
And then one leads to the other. A few days ago I was reading a book on traditional Italian Riviera cuisine (never give up studying!) and I came across the recipe of baby fish (those tiny fishes smaller that whitebait) soup.
The author describes the dish as follows:
“an example of spring time soup, refined, surely born from the mind of a noble family cook, long blown out of fashion.”
The association in my brain was meteoric: refined old fashioned baby fish soup = small vintage broth bowls of my granny. I had to cook it! Then my mom closed my loop when she told me that when she was a child her grandmother often used to cook baby fish soup, putting eggs, marjoram and angel hair pasta, just like the one described in book. Clearly this old recipe, just like the vintage porcelains, already belonged to me even before I know it!
So I bought a ladleful of baby fishes (you do not need that much), three small tender zucchini, fresh eggs and I prepared the soup with rapid self-confidence without re-reading the recipe, as if the gestures were always in my hands.
Do you want to know how it came out? It was fresh, spring, refined and delicate ….
The original recipe – to be honest – provides for a basis of a fish stock, indeed a bit difficult to prepare at the moment. I have replaced it with vegetable stock and the result was great. Without too many obstacles the delicate taste of the baby fishes, in fact, easily manages to make its way through the vegetables supported by the creamy egg and surrounded by the springy touch of the marjoram.
Definitely a recipe to try, and try again, before the baby fish season runs out!
- 4 cups (1 l) of vegetable broth
- 4 tender zucchini
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 sprig of marjoram
- 2 ounce (60 g) of angel hair pasta
- 3,5 ounce (100 g) of whitebait
- extra virgin olive oil
- Boil the vegetable broth (I generally do not use stock cubes. I prefer preparing the vegetable broth by boiling in lightly salted water 1 carrot, 1 celery and 1 onion).
- Dice (about ½ cm wide) the zucchini.
- Beat the egg in a bowl, add the grated Parmesan and the marjoram, about 30 leaves finely chopped.
- When the broth begins to boil pour the diced zucchini and let cook for 3-5 minutes.
- As soon as the zucchini are tender (but still rather hard-boiled), add the angel hair.
- After 2 minutes add the whitebait.
- Immediately after pour in the broth the beaten egg, stirring well, and turn off the heat.
- Before serving the soup piping, garnish with a little of extra-virgin olive oil, a sprinkling of pepper and few leaves of chopped marjoram.