Italian summers are very similar to the southeast US or southern California. Temperatures are frequently in the 70’s and 80’s, and there is humidity, especially in southern Italy. It is quite pleasant, especially if there is a light breeze, and you have a nice glass of Moscato. Summers in Italy and summers in Italian American households conjure up visions of fresh fish, ripe tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil. A lighter fare seems to be appealing in the warmer months, while the heartier of gravies are generally reserved for winter. People don’t always want to eat heavy pastas and meat dishes in the heat. It is always a pleasure to be able to dine alfresco, taking advantage of the cooler evening winds.
One extremely simple dish that epitomizes freshness and ties in an old standby is spaghetti without a sauce, but instead incorporating the freshest summer tomatoes, chopped. For an exquisite heart warming Italian flavor, the spaghetti can be tossed in olive oil and finely chopped garlic. Black or green olives can be added, as well as basil and mozzarella. It is fresh, it is Italian, and it includes delicious spaghetti. This recipe is also a cousin of one of the all-time great Italian sauces, puttanesca. Puttanesca sauce is generally served in the colder months, but the seafood twist, along with fresh olives and the ease of preparation, lends itself to being a quick meal that gives off summertime flavors. The sauce is prepared using very fresh tomatoes. Garlic and anchovies are prevelant and this mixture gives off a light air of a seafood dish. Olives, capers, and red pepper flakes complete a very fragrant and somewhat spicy favorite. Normally, puttanesca sauce would be tossed with spaghetti.
Summertime means being in or around the water. What better way to celebrate the season than to dine on fresh fish. In Sicily, it is time to feast on swordfish rolls. The swordfish is rolled up and stuffed with many ingredients. Herbs can always be used- oregano, basil, etc., as well as pine nuts, capers, lemon zest, currants, bread crumbs and garlic. On the surface, this may appear to look like something from an Asian or Mexican restaurant, but when made with fresh sword fish from the Sardinian coast, one will experience a burst of summertime seaside flavor. Another Italian seafood superstar dish is of course, shrimp fra diavolo. It is a spicy shrimp-heavy meal tossed with red pepper flakes, garlic, salt, pepper, onion, and white wine, among other ingredients.
Tutto Fresco, a traditional Italian restaurant with inventive new ideas, located just north of Bel Air, Maryland, boasts a few remarkable shrimp dishes. Chef Jonathan Miller creates some masterpieces on opposite ends of the spectrum sauce-wise. The shrimp and scallop alla rosa combines capers and hot peppers with a tomato cream sauce. This crowd favorite provides a great kick. The shrimp alla daniella centers around the delicious Mediterranean crustacean and it’s relationship with a light summery sauce that is absolutely perfect for the season. This dish has a white wine sauce with basil, feta, tomatoes, and spinach. It is extremely fresh and one of Chef Miller’s most popular options.
Branzino, or European bass is naturally acquainted well with all of the wonderful Italian white wines, such as a nice Pinot Grigio, or even a special Greco di Tufo. This is such a delicious option, as branzino has a perfect mild, flaky taste. The seafood, fresh herbs, and ripe tomatoes of summertime cuisine lore will brighten anyone’s season, and even better when shared at twilight on the coast of the Mediterranean or the Atlantic.