Leave it to Italy to bring me back to the way simple ingredients can make for such a wonderful result.
Anyone you ask will tell you that I am an absolute fiend for farmers markets. I love the way gleaming piles of produce are laid out, carefree and in the sun, instead of supermarket perfect pyramids. I know this affinity for fruit and vegetable stands was not wholly organic, but rather stemmed from my family’s preference for local goods as well. When our landlord in Venice told us we must go to the Wednesday morning fish market, I knew that all four of us would be out the door, bright and early, to have the first pick of produce.
Wednesday morning came as did the early wakeup call, and I was out the door at 7:30 AM. The Rialto Market was right across the street, an element that is only formidable when the “streets” are made of water. Luckily, the waterbus made crossing the canal easy enough – Rialto Market station was only one stop away.
The first half of the Rialto Market was completely produce – bunches of radicchio overflowed from crates next to tie-dyed heirloom tomatoes that were nestled in between giant piles of dark red cherries. I have to admit that we were a bit frenzied, pointing out everything that caught our eye and calling each other over to present the newest find. The seafood part of the market was no different – a three-foot swordfish lay across ice, while wriggling crabs scrambled over each other in Styrofoam bins.
Upon return to the kitchen, our spoils from the market proved both bountiful and simple. Our Venice market feast started with a summer salad of greens, tomato, and nectarine. This was followed by hard-shelled langoustines, with tender flesh that melted before it could be chewed. Lastly, freshly caught and filleted sea bream was accompanied by ricotta stuffed zucchini flowers and hand stirred porcini risotto.
After six months of living abroad and eating mostly at restaurants, cooking this meal reminded me of a few things. It reminded me of how much I had missed my family during my time abroad and of how much fun cooking can actually be. In fact, cooking dinner with my family that evening was an experience from start to finish: wandering the stalls of the Rialto Market, organizing our purchases and plotting the best way to serve them, and then finally chopping, sautéing, and stirring in the same room together. Leave it to Italy to bring me back to the way simple ingredients can make for such a wonderful result.