This is a classic Neapolitan preparation for fish. In years past fisherman’s wives roasted fish in the oven in paper bags. Topped with a simple preparation of oregano, oil, salt and pepper, this was an every day dinner for many.
The fish was never salmon, more often branzino or other native variety. The fish was given a light coating of oil, seasoned and roasted in a paper bag. Today aluminum foil does the job, and the new non-stick version of foil is my preferred medium. The foil is not traditional, but it is simple and cuts down on the clean-up. The foil makes such a tight seal that the fish is ready in no time as the steam, laden with flavor, permeates the fish. You can use either a large piece of salmon for a spectacular presentation or smaller, individual steaks. The choice is yours. If you can find it, use branzino. It is magnificent cooked in this fashion.
Simple and quick to cook, panfried grape tomatoes are a wonderful condimento. Grape tomatoes are a variety of small tomatoes, about the size of table grapes. They are available in yellow, red and black. If you can not find them, use cherry or pear tomatoes. As sweet as they are when raw, expose these tiny jewels to a little heat, and they burst with flavor. I like to sweeten them further with a red wine vinegar such as Verrini Munari Rossoforte or Balsamico. These are flavorful, full bodied, rich vinegars that enhance the flavor and sweetness of the tomatoes. Top the pomodorini with your choice of chopped herbs. These tomatoes are wonderful as an accompaniment to meat, fish, atop pasta, or as a contorno all on their own.
The ingredients for this dish are simple, and that means that everyone of them will shine through in the finished dish. Use the best you have. Pianogrillo, an exceptionally fruity olive oil from Sicily is my choice. This organic oil, gold-green in color, is pressed from Tonda Iblea olives. With its grassy vegetal notes and taste of tomato leaves, it is some of the finest oil Sicily has to offer. It is low-acid, with a remarkable butteriness and long lasting finish, a perfect match for the fish and for use in preparing the pomodorini.
Salmone al cartoccio con pomodorini
1 piece of salmon, or steaks, about 1 ¾ pounds total
fruity olive oil
vermouth, Marsala or white wine
sprigs of basil and parsley, or other herbs, as desired
1 tablespoon capers, if desired
Kosher salt and pepper
Dry the salmon with paper towels. Place the salmon, skin side down on a double layer of heavy duty non-stick aluminum foil, and rub lightly with 2 or 3 tablespoons of oil. Dribble 2 or 3 tablespoons of vermouth or wine over the fish. Sprinkle with kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Slice the lemon into ¼ inch slices and place the slices atop the fish. Add the capers, if you are using them. Place a few sprigs of Italian parsley and basil, or herbs of choice, atop the fish. Top with another layer of non-stick aluminum foil. Close and crimp the edges to seal well.
Heat a grill to medium, using indirect heat. Place the packet containing the fish on the grill. Close the grill cover, and roast 12 to 15 minutes, until done.
Remove the packet from the grill, and pierce the foil. Be careful of the escaping steam. Open the foil to expose the entire piece of fish. Remove and discard the herbs. Leave the lemon on the fish. Transfer the fish to a heated serving platter. Replace any capers (if you are using them) that have fallen from the fish. Garnish the platter with fresh sprigs of basil and Italian parsley, and any other herbs you have used. Arrange the pomodorini alongside the fish. Serve, topped with chopped herbs and pomodorini.
16 oz. grape tomatoes
¼ cup minced red onion
red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and pepper
2-3 tablespoons of chopped herbs – basil, Italian parsley, tarragon, or thyme
Slice ¼ cup of the tomatoes in half. Pour 2 tablespoons of fruity olive oil into a medium saucepan or 10 inch skillet an heat over a medium flame. Add the red onion, and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add all of the tomatoes and continue cooking over medium to medium low heat, mashing some of them as they soften, about 8 to 9 minutes. Don’t mash them all, only enough to produce a bit of liquid in the pan. Turn off the flame, and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, and a generous grinding of black pepper. Check for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper, if desired. Add more vinegar, depending on the acidity level of the vinegar. Add the chopped herbs.
Verrini Munari Rossoforte and Balsamico vinegars are available from Olio2go.com
Pianogrillo olive oil is available from Gustiamo.com