There is something very special about the Italian Summer and the profound attachment we have to our local seafood… I remember being woken up at the crack of dawn by Renato, my great grandfather, when I was very young and spending my school break by the shore south of Livorno, on the coast of Tuscany. He would have a couple of coolers loaded with ice already tucked into the trunk of his magnificent Citroen DS “The Shark” as we all used to call it, he would load me and my younger brother in the back seat and drive straight to the port where fisherman would unload their prey: he had friends there, knew most of those guys by name and they all treated him with the outmost respect. My brother and I would sit on a bench or on a pile of wooden boxes, mesmerized by the amount of fish in front of us, the colors and shapes, the fresh smell of the ocean… we would assist the spectacle while chomping on a piece of warm freshly baked Onion Schiacciata or Cecina (Chick Pea Cake), that was our breakfast of the champions. Soon we would return to our house where my mom and my grandma would be waiting for us to go to the beach.
Renato would spend most of the day talking menus to himself, thinking of different ways to cook whatever he found at the market in the morning: he was always so excited about his ingredients and his delight was so incredibly contagious… our friends could not resist inviting themselves for dinner every other day. I miss those moments very much, and I always work very hard to make sure I pass down this “simple way of enjoying life” to my daughters, in the hope to keep alive memories, traditions and obviously our family recipes.
The following recipe is for “Sgombro” (Mackerel) but it can be used for almost any fish you might think of grilling or searing in a pan, preferably a poor fish that is going to be served family style. It goes without saying that if you wish, you can absolutely enjoy this sauce with a more upscale “Orata” or “Branzino” and the results will always be exceptional!