Joseph Bosco

Chinese University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong

Sweetness and Protein
Two Recipes

Biscotti della Nonna

I grew up eating biscotti, before they were cool.  We sort of kept those things in the privacy of our house.  Oreos were cool in the 1960s; it was modern, a cookie that could only be made industrially (who has ever heard of 'home-made Oreos'!).  It is thus with a bit of shock that I see that biscotti are now "in", along with the Italian word for milk (latte ) which somehow in the US now means a kind of coffee.  Biscotti make me think of Sid because he has long written on such stories of culinary borrowing, and because of the large amount of sugar that goes into the batter. 

1 cup of sugar
4 eggs
2 cups of white flour
2 tablespoons of anise seeds (for the original recipe); can substitute with one cup of chocolate chips plus one of walnuts (or other nuts)

Beat the flour and anise together to make the flour lighter.  In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until the sugar is dissolved, but not too much or the biscotti become like cake. Add the flour and mix lightly. Put wax paper on a baking dish (we use a 13" by 9.5" metal cake dish; glass pans do not work well). Bake in an oven preheated to 375-400 F for 15-20 minutes (use toothpick to see when dry).  Be sure to remove the cake from the pan and tear off the wax paper right away, or it sticks to the biscotti.

When cool, cut in two 6.5" halves and then in strips of about half an inch width each.  Originally, you were supposed to re-bake them to make them croccanti (hence the name bis-cotti, twice cooked), but Nonna found they always burned.  They get dry anyway after a couple of days, so don't bother.


Lu Brudatt'

Sid researched seafood while in Hong Kong, so I thought a fish recipe would be appropriate.  The best I know is the "signature dish " of the town in Italy where my father was born.

Brodetto di Pesce, (known locally as lu brudatt') is considered a local specialty of Vasto, a small town in the province of Abruzzo, though Sid will recognize it as a variant of zuppa di pesce, bouillabaisse, the Genoese cioppino, and the Argentine chioppino.  The English names "fish stew" or "fish chowder" somehow do not capture the idea or flavor.  Vasto is on the Adriatic coast, directly across the Italian boot from Rome.  The town is 140 meters up on a hill, but directly below it is the sea and a beautiful beach.  This made it a great base for the Frentani, the pre-Roman people who had a reputation for piracy, as they could see ships sailing up the Adriatic but were protected from sea-borne assaults.  To conoscenti like my grandfather, one had to meet the fishing boats in the morning at the marina beach to get truly fresh fish.  The length of the climb up to town shows how important freshness was, at least for some people.  And the lack of fresh seafood, along with the grey Midwest skies and Prohibition, were the most difficult things for him to accept about the US after he emigrated at age 55.

Under the Romans, the town was known as Histonium, and many Roman remains still can be seen.  Archaeology is closely linked to tourism and town boosterism in Vasto.  The main square, Piazza Rossetti, is in the shape of the ancient roman amphitheatre (coliseum?), and roman remains can be seen in some walls of the shops.  Piazza Rossetti is named after Gabriele Rossetti (1783-1854), the father of the poets Dante Gabriele Rossetti (1828-1882) Christina Rossetti (1830-1894).  The elder Rossetti, being a member of the Carbonari secret society, had to flee Italy in 1820 and ended up teaching Italian in London.  So many others also left the town in the next 140 years that the town also has a monument to the emigrant, and is sister city with Perth, Australia, where many Vastesi emigrated.

Brodetto is made in a crockery pan, or a heavyweight casserole dish, about 3 inches deep.  In the casserole dish (which must be stove-top proof), you sauté 2-3 cloves of garlic in about half a cup of olive oil (Note: Vastesi insist that their olive oil is the best, so the brodetto will not taste the same if you use something else.  My uncles who first went to America sent back the news that there was "no olive oil" in America, so when the rest of the family moved to the US in 1920, they brought plenty of oil with them, only to discover plenty of olive oil, only that it tasted different.  Unless you are in Vasto, use the best you can find.) 

Add fresh tomatoes and some water, and bring to a boil and let simmer for about 10 minutes.  Some people add bell peppers and onions, but my mother claims the pepper and onion has too much flavor and will mask the flavor of the fish.

Once the tomato is cooked, add the seafood.  You can add clams, mussels, shrimp and panocchie(a crustacean typical of the Adriatic, a variant of which can also be found in Hong Kong) and different kinds of fish, depending on the season.  Ray (raia), sole (sogliola), and cod (merluzzo), red mullet (triglie), and squid are typical; turbot, monkfish, hake, and flounder are common US substitutes.  Small fish are left whole; large fish are left in large chunks.  You should add the fish in the order of how much time they need to cook; thicker fish first, then delicate fish like sole and squid last. 

Add a cup of white wine and one of water when you add the fish.  It is important not to overcook the fish or it gets tough.  Basil, parsley, and thyme can be added for seasoning. 

The dish is brought to the table, where it continues to bubble for a while, and everyone shares, family style. It can be eaten in bowls with toasted bread placed at the bottom, or, as in our family, with spaghetti after the initial feast on fish.

Buon appetito, Sid, e buon compleanno!