As many of you know, I love planning trips. With so many of them already booked, I am now looking at late 2018 and a trip to one of the world’s most iconic cities – Venice. While the trip itself is still quite some time away, this doesn’t mean it’s too early to read up on history and research places to see and things to do. Given that the city is almost 1,600 years old and it was one of the most important and powerful European states for about 400 years, there is plenty to see.
As with any trip, I also like to learn about the local food and cook some of the local dishes to make sure I know what to expect and what to order when I am there.
Just like everything else in Venice, the Venetian cuisine was born out of the lagoon the city stands on. They had little land to grow things or to raise farm animals on but the lagoon provided its inhabitants with a lot of seafood and, as the Venetian overseas empire expanded, so did the variety of food on the tables of its nobility, merchants and common people.
At its height, Venice controlled a good portion of the Eastern Mediterranean, including the islands of Crete and Cyprus. Venetians referred to their empire as Stato da Mar (the state of the sea) and tonight’s dinner will pay homage to both the lagoon and Venice’s largest overseas possession – the island of Cyprus.
We will start with the Venetian version of aperol spritz, have some halloumi cheese and watermelon salad and enjoy linguine with clams (linguine con vongole) as the main course.
Aperol is an Italian apéritif made with bitter orange, gentian, rhubarb and cinchona flowers. It originates in the city of Padua (historically a Venetian nemesis) and it is the main ingredient of the lovely aperol spritz cocktail that is usually made with aperol, prosecco and a splash of soda water. In Venice it is not uncommon, however, to use dry white wine instead of prosecco. This is how I made mine today.
The appetizer is a very typical summer salad from Cyprus – halloumi cheese and watermelon with a drizzle of olive oil, basil and/or mint.
And the main course was linguine pasta with clams.
You should also have some dry white wine from Veneto to wash it down with. You probably have some left from making that aperol spritz.
The recipes for everything are below. Enjoy!
- 4 1/4 ounces of dry white Italian wine, preferably from Veneto, Friuli or Alto Adige
- 2 1/2 ounces Aperol
- 3/4 ounce club soda
Mix everything with ice, garnish with a slice of orange or go Venetian all the way and add a green olive to it.
Halloumi and watermelon salad
- 2 slices of halloumi
- 2 slices of watermelon
- basil and/or mint to garnish
- olive oil
Grill or fry the halloumi until golden, place the watermelon on top, garnish with basil and/or mint and dress with your favourite olive oil.
Linguine with clams
This recipe is courtesy of Cantina do Spade in Venice that has been open for 568 years. I guess they know a thing or two about cooking!
- 3/4 pound of clams (preferably small ones). I slept in, so the fishmonger only gad giant ones by the time I got there. I removed them from the shell and chopped them up before combining with the sauce and the pasta
- 1/2 pound of linguine or spaghetti
- 2 cloves of garlic
- olive oil
- peperoncino (red pepper flakes)
- white wine
In order to prepare this dish, you need to purge the clams of all the grit and sand that they have inside them. To do this, add a generous amount of salt to a bowl of water and place the clams in the bowl for at least an hour, making sure they are covered with water. Sometimes it is necessary to do this twice to make sure all the sand is removed. Wash the clams in running water to make sure there is nothing sticking to the shells.
Put the clams in a pan, add some water, put on the lid and cook them over high heat. As soon as clams open, turn off the burner, otherwise you’ll ruin their flavour. Cook the garlic in oil and a pinch of hot pepper in a large pan, add some of the clams’ cooking water and sauté linguine and clams together, reducing them by adding a sprinkle of white wine. Serve with a handful of chopped parsley.
If any of the clams do not open, throw them away to avoid food poisoning.