Frutti di Mare Seafood Salad
Please welcome Hank Shaw as he shares a favorite summer seafood salad. ~Elise
Frutti di mare, the Italian mixed seafood salad you see in deli counters all over the country, can range from appalling to sublime. Back when I was living on Long Island, there was an Italian deli in Babylon that made such a fantastic frutti di mare that it has lingered in my memory for decades.
What made it so great? It’s all in the freshness of the ingredients, and the choice of seafood. I remember calamari that melted in your mouth, flakes of crab, briny, firm shrimp, and a mix of tiny clams and scallops so buttery I always saved them for the last bite.
Which seafood you use is up to you. Lobster would be the high end, of course, but crab, scallops, shrimp, crawfish, clams, mussels, calamari, octopus, cuttlefish — really anything you like. A mix of seafood is what is important here, not any specific ratio or variety.
Bring out your good olive oil for this salad, and if you have any fancy salt, use it here, too. A little crunchy finishing salt sprinkled over the salad right before you serve is a nice touch. You can also add a little black or red pepper if you want to jazz things up.
Think of this as a main course salad on hot summer days. It is best served chilled with a loaf of good bread, along with an easy drinking white wine, rose or pilsner beer.
Be sure to follow the steps in order, so all the seafood is properly cooked and the broth becomes nice and flavorful.
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup white wine or chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1 small onion, roughly chopped
- 2 celery stalks
- 1 large yellow or orange bell pepper
- 1 pound tomatoes
- 1/2 cup chives
- 1 pound small cocktail shrimp
- 1 pound small clams in shell
- 1/2 pound bay scallops
- 1/2 pound calamari, cut into rings
- 1/4 cup high-quality olive oil, or more to taste
- Juice of 1-2 lemons
- Salt and black pepper to taste
1 Put all the poaching broth ingredients together in a medium pot, cover and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat to let the flavors steep while you cut the veggies.
2 While the poaching broth is steeping, dice the yellow pepper, seed and dice the tomatoes and slice the celery stalks very thin. Chop the chives. Juice the lemons and remove any seeds. Put the diced peppers, tomatoes and celery into very large bowl. Most cocktail shrimp are pre-cleaned and cooked, so you you can put them in the bowl, too.
3 Bring the poaching broth back to a boil and add all the clams. Boil 3-4 minutes, or until the clams all open up. As soon as you see each clam open, fish it out and set it aside. Remove the meat and put in the bowl with the veggies. Turn off the heat and put the scallops in the poaching water. Cover the pot and let stand for 3-4 minutes. Fish out the scallops and put into the bowl.
4 Bring the broth to a boil once more. Add the calamari rings and boil 30 seconds to 1 minute, then pour the contents of the pot into a strainer set over a bowl. You can save the broth or discard it. Pick out all the calamari rings and add to the bowl.
5 To finish, add the olive oil and a little salt and half the lemon juice. Mix well and taste. Add more olive oil, lemon and salt until you get the flavors you want: The salad should be glistening with oil, briny and tart with lemon. Finally, mix in the chives and chill. This salad is better a few hours after it's made.