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?
Seafood salad is 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.
Selecting Seafood for Frutti di Mare
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 best extra virgin 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, rosé, or pilsner beer.
Frutti di Mare on Christmas Eve
Some Italian-American Catholic families (and other families that have adopted this tradition) add frutti di mare to their Christmas Eve Feast of Seven Fishes celebration.
Families have various traditions when it comes to the seven specific fishes, so this frutti di mare can count as one of seven dishes that contain fish, or — with its shrimp, clams, scallops, and calamari — it can count as four of the seven fishes, which works out well if your feast is for just a few people. (We know. We know. Your family might consider that cheating.)
More Feast of Seven Fishes Favorites
- Baked Stuff Clams
- Salt Cod Stew
- Grilled Branzino With Rosemary Vinaigrette
- Pasta With Tuna and Capers
- Boiled Lobster
Frutti di Mare Seafood Salad
Be sure to follow the steps in order, so all the seafood is properly cooked and the broth becomes nice and flavorful.
There is time to prep the vegetables while the poaching broth is steeping so you can prep them before or wait until you start cooking.
This seafood salad tastes best a few hours after it’s made, but don't make it much further ahead of time than 3 or 4 hours. If you have leftovers, store them immediately in the refrigerator in a tightly covered container for 1 to 2 days, at most. If the leftovers start to smell fishy, discard the entire salad.
For the poaching broth:
4 cups water
1 cup dry white wine or chicken stock
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 to 3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, roughly chopped
For the salad:
2 celery ribs, thinly chopped
1 large yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
1 pound tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 cup chopped 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 extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste
Juice of 1 to 2 lemons
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Make the poaching broth:
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.
Prep the salad vegetables:
While the poaching broth is steeping, prep the vegetables if you haven't done so already. Dice the yellow pepper, seed and dice the tomatoes and slice the celery ribs 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.
Poach the clams:
Bring the poaching broth back to a boil and add all the clams. Boil 3 to 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.
Poach the scallops:
Turn off the heat and put the scallops in the poaching water. Cover the pot and let stand for 3 to 4 minutes. Fish out the scallops and put into the bowl.
Poach the calamari rings:
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.
Dress the salad:
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.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 6 to 8|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 11g||14%|
|Saturated Fat 1g||7%|
|Total Carbohydrate 28g||10%|
|Dietary Fiber 3g||10%|
|Total Sugars 9g|
|Vitamin C 66mg||331%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|