When we decided to make our dreams come true and buy property in Italy almost 6 years ago, we knew we wanted to live in Umbria. We've been extremely happy with our adopted region, and Umbria has just about everything we were looking for...that is, everything apart from a coastline. It's one of just a few Italian regions that are landlocked, and since we love seafood so much, we either have to make do with the fresh water fish caught in the region's lakes, or choose travel destinations that border the sea.
We recently visited Venice, where we took advantage of the abundant marine life at lunch and dinner each day of our stay. We also brought along a cooler, which we filled with seafood at the amazing Rialto market before heading back home.
One of the purchases I toted back to Umbria were San Pietro fillets. Also known as John Dory, the fish has a very white flesh with a delicate but dense texture. It's actually quite ugly in appearance, with an odd marking on its side that resembles a thumbprint. Legend says that the mark was made by St. Peter—hence the name.
You can choose any white fish fillets for this dish, including turbot, sole, tilapia, bass, grouper, and snapper. If you're lucky enough to find fresh artichokes, I'd encourage you to use them. Unfortunately, the Italian artichoke season is over, so I used frozen ones in this recipe. They're fairly close in flavor to fresh ones, and definitely a better choice than the canned or marinated varieties. When sautéed until lightly browned, chances are you'll hardly notice the difference.
When choosing fresh fish, whether you're buying a whole fish or fish fillets, it is always best to buy local. Look for vibrant, moist fish, and avoid any that are dry or off color. Fresh fish should have no aroma, and the flesh should be resiliant when pressed with your fingertips.
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About the Author: Deborah Mele is the owner of Italian Food Forever, an Italian recipe blog, as well as Recipe Rebuild, a healthy recipe blog she shares with her daughter Christy, an RD. Deborah lives 6 months a year in Umbria, Italy where she oversees her guest house Il Casale di Mele.