It was one summer day in Venice, sitting on the vine-shaded terrace of an obscure piazza, that I first tasted sole in saor-- literally sour sauce. The combination of golden raisins and vinegar with cold fish was intriguing and surprisingly delicate, backed with a pleasant crunch of pine nuts. The dish is ideal for hot weather, for the fish is sauteed ahead of time in olive oil, then marinated at least 6 hours so the flavor mellows.
When I tried it at home, I found the secret is to add plenty of sweet onions. To avoid harshness, the vinegar must be thoroughly evaporated. To give color to the plate, I suggest a simple salad of cherry tomatoes in a dressing of olive oil and fresh herbs. And you may want to add a favorite pasta salad to give body to the menu.
For dessert, I've turned again to Italy with a cooling granita of espresso coffee, topped with whipped cream and grated chocolate. No ice cream machine is needed for granita for the texture is deliberately granular and rough to the tongue. The mixture is simply frozen in an ice cube tray and crushed to the proper texture in a food processor or blender. Granita should be served within a few hours, as it sets hard on standing. If this happens, simply crush it again.
COOL APPROACH TO LUNCH FOR 8
Sole in Sour Sauce With Onions and Tomato Salad
Cold Pasta Salad
Espresso Coffee Granita
Suggested wine: Verdicchio, Pinot Grigio or light Italian-style white wine.
This is a menu for a hot day as all cooking is done ahead of time.
Up to one day ahead, cook the sole and marinate. Make cold pasta salad. Make granita mixture, then freeze.
Up to three hours ahead, make tomato salad for fish. Process granita, then whip cream.
About five minutes before serving arrange fish and tomato salad on plates. If necessary, whisk granita.
After serving fish, pile granita in glasses.
SOLE IN SOUR SAUCE WITH ONIONS AND TOMATO SALAD
3 pounds small sole fillets
3 to 4 tablespoons flour
2 pounds onions, sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or basil
1 basket red cherry tomatoes
1 basket yellow cherry tomatoes, or more red, if yellow aren't available
Wash and dry sole fillets. Coat in flour seasoned to taste with salt and pepper. Pat to remove excess flour. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large skillet. Saute 1/2 fillets until brown, about 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Do not overcook or fillets will break up. Remove, then fry remaining fish, saute and remove.
Add onions to pan with little more oil, if necessary. Cover and saute gently, stirring occasionally, until very tender but not brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Add sugar, white wine vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until vinegar evaporates. Stir in pine nuts and raisins.
Arrange fish and onion mixture in layers in shallow dish. Cover tightly. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours.
Whisk together wine vinegar, mustard, 6 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and oregano. Combine with tomatoes. Arrange fish, with onions, on 8 individual plates and add tomato salad. Makes 8 servings.
Note: Almost any firm white fish may be used.
ESPRESSO COFFEE GRANITA
1/2 cup sugar, about
3 cups espresso or very strong black coffee
1 cup stiffly whipped ice cream
2 to 3 tablespoons grated chocolate
Stir 1/2 cup sugar into coffee until dissolved, adding more to taste, if necessary. Freeze mixture in ice cube tray. Cover tray with plastic wrap so granita doesn't absorb freezer odors.
Up to 3 hours before serving, crush frozen cubes of coffee mixture in food processor or blender. Use short pulses to obtain rough slush texture. Pile in container, cover and freeze until just before serving.
To serve, if granita has re-frozen too solidly, fluff up with stiff whisk or crush again briefly in food processor. Pile granita in chilled stemmed glasses and top with whipped cream and grated chocolate. Makes 8 servings.
Note: For mocha flavor, add 1 to 2 tablespoons powdered cocoa to coffee.