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Sizzling Summers Speak Italian

July 18, 1996|ABBY MANDEL

Italian places come and go in Chicago, but Coco Pazzo and its more casual counterpart, Il Toscanaccio, have taken a firm hold on the city's restaurant scene with their robust, straightforward food. The following dishes from executive chef Gregorio Stephenson's menus are light and especially suited to summer weather.

The critical point with these recipes is to use the best and freshest ingredients. Striped bass fillets can substitute for red snapper when it's unavailable or not up to par, but the Tuscan bread and tomato salad should be saved until you can get truly red-ripe tomatoes.


2 unpeeled baking potatoes, cut into 1/8-inch thick slices

3 tablespoons olive oil


Freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage (optional)

3 tablespoons flour

2 (6-ounce) skinless red snapper fillets

1/4 pound crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, sliced paper thin

2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley

1/4 cup dry white wine

Toss potato slices with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Arrange in single layer on 2 greased baking sheets. Bake at 450 degrees until lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Toss hot slices with rosemary and sage.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Dust fish fillets lightly with flour, shaking off excess. Season with 1/8 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. When oil is very hot, add fillets. Cook until well browned on one side, about 3 minutes.

Use spatula to turn fillets over. Add mushrooms, garlic and parsley around fillets. Cook 3 more minutes. Add white wine to skillet. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered 2 minutes. Lightly season with salt and pepper.

To serve, top each fillet with mushroom mixture from pan, dividing evenly. Arrange potatoes on side of plate. Serve hot.

Makes 2 servings.

Each serving contains about:

483 calories; 249 mg sodium; 50 mg cholesterol; 23 grams fat; 33 grams carbohydrates; 33 grams protein; 1.06 grams fiber.


5 ounces spaghettini

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large cloves garlic, split

1/2 pound raw shrimp in the shell (32-35 count), peeled, deveined, split lengthwise

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more)

2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup canned chopped tomatoes in puree

2 ounces baby arugula, stems removed

Cook spaghettini until just tender in large pot of rapidly boiling lightly salted water. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat oil in large nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Discard garlic.

Add shrimp, red pepper flakes and 1 tablespoon parsley. Cook shrimp, stirring often, until slightly opaque, about 30 seconds. Add wine; bring to simmer and cook 1 minute to reduce sauce.

Add tomatoes, drained hot pasta and arugula. Toss gently until well mixed. Add reserved pasta liquid as needed if mixture is dry. Adjust seasoning and garnish with remaining 1 tablespoon parsley.

Makes 2 servings.

Each serving contains about:

518 calories; 203 mg sodium; 151 mg cholesterol; 16 grams fat; 57 grams carbohydrates; 30 grams protein; 0.48 gram fiber.


1/4 loaf (about 1/4 pound) day-old French or Italian bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 cups)

1/2 cup vegetable broth

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 English cucumber, peeled, split lengthwise, seeded, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)

5 green onions, white part only, thinly sliced

1/2 cup finely diced red onion

1 pound plum or beefsteak tomatoes, seeded, cut into 3/4-inch chunks

6 basil leaves, chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil


Freshly ground pepper

For serving, radicchio leaves

In large bowl, moisten bread with broth; squeeze out excess liquid and discard. Sprinkle bread with 1 tablespoon vinegar; toss to distribute vinegar flavor.

Mix lightly with cucumber, green and red onions, tomatoes and basil. Add olive oil and remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar. Season to taste with salt ad pepper. Toss gently (use forks or hands); refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Can be made a day ahead.

Season to taste. For serving, use radicchio leaves as cups. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

238 calories; 402 mg sodium; 1 mg cholesterol; 12 grams fat; 30 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 1.43 gram fiber.

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