Italy’s classic light salad of gently cooked and marinated seafood including shrimp, squid, scallops, and mussels, with lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, and subtle spices. Marinating the scallops in lemon juice “cooks” them like a ceviche, maintaining their tender texture and sweet flavor, while steamed mussels create a bright, flavorful broth for poaching the rest of the seafood. Marinating the shrimp with baking soda and salt improves its texture once it’s cooked, giving it a crisp and snappy bite.
Start by cutting the scallops into cubes, tossing them with ample lemon juice, and setting them in the fridge to chill—this is the ceviche move. The plan here is not to cook them, but to cure them, exactly like in a ceviche. It’ll be just enough to strip away some of their pure rawness, while maintaining as much of their tenderness as possible.
Meanwhile, brown some garlic in oil in a saucepan, infusing the oil with flavor. Add a small amount of water to the pot, bring it to a boil, toss the mussels in, and cover. They’re done in just a couple of minutes, at which point use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a bowl to cool. Pluck most of the mussels from their shells, saving only a handful in the shell for presentation, then chill them.
Now I have some rich, garlicky mussel broth in the pot. I top it up with more cold water, add some lemon juice for acidity and flavor, along with peppercorns and a couple of bay leaves, also for flavor. Voilà! I have a tasty poaching medium for the rest of my seafood. And, because I’ve added cold water, I’ve reset the temperature, meaning I can cook the shrimp and squid using that cold-start method.
There’s no reason to separate the shrimp and squid: They can both go into the tepid poaching medium at the same time, and gently be brought up to 170°F, at which point they’ll be perfectly plump and tender throughout. Before cooking the shrimp, I’ve first marinated them with baking soda and salt for that snappy texture I mentioned above. (I tried that treatment on the squid, too, and it made no difference, so skip it.) As soon as the water hits 170°F, I transfer the shrimp and squid to a large bowl or rimmed baking sheet to chill.
While all the seafood is cooling, I whip up the dressing, a simple blend of minced parsley, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil. I toss it all with the chilled seafood, adding cayenne pepper for heat (fresh minced chilies would work, too) and thinly sliced celery and fennel for flavor and crunch. I also sprinkle in a little ground coriander seed.
The salad is ready to rock as is, but I can tell you from experience that it gets even better the next day, as the seafood marinates and the flavors meld. That’s one way in which it’s not at all like ceviche, which peaks about 15 minutes after it’s made and goes downhill from there. Though I challenge you not to eat all of it right away, by yourself, before anyone even finds out you’ve made it.