In Italian restaurant, the main course is often divided in two. We covered Primi, the main pasta course, in my last cookbook post. Now we come to Secondi, better known as the meat course, i.e. the one a lot of people skip because they are already too full from the appetizers and pasta. But you really shouldn’t, since the simple but flavorful cooking techniques (baking, grilling) and the ripeness of the ingredients used on the Amalfi Coast is worth savoring.
Most of the big meals in my M/M contemporary romance, In Wild Lemon Groves, are inspired by dishes that I actually ate while in Amalfi, Italy. One such memorable evening is directly reproduced in the book. I’ll set the scene…
Two bottles of vino rosso and three sumptuous courses later, the laughter continued. Ceri had led them through a maze of back alleys to a picturesque square, with a small gated chapel at one end and a wood-faced trattoria at the other. Tables sprouted like toadstools in the center, corralled on three sides by ivy-woven trellises. Garlands of fairy lights competed with the glinting stars and the fat harvest moon above. Seb wouldn’t have been surprised if the waiter had twirled a wand and poofed their dinner into existence.
He stifled a belch, scanned the detritus with a scavenger’s eye. The last spoonful of the lemon soufflé beckoned him like the arms of a new lover; even sated, he still craved more. From the luscious caprese salad to the fluffy paccheri stuffed with black truffles and burrata with seafood sauce to the grilled lamb with balsamic reduction, pillowy potatoes, and garlicky rapini, their orgy of food had ridden him hard and put him away wet.
Grilled Lamb with Balsamic Reduction
Three marvelous ladies who I met on the trip brought me to the exact location described above, a hidden square behind a chapel with one amazing trattoria. We feasted on the most gorgeous lamb I’ve ever eaten, one of the three Secondi recipes I urge you to make for yourself to enjoy a taste of Italy. You can find a version of it here.
Baccala alla Napoletana
I was familiar with baccala (cod) because my sister’s in-laws always serve it at Christmas. But their version is fried in a batter, calimari-style, which is the one I included in the book. Since writing In Wild Lemon Groves, I’ve discovered that the Amalfi version is a bit more like a seafood stew, and I think this enhances the fish beautifully. You can find an authentic recipe here.
One of the major feasts in In Wild Lemon Groves is when Andrea invites Seb and his three lady friends to his mother’s house for traditional Sunday night dinner. The showcase dish of that meal is a salt-crusted, baked sea bass–although you can use this application for many other kinds of fish. It’s quite the showstopper, and Andrea is rewarded with a romantic dance under the starlight and a tryst in the lemon groves. You can find a basic recipe here.
Next week, the final installment of the In Wild Lemon Groves Cookbook showcases Amalfi’s biggest food export, limoncello!
In Wild Lemon Groves is available in ebook and print formats: