The combination of pine nuts, raisins and vinegar probably dates back to the Middle Ages: most of the oldest Italian cookbooks feature a vast collection of sweet-and-sour recipes, in which the sourness of vinegar is balanced by the sweetness of ground raisins, prunes or dates; our match of fish, pine nuts, raisins and vinegar, in particular, must have arrived in Rome through Sicily and probably relates to the Arab, Mediterranean culinary culture that influenced our cooking so much in the past.
In Italy, we prepare this dish using local “triglie”, red mullets, but mullet is sometimes difficult to find, so for example in the United States feel free to use red snapper or a similar fish as an alternative.
• 800 g red mullets
• 80 g pine nuts
• 150 g raisins
• extra-virgin olive oil
In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over low heat, stirring, until lightly golden.
Put your raisins in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let them steep for 5-10 minutes (or however long you’ve got) and then drain them thoroughly.
Wash, clean, debone and pat the fish dry, then arrange it in a baking dish, alternating head and tail, so as to have just one even layer of fish.
Season the fish liberally with olive oil, vinegar and salt, and sprinkle the raisins and pine nuts over it.
Cover the dish and cook the fish over a moderate flame for 15 minutes on the stove.
In the meantime, preheat your oven to 380 F. Transfer the dish into the oven and continue cooking for another 20 minutes, or until the fish is nicely cooked. Move the fish to a large serving platter and pour the sauce over it. Serve warm.
*Benedetta Guetta runs the blog Labna.it