Scapece (Sometimes spelled Schepece)
about 1 pound of ray
about 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 or 2 packets of imported Italian yellow saffron (about 1 tablespoon)
about 1 cup of flour for coating
about 2 cups of white vinegar
1. Cut pieces of the fish into small pieces.
2. Add the salt to the flour. Mix well.
3. Coat the pieces of fish with flour.
4. Fry the pieces of fish, making sure they are well-cooked.
5. Put the fish aside and let cool.
6. Bring the vinegar to a boil.
7. Add the saffron to the vinegar and let it boil for a few seconds.
8. Turn off the heat, and let the saffron-flavored vinegar cool.
7. When both the fish and the vinegar have cooled, place the fish in a container. Pour the saffron-flavored vinegar in it (There should be enough to cover the fish).
8. Place the lid on the container and keep in the fridge until needed (Best after a few days when the flavor of the saffron and vinegar have seeped through).
Mrs. Rosina Melfi who grew up in Casacalenda in the early 1930s notes that prior to World War II "scapece" was often part of the traditional Christmas Eve meal in Molise. It was considered a rare delicacy as ray was incredibly expensive at the time (Actually, it still is). However, "scapece" or fish pickled in saffron-flavored vinegar was also available in the Southern Italian countryside when the local towns held their Animal Fairs. Not only were farm animals on sale, but so were various types of foods such as dried sausages and "scapece." As vendors did not have containers to place the fish in, consumers either had to have their own container or buy one at the fair. Most end up buying a container (generally a pan) at the fair as few went to the fair with the intention of buying "scapece" (Besides, fish vendors sometimes showed up at animal fairs, and sometimes they did not.). Often, those farmers who traveled outside their towns and villages to shop around for livestock, bought the "scapece" as a treat to bring home to their families.... P.S. A contributor, who is also from Casacalenda, noted that her family used a scapece recipe that included peppercorns, semolina flour, honey and other ingredients. Apparently, the "scapece" made with her family's secret recipe was sold at village fairs. The recipe originated from the Vasto, Abruzzo but was much loved throughout the region.... Photo: Mary Melfi.