Sunday, April 10, 2011

Weekend Reading 7: The Life Aquatic on the T.M. Blue

Any day now we will (hopefully) be able to wear some of the new Spring clothes we bought when there was still snow on the ground, the Met Gala is almost here, school will be over soon and summer holiday will begin.  How times does fly!  So one's thoughts turn to swimsuits, reading a book in the sun, self tanners (I am experimenting and will let you know if I find a good one) and some place wonderful by the sea.  

Valentino is very Italian in that quality of life is very important.  The pleasure of being around friends, in a beautiful location with delicious food is a very simple concept and one of the greatest luxuries.  Weekend reading for you from RARE vintage.  Read on...

Every Friday night of the summer, at 7:30 exactly, Valentino, his favorite pug, Oliver, and a few friends pile into a limousine and drive to a yacht basin an hour north of Rome.  There they climb aboard the designer's eighty-five-foot yacht, have dinner and sail away.  "The boat means peace," sighs Valentino. 

T.M. Blue One anchored in the port of St. Tropez 2006.

To give an idea just how perfect Valentino, the Roman designer, is, two people, both Americans who don't wish their names to be used, tell a similar story involving a hair dryer. Evidently, when Valentino and his business partner, Giancarlo Giammetti, were moored off Capri last summer in Valentino's 152-foot yacht, T. M. Blue One, there was a lot of coifing going on.
''One of them would jump in the water for a swim, come back out, and suddenly you'd hear a blow-dryer going, 'Bzzzzzzz,' '' said one of the observers, who was on a boat nearby. ''In Capri, you're either wet from the water or from the heat. It's impossible to look your best all the time. But all day long, you'd hear the sound of a blow-dryer coming from their boat. 'Bzzzzzzz.' Ten times a day.''

Valentino perfectly coifed and painted by Andy Warhol.  1974

Carlos de Souza and Georgina Brandolini jumping overboard.  Nothing but blue skies...
Valentino's boat is called the T.M. Blue, a name derived from the first initials of Valentino's parents and the color of the yacht.  The designer had it built to his precise specifications at the Benetti Shipyards, considered one of the best in the world, and he decorated the interior himself.  Although Valentino is known for the sumptuous settings of his houses, he prefers simplicity- or at least the idea of simplicity- for the yacht.  "Boats mean wicker and straw and cotton awnings," he says.  "I hate the idea of a fancy boat.  Velvets and carpets and all that belong on the Avenue Foch, not on the sea."

In Nan Kempner's wonderful entertaining book, R.S.V.P., she recalls being stranded at port because of a storm on the T.M. Blue One:

I can't think of anyone I'd rather be stranded with then Valentino.  While winds howled about  outside and the waters churned around us, inside the T.M. Blue Ones's stabilizers calmed the storms force to  a gentle rocking."  We watched videos, chatted about fashion - he even designed a dress for me - and indulged in luxurious naps.

There are no fancy meals on the T.M. Blue One.  There are always loads of pasta- pesto sauce is a particular favorite- and naturally an emphasis on seafood and fish that's pristinely fresh and delivered directly to the boat by local fisherman.


Serves 6

1 pd sea bass fillets
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 tbs finely chopped fresh thyme
1/2 pd squid, cleaned and chopped
1/2 pd shrimp, peeled and chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbs finely chopped parsley
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
Sea Bass Sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Brush the fish with 1 tbs of the olive oil, place in a baking dish, and season with salt and pepper.  Bake for 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. Remove from oven and cool.

Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat and add the remaining two tbs olive oil.  Add onion and thyme and sauté for 3 minutes or until the onion is translucent.  Add the chopped squid and shrimp and cook, stirring for three minutes.  Flake the sea bass with your fingers and stir into the squid mixture.  Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, and then remove from the heat and cool for 15 minutes.

Add the egg to the seafood mixture and combine well.  Stir in the chopped parsley, and season with salt and pepper.  Transfer to a medium mixing bowl and cool for 15 minutes.

Mound the flour on a work surface and make a well in the center.  Break the 4 eggs into the well and using a fork, carefully beat to well mixed.  Gradually draw in the flour from the outside of the well until a dough begins to form.  When all the flour is incorporated, knead the dough until it is smooth in texture. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions and using a floured rolling pin, roll each into a thin rectangular sheet, 1/8 inch thick.

Place 1 tbs of filling at 1inch intervals over 1 entire sheet of pasta.  Gently lay the second sheet of pasta on top, pressing around the mounds with your fingers.   With a sharp knife, cut between the filling mounds to create individual raviolis, pressing the edges well to seal.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Add the ravioli and cook for 5 to 7 minutes.  Drain.

Place 6 ravioli on each plate, top with sea bass sauce and pass remaining sauce around the table.


1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion minced
2 garlic cloves thinly sliced
1 dried hot pepper
2 sea bass fillets cubed (about 1 pd)
2 Tbs cognac
7 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped intom1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the oil.  Whenthe oil is hot, add the onion and sauté for three minutes, until golden.  Add the garlic and the peeper and sauté for 2 minutes, then add the fish cubes and cook, stirring frequently, for an additional 2 minutes, until the fish is cooked through.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Add the cognac to the pan and carefully ignite the liquid by just touching it with a lit match.  Allow the flame to burn until it extinguishes.  Add the tomatoes and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occsionally, until the tomatoes have become sauce-like.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile in a hot, dry skillet toast the pine nuts for about 2 minutes until just golden brown.  Transfer to a plate and cool.

Transfer the sauce to a food processor and pulse five times, to just mix.  Transfer the sauce to a heat proof bowl serving bowl and keep warm in the oven.

When ready to serve, add the basil and garnish with toasted pine nuts.

Text and photos from The Designing Life by the Staff of W, Nan Kempner's R.S.V.P. and the New York Times.

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