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Salt-Baked Branzino

Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Salt-baked branzino

No, my dear sea bass, please don't look at me that way. I've already made up my mind, and let's not argue. And then, what are you complaining about? You'll end up in a classic, everyone will love it. So stop making that face...

Salt Baked Branzino
for 2

whole branzino (sea bass) 1, approximately 2 lb 3 oz
coarse sea salt 2 to 4 lb, depending on the size of the fish
parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, pepper to taste

Clean and gut the sea bass, and rinse it under running water (... in cases like this, it wouldn't hurt to be friends with the fish guy).
Arrange half of the salt on the bottom of a baking pan, place the fish on top of it and coat it well with the other half of the salt. Bake at 400 for 35 to 40 minutes. When ready, transfer the sea bass on a plate, break the salt shell that will have formed and fillet it. Serve with a sauce prepared by mixing oil, pepper, chopped parsley, juice and zest of lemon.
If you wish, before baking you can season the inside of the fish with chopped herbs, a couple of bay leaves, some garlic and/or lemon slices.

Stuffed Eggplants

Friday, July 23, 2010
Stuffed Eggplants

Reluctantly, at some point I had to resign myself and put a right end to my eggplants.

Stuffed Eggplants
for 4-5

baby eggplants about 8
black olives 6-8
salt-packed capers one handful
sun dried tomatoes 3
salt-packed anchovies 2
garlic 1 clove
bread crumbs 1-2 tablespoons
parsley, basil, olive oil, salt, pepper to taste

Wash the eggplants and cut them in half lenghtwise. Scoop out about two thirds of the pulp and dice it. Lightly season the eggplant shells with salt and keep them aside.
Chop garlic clove, capers, anchovies, rinsed from their salt and bones removed, olives, basil and parsley. Add the mixture to the diced eggplant pulp along with the bread crumbs, adjust the taste with salt and pepper, and mix well.
Mound the stuffing in the reserved eggplant shells, place them on a baking pan and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 375 for about 45-60 minutes, until eggplants are soft. Serve them warm or at room temperature.

Swordfish Orange Tartare

Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Swordfish Orange Tartare

And yet I had been so far-sighted! Back in December I had kindly ordered Santa Claus to spare the set of pans by Le Creuset and the latest Kitchen Aid and to send me instead to the Mediterranean aboard a yacht, to be rocked by gentle waves and spoiled by July's sun and fresh fish of the day.
But at this point I honestly think he didn't understand. No sign of the yacht. The sun, he sent it to different horizons to warm some young bathing beauty. The waves are oceanic monsters spitting wind and freezing fog. As for the Le Creuset and the Kitchen Aid, I've given up on them long time ago.

Swept away by the usual fate amidst the greyness of the city in August, I find myself with a piece of fish. Fresh, they say.
Santa Claus, ever tried tartare with oranges?

Swordfish Orange Tartare
for 2 (me and Santa Claus)

fresh swordfish fillet about 300 gr.
orange, small 1
shallot 1
salt-packed capers a handful
parsley, basil, mint a handful each
salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice to taste

Cut off the skin from the fish fillet (if necessary) and dice it not too finely. Mince the shallot, the capers, rinsed from their salt, and a generous amount of parsley, basil and mint. Grate the orange zest. In another bowl, whisk together the juice of the orange, few drops of lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper. Dress the fish with this marinade, adding the minced herbs and capers. Mix well and refrigerate for few hours. Before serving, drain the fish from the marinade.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

SHUG: More than anything God love admiration.
CELIE: You saying God is vain?
SHUG: No, not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off when you walk by the colour purple in a field and don't notice it.

(W. Goldberg & M. Avery, The Color Purple)

Roasted Garlic

Thursday, July 15, 2010
Roasted Garlic

Yesterday tomatoes, today garlic (... and what do you think, tomorrow basil?). Yesterday I gave you Neruda, today you have to deal with myself. But don't worry, I won't pass you any Ode to Garlic that I wrote, also because, to be honest, I'm not really a big fan of it. To clarify, I find places such as The Stinking Rose, with their best sellers like garlic martini or garlic ice-cream, a little intimidating. What can I do?

Yet, even garlic, usually so harsh, pungent, and even a little fetid, deep in its heart has a creamy, soft, and sweet soul. You just need to know how to rub him up the right way, and you'll see that even if he's mad and furious, you can shut him up.

Roasted Garlic

heads of garlic, whole
olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh thyme to taste
vegetable stock if necessary, to drizzle

Slice off the top of the garlic heads, about 1/4 inch from the top, but without separating the cloves. Place them on a baking pan, season with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme sprigs, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 375 for about 45-60 minutes, until garlic gets soft. If it darkens too soon, cover it with a sheet of aluminum. If necessary, pour some vegetable stock in the pan, so that garlic won't stick to the bottom.
Once cooked, squeeze the cloves one by one and you'll get a sweet and totally innocent cream. It's excellent as an appetizer, spread on top of crostini, along with a slice of brie or other semi-soft cheese.
And if you find yourself eating a whole garlic head, don't say I didn't warn you.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Oda al Tomate

La calle
se llenó de tomates,
la luz
se parte
en dos
de tomate,
por las calles
el jugo.
En diciembre
se desata
el tomate,
las cocinas,
entra por los almuerzos,
se sienta
en los aparadores,
entre los vasos,
las matequilleras,
los saleros azules.
luz propia,
majestad benigna.
Devemos, por desgracia,
se hunde
el cuchillo
en su pulpa viviente,
es una roja
un sol
llena las ensaladas
de Chile,
se casa alegremente
con la clara cebolla,
y para celebrarlo
se deja
esencial del olivo,
sobre sus hemisferios entreabiertos,
la pimienta
su fragancia,
la sal su magnetismo:
son las bodas
del día
el perejil
las papas
hierven vigorosamente,
el asado
con su aroma
en la puerta,
es hora!
y sobre
la mesa, en la cintura
del verano,
el tomate,
aastro de tierra,
y fecunda,
nos muestra
sus circunvoluciones,
sus canales,
la insigne plenitud
y la abundancia
sin hueso
sin coraza,
sin escamas ni espinas,
nos entrega
el regalo
de su color fogoso
y la totalidad de su frescura.

(P. Neruda, Odas Elementales)

Ode to Tomatoes

The street
filled with tomatoes
light is
its juice
through the streets.
In December,
the tomato
the kitchen,
it enters at lunchtime,
its ease
on countertops,
among glasses,
butter dishes,
blue saltcellars.
It sheds
its own light,
benign majesty.
Unfortunately, we must
murder it:
the knife
into living flesh,
a cool
populates the salads
of Chile,
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,
its fragrance,
salt, its magnetism;
it is the wedding
of the day,
its flag,
bubble vigorously,
the aroma
of the roast
at the door,
it's time!
come on!
and, on
the table, at the midpoint
of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth,
and fertile
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.

(P. Neruda, Elementary Odes)

Arugula and Melon Salad

Thursday, July 8, 2010
Arugula and Melon Salad

A shamelessly lazy post. In order not to lose my face with it, I play the universally valid card of the "With this hot weather, you don't really want to cook anything" (...and you don't need to know that here one would gladly use a wool hat).

Even more shamelessly, I even list you the ingredients:
- arugula;
- melon;
- goat cheese;
- salt, pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar.

With an act of extreme generosity, I spare you from the explanation of the difficult recipe. And if you're not convinced yet, take it as an excuse to equip yourself with the famous and super useful fruit baller.

Octopus Salad

Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Octopus Salad

When all of a sudden you long for the Mediterranean, but everything you have in front of you is fog, dense and damp, there are three things you can do to fix this:

1) Open that bottle of Coppertone that for centuries has been lying unused in the back of the drawer, close your eyes and inhale all the way to the bottom of your lungs;

2) Watch this for the millionth time, and be moved;

3) Pay a visit to your trusted fishmonger, he's got octopus for sure.

Yesterday number one and two. Today number three and so be it.

Octopus Salad
for 3

whole octopus, net 1, about 3 lb 5 oz
bay leaves 1
celery 1 stalk
salt, pepper, parsley, olive oil, parsley to taste

I hope you can buy an already cleaned octopus, otherwise good luck with that...
Mine was frozen, which it's not even bad per se, since freezing the octopus before cooking it helps tenderizing the meat. But if you're lucky enough to find a fresh one, but no fisherman has been so magnanimous to bang it against the rocks, you can always try to face it by yourself at the sound of a meat tenderizer. For me, nothing so romantic, I just had to wait for it to thaw. Cleaned and rinsed properly, my beautiful octopus was ready for use.
I brought a large pot of water to boil with a little salt and a bay leaf. I threw in the purple creature, and I cooked it with no mercy for about an hour and ten minutes (but you should adjust the time depending on the size of your prey). When the tentacles gently surrendered to the irreverent fork, I realized it was time to put an end to the torture. I turned off the heat and let the poor octopus cool down in its cooking water.
In the meantime I was able to forget about this whole nightmare and I perfumed my hands chopping up a bunch of parsley and squeezing the juice of two lemons. I made a very simple dressing with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, to which I added the finely chopped parsley.
I then (re)took courage, and caught the octopus from the pot, searching for it in a now dark liquid. I held it for several minutes under running water trying to eliminate the skin as much as possible (ie... I was flaying it!). At this point, I cut it into pieces and put them in a bowl. I then reached for the fridge and took one harmless celery stalk, cut into small cubes and mixed them with the octopus. I seasoned it all with the olive oil and lemon dressing, sprinkled it with another pinch of black pepper and a little more parsley, tossed it one more time and that's that!