Gastropunk meets Alternative Algarve

IMG_0920

Fish swimming in shoals in the sea brings to mind the Chaos Theory. It also reminds me of the frenetic energy involved in busy, fast-paced kitchens. There is always method and reason.

IMG_0913

I am also reminded of the Portuguese soccer coach, Jose Mourinho. He tells his players that they will play and subscribe to a particular style of footballing philosophy. This idea is also true with food. I prefer to cook in a particular style and with a certain attitude. Bees 3 versus Monsanto Corporation 0.

IMG_0968

Instinctive and fundamental to my culinary beliefs are the ideas of eating local foods, seasonally and organically. This means you inherently support your local farmers, growers and the good people that bring you your food. I am lucky to have found an organic farm near where I am located.

IMG_0978

Quinta Shanti is 90% self sufficient. In addition to grapes, olives are grown. Plus figs, apples, pears, peaches, oranges, lemons and apricots. I have not even begun to list the vegetables.

IMG_0972

I have an agreement with the farmer to buy vegetables from them once a week. This is great news on a number of different fronts. It introduces me to the rhythms of the Algarve growing season which is very different from what I left behind in New England. Even though there is a municipal market in my new town, Tavira, it is still largely supplied by the industrial food chain. You have to careful, observant and disciplined with your purchasing decisions. It is good to be able to recognise an industrially grown tomato or to be able to see what garlic was grown out in the back of the vendor’s garden.

IMG_3047

The Portuguese love their dried beans in all of their various shapes, colours and texture. This chick pea salad has the addition of fresh coriander. I have never eaten as much coriander in my life. I can’t find basil anywhere but coriander is used abundantly and then some, everywhere.

IMG_0919

I only have eyes for you. Say hello to piri-piri peppers. These little peppers pack some serious heat. Whilst the shrimps have never seen the inside of a freezer, their flavour is enhanced by generous amounts of garlic. And yes, it is necessary to have all that delicious olive oil on the plate.

 

IMG_3048

Algarve wines have come a long way in the past 3,000 years. Phoenicians, Romans and Moors all had a hand in this history. Nowadays, some of the better wines available have achieved D.O.P. status and that’s good news for me and you.

IMG_3053

Algarve style fish baked in a pot. I arranged the 1/4 ” sliced potatoes in the dish, shingled so as to be reminiscent of fish scales. I filled the cavity of the fish with rosemary and lemon. I seasoned the fish with Tavira D.O.P. flower of sea salt and sliced garlic. I moistened the dish with white wine, tomato juice and D.O.P. quality olive oil. Serves one.

IMG_0905

I’m still hungry. All that ocean and salt air! This eat out of your hand snack includes local fresh goat’s milk cheese, cherries and pistachios on home made whole wheat bread. Thanks for reading. Eat like a peasant.

Advertisements

Trattoria Sardegnese by the sea

IMG_2184

Fresh seafood. Indeed. Everybody has it to sell but it is not always up to scratch. It pays to develop a relationship with a good fish-monger. Mine is Jason from RedsBest in Boston. It may not be the widest selection. And that’s okay because what is for sale is only the freshest fish. And it is all caught by small Massachussets fishing-boats. The quality of this fish may best be described as super premium. Take it from one who knows.

IMG_2174

This is a whole monkfish, courtesy of Jason from Red’sBest. Truthfully, I have never broken down a whole monkfish. It’s a scary looking fish especially with those intimidating teeth. Jaws! or how to cut your teeth with monkfish.

IMG_2185

From my kitchen garden plot…….the end of the orange “Valencia” heirloom tomatoes. This is their swan-song. Kiss them good-bye until next year.

IMG_2214

“Carta di Musica” is a traditional, unleavened parchment bread from Sardinia. This cracker bread is rolled out as thin as a sheet of music paper. Breads of this nature are almost always made with white flour. I add a very generous percentage of whole wheat flour to effect a more rustic texture.

IMG_2216

My favorite way to eat the parchment bread is part of a “salad” antipasto. Cherry tomatoes, basil and thyme are from my garden. I did not make the goats cheese shown but it sits in a quick marinade to “butter” over the cracker bread.

IMG_2200

The classic pasta from Sardinia is fregola. It is Sardinian cous-cous. The Arabs ruled over Sardinia at one point and certainly made their mark in the kitchen. I like fregola because it is not machine-made. Also, the pasta picks up extra flavor because it has been dry-roasted. This action increases the nutty, wheaty flavour I love. I want to cook the fregola like a risotto.

IMG_2197

Monkfish…….trimmed up. Ready for roasting.

IMG_2210

I cooked the fregola with garlic,carrots and red peppers, adding a measure of saffron and herbs. The fregola has absorbed the color of the saffron. And I want to make fregola patties to pan fry.

IMG_2220

I roasted the monkfish tail on the bone for more flavour. I dressed the fish with the orange “Valancia” tomato from which I made a roasted tomato vinaigrette. I went heavy on the salad. All those fisherman away at sea crave their greens and vitamin C when ashore. Thanks for reading. Eat like a peasant.

IMG_2211

Adagio per Andante.

Trattoria Venezia by the sea

IMG_1734

Venice is the regional capital of Veneto. It lies at the head of the Adriatic Sea and the entire coastal area is famous for it’s abundance of fresh seafood and market gardening. The fishing village of Chioggia lent its name to the candy striped beets of the same name.

IMG_2165

This is Maine shrimp stock simmering for the foundation of a simple shrimp sauce. I used the shrimp shells, a smashed clove of garlic, carrot, black peppercorns, parsley stems and a thyme sprig. For the amount of shells that I have, I can yield about one cup or less of stock. This will be reduced further afterwards to about one quarter of a cup for my purposes. Shrimp are expensive and I think it is an easy way to maximise flavour for the shrimp as well as re-enforce the shrimp flavour in the sauce. The shrimp shells are delicate so this is a quick stock needing no more than twenty minutes.

IMG_2153

Characteristic to coastal Venetian cooking is the partnering of polenta with seafood. Polenta is derived from the Latin word “polmentum” and refers to a husked or crushed grain. Here it is coarse cornmeal. It is boiled like porridge and eaten directly or fried, baked and grilled. I make mine with water only though some cooks add dairy for a richer texture. I used white cornmeal from Rhode Island and added freshly shucked corn during the last minutes of cooking to complement the corn experience.

IMG_2155

My little kitchen garden was able to supply the Swiss chard for the occasion.

IMG_2166

I got the shrimp at RedsBest Seafood at Government Centre farmers market in Boston. Each of the shrimp are about an inch and a half long. They will cook quickly in my sauce of garlic, white wine, thyme,shrimp stock, tomato juice and chopped tomato. The trick here is not over-cooking. That’s when they become dried out, tough and rubbery.

IMG_2168

They’re done! And I have concentrated all the shrimp essence into that little amount of sauce. Looks are deceiving. This punches way above its weight category for flavor. A trick of the trattoria.

IMG_2169

Long story short……..fried polenta, garlicky sauteed garden Swiss chard and Maine titty shrimp in tomato sauce.

IMG_1802

Thank you for reading. Eat like a peasant.

IMG_2158

The Callous Dhow Boy Ashore in Asir

IMG_2084

Asir translates as “rough country”. Asir is located in Saudi Arabia on the south-western coast of the peninsula. The rough country begins offshore with dangerous currents. Fishing dhows making their way to land at seasonal fishing stations also have to be wary of the coral reef that extends along the Asir coastline. The breaking waves are a give-away to the location of the reef. The immediate change in the color of the water, deep water beside the shallow water of the reef, also reminds you
of the dangers that you cannot see. Ironically, the rough country of Asir is also the most agriculturally fertile region of the peninsula.

IMG_2086

This is Triggerfish. It is a tropical fish that migrates in the warmer currents of summer to New England. It is also one of the most widely abundant fish in the ocean, with over 40 different varieties. They are also a reef dweller and one of the more spectacularly  colored fishes in the sea. There is plenty of this fish species and are definitely worth tasting. Try it before our oceans acidify and it is priced out of the water. Credit for this fish goes to Jason Tucker of RedsBest Seafood at Government Centre Farmers Market. The freshest fish in Boston.

 

IMG_2090

Kabsa is the national seasoning of Saudi Arabia. Traditionally, it was or is used to season chicken, or sheep, or camel. The inland town of Khamis Mushayt is a center of trading along the spice route in this region. Fedayeen or peasant fish cooks, in this case, blend their own bag of sunshine to cook fish. Kabsa includes turmeric, coriander seed, black peppercorns, ginger and cardamom pods. However, each dhow or fishing station will make their own blend based on what is available to them. Asir has always been a player in the spice trade historically and serious cooks do not give their measurements away easily, always holding onto one last secret ingredient or source of supply in order to show who is the best cook.

IMG_2093

Even though triggerfish is a smaller fish, it is naturally territorial in the reef. Indeed, I have heard of divers being attacked after disturbing their nests. They are well equipped with teeth and they will draw blood, not a good thing in a reef full of barracuda and shark. There is also stonefish in the shallow wading waters.
These filets are about 4-5 ounces each, which means that they will cook quickly. I rubbed them over with olive oil and kabsa seasoning, then added thyme, minced onion and preserverved lemon.

IMG_2088

Kabsa spiced fried eggplant for triggerfish. As a defensive posture, the fish can raise a dorsal fin which is locked into place by a smaller secondary fin. This second fin must be “unlocked” before the larger fin can be reset. And they will attack you, if disturbed.

IMG_2091

It was the Arabs that introduced cauliflower to Europe. I cooked the cherry tomatos so that they would go pop, and release their juice. I want the cherry tomato juice to be the main body or vehicle to carry the spice nuances. Kabsa is warm but you can add heat. A touch of honey can also work to smoothen out the rough edges of the spice.

IMG_2098

Think local, act globally. Saudi Kabsa with Massachussets fish.

IMG_2097

Sun setting on Asir. The mountains are forty miles from the coastline. They range as far as the eye can see from the beach and extend up to 7,000 tall and even though it is humid at the coast, the wind brings scents of mountain herbs like thyme, arugala blossom and rosemary. Full of lure and intrigue for an off loaded fisherman. A caravan will pass through this area in a day or so en route to Khamis Mushayt, located in the mountains. It is time to prepare for desert travel and cooking on the ship of the desert.

IMG_2066

Translated, the Arabic reads as “produce of Saudi Arabia”. The blackseed in question is Nigella. I know it colloquially as “Love in a Mist”. It is black cumin seed and the finest honey in the peninsula comes from Najran, right on the edge of the Empty Quarter, the Rub’al Khali. Or the desert of classical icons. There is no such thing as sugar in that region. It is all about the honey. Thanks for reading. Eat like a peasant.

Fishermans Blues.

IMG_1770

Bluefish is an under-rated fish. In its favor is its abundance and relatively low retail price. It lends itself to a variety of cooking techniques. I like it either roasted, grilled or smoked. It is an oily fish but does not have the same glam or mass appeal that salmon has. Besides, they still have’nt figured out how to farm bluefish. That’s good for you and me. Now we need to clean up our oceans. In the meantime, sustainable and transparent fishing practises need to be encouraged and supported by rules, science and technology, as well as giving a meaningful voice to the people who fish.

IMG_1754

And now for something completely different…….a tale of two eggplants. How do you tell the sex of an eggplant or aubergine. This is good to know if you enjoy eating eating eggplant. The eggplant on the left is a Sicilian heirloom eggplant called Rosa Bianca and it’s a girl. The girl eggplant has an elongated mark, indentation or slash. As a cook, you do not want the girl eggplant. There are too many seeds. The spot marking on the boy eggplant is “markedly’ smaller and is more desirable. This is a white eggplant. Looks like a duck egg, hence eggplant. These identifying blotches are located at the base of the eggplant, so, like everything else, you must hold them up to be able to see.

IMG_1760

Caponata is a classical Sicilian vegetarian antipasto or appetizer composed of eggplant, celery, olive, caper, onion, garlic and parsley at its most elemental. If the eggplant or celery is not a clue to it’s Arab origins, sometimes caponata’s inclusion of saffron might give it away.

IMG_1756

A small plate in the style of Sicily. Caponata with grilled tuna dressed with mountain fennel seed vinaigrette with grated lemon zest. Sometimes it is the small items which get your attention. The fennel seed came from my little kitchen garden. I used locally caught albacore tuna from my friends at RedsBest seafood.

IMG_1768

Next day caponata doubles over on top of flatbread with goat/sheep’s milk feta. This would never fly traditionally but it tastes great when you are in a hurry and hungry. I always have a home made pizza dough in the fridge for emergency’s and this is a good example.

*

IMG_1774

I roasted the bluefish. I started it on top of the stove by searing it and finished it in the oven. I ate the fish with pole beans along with a grape tomato, shallot rings and basil leaf salad from my little garden. Olive oil and lemon juice over all.

I

IMG_1740

This bean has a beautiful flower. I’m not sure of their name but the beans grow to a slender 18-24 inches long. The name might be something like “Serpentina Rampicante”……….a long snake-like pole bean. I hope I get some beans because they have struggled for me. This flower reminds me of Sweet-Pea which reminds me I should really plant some next year. Thanks for looking at my blog. Eat like a peasant.

In My Solstice Kitchen.

IMG_1332

Who cares if it is 85 degrees…….garden scallion pizza ready for the oven. The cheese is goats milk brie, homemade farmers market hothouse tomato sauce, garden herbs and Taggiasca olives. Eager for those garden and field grown tomatoes, the real ones.

 

IMG_1334

This is what I mean.

IMG_1342

Massachussetts Bluefin tuna, grilled rare with garden mustard seed vinaigrette and olive oil poached garlic. Some spicy garden arugula too.

IMG_1386

A wholewheat bread loaf ready for the oven. Mercury rising!

IMG_1381

This is the remainder of the tuna. I trimmed it up by removing the dark meat. This is about 6 ounces worth. Pricey enough but a whole lot cheaper than going to Sicily or Calabria or Nice for that matter. I want to make tuna ‘conserva’ or preserved tuna. The quality of your “conserva” is only going to be as good as your raw materials. The tuna has been out of the water for under 36 hours. Yes, I know they would laugh at me in Tokyo. Shame on them for their fishing practises.

IMG_1391

Love to cook fish…..if anyone has’nt already noticed. This is scup. Trim the fins, season it and you are good to go. Minimal prep, simple cooking.

 

IMG_1387

Not the best, not the worst……but I’ll find out tomorrow morning.

IMG_1385

Tuna “conserva” working………I am poaching the tuna in olive oil with lemon, bay leave, garlic and black peppercorns. I am also including in the poaching medium onion, thyme, parsley and fennel seed, all from my little garden.

IMG_1393

Draw a couple of slashes in the fish with your blade.

IMG_1395

The oven is still on…….time for oven-roasted fish. There are several ways to determine if your whole fish is still fresh. One of them is to look at that fish in the eye. The eye ought to be clear, not cloudy. But the overall expression of the face of the fish ought to suggest …..surprise, as in you caught me. Despite being caught with no fins on, the fish still looks very much alive and vibrant. Don’t worry that you cannot see the slashes that I have made.

IMG_1399

An early summer side dish of sauteed scallions and golden beets.

IMG_1388

Preserved tuna or tuna “conserva”. Better than anything you will find in a can.

IMG_1400

. Here are those slashes again. A generous pouring of olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice is all I need to dress the fish. It is already juicy enough but now it will simply melt on your palate. Eat like a peasant. Brownie points for eating the sliced open lemon pip. Thanks for looking at my blog. Have a good summer.

 

My Dinner with Bugs Bunny and John Lennon.

IMG_0034

This is where supper begins tonight. I’m lucky I get to have an almost year round kitchen garden. Even for the size of my little space, it takes a yard of planning to have a little something for the dregs of Winter. Something that really makes it worthwhile to cook

 

IMG_0036

Carrots….and lots of them. I like how they are not all uniform. They don’t look like prize-winners but they have a certain Bugs Bunny factor. What’s up, Doc?
I planted the carrots last August. And I’m happy that they went this late into the season. Now is a good time to pick them. From a gardening point of view, the moon is waxing and next week it is going to freeze. They won’t go the distance being left in the ground to over-winter. So, I guess it’s time to PULL…….sorry, Bugs, did’nt mean to scare you. I meant pull the carrots, not the trigger.

IMG_0048

I really gave little thought as to how I wanted to prepare these carrots. I knew that it was going to be risotto…………carrot risotto, plain and simple. Rabbit friendly too. But still the risotto needed something more.

IMG_0052

All I can say is bring on Winter Farmers Markets. I added locally grown organic radicchio. Green radicchio, no less.
The bitterness of the radicchio was softened by the sweetness of the carrots. The risotto or rice was in the background and acted as a bridge between the two star players. When I make risotto or any kind of rice dish, let’s be honest, rice is boring by itself. Munch, chew, keep munching. Boring, my risotto’s always have more of the good stuff, like the carrots and radicchio. Then it’s fun to chew and munch away.
One idea that intrigued me as a young aspiring chef was the idea of imagining you are making music when you cook. Or singing, high notes and low notes coming together into a rhythm. Balance and harmony. And this is reflected by what hit’s the plate. Either a plate of jumble or a mighty fine bass-line for those carrots.

IMG_0050

Split pea soup is a good winter warmer. I made this with potato, parsnip, carrot, onion, garlic, smoked prosciutto, sage and bay leaf and water. While this soup simmered away, I made the risotto….with water also. Easy peasy so far. All I am saying is give peas a chance.

IMG_0060

Lemony, garlicky, hot and spicy broccoli as a side dish.

IMG_0062

This is Irish brown soda bread pre-oven. Somebody did ask me for a recipe, However, I have largely stayed from providing recipes. Recipes are just guidelines. And there are lots of recipes out there. Indeed, every Irish family would somehow make it just a little differently. There does not seem to be a grand master recipe. See my earlier posting on Traditional Irish Brown Soda Bread.

IMG_0063

But if you really, really want my “recipe” or technique, more than one person is going to have to ask. I have no problem sharing, especially with Saint Patrick’s Day around the corner. In fact, I’m delighted to share…….a photo tutorial. It’s not neuroscience or urban engineering. It’s only bread. Eat simple.

IMG_0066

Traditionally, Irish soda bread is made with wheat flour. In this instance, I swapped out the wheat for farro. I have’nt done this before and I am here alone. I bet it is going to taste great. Seriously, it is all about the crust.