Al-Garve Arabesque

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The history of Tavira’s Arab influence is reflected in the town’s heraldic crest. There is the image of the crescent moon which is a symbol of Islam. The dhow fishing vessel, with it’s lateen sails, was a prototype of the caravel, without which the Portuguese empire would probably not have existed. The bridge spanning the river facilitated the movement of people, commodities and ideas. The Arabs brought their sciences, architecture, agriculture and their spices.

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From Arabic, Baharat translates as spices. A baharat, in culinary terms, is a blend of spices. In my kitchen, I use baharat as a seasoning for fish, vegetables, soups and stews as well as a table condiment. There are many recipes for baharat. Typical spices used in the blend include allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, nutmeg and dried red chiles or paprika. It is not spicy hot but more aromatically sweet and smoky and adds zest to the dishes I like to prepare.

 

 

 

 

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Breads are an important feature of meals in Portugal. This is “pao estendida” or extended bread, in the literal translation. Basically, the dough is stretched. I have used my whole wheat bread starter to give these pita breads some backbone

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The “couvert” is the opening act in the sequence of an Al-Garve meal. Usually, it is a simple presentation of bread, cheese and olives. But I think it has tremendous scope for presenting different flavours and textures. I like to equate this course to an Italian antipasto plate or eastern Mediterranean mezze plate.

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The next best thing to not having a wood-fired oven is grilling outside over an open flame. After grilling the bread, I poured local extra virgin olive oil over it and sprinkled it with Za’atar. Za’atar translates as thyme and thyme is one of the more important herbs in the Al-Garve kitchen. Za’atar is a another spice blend that I like to use to season fish and breads. Za’atar is a combination of thyme, sumac, roasted sesame seeds and coarse sea salt.

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Dried beans are an essential item in any Al-Garve kitchen for soups, stews and side dishes. I used my baharat spice blend to flavour this combination of chick peas and courgettes, finishing it with a spoonful of yoghurt, lemon zest and fresh coriander. The accompaniment of za’atar rubbed grilled bread makes for an exotic presentation of beans on toast.

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The story of Tavira and tuna is a rich history. Up until recently, local “pescadores” or fishermen used the traditional Almadraba technique of netting the migrating tuna, al-tun in Arabic. Nets were anchored over a distance of kilometres in the sea and the tuna were steered or corralled into a central zone where the nets were tightened and raised thus allowing the fishermen to kill the giant fish. This style of fishing was brought to Tavira by Phoenicians who arrived about 1,000 bce from today’s Lebabon. Tuna is sold as very thin steaks in the local market. I don’t like that because it is too easy to overcook cook the tuna steaks. Usually, I ask the vendor to slice me a one and a half inch thick slice. I like my grilled tuna on the rare side. I used my za’atar spices as a dry rub on the tuna. I served the tuna over a salad of arugula (jaje’er in arabic), basil and purslane. I spiced up a simple lemon vinaigrette with piri-piri and ate like a peasant.

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Al-Qahwa is Arabic for coffee and when I’m not roasting my own coffee beans for a “bica” or espresso, I like to experiment with espesso blends. This is my interpretation for a Portuguese inspired coffee blend. Brazil was a part of the Portuguese empire, as was the island of Timor in south east Asia. Yemen completes the Arab connection. I use Arabica coffee beans over Robusta coffee beans. They make for a better coffee with less caffeine. They are used throughout the specialty coffee industry whereas Robusta coffee beans are what you find in your local supermarket. Don’t go there. Instead, eat like a peasant.

 

The Callous Dhowboy in the Al-Garve.

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Cooking is the art of seasoning and the distinctive features of Arab culinary art are very much vibrant in Portugal’s Al-Garve region. This can be seen from the use of certain ingredients, cooking techniques, flavourings and consistencies. An interesting classification of ingredients begins with fragrances and spices. On top of this list are items like rose water, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, saffron, cardamom and mace. A second group of flavouring ingredients consists of dried fruits and nuts like raisins, almonds and pistachios. A third group includes both sweet and sour fresh fruits like apples and pomegranates. In fourth comes honey and sugar. The next group includes the likes of  fermented fish sauce.  Next come grains and beans followed by herbs and vegetables. Rounding out this classification are common items like salt, pepper, vinegar and dairy. Spices and flavourings distinguish one dish from another, define flavour and heighten taste. This is by no means a comprehensive listing.

 

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The predominant fat used to cook and finish plates is olive oil. The Arabs extended olive oil production in the Al-Garve and introduced new pruning and irrigation techniques. This is a local fish called Cherne that is crusted with pistachio nuts, preserved lemon, salted capers. I took the liberty of adding a little bit of piri-piri pepper. As for the salt, the town of Tavira in the Al-Garve has the only D.O.P. accredited salt in the Mediterranean.

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Both the cooking utensil and dish known as the Cataplana were introduced into the Al-Garve repertoire. The cataplana can be considered a fore-runner of the modern pressure cooker as well as the basis for the north African Tagine. Once upon a time, before the Age of Exploration, the cataplana was made without adding tomato or potato. I used my own spice blend to make my Cataplana. Amongst the arrangement of spices, I included ginger, coriander, cumin, cardomom and saffron. I used a apple cider vinegar as an acidity and rounded out the leading edges of flavour with honey. The most common honeys used today the Al-Garve are rosemary honey and orange blossom honey.

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A lot of common culinary items traveled out the East. The list includes onions, garlic, beetroot, leeks, carrots and turnips . The Arabs are credited with introducing them to Europe.

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Sweet fava beans are a staple of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking, which explains why they are so abundant here in the Al-Garve. Young favas can be eaten unpeeled and are a great snack with an aged and salty sheep’s milk cheese. Mature favas need to have their tough outer skins removed. Their flavour is excellent in everything from salads to hearty soups.

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Damascus steel was a type of steel used in Middle Eastern sword-making. The exact method of production is still unknown. However, the history and reputation of Damascus steel has brought many legends. In 2006, a German research team published a report telling of nanowires and carbon nanotubes in a blade forged from Damascus steel. My point is to make sure to get yourself a decent of knives

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Who does’nt love cooking over fire. Try grilling cauliflower next time. It was another vegetable brought by the Arabs along with celery, celery root, fennel, cabbage and eggplant. Spinach and arugula too.

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The tuna no longer run off Al-Garve waters and so the traditional method of netting them is obsolete. The “Almadraba” style of steering the tuna through a series of nets was introduced by the Moors into the Al-Garve. You can still buy tuna fresh at the local fish market or buy it canned. If you purchase canned tuna,make sure it is packed in olive oil.Or you can do what I do and that is to make your own tuna ‘conserva”. And that way, you know you are using an excellent local olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil from Moncarapacho here in the Al-Garve can and has beaten the best the world has to offer. Look no further than olive oil fairs recently in New York City.

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This is cilantro or ‘coentro” from my garden. It is flowering which means that it will go to seed. I pick and save the seeds for my spice blends and also to plant again next year. Insh’Allah.

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Honey bees play a very important role in our food production system. Up to 70% of the food on your plate has been pollinated by a honey bee. Bee aware that fertilising chemicals brought to you by the likes of Monsanto are destroying bee populations across the globe. You want your food to be as clean as possible, not “pharm fresh”. Support your local, organic and sustainable farm network. I buy directly from Quinta Shanti in Conceicao in the Al-Garve. Thank you, Angela.

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Fennel pollen is another under rated kitchen ingredient. I use it primarily as a seasoning for fish.

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Lastly, where would we be if the Arabs had not cultivated coffee and brought it to Europe also. The history of coffee, coffee culture and Portugal goes hand in hand. I enjoy making roasted coffee blends with the spirit of Portugal in mind. The blends include Brazilian, Sumatra or Timor and Yemenese coffee beans. Enjoy that “bica”. A dhow is an Arab fishing vessel. Callous can be interpreted as jaded, tired and spent. Eat like a peasant.

 

The Shake Shake Sheikh of Araby.

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The bright melange of spices in a good Hawaj blend is reminiscant of busy fishing ports up and down the Red Sea. This is a different Cooking of the Sun.

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There are probably a million and one ways to cook this dish.
I diced onion, garlic, ginger, carrot, parsnip and celery as a vegetable base and sweated them all together in grape seed oil with sea salt until they began to loose their moisture content and concentrate their flavors. I added my “I Kill You” blend of Hawaj spices and deglazed with lemon juice and honey. My Hawaj was tomato based and I am fortunate to still have a few jars of last summer’s preserved tomatoes remaining in the pantry. Basically, the pristine fresh fish was steamed over the spices in the stew. Notice that my stew is not awash. The flavors are very concentrated. The mussels can be interpreted as “sea dates” and lent their flavor.

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Yes, mon or yeah man but it’s all about the craft of coffee roasting which has a long tradition in this part of the planet. These beans or seeds are from Yemen.

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All Coffee from Yemen may be regarded as heirloom with hundreds of years of tradition behind it. Yemeni coffee is commonly grown at over 5,000 ft. and agricultural practices may be regarded as organic. Yemeni coffee is a small bean and is dry processed. All of its production is done by hand.

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I roasted my Yemeni coffee beans on top of the stove in a heavy skillet without bells or whistles. These beans are a hard bean so can be exposed to a longer duration of heat. These beans are just freshly roasted. Over the course of the next day or so they will settle themselves after having being roasted. Each day, the attentive cook will notice changes to the roast. The roasted beans need to de-gas and the aroma will change. Some oils may emerge, suggesting the degree of roasting. I like it rich and chocolatey.

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Though I am not a believer in flavored coffees, there are always an exception or two. One is the addition of cardamom. Coffee and cardamom pair very nicely with each other. Eat like a peasant.

Feast of the Seven Fishes.

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The origins of the Feast of the Seven Fishes (or Festa dei Sette Pesci, in Italian)can be traced back to early Roman times in Sicily. It was celebrated on Christmas Eve as an act of purification or cleansing to prepare for the birth. The feast can also be can also be called “La Vigilia di Natale” or the vigil. The Feast required people to abstain from meat and dairy.

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This is smoked mackerel, parsnip and leek soup in a porcini mushroom base, accented with thyme and bay leave. This was a great way to use up the end of the leeks from my garden.

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The notion of abstinance and anchovy’s together can seem like punishment to some people.

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But there is a school of thought which contends that the feast has its origins in ancient Egypt and the Nile. In which case, the feast is regarded as a festival of abundance. I think I prefer that particular aspect.

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This flatbread or focaccia is based on a traditional Apulian recipe using onion, anchovy, olives and rosemary. I used scallions instead  to brighten up the flatbread. The absence of dairy or cheese reminds me of the original Neapolitan pizzas. Though I try to use only New England fish species, these anchovies from Italy are the exception this year. The baby Jesus wept!

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Venice is well known for its seafood risotti. On this occasion, I traded in the butter that I would normally use to make a risotto and used grapeseed oil in its place. This crabmeat risotto includes carrot and both red and green chiles. The chiles are mild so as not to dominate and the carrot adds a sweet element. Because there is no egg employed to bind the rice cakes, they are very light and need an even lighter touch when it comes down to their handling.

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I like to carmelize a slice of lemon. I like the stronger, more robust lemony flavor added by keeping the lemon rind attached. Preserved lemon would also make an an attractive, simple garnish to accompany.

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Salting cod to preserve is a seasonal activity at this time of year. I like to make my own salted cod . I prefer it over what it available commercially. In fact, there is no comparison with the flavor. I like to use thyme from my garden, lemon zest and thinly sliced, whole dried cayenne pepper in the cure. I cure or dry the codfish for  up to four days.

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Polenta is another mainstay from the Veneto region in Italy. This is peasant food at it’s most simplest. Essentially, it is coarse cornmeal and water stirred together. I like to fry the polenta in grape seed oil. In my opinion, fried food never really tastes oily or greasy when using grape seed oil.

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Combining polenta and salt cod in tomato sauce is a classic pairing. It is even better when the tomatoes are ones that have been preserved from the summer. It is fair to say that I use a lot of extra virgin olive oil. All of the plates will be enhanced by drizzling, nay, pouring generously ……..lots of good quality oil over each plate  one to finish.

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One of the things I like to try to do for this menu is to try to include as much vegetables from my garden as possible. I saved the peas in the freezer and that’s why they get to be used. Berbere is a spice mix from Ethiopia.  It gets its color from ground up hot dried peppers and paprika.

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Seared sea scallops with pea puree, Ethiopian spices, lemon zest and extra virgin olive oil.

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The nice thing about this menu is that you get to eat your favourite items. I love to combine fish and potatoes in any permutation. Add fennel and that leaves room for garlic and rosemary. The fish is scup, or porgie. It is a member of the sea bream family and  is fast becoming one of my favorite fishes to eat. For me, the advantages are that it is small/large enough to be cooked whole and it is relatively inexpensive. The fish can also yield two nice sized filets plus the bones to make fish stock. With this fish, you have options. Best of all, there are still lots of this fish left in the ocean and it is what we should be eating. It’s not farmed either.

 

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Pan fried potato crusted scup with fennel “confit”. If the number seven is regarded as the most perfect number, then at least I’m consistent in my imperfections. I cooked six courses. There is always next year again and plenty of fish to be cooked in the meantime. Thanks for reading and eat like a peasant.

The Callous Dhow Boy Ashore in Asir

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

Crescent Moon, Red Sea

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Night fishing in the Red Sea comes with its own unique set of circumstances. Not only are the currents, tides and reefs but there are also some of the fastest and hungriest of sharks to compete with. This rhythm of living is not for everyone.

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This is tilefish. The warm water currents pushing up from south bring this fish to Massachussets waters. It gets to live in these currents just off of the continental shelf. Local small boats race out the distance, about 100 miles, fill their holds and race back to shore. This tilefish is brought to me by Red’s Best Seafood in Boston. And on a personal note, thank you Jason Tucker, for bringing Boston the freshest fish.

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I can only imagine the conditions aboard a dhow, especially from a cook’s perspective. On small boats, it was a shared responsibility. Nonetheless, you are cooking off the grid, astride a moving body of water and hoping you are not the one to set this craft afire. I can only imagine the arduous conditions in which to feed people.

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Hawaj is a blend of spices from Yemen. Traditionally, it was used to flavour sheep, goat, or even, camel on the desert caravans. Hawaj is a melange of turmeric, black pepper, cumin, clove and cardamom. Its flavour profile is tart peppery.

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I dry rubbed the tilefish with the Hawaj seasoning and let it sit while the fire came to temperature and the  grilled the fish. I grilled garlicky pole beans to offset the warm spiced nuances of my Hawaj.

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I seasoned pototoes from my garden with Hawaj. I was not disappointed.

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My Hawaj relied on the princinciples of dhow cooking……no pork, no alcohol…..and limited humble resources……..but plenty of fire.

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My Hawaj is conspicuous by its lack of broth and a dhow. I used a base of tomato juice and rested the seasoned, in this case, cod in the plate with thyme, preserved lemon and Aleppo pepper from Syria. I crossed my fingers and hoped I would not be tossed overboard.

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Every peasant gets this idea of having a flat bread to clean up your plate with. I have rubbed my flat bread with a simple rosemary brush in order to spread the oil around. I have only grapeseed oil.

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Rosemary and coarse sea salt flat bread or hearth bread.

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My interpretation of Hawaj…..with the sea. As the fish cooks, fissures appear. you can see where the juices and olive oil meet. Hawaj can be prepared to your degree or level of heat. I suggest going mild. Let your fish speak with an Arab flavour, insh’allah.

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Yemani coffee is a dying species. For coffee afficionados, this is too bad and that is another story for another night. Haul in those nets. Thanks for reading and eat like a peasant.

Hookah, Line and Sinker.

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The latest buzz is that my little garden reaches its peak around this time with the arrival of dozens of honey bees. They are attracted to the yellow blossoms of wild arugala. It is still just a little early but when it happens, it is a phenomenon because all you can hear is the low drone of many bees at work. It can be a bit unnerving if you are not used to it. I have learned not to wear dark clothes because the bees think that I am a bear looking for trouble. If I wear a yellow t-shirt, everyone gets along. Anyway, this experience has convinced me enough to take a bee-keeping class next Spring. Let’s see what’s for supper to-night. Guess whose coming to dinner?

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The answer to the question is easy. Natty dreadlocks is coming for dinner……This pizzette or fully loaded flat-bread is topped with roasted peppers, Taggiasca olives and a creamy goat/sheep’s milk feta cheese. I like to make this hearth bread with 50% whole wheat flour for a more rustic, peasant style. It is definitely earthy, crunchy at a whole other level. This bread starter that I use dates back to last January.

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This is going to be the back bone of supper to-night. Tomato, in Italian, translates as “Pomodoro” or literally, apple of gold. These heirloom tomatoes are called Orange Valencia. They are, in my opinion, a sauce tomato rather than a slicing tomato. I will trim, blanch, shock, de-seed and prep the tomatoes so as to proceed with supper. I’m in the mood for Middle Eastern. Let’s see what else the garden has to give.

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Hello, cauliflower. Earlier this year, at which time it seemed like a good idea, I bought a flat of six cauliflower seedlings. Of the original six, three survived. The variety is called called “Snowcrown”, a commercial strain you might see in a supermarket. My snowcrown came with a purplish tint. Thats not what it looks like in the catalogues. I think my little visitor was as surprised as me. Cauliflower was introduced into Europe by the Arabs. Middle Eastern enough, so far, so good. I am not repulsed by the sight of a live snail on my cauliflower. Snails like them. But, in this day where chemicals are everywhere, I am happy to think that I have a …..fresh garden.

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This zucchini squash is a Middle Eastern heirloom named “Cousa”. It might even be Syrian. It looks like it has adapted to its shady, woodland location here in my New England back-yard. This was a re-seed from my compost heap.

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Garden centric grain salad composed of farro, heirloom carrots and pole beans, garlic, tomato and herbs. Farro, a relative of wheat, also has its origins traced back to the Middle East.

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I made a mild curry style stew with my tomatoes, garlic,cauliflower, zucchini and herbs. I decided to double starch and imagined this with either simple boiled potatoes or brown basmati rice. I’m a sucker for fish and potatoes any day, anyhow.

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But this callous dhow boy is in the mood for fish too. I marinated swordfish in extra virgin olive oil, light curry spices, garlic, lemon zest and herbs for about thirty minutes. Then seared the swordfish in a hot skillet. I transferred the still rare sword fish to the cauldron and completed its cooking. Minutes later. The swordfish is cooked. It has absorbed mild spice flavor and is meltingly moist. This is how I like my seafood stews. Sometimes, the spice can seem a little coarse or rough. I like like to smooth out those rough edges with a little honey. Honey is the main sweetener in this kitchen, honey! You do not need a lot.

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10 foot sunflower plant. Thanks for reading. Eat like a peasant.

Fishermans Blues.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Bad Ass Mother……..

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This is mother-of-vinegar. And this is homemade slow made apple cider vinegar. The apple juice is from last Autumn.

 

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Cherries and Goats Milk Feta from the Greek market is the starting point of this flatbread. I wanted a Middle Eastern accent so I just picked the thyme as is and added some green coriander seeds. Then I remembered unsalted pistachio nuts in my freezer.

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I received this bottle of extra virgin olive oil for Fathers Day from my son, Eoin. I like his exquisite good taste.

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Pre-oven…….I had some Tallegio that needed to be used up.

 

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I pressed cumin seed into the stretched out dough where it would meet the baking stone. The cumin toasted and roasted and added a layer of mystery. And teased me. So much potential for this little plate. Spiced game bird of some kind like quail or squab. Perhaps trade in the cherries for another in season stone fruit. I like plums. Or nectarines. And work on the spice a little too. You get the idea. Eat like a peasant. Thanks for reading.

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Of Kneecaps and Niqabs

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I’m still in my Middle Eastern groove………..and yes, I fell in love with her eyes. Hence, the niqab reference. Ever since, I’ve been a sucker for a good hummus and sesame cracker. And because it is almost impossible to find these items at an acceptable level of quality I make these at home.
Hummus is a Middle Eastern classic. And mine is not so spun that it is smooth, aerated or fluffy. It is denser. I use dried chick peas, olive oil, tahini, lemon and sea salt. The only other additions are freshly ground toasted cumin seed and roasted garlic.
The sesame crackers earn the right to be called sesame crackers with the addition of dark sesame oil and toasted unhulled sesame seeds. Must be unhulled.

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And this is Monkfish once again. This is monkfish on the bone. Restaurant menus might describe it as ‘saddle of monkfish’. If you look closely, you can see the bone protruding. And on either side of the bone are the monkfish loins. Interestingly, it looks reminiscent of veal shanks for Osso Bucco. Even more interesting is that it can be prepared somewhat in the same manner. You just won’t cook the fish quite as long as a dead cow’s rear leg.
All I want to do is make a spicy seafood stew.

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I marinated the monkfish in yoghurt with garlic, ginger and Saudi Arabian Kabsa spice blend.
I roasted carrots and turnips together and later added garlic, ginger and Kabsa seasoning, chick peas, capers and honey. I hydrated this mix with the chick pea cooking water and tossed in a bay leave. I seared the marinated monkfish, added the seared fish to the chick pea vegetable braise and finished it in the oven. Then poured olive oil all over the dish to finish it. You’ll be on your knees before you know it. Eat like a peasant.