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.

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Winging It.

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These are Spanish Rioja garlic scapes. You have to clip these so as to have pickable garlic bulbs in about a months time. In the meantime, use the scapes the same way you would use garlic. Despite the cold spring here, I am surprised that they seem to have arrived early. A second variety I planted, Purple Glazer, has not begun to (e)scape yet. Apparently, this has been the coldest spring since 1996. No wonder everything is struggling in my little garden. But as long as I have garlic, I am content.

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Earthy crunchy home made whole wheat pizzette topped with roasted beets, crumbled goats milk cheese and garden scallions. Zen spartan brilliance. Match this with some salad, some immaculate olive oil and if you are feeling frisky, have another glass of wine.

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I like this image for a couple of reasons. I like how the parsley stem still has the pea tendril still attached. Clearly, the peas used the parsley for support. The onion, thyme and parsley bring back austere memories of damp mornings and steamy kitchens. But  parsley still remains my favorite herb. And this particular variety is called “Gigante d’Italia”. Or “Giant of Italy”. Think gigantic. This will grow over four feet in my little space. This parsley is nowhere near what is available in a regular grocery. It has some spine, snap and flavor.

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I have mentioned Red’s Best seafood previously on this blog. The skate is from Woods Hole on Cape Cod. Images of cool underwater exploration, Robert Ballard and Titanic. Skate is very cartilaginous. Skate wing is the pectoral fin which is used for flying or gliding through water. Though it is difficult to overcook this fish, believe me, it can be done. You do not really want to that thus making the wing rubbery. The cooked wing should simply melt in your mouth

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I seasoned the fish with black pepper and very lightly with salt. Besides using the garden grown garlic scapes and parsley, I also used home made preserved lemon and salted capers to flavor the fish. Skate needs big flavors and acidity to cut through all that wing juiciness. The preserved lemon and salted capers add a Sicilian accent. But everyone knows that the very best capers come from the island of Pantellaria. Pantellaria is closer to north Africa than it is to Sicily. Make sure to use lots of good extra virgin olive oil.

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Sicilian flavors and Sicilian oil. Planeta puts out decent wine also. I refer you all to my earliest postings on all about extra virgin olive oil. Essential information that answers all the questions you are afraid to ask.

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Peas starting to drop. I’m going to pick some so as to encourage more pod growth.

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Sauteed garden onion and pea pods accented with thyme. Eat like a peasant. Thanks for reading.

More Ass Than A Toilet Seat……..the garden.

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I have been eating chives for weeks here in New England. Soon, these chives will flower and I will eat them too. You can see where they will burst open, those little brown pointy things at the top. These yield tasty chive blossoms. Chives are low maintenance and come back every year………..no matter what!

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Desiring a kitchen garden is one thing, putting it together is another. I have a small space and my goal is to have something growing in all seasons, even in the tough New England winter. I planted this garlic back in late November. They look good so far but I won’t see a garlic scape until June. These lived under a weight of snow for months.

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Now this is what I am talking about…….90% of what I grow in my little space are heirloom seeds and plants. This is the original radicchio. Obviously, it is going to taste different from what you would experience in it’s original turf, but it is grown in my back yard with the best intentions and spirit. And it looks very pretty too. The best thing is that it is a perennial. I love low maintenance.

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The low maintenance gardening theme continues with mustard which re-seeds itself somehow every year. I don’t plan for it but it all becomes part of my garden foraged salad mix in the spring. I have lots of free wild edible plants in my back yard from dandelion to chickweed to purslane.

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What spring garden is not complete without radishes. In amongst them are re-seeded wild mountain fennel from Sicily.

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This is an Italian variety of lettuce called “Regina di Maggio” or Queen of May. I’m thinking good luck, see you in June. It has been a cold spring here, a dry spring here but usually around this time I expect to see bigger baby lettuces. Cue to me….more weeding and thinning of plants. I have some Romaine lettuce someplace else but not today. These need to be thinned out.

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Blueberry blossoms………the race is on between me and the local squirrel population.

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Rhubarb…….another perennial and low maintenance too. This is heirloom rhubarb too. Good stuff!

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I have struggled with peas this year or peas have given me a hard time. Either way there is a 3 week difference between the good looking one with pea tendrils and the line of peas emerging behind it. Give peas a chance. They are one of the first things I plant in the spring. This heirloom pea is called “Telefono” and Italian in origin.

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Strawberries…….more perennials and more low maintenance. These are Alpine strawberries. The squirrels can eat these but not the blueberries.

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Black raspberries………old growth and new growth.

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Parsley……my favorite kitchen herb. These are transplants but I know I threw down some parsley seed somewhere……a whole bag scattered…………ferns in the background………..no fiddleheads.

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Preserved lemon. No, I did not grow the lemon but it is a handy kitchen pantry item. But I did make these from scratch.

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After a gruelling day in the garden, I want something to ease the muscle ache, tease the brain and taste good. This is a blend of chopped unsalted pistachios, salted capers, preserved lemon and chile flakes. This is down home Sicilian Arab cooking. Baby, I love you so.

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Baked cod with lots of stuff not from the garden………..it takes time to grow the food. In New England, it can still get down to 40 degrees at night. Thats too cold for tomatoes yet. Three more weeks, fingers crossed. Maybe next time, I can show you leeks, kale, brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Way to soon for any mention of tomatoes.

Kamut Pasta…….This Is How We Roll

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Finally………I have only ever used store bought Kamut pasta. I wanted to try my hand making it at home. I have never used the whole grain before. How hard can this be? Well, for one I am not going to use any eggs. Egg pasta is richer and harder to digest than a pasta made from flour and water. In that context also, egg pasta can seem a little heavier. Need to know more about Kamut, check out my blogroll. Thanks to the good people at Kamut International who steered me towards Bob’s Red Mill. If you have an interest in grains, I’d suggest them.

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Here are the raw materials……….ground up Kamut, water and salt. There is no need to add anything else, especially olive oil. I have tried making it with olive oil. It did not work for me.

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There were two mistakes I made the first time around. I already mentioned olive oil. The second mistake I made was not to grind the grain fine enough. As a result, the small pieces of grain kernel worked like glass shards and cut into any elasticity action during the stretching or rolling out procedure. The simple corrective action was to sieve everything and re-mill what was left. Here, I was reminded of “00” pasta flour from Italy. “00” simply means that it has been re-milled. So, that’s what I did and obtained a finer measure of coarseness. I’m using the whole grain, don’t forget. Right now, the only way for me to get the Kamut flour finer is to obtain  a finer meshed strainer or sieve.

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So far, so good……..the pasta is not being ripped to bits. I can live with the rough edges of the pasta sheet. This was a very hard grain to deal with. If you have not made pasta before, I’d suggest not trying this just yet.If you are somewhat proficient at pasta making, press ahead and let me know how you made out. The observant eye will notice there is no clamp with my pasta machine. It makes the job a little harder to do.

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I weighed out 4 ounces of sieved or strained home milled Kamut and mixed it with 2 ounces of water, then kneaded it a while before introducing the pasta dough to the machine. I know there are different ways to roll out pasta. I used the hand-crank machine, an Imperia from Torino. Forza, Juve.

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Times like this I wish I had audio here……..pasta making music. I also decided to use the attachament that came with the pasta machine to make my life a little easier. There are other ways to cut pasta. I’m just happy I got this far with the project.

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Pasta and the sauce to go along with it……….one of life’s little or big mysteries. I’m opting for garlic and porcini mushrooms to build a sauce on.A splash of white wine for acidity and the leftover water from rehydrating the porcini mushrooms as a stock base. This starving peasant has no herbs. Sage might be nice. But then, I remembered….something more appropriate.

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What a delicious winter side-dish that can pair with just about anything. I roasted root vegetables like carrots, parsnips and rutabaga and glazed them with local raw honey. Then I added a Sicilian twist with white wine soaked golden raisins and salted capers.

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I added the green radicchio to brighten the pan and  give bitterness to offset the earthiness of the porcini and also as a measure against the sweetness of the side-dish of roots. I used toasted chopped hazelnuts in addition because I can imagine wild boar going around the forest feeding on these things. Besides, the word “porcini” translates as little pigs. I added the hazelnuts for texture and crunch. Two things…..this dish could have used a little Speck or Pancetta added, entirely optional. There is that pig again. And secondly, there is no tomato sauce or cream. Extra virgin olive oil. Eat like a gangster. thanks for reading. Hello, Ireland and Hello, Japan.