Today’s dish is simple, light, with delicate flavors of the earth and the sea.

I got a very fresh sea bass and filleted it. The flesh was firm and the smell wonderful! Such a good piece of fish should not be cooked at all! I submerged it for a couple of hours in cold water with the juice of one lemon and a bit of coarse salt, while I was preparing the accompanying ingredient of the dish: a puree of split yellow peas.


As always, I use yellow split peas  (“fava” in Greek) from the island of Santorini (Thira) whose volcanic soil produces the best “fava” in Greece. Once the puree is ready, I add lemon juice, finely chopped dry onions, coriander, olive oil, salt and pepper.

I slice the sea bass fillet, and place on top of the puree with fresh coriander.

Enjoy with a glass of asyrtico white from Santorini, and please tell me what you make of this divine dish!

Ristorante Madonina del Pescatore: La immortalità del cibo

Δευτέρα, 27 Δεκεμβρίου, 2010

Today’s post is about my visit to Moreno Cedroni’s restaurant “Madonina del Pescatore”, in Senigallia, near Ancona, Italy. I was there on my way to Tuscany, and decided to have lunch at the restaurant before proceeding with my trip.

Senigallia is on the Adriatic coast, south of Rimini, the birth town of Fellini. I was there back in the summer of 2009, when I visited the “Uliassi” restaurant, on my way to Ravenna.

It was late December. The long road by the beach was empty in the middle of the day, in sharp contrast with the pandemonium of the summer. The air was not cold, but humid, and the atmosphere hazy. The big lady dressed in dark greeted me and suggested to have a good lunch, as you never know when life will end. She then turned back to her endless gazing at the sea.

The restaurant has been awarded two Michelin Red Guide stars many years ago, and has managed to keep them, a good indication that time is acting to the chef’s benefit so far. The theme of the chef’s creations is “la immortalità del cibo”, i.e. “the immortality of the food”. It sounded very good to me, especially after my encounter a few moments before. I entered the restaurant and ordered the menu of the chef, eager to taste what the chef had in store, eager to immortalize my humble existence for even a split second. .

The beginning was hygienic, as I was asked to brush my teeth and then wash them with the greenish liquid.

Mojito alla Lavanda e Nocciolina.

Then came the aperitivo, a tasty white foam on a bed a martini cubes, accompanied by a fake pistachio in his crust. So far so good.

There was no amuse bouche, the action started straight away.

Raw amberjack, leeks and lemongrass sauce, pancy, basil and fried amarant. The amberjack was sweet and tender but with texture. The sauce was discrete, supporting the fish taste.

Oyster with sour cream, green onion, raspberry caramel and pearls with black tea. Oysters require subtlety and superior balance. They can get very watery and soft, or dry and tough. In this dish, the chef has achieved perfection. The pearls of black tea complemented the flavors superbly, by adding a slightly bitter note to the harmony.

Swordfish bites “shabu shabu” style with celeriac, pineapple and green peppers. Shabu-shabu directly translates to “swish-swish” and is a cooking technique whereby you submerge bits of the meat or fish in hot water and swish it around. The taste of the flesh was mildly aromatic and firm. Good balance of subtle sweet and sour in the accompanying vegetables and fruit.

Tribute to Giacomelli (see below): the black figure awaits the white – black bean sauce with seared scallops. I am a scallop lover. I fell in love with this dish. The scallops were seared to perfection, the seasoning ever so subtle and discrete to simply accentuate the natural flavors. The black bean sauce supporting the scallops extremely smooth and fine.

Mario Giacomelli (1925 – 2000) was a photographer born and raised in Senigallia.

Cardoon soup, camomile and cuttlefish. Soothing, smooth, flavorful, the soup supports the tender cuttlefish. A nice interlude.

Risotto with clams, red shrimps and squid, “aio oio”,  parsley and wasabi sauce. This dish is the powerhouse of the menu. The combination of “aio oio” that is “aglio e olio” that is “garlic and olive oil” with the wasabi sauce was a big success, and elevated the risotto to the sky!

Turbot with braised wild mushrooms, jerusalem artichokes sauce and white truffles acqualagna. The turbot was tender, seared to perfection, the accompanying mushrooms and the sauce as always subtle and supporting. Deliciou,s uplifting dish!

The dishes were accompanied by moderate quantities of the excellent white wine “VERDICCHIO DEI CASTELLI DI JESI VIGNA DELLA OCHE 2008″.

Sorbet of Toma Cheese with strawberry jam. Wonderful combination of flavors!

Chocolate mousse, Clementine oil and sea urchin eggs. The absolute star of the deserts, a hard core dynamite combination that blows up in your mouth. Extremely long aftertaste.

Purple ice cream, raspberry mousse and streusel spice. The best sequel to the dynamite mousse, playful in colors and subtle flavors.

Ice cold zabaione (-196 degrees). The illusion of taste. This puffy blob disappears in the mouth so quickly and so suddenly that it is like the descend to nothingness. This is the end.

On my way out I looked at the long sandy beach. Did I become immortal? Even for a split second?

Yes! In the deserted, winterly beach by the Adriatic I entered the world of split second immortality. This now occurs to me as the continuation of the path that originated in Vienna, when I visited the Vestibuel Restaurant, and I declared:

“If mortality is so beautiful, I am happy to be mortal!”

I now realize that this statement anticipated the experience of split second immortality, therefore it is the prologue to the immortality path that now took me to Senigallia.

Damianos Fish Tavern, Ambelas, island of Paros, Greece

Τρίτη, 12 Οκτωβρίου, 2010

A touch of the unforeseen landed me on the island of Paros for a short visit in October. The tourist season in Paros is very short, only three months, June, July, September. As a result in the first half of October the options for a decent meal to the visitor are limited.

Initially I wanted to go to Ventouris, a fish tavern I have enjoyed in the past, but as I have heard the tavern was closed. Instead, I opted for the fish tavern of Damianos, 100 meters from Ventouris. Here is my report.

The tavern is literally by the sea. However, the days before my arrival there were quite strong winds that prevented the fish boats from fishing. The result is that the fresh fish available was minimal (literally). When nature tries you you have to resort to the means by which man has been able to preserve food. In this case, salt curing provided the answer to the question: “what  do you recommend for today?”

Salt cured red mullet with garlic and rosemary

Manos brought to me the red mullet fillets that have been salt cured, then thoroughly cleaned from the salt and stored in olive oil, thin slices of garlic and rosemary. The taste was wonderful, intense, full of flavor, and the flesh juicy and firm. Eduardo, the Peruvian who has made Paros his home for the last 15 years, told me the story of the dish. It started from a village on the Peloponnese and was modified by Damianos, the owner of the tavern.

Salt cured sardines - frissa

The next delicacy was salt cured frissa, the large sardine fished in the waters of the Aegean.  Here what impressed me was the balance of the salty taste, and the moist flesh of the fish. One thing is obvious, Damianos knows how to salt cure fish!!!

Potatoes with onions and capers

The island of Naxos can be seen from Ambelas. It is less than 5 nautical miles away. Manos told me that they had received some nice potatoes from Naxos. they boiled them, dressed them with olive oil, and served with parsley, onions and capers which grow in abundance on Paros. I Was lucky to taste this dish, that in its simplicity was magnificent!!!! The flesh of the potato was sweet, soft and almost creamy. The combination with the onions and the capers was harmonious.

Vegetables

This dish of assorted vegetables came to partner with the main protein dish of the meal, chick peas!!! Chick peas  grown on the island of Paros are limited in quantities but delicious. They cook them in the oven with plenty of onions and herbs (mainly oregano). They are soft, tender, and have smoky flavor.

Chick peas

At the end, a simple and delicious local sweet, called “patsavouropita”, literally translated as “rag-pie”. It is made with fillo, and a mix of eggs, milk, flower, and a bit of lemon peel.

Eating is Damianos was a pleasure of discovery of the technique and joy of salt curing done with expertise and skill. But the potatoes with the onions and the capers topped the bill for me as the simplest and most flavorful dish. Talking to Eduardo after the meal, he promised to me that next time (assuming that fish and seafood will be available) he will prepare the original Peruvian cheviche. For those who have tasted the original Peruvian cheviche, this sounds like a very good reason for another quick visit to Paros. Thank you Eduardo, Manos, and Thodoris, for a wonderful meal and your hospitality.

Au revoir!

Brandada de Bacalao – Salt Cod Mash (Brandade)

Κυριακή, 3 Οκτωβρίου, 2010

After the excesses of Despoinarion’s Oscars gala dinner, today’s dish is easy, cheap (cost efficient) and tasty! In addition, it has a name that in some languages refers to sensual oscillations…

Lets start with the geography of the dish. It is a Mediterranean dish, in the large sense, as we find it also in Portugal and the Basque Country. We find it in Catalunya, Provence, Rousillon, Languedoc, Liguria, Valencia.

It is based on salt cod (bacalao), garlic and olive oil. The variations include bread, potatoes, cream. What I present today is my own version, which uses potatoes, parsley, dill, garlic, and bread crumbs. It is an all season all weather dish, and goes very well with white wine. Who said that cucina povera is not wonderful?

It is best to use salted cod for the dish. Desalinate the cod and then remove the skin. Simmer in milk for 5 minutes in medium heat. Then gently break the flesh in a food processor. Gently, otherwise, you will get a mousse instead of threads.

Chop garlic, parseley and dill and boil potates until they become soft. Remove from the heat, drain, and then gently mash them in the food processor. Bring all the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.

 Spread the mix on a baking tray that has been thoroughly oiled, cover with breadcrumds and bake in 200 degrees centigrade for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 30 minutes before serving.

Prepare a mix of vegetables (fried or baked) for serving with the brandade. I have prepared a mix of red peppers, eggplants and zucchini with tomato sauce.

Cut the brandade in squares and serve over the vegetables sprinkling with chopped parsely.

Enjoy responsibly with chilled asirtiko, and let the good times roll!!!

Pissaladiere with smoked herring

Σάββατο, 31 Ιουλίου, 2010

Pissaladiere is a pizza-like dish of the South of France. Its name comes from the word pissalat (“salted fish”). It has a lot of onions, and no tomatoes or cheese.

I read about this in the Rowley Leigh cookery column of the Financial Times, where he presented a recipe with sardines instead of the traditional anchovies. I took it and gave it a twist, so that it has smoked herring, which I like very much.

The dough is very simple: 300 gr flour, 2 tablespoons of yeast, warm water, 1 tablespoon of salt, one large egg.  Mix until you get a firm enough dough that you can spread over a deep baking tray.  Leigh recommends also 150 grams of butter. I did not put it in, as it would make it very heavy for my summer taste.

Slice the onions, 6 large ones is the minimum, and put them in a large saucepan with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Let them stew for at least half an hour, and let it chill for another half.

Once the dough is evenly spread in the baking tray, spread the onions on top of it.

Now is the time to add all the toppings on top of the onion base.

The first to go is sliced chilli peppers and black olives. The next is thinly sliced basilico, dill, and parsley. Finally, I add the herring in stripes and add the final ingredient, fresh oregano.

The key here is not to add any cheese or tomato.

Bake in the oven (230 Centigrade) for 20 minutes and serve with a full-bodied white (like a Sicilian Chardonnay).

The dish is wonderful! IT has a kick from the peppers, it is sweet because of the onions, it has the savory bitterness of the olives, supplemented by the aromatic greens added on top, and the queen of the dish, the herring comes out of the bouquet of flavors on top.

Grey weakfish with summer vegetables

Σάββατο, 10 Ιουλίου, 2010

It is the time of the year for the wonderful grey weakfish (mylokopi in Greek) which has a whitish firm flesh and complex taste.

I fillet the fish and leave it in olive oil for an hour or so. In the meantime, I prepare my vegetables.

I start with these wonderful round zucchinis, which I slice, and continue with slicing eggplants, red and green peppers.

I put them all in a big baking tray, sprinkle generously with olive oil and cook them in the oven for 45 minutes at maximum heat, so that most of the moisture goes away but the vegetables retain their shape and texture. A key to the success of the dish is the taste of the vegetables. I therefore add in the middle of the cooking time some fish stock to enhance the flavor. It works!

Note that I do not use tomato in the mix. This is because I use fried slices of tomatoes sprinkled with parsley as a component of the dish. Ideally, it would be green fried tomatoes, but it is hard to find green tomatoes in the Greek market, so I had to do with the available red ones!

It is time to sauté the fish. Very high heat, skin side down, two minutes maximum on the skin side, 30 seconds on the other side, and out. Serve immediately on a bed of a sauce made with the fish stock (head and all bones) and the vegetables in it (onions, carrots).

The dish is a layered construct, with the fish fillet one before the top, the top being the fried tomato. Sprinkle generously with parsley and consule immediately.

It is an extremely light and tasty dish, that will satisfy almost everyone.

Enjoy it with a robust Greek white wine, like asirtiko!

A couple of months ago, I posted a recipe for boiled grouper head with salad and vegetables, served with Greek Mayonnaise.

Today I present a variation of the dish, where I praise the green beans that are now in season in Greece.

The green beans come in many varieties, I prefer what we call “tsaoulia” in Greek. They are very long, have the shape of an elongated cylinder and when freshly cut are very tender. They need no preparation other than cutting the edges. The test I deploy before buying them is to break one in two pieces and smell it. If the aroma of the fresh flesh comes to you, we are in business!

I steam the beans, I do not boil them. You can notice that close to the brim of the pot there is another folding container with holes, which holds the beans. There is water in the pot, but only enough for it to create the required steam. The beans do not come in touch with the water. Also, the beans are as they came out of the field. I do not put any salt or other substance. For the purposes of taking the photo I uncovered the pot, but in order for the steam to do its work, the pot must be covered for the duration of the process.

Just do it this way and – if the beans are good – you will not want to put even salt on them!  You will taste the bean in its natural taste and flavor! And it is wonderful!

While the beans are being steamed, the fish head (usually grouper, but any big mother will do) is boiling in water, a bit of olive oil, dry onions, carrots, and celery. The unbeatable mix for creating a solid flavor baseline. I never boil the fish more than 20 minutes, because I want the flesh to be firm and juicy. It makes a huge difference in texture and flavor! The criterion for this is for the meat to “just” come off the bones, as if it is still lightly glued to them.

In parallel, I prepare the Greek Mayonnaise, which is a regular mayonnaise embellished with red fish roe, tarama, as we call it in Greek. the Greek Mayonnaise is therefore a cross between the French mayonnaise and the taramasalata, for those who know it. Try it and you will never have boiled fish without it!

To serve, you create a base with the beans, put the fish on top, sliced carrots around with parsley and dill, and sprinkle with olive oil and coarse sea salt. If you like lemon, add just a bit of lemon juice over the dish, to give it an extra kick of acidity. You finish the dish by putting a big dollop of the Greek Mayonnaise on top.

Enjoy it! Bon Appetit!

Late May in Greece and the continuum of space and time is broken.

You go to the beach and although the water is still rather cold, there are many ways to get warm inside your heart.

You then go for a stroll in the area and the smell of cooking foods arrest your senses.

In my case, I got so excited about all this that when my sister called me announcing that she had a lobster from Cyclades, I run to her house in almost zero time. (the more you want something, the more time is distorted – and with the distortion of time comes the degradation of senses and feelings).

Armirikia

The wonderful “armirikia”, the greens growing near the sea, are the natural choice of a warm salad to start your meal. All you need is olive oil, lemon juice and a bit of sea salt.

Maridakia

The next dish is the wonderful “maridakia”, small fish that is fried without any gutting or descaling. The absolute taste of the sea, must be eaten whole and enjoyed with ouzo. My sister fried them to perfection, and added to the dish a couple of seaweeds that were the highlight! I want to have fried seaweed now!

Lobster salad

The lobster came from the Cyclades, the islands complex in the center of the Aegean. I prepared the salad with the meat from the claws.

I started breaking the claws and pulling the meat out and the aromas of the sea made me forget that I wanted to take a picture!

In any case, I added lemon juice, olive oil, a spoonful of home made mayonnaise and parsley. the result was unforgettable!

I cannot ever describe the aromas and the texture of the claw meat. I surrender and declare my impotence.

Nature has defeated me in the most comprehensive way!

CREDITS

1. Thanks to Kelly and Natasha for bringing the freshness of  summer to the post.

2. Brava to my sister for sharing the delicacies with me.

As always, cooking begins in the market place. I went to my fisherman and found a 6kg grouper resting on ice. The very charming lady next before me was asking for the body of the fish to be cut in slices for the grill. I was the lucky customer to get the head of the fish, weighing 2kilos!

When you have such a treasure in your hands, the choices are limited. Boil and eat with a light dressing or mayonnaise.  I opted for the later, but with a Greek twist.

I put the fish with all the necessary ingredient to the boil and started preparing my Greek Mayonnaise.

I put fish roe (taramas) with crushed capers in the mixer and then added the eggs. The photo is enlarged, so be careful with the quantities. I put one table spoon of fish roe and one of capers.

The rest of the ingredients are egg yolks, olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice.  Once the mayo is ready, I put it in the fridge to rest and I prepared a nice fresh salad mix to provide the support for the fish.

Lettuce, shredded carrot, dill, parsley, green onion, and fresh coriander, dressed in olive oil, sea salt, vinegar and lemon juice.

I added sautéed sliced eggplants in the dish in order to counter the acidity of the mayo and the salad.  The final touch is the mayo on top of the fish and the potatoes.

I confess that I had tasted the mayo before serving and it was so good that I forgot to dress the dish with the chopped parsley I had prepared.  In any case, the dish was delicious. The flesh of the head is juicy and tender, and has more flavor than the rest of the fish. The Greek mayo added punch to the flavor bouquet, while the potatoes, carrots and the eggplant partnered the fish in a discrete and purposeful way.

Bacalao forever! Bacalao Recipes and a bacalao poem

Κυριακή, 28 Μαρτίου, 2010

The protagonist

The protagonist of this post is bacalao, or cod. The trigger was the proximity of two important dates in the Greek Calendar: The 25th March, which is the National Revolution Day in Greece, and Sunday, 28th March, which this year is Palm Sunday. The Greek tradition has it that on both dates we eat salted cod with garlic sauce or aioli.

The idea here is to present some of the highlights of my “bacalao” experience and some of the ideas that I have seen and appreciate, even though I have not tasted the dish yet.

I will start with some photos of the raw material and then go to the dishes.

You can eat bacalao fresh. The head picture comes form La Boqueria, the Central Market in Barcelona. The filet picture comes from La Bretxa, the Central Market in San Sebastian.

Filetes de Bacalao

The second filet photo is from my kitchen. You can easily notice the difference in the size of the fish in Spain and in Greece! Not to mention the price. In Greece the fish – even in today’s lousy market conditions – sells for 20 Euros per kilo, in Spain it sells for 14 Euros per kilo of filet!

Salted bacalao can be delicious, but is not always. It depends on the quality of the fish and the time of curing and preserving. In any case, the best salted bacalao comes from Spain. I have one shop in Barcelona and another in San Sebastian, where I buy salted bacalao. Superb quality, specialization to the task, they sell more than 15 different cuts of salted bacalao.

..

Salted Bacalao

Bacalao Wafer

I start the bacalao dishes with one of the most delicious bacalao dishes I have ever tasted. It  is Martin Berasategui’s wafer of lightly smoked bacalao, served with a wonderful parmesan sauce, hazelnuts, coffee and vanilla. The thin slice of the fish rests on a puree where the taste and flavor of parmesan cheese is prominent. The fish actually dissolves into the puree and the combination is inspiring!

Lightly smoked cod with powder of hazelnuts, coffee and vanilla

Esquisada di Bacala

Esquisada di Bacala

This is a wonderful dish, it is so simple and so difficult at the same time! I tasted it in Ristorante Uliassi, in Senigalia, Italy. Raw cod chunks (salted cod from San Sebastian in the Basque Country, quite possibly the best in the world), with potatoes, pendolini tomatoes and basil.This is a hymn to primary ingredients of the best quality, as the cod’s texture  is supplemented by the sweetness of the potatoes and the incredible acidity of the small tomatoes that have been blessed by the volcanic soil of Vesuvius.

Bacalao Tripe

The tripe of bacalao is one of the delicacies I discovered in Cataluna. What a great taste!

Sea Urchin Eggs with Bacalao Tripe

Another great dish from  Mauro Uliassi (Ristorante Uliassi) Sea Urchin Eggs with bacalao tripe dish. The velvety texture and mild, soothing flavors of the tripe, contrasted with the intensity of the flavors in the sea urchin eggs, creating an unforgettable experience.

Bacalao Tripe with Rabbit and Salmon Roe

I have not yet tasted Carlo Cracco’s (Ristorante Cracco, Milano, Italia) bacalao tripe with rabbit and salmon’s roe, but this recipe definitely can give me a huge appetite, even by reading it.

Bacalao Tripe with Artichokes and Robellones Mushrooms

La Cocina Plural’s Bacalao Tripe with Artichokes and Robellones Mushrooms, reminds me a an excellent dish I tasted in Barcelona’s “Els Pescadors” Restaurante, but instead of mushrooms it was served with rice.

Bacalao Cheeks – Kokotxas

This is one of the best recoveries I have made in the great country of the Basques, the Kokotxas! They are the cheeks of the cod (or hake) and are unbelievably soft, velvety smooth in texture, and full of the gelatin of the fresh fish.

Fresh kokotxas in the Boqueria

The other great Land, Cataluna is also very fond of kokotxas, so here I have a photo taken from the Boqueria market in Barcelona.

Kokotxas in salsa

I have tasted the perfect dish in Rekondo’s, a restaurant in San Sebastian.

Fried Cod

This is simply fried cod. I tasted it in the Fishtavern Aristodimos in Pachi, near Megara, some 40 km west of Athens. As you can see the fish is fresh, and small. Overall, cod in Greece is small, the size rarely goes over 2 kilos. The fish is cut in small pieces and fried in olive oil. Here what matters the most is the technique of the cook, so that the fish is juicy inside, and crispy outside. This case was a success.

Bacalao Pil Pil

Bacalao Pil Pil

This is a dish from the Basque country, delicious in its simplicity and execution.

Bacalao with Estragon

Bacalao with Estragon

This is my recipe, based on my love for the two key ingredients: the bacalao and estragon.

Detail with Sauce

Many more dishes could be here, but this is not the point.

The point is that like every great food, bacalao is the source of inspiration for many great chefs of the world, and pleasure for the millions of people enjoying it in their meals.

I conclude the post with a wonderful poem written by my blog friend despinarion, written in Greek

Thank you despinarion, here is your bacalao poem

Mπακαλιαρος ο σπανιολος

Mπακαλιαρος ο σπανιολος
δυο φιλετα ολος κι ολος..

Καλημερα των Βαϊων
φιλε εισθε επαϊων
συνταγων μπακαλιαρακια
κι αλλα ομορφα ψαρακια

Πηγε κι εκανε παρεα
μ’αλλα υλικα ωραια
ο καλος μας μπακαλιαρος
κι ομως δεν τον πηρε ο χαρος.

Με κουνελια, με φουντουκια
παρμεζανες στα κουτουκια,
αλλα και με σκορδαλια
που τους βαζει τα γυαλια.

Του Αριστοδημου η πιατελα
ειναι μπελλα ειναι μπελλα
μα κι ο αλλος ο πιλ πιλ
για τους βακαλοφιλ!

Mπακαλιαρος ο σπανιολος
δυο φιλετα ολος κι ολος..

Μπακαλιαρος εστραγκον
ουτε πινακας του Εγκον!
με το μπρικ του σολωμου
ενα πιατο του καημου!

Mπακαλιαρος ο σπανιολος
δυο φιλετα ολος κι ολος..

Πριν τελειωσει η ιστορια
γραφω με καλλιγραφια
για την κουλ ρεσεΠΣιονιστ μας
που την λενε και Ορφια
Χρονια της πολλα με υγεια
με αγαπη με μαγεια
να γευτει και μπακαλιαρο
δυο τρυγονια μ’ενα σμπαρο..

Και στα μπεϊμπς του ατελιε
ευχομαι Χρονια Πολλα
σημερα γιορτη μεγαλη
να περασουνε καλα

Mπακαλιαρος ο σπανιολος
δυο φιλετα ολος κι ολος..

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