Have We Gone Pescetarian?

2012.Mar.27 Tuesday · 1 comment

in Casa SaltShaker, Food & Recipes

Something is happening out there. It seems like the whole world has gone pescetarian. Or at least the people who are vying to come to Casa S these days. I would venture to guess that a solid quarter of the reservation requests I’m getting at this point fall into that category, plus a good number looking for vegetarian meals. Is it the influence of all the media and reports out there about the dangers of red meat? (Interestingly, the latest big study that’s been getting talked about for the last week or two suggests that poultry is actually better for you than seafood in place of carne rojo. That was a surprise.) Did we get written up somewhere that suggested that vegetarian and pescetarian meals are what we’re known for? This isn’t the first time this has happened, maybe it’s just cyclical.

That’s not to say I don’t love cooking with and eating creatures of the deep. And I have no problem with folk making whatever restrictive dietary choices they wish to. And even here at home on our off nights, we generally cook up veggies, fishies and chickies (if I’m going to use “veggies”, I’m going whole hog…gie). But we do seem to be cooking up a lot of the finned and tentacled stuff on the weekends as well. And this last weekend was no exception. I’ve generally tried to be good about fitting our menu around the various allergies and diet requests that we get, but we’re starting to get lists now… and I’d venture to say that about three quarters of those come from my own countryfolk, and most of the remainder come from the British Isles…. Visitors from the rest of the world and locals seem to be far more adventurous when it comes to just eating what’s put in front of them – which is the way I grew up – I can even hear my parents saying those very words. I have to give this some thought…. But, for the moment, on to this last weekend’s menu:

Bastilla de Acelga

Interestingly, and perhaps it was just this self-selected mix of people, the two hit dishes of the evenings were the two vegetarian dishes. The first, a mini-pastilla (or bastilla, b’stilla, or varied similar spellings) of acelga, or chard. Since several people asked, here’s the recipe I use, which is my version that I developed for one of our cooking classes. I just made small versions rather than one large one cut in wedges – forming them in ramekins, baking them, and then flipping them out onto a baking sheet, dusting them with the sugar-cinnamon mixture and browning them to finish.

2 tablespoons dark rum or brandy
2 tablespoons dried currants or raisins
1 kilo swiss chard
1 small onion
1 garlic clove
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons pine nuts or sunflower seeds

5 sheets phyllo or strudel dough
1 heaping teaspoon confectioner’s sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Warm the rum and soak the currants or raisins in it. Trim the stems away from the leaves of the chard, reserve the stems for another use. Wash the leaves well, drain and cut into strips. Heat the oven to 425°F/220°C. Peel and chop the onion, peel and mince the garlic. Saute onion in oil until golden, add the garlic and chard leaves and a little salt, cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Toast the pine nuts and add to the chard along with the currants/raisins (drained). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread out to cool. Grease a tart pan with butter. Lay the sheets of phyllo in the pan, one by one, putting them at different angles so you can fold the corners over the filling, and brushing each with melted butter. Fill with chard mixture, fold the dough over and bake for 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven and place over a medium heat burner for 2-3 minutes to make sure the crust is crisp and golden. Unmold by inverting onto a plate. Dust with a mixture of the cinnamon and sugar and either torch it to caramelize, or place under the broiler (in which case you need an oven-proof plate.

The sauce on the plate, taratur, a mix of tahini, lemon juice, water, salt and white pepper.

Caldillo de congrio

A caldillo de congrio. One of my personal favorite soups – similar to an American chowder. Instead of jalapeños I used the Peruvian yellow chilies.

Portobello and Cauliflower Forest

One of the famed tomes of vegetarian cooking is The Enchanted Broccoli Forest – not sure why the name popped into mind as I was figuring out this dish, well, yes I do, it’s the tree-like structure of the mushrooms and cauliflowers – so this is our little enchanted portobello and cauliflower forest. The former I wrapped in puff pastry rounds that were coated with white miso and shichimi spice blend, then baked until golden brown on the outside and the mushrooms cooked through on the inside. The latter, for which we got comments like “I didn’t know cauliflower could be this good!” and “This is the best cauliflower I’ve ever eaten – true statement of the day!”, were simply sauteed in olive oil with salt and ground sumac – literally nothing else – until they were cooked through and caramelized on the surface. Also oven-roasted shallots which were then tossed in a quick saute with butter, brown sugar, salt and black pepper. The sauce, a favorite cheese sauce made from Morbier cheese – sweat some shallots in white wine until the liquid is absorbed, add in cream, Morbier, salt, white pepper and nutmeg and whisk until blended. A sprinkling of more shichimi over the whole dish. Personally, I was eating the extra portobellos – much as I love cauliflower – for me, these rock – they’d make great party hors d’oeuvres if made with smaller mushrooms.

Salmon Blanco Milanesa

A while back I made some salmon milanesas over a squash risotto. Here, a bit of a change-up, and I definitely like it better. Salmon blanco, white salmon, which as I’ve pointed out before has nothing to do with salmon other than being a fish, is an ocean perch, specifically the Argentine (or Brazilian) Sand Perch. Dusted the fillets in flour and salt, then dipped in beaten egg, then into panko crumbs mixed with dried oregano and parsley – quick saute to brown both sides and then into the oven to finish. Served over quinua and finely diced butternut squash cooked in vegetable stock and then finished with mascarpone cheese and a little milk. On top, pear mostarda – slices of pear preserved in a mustard and vinegar sugar syrup.

Chocolate Lemon Tartlet

And, finished off the evening with a dark chocolate and baked lemon curd tartlet with candied lemon zest.

Not bad if I do say so myself. Now, hmm, to bring back more red meat, or no? That, is the question to be pondered.


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