Still full from those chocolate spice rolls of our casual night (not really – in my defense against devouring the remaining ones I gave them all to our portero to share with his cadre here in the hood), I set to work on preparing the weekend’s menu. More fish, more fish! Don’t worry, this coming weekend is a non-pescetarian fest.
Everyone loved the “textures of tomato” dish that I made a couple of weeks ago, so I brought it back. The only difference, instead of lightly roasting halved cherry tomatoes, this time I left them whole and gave them a quick, like 15 second, deep-fry, which makes the skin puff up and burst and gives it an interesting texture while the core of the tomato stays fresh and vibrant.
About a month ago I whipped up a four bean soup that went over really well and I brought that one back too. I guess it was actually a five bean soup this time as I added in black beans to the mix. Instead of simply giving the celery leaves a quick fry on their own, I tempura battered them, which added a pretty visual element and some crunchy texture to the dish.
I think this will be the last weekend of playing with potato gnocchi for awhile. I don’t know what it is, perhaps the type of potatoes, or the flour, or something, but I’m finding that as many times as they turn out well here, they turn out poorly – a problem I never had “in the old days” back in NYC. Something to be played with more on my own time until figuring it all out. The first night I infused the gnocchi with a good dollop of black olive tapenade – they came out soft, but pretty much just how I wanted them. The second night, disaster. They seemed the same when made, but when I checked on them a short while before the dinner they’d turned into a large puddle of goo – I attempted a rescue using some more flour, which handled the texture, but they tasted of raw flour when cooked because there was so much in them – more of a dumpling than anything else. So, I scrapped them and ran to the corner market and bought some premade potato gnocchi, and then when it came time to serve them, tossed them with the black olive tapenade. It worked, but, interestingly, I noticed that these gnocchi, too, start to fall apart when cooking after just a few seconds. Hmmm… future investigations to be made.
The sauce, a prawn bolognese, basically just taking out all the usual meats and substituting in chopped prawns, and, instead of the usual thyme and oregano, I went with parsley and cilantro. Some sauteed mussels and small shrimp to decorate, a scoop of a parsley and mint salsa verde, and some slivers of mildly spicy piquillo peppers complete the dish.
I was going to make a completely different fish dish, but when I went to the market I saw they had beautiful fresh “conger cheeks”. Now, the congrio here isn’t the conger eel of, well, everywhere else, but the same thing as abadejo, or pollack. Doesn’t change that they’re tender and delicious. Here, they’re slow cooked in a piquant sauce of tomato, gherkins, capers, garlic, onions, anchovies, vinegar…. lots o’stuff. The first night I served them with a fennel puree, a cauliflower puree, and some sauteed broccoli. The dish was delicious, but everything was soft…. Second night, changed it around and made cauliflower and broccoli purees, and then took the fennel and julienned it, and at last minute gave it a very quick, 30 second saute, more or less just to heat it and take the edge off the crispness. Perfect. And, a prettier dish.
Does everyone remember lúcuma, the eggfruit, from our trips to Trujillo, Peru? Of course you do. Well, I finally found a supplier here for frozen lúcuma puree – and some other interesting fruits – that I’m happy with (not to mention that he’s adorable, but there, I just did). So, a lúcuma tart. Now, you may remember that I’ve said that the fruit has a certain taste resemblance to a blend of strawberries and maple syrup, so to emphasize those flavors, some strawberries roasted with a little maple syrup and vanilla, and some crunchy-chewy croutons caramelized in butter, honey and maple syrup (thank you for the inspiration on that, Matt Moran). A little grating of white chocolate is more for show than anything else, as is the squiggle of caramel underneath.