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Archive for the ‘Seafood’ Category

I love living in a place with so many bountiful farmers’ markets. And maybe it’s my small-town self coming through on Saturday mornings, but I prefer the small-scale markets. We’ve become regulars at the Fulton neighborhood market, and really, it’s not just because Patisserie 46 sets up a booth every week, although that’s definitely a draw. Would you like to see some of their tasty tidbits?

Sweet pastries deriving from various French traditions are up front, and over in the sun-washed quadrant to the right, the savory breads—airy and yet toothsome—await the more patient, or restrained, purchaser. Here’s a closer shot of the mid-morning delights that have been a staple of my pregnancy diet:

I’m partial to the almond croissants, the almond bostocks (round cakey ones on the right) and the bear-claw-looking pastries whose name I forget which are front-and-center. They are flavored with orange peel and anise, and remind me of the flavors of Sicily, although they’re probably Southern-French.

To accompany these Saturday morning treats, one must have coffee. If only someone would wheel in a decent espresso maker. But I guess that might require a generator. So instead I go for the only option at the market, which is a good one: Melitta-brewed Moonshine coffee:

Jack, like his dad, prefers savory snacks. These homemade popsicles are so uniquely and strongly flavored, some of them are practically savory. Lemon-lavender today. See that pucker?

After this thirst-quenching aperitivo, Jack enjoyed a pulled pork taco with spicy slaw from Chef Shack, which is actually a big red truck and not a shack.

And here are some of the yummies we hauled home:

I admit I was skeptical about the corn, which didn’t look as milk-and-sugary as all of the great Vermont and Massachusetts corn I had this summer. But my tastebuds were treated to just as much juicy sweetness as a corn lover could want. It was delicious!

Last night we found another reason to love Minneapolis, thanks to our new friends Andy and Katherine and their boys William and David: Minnehaha Park, where the Creek that flows through our neighborhood ends in a beautiful waterfall.

Just across the bike-and-pedestrian path from the falls is a restaurant that is as close as one can come to a New England-style clam shack in this Midwestern city. We ate dinner at an outdoor table at Sea Salt. The boys played catch, and soccer, and football in the park, and dropped in at the restaurant patio just long enough to eat some fried fish with hot sauce. The grown-ups chowed down on fish tacos, a Cuban paella-type dish, crabcakes, fried calamari, and local craft beer. The dads wanted to try the Wisconsin IPA called “Bitter Woman,” but it was tapped out. She’s popular, that one. Who would’ve thought? And for dessert, Sebastian Joe’s ice cream–locally made, inventively flavored. I love their cinnamon, and their salted caramel, but last night I stuck with vanilla. It was perfect.

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crabbing

It quickly becomes obsessive. I watched my mild-mannered family as they were drawn in, tossing the chicken-baited string out into the brackish stream again and again and again, eagerly waiting for the subtle pull of a nibbling crab.

The crabbing technique here is primitive: tie a chicken drumstick to a string and toss it in the water.  These carrion eaters will promptly start nibbling.  Typical crabbers are young families and threesomes of men enjoying a mid-afternoon beer.  Seagulls attend, coolly attempting to conceal their gluttonous motives.

A stronger pull on the string is the sign of another glutton: one of the huge snapping turtles who live in this stream, under the Madaket Road bridge.  (Yesterday morning we went to the Nantucket Natural Science Museum for the feeding of the “Carnivorous Critters,” and we learned that reptiles only need to eat about twice a week.  I’m convinced that these estuarial snappers are obese.)

Yesterday, my cousin Christa caught one crab.

We won’t be having any Maryland-style crab feasts, where bushels of Old Bay-seasoned crabs are heaped on the table and everyone steadily picks and talks and drinks for hours.

The fog rolls in…

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fish and berries

As soon as I posted that paean to Minneapolis, we left town, heading east to Vermont and Cape Cod.  We find big bowls of ripe berries wherever we go, whether it’s the beginning of blueberry and raspberry season or the end of strawberry season, every sweet bite must be savored or baked before they go bad or are replaced on shelves by their cardboardy California cousins.  We even discovered a secret cache of raspberries where they were least suspected, twining deep in the lilac behind the grill at my parents’ house.

I found myself repeating recipes that have long been summer stand-bys: panzanella, garlic scape mashed potatoes, blueberry buckle, to name a few.

One evening, we drove down I-91 through the gorgeous Vermont hills, where farmers were haying, kids were swimming in rivers, and everything was green, on our way to Saxton’s River, where we joined our friends Eric and Rachel and kids, and Chard and Liz for dinner.  When Chard and Eric get together, they like to get down to their Finnish roots and smoke a salmon in the backyard fire pit. The salmon had been brining overnight in whiskey and other seasonings, and while Eric chopped kindling, Chard conjured a fire out of the damp wood and curls of birch bark. He threw on some large sprigs of juniper, and then they laid on the home-made steel smoker. The smell was primitively delicious (and forced off the mosquitoes, which was a welcome side-effect).  Jack, Maddy, and Emmet rode their bikes up and down the block of Academy Road, which was busy only with other children, while the salmon cooked.  We also took a quick trip to Eric’s new studio–a spacious room in an old abandoned school–to see his new paintings.  They dance with pastel thrusts of color, then deepen into darker hints.

When the salmon was done, everyone gathered around for the ritual unpeeling of the smoke-blackened skin.

not so sure about it...

It was a fun evening.  We hadn’t seen some of these friends for several years, but we got right back into the groove.  Rachel was pregnant with Emmet that time, and now I’m the one with a bump.  As Gillian Welch sings on her new album (which I just downloaded): “everybody’s buyin’ little baby clothes… that’s the way that it goes…”

After a couple more delightful days in Vermont, we headed to the outer Cape, where we had a streak of hot sunny weather, and went to the beach twice a day.  Curtis greeted us the first night with gigantic lobsters, and sent us off on our last night with the freshest of striped bass.  We also went to Mac’s, on the pier in Wellfleet, where I had a crab cake sandwich.  Considering my state, I should lay off the fish for awhile.  When we got together with our friends Tom and Sarah, wine was offered and suhsi and raw bar spots recommended. When I reminded them I couldn’t have any of those delectables, Tom exclaimed with concern, “Wow, you have a lot of restrictions.”  I said, “no, not really. It’s just the things that I like!”

view from our table at Mac's

Jack at Mac's

And now we’re on Nantucket with my family.  This is a pretty nice kind of itinerancy…

cousins on the ferry

me and my sweet boy

I’ll leave you with a recipe–the one Curtis used for our last dinner.  The flavor combination was amazing, and didn’t overpower the striper at all.  (This is from the most recent issue of Food and Wine.)

Grilled Striped Bass with Indian-Spiced Tomato Salad

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup chopped basil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 medium shallot, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon sugar

2 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1-inch dice

Salt

1 teaspoon chopped rosemary

Four 6-ounce wild striped bass fillets, with skin

Freshly ground pepper

In a small skillet, toast the peppercorns and coriander seeds over moderately high heat until fragrant, 30 seconds. Transfer to a spice grinder and let cool completely. Grind the peppercorns and coriander to a powder.

In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the olive oil with the ground spices, basil, vinegar, shallot, ginger and sugar. Add the tomatoes and toss to coat with the dressing. Season the tomatoes with salt.

Light a grill or heat a grill pan. In a shallow baking dish, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the rosemary. Season the bass with salt and pepper and coat the fillets with the rosemary oil. Grill the bass over moderately high heat, skin side down, until nicely charred and crisp on the bottom, 3 minutes. Turn the bass and cook until just opaque in the center, 3 minutes longer.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to plates. Set the bass fillets on the tomato salad. Spoon the tomato dressing over and around the fish and serve.

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paella party

My friend Sharyn, of Still Life with Whisk, had been turning over the idea attempting the perfect paella, until it became a passion.  (ok, why is alliteration so tempting with the letter p?) So, we decided to get together and make a big Spanish-themed feast.  While Sharyn went shellfish shopping, I went to the wine store for a nice bottle of cava, some Albariño, (and some Tempranillo in case anyone wanted red).  Gus also popped a bottle of this dessert wine in my box, explaining that he was giving them away because “it’s an odd little wine.” We all thought it went pretty well with the tart orange olive oil cake I made for the occasion.

Wine and appetizer shopping done, I proceeded to make the cake, with Jack’s help.  Traditionally, this cake is made with preserved oranges, but the Saveur recipe provides a great shortcut for this ingredient that most American pantries lack: successive boilings.

The cake came out beautifully.  It’s meant to have an orange-syrup glaze, and a sprinkling of chunky sea salt.  We didn’t have confectioner’s sugar, and went without the added sweetness, which resulted in a restrained, fruit-dense crumb with a delicate breadiness.  I’ll make it again.

We started with tapas: manchego with slices of dried Turkish figs, marinated white asparagus and peppers, thinly sliced cured ham that deepened in flavor when smooshed into bread, and lupini tossed in harissa and lemon juice.  Not all Spanish, but all uncommon and delicious.

Eventually, we got started on the paella, cooking it with ambition on the grill.

The final picture doesn’t do it justice, taken as it was in a dark kitchen, but the meal was delicious. Saffron and seafood, sausage and spices, and plenty of riso, riso, and vino.

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Sunday lunch

Sicilian style, on a sunny Sunday, with Susan Stewart. It was as sumptuous and soothing as all this sibilance might suggest.

Yesterday, we were invited to have lunch with Susan, whom we’ve known mainly through her writing, both poems and literary criticism.  I’ve been spending a lot of time with her book Crimes of Writing in particular, which addresses the literary authenticity scandals of eighteenth-century Britain, a topic close to my dissertation.  At Sunday lunch, however, we talked mostly about Italy and food.  Susan had set a table on the little, plant-festooned balcony of the apartment she rents, the walls of which are lined invitingly with old books and older pictures.

view from the bedroom

While we chatted in the tiny kitchen, Jack explored the apartment.  See him in the window?

He’d found a little library ladder.  What a great piece of furniture!

Meanwhile, Susan was boiling spaghetti and shredding the bottarga, a specialty she’s been serving to her two sons for their birthdays since they came to Rome when they were not much older than Jack.  Bottarga is the salty, pressed, preserved-in-beeswax roe of tuna that Italians serve with lemon as an antipasto or tossed with pasta.  The dish had three ingredients—butter, bottarga, and spaghetti—and was sensational.

Susan then fried up a platter of anchovies, and served them on a bed of arugula with lemon slices.  This dish was followed by a Sicilian salad of blood oranges and marinated black olives. And then we ate Cassata, a Sicilian ricotta cake that’s dotted inside with chocolate chips, iced with dense icing, and decorated with candied fruits.  Needless to say, Jack was a big fan of this part of the meal.

Susan lives right in Piazza San Cosimato, where there’s a playground.  After the meal, we went outside, and eventually walked back up the steps from Trastevere to the Gianicolo, and home.  The sun is so welcome.

Jack took pictures all the way.  He managed to capture a good shot of an acanthus leaf, the variety that tops Corinthian columns, and—gosh!—a good one of his parents.

The rest of this post has nothing to do with food, and is really an unrelated addendum about everyday life in Rome.  The thing about everyday life is that it often throws you into unexpected and odd experiences.  I’ve been having problems with my feet—joint pain (no more 10Ks for me)—so I went to an orthopedist today on the Aventine hill.  I got lost, of course, in the spiderweb-like network of streets, but finally found my destination. I was buzzed in, and walked up the dark stairway of an apartment building that also houses a group of English-speaking doctors.  The whole appointment went as it might have any place in the U.S. (she went into enthusiastic detail, with a skeletal model, of what was wrong with my feet, complimented me on my slow pulse, seemed perversely excited that someone so young should have such problems, and made chit-chat with me about having husbands in the same fields) until the end, which seemed to me to be particularly Italian: the doctor suggested I go shoe shopping, and wrote down a list of brands I should look for!

This appointment was followed by a visit to a clinic run by nuns where I stood like a flamingo on a platform and had my feet x-rayed.  When I got home and told Peter all about it, and that I’d gotten a cortisone shot, he said, “so you’re on steroids?”

But I figure all of this is better—and more interesting—than taking, as some Italians do, a spot of grappa in my coffee every day.

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At a junction of thoughts that represents some substance of my life right now: a chapter in Moby Dick; a talk about food in high art given by Leonard Barkan; the local-food-movement mantra know your food, know your farmer; swimming, during which activity my thoughts form folds with each lap and the thought that my son loves swimming connects to the porpoises on Planet Earth and in Moby Dick, which leads to another branch of my family, those Nantucket whalemen ancestors, who probably dined on whale at some point, and one of whom carved an incredibly intricate scrimshaw fan during those endless hours of calm water.

http://www.artunframed.com/images/boucher3/Are_They_Thinking_About_the_Grape.jpg

Leonard’s talk, “Thinking of the Grapes” (which refers to this painting by François Boucher) was about how food has an ambiguous status in high art, in particular (in this lecture) Renaissance and Baroque painting.  Food is both vividly, sensuously present in all of its particularity of detail, and is officially secondary to the main subject.  Gastronomy falls far below philosophy, theology, astronomy, or love, and yet it obtrudes itself into the artist’s imagination and into the picture and takes on significance as the too-muchness of what we desire and fear of appetite.  It is suppressed, Leonard suggests, because it is just too consuming.

Food enters art more or less smoothly or subversively depending on the culture, the age, the medium, the genre.  Novels—omnivorous gluttons of the details of everyday life that they are—might be expected to contain more food.  Moby Dick has none of the delicacy of Boucher’s lovers feeding each other grapes, and contains a smorgasbord of greasy, glistening, animal food and its bestial eaters.  But the discussion of eating in the chapter “The Whale as a Dish” is not simply a display of macho engorgement.  It has as much ethical, psychological, cultural, socioeconomical, and philosophical penetration as the best thinking about food today, and combines all of these elements in prose more musical, serio-satirical, and strange than anything I’ve read recently.

Here is the chapter.

“The Whale as a Dish”

That mortal man should feed upon the creature that feeds his lamp, and, like Stubb, eat him by his own light, as you may say; this seems so outlandish a thing that one must needs go a little into the history and philosophy of it.

It is upon record, that three centuries ago the tongue of the Right Whale was esteemed a great delicacy in France, and commanded large prices there.  Also, that in Henry VIIIth’s time, a certain cook of the court obtained a handsome reward for inventing an admirable sauce to be eaten with barbecued porpoises, which, you remember, are a species of whale.  Porpoises, indeed, are to this day considered fine eating.  The meat is made into balls about the size of billiard balls, and being well seasoned and spiced might be taken for turtle-balls or veal balls.  The old monks of Dunfermline were very fond of them.  They had a great porpoise grant from the crown.

The fact is, that among his hunters at least, the whale would by all hands be considered a noble dish, were there not so much of him; but when you come to sit down before a meat-pie nearly one hundred feet long, it takes away your appetite.  Only the most unprejudiced of men like Stubb, nowadays partake of cooked whales; but the Esquimaux are not so fastidious.  We all know how they live upon whales, and have rare old vintages of prime old train oil.  Zogranda, one of their most famous doctors, recommends strips of blubber for infants, as being exceedingly juicy and nourishing.  And this reminds me that certain Englishmen, who long ago were accidentally left in Greenland by a whaling vessel—that these men actually lived for several months on the mould scraps of whales which had been left ashore after trying out the blubber.  Among the Dutch whalemen these scraps are called “fritters”; which, indeed, they greatly resemble, being brown and crisp, and smelling something like old Amsterdam housewives’ doughnuts or oly-cooks, when fresh.  They have such an eatable look that the most self-denying stranger can hardly keep his hands off.

But what further depreciates the whale as a civilized dish, is his exceeding richness.  He is the great prize ox of the sea, too fat to be delicately good.  Look at his hump which would be as fine eating as the buffalo’s (which is esteemed a rare dish), were it not such a solid pyramid of fat.  But the spermaceti itself, how bland and creamy that is; like the transparent, half-jellied white meat of a cocoa-nut in the third month of its growth, yet far too rich to supply a substitute for butter.  Nevertheless, many whalemen have a method of absorbing it into some other substance, and then partaking of it.  In the long try watches of the night it is a common thing for a seaman to dip their ship-biscuit into the huge oil-pots and let them fry there awhile.  Many a good supper have I thus made.

In the case of a small sperm whale the brains are accounted a fine dish.  The casket of the skull is broken into with an axe, and the two plump, whitish lobes being withdrawn (precisely resembling two large puddings), they are then mixed with flour, and cooked into a most delectable mess, in flavour somewhat resembling calves’ head, which is quite a dish among some epicures; and every one knows that some young bucks among the epicures, by continually dining upon calves’ brains, by and by get to have a little brains of their own, so as to be able to tell a calf’s head from their own heads; which, indeed, requires uncommon discrimination.  And that is the reason why a young buck with an intelligent looking calf’s head before him, is somehow one of the saddest sights you can see.  The head looks a sort of reproachfully at him, with an “Et tu Brute!” expression.

It is not, perhaps, entirely because the whale is so excessively unctuous that landsmen seem to regard the eating of him with abhorrence; that appears to result, in some way, from the consideration before mentioned, i.e., that a man should eat a newly murdered thing of the sea, and eat it too by its own light.  But no doubt the first man that ever murdered an ox was regarded as a murderer; perhaps he was hung; and if he had been put on trial by oxen, he certainly would have been; and he certainly deserved it if any murderer does.   Go to the meat-market of a Saturday night and see the crowds of live bipeds staring up at the long rows of dead quadrupeds.  Does not that sight take a tooth out of the cannibal’s jaw?  Cannibals? who is not a cannibal?  I tell you it will be more tolerable for the Fejee that salted down a lean missionary in his cellar against a coming famine; it will be more tolerable for that provident Fejee, I say, in the day of judgment, than for thee, civilized and enlightened gourmand, who nailest geese to the ground and feastest on their bloated livers in thy paté-de-foie-gras.

But Stubb, he eats the whale by its own light, does he? and that is adding insult to injury, is it?  Look at your knife-handle, there, my civilized and enlightened gourmand dining off that roast beef, what is that handle made of?—what but the bones of the brother of the very ox you are eating? And what do you pick your teeth with, after devouring that fat goose?  With a feather of the same fowl.  And with what quill did the Secretary of the Society for the Suppression of Cruelty to Ganders formally indite his circulars? It is only within the last month or two that that society passed a resolution to patronize nothing but steel pens.

Moby Dick (1851)
Herman Melville

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The noun form of fritter—the one that speaks of food—derives from the Latin verb for “fry,” frigere. Although I’m writing a food blog, this is not the form of fritter I’m concerned with today.

The other form, the transitive verb usually followed by “away” derives not from any culinary activity but from the Old English word fitt, meaning “part” or “piece.”  When you fritter away your time or money, you disperse it little bit by fragment, almost unconsciously….

What I’m getting at is the reason I haven’t been posting much recently.  We have seven months left in Rome, and I’m determined to finish and file my dissertation before those months are up.  Therefore, my life must be lived with as little frittering of any sort as possible.  I’m sure I’ll find a snatch of time here and there to post some words about some thoughts on food.  Just less frequently.  And, of course, some forms of frittering can always be justified.  As Lord Byron says, “Oh pleasure, you’re indeed a pleasant thing.”

Or, wait!  Maybe I can sometimes bring these diverse writing projects together.  Byron wrote some funny verses on being a carnivore during the Venetian Carnival:

This feast is named the Carnival, which being
Interpreted, implies ‘farewell to flesh':
So call’d, because the name and thing agreeing,
Through Lent they live on fish both salt and fresh.
But why they usher Lent with so much glee in,
Is more than I can tell, although I guess
‘Tis as we take a glass with friends at parting,
In the stage-coach or packet, just at starting.

And thus they bid farewell to carnal dishes,
And solid meats, and highly spic’d ragouts,
To live for forty days on ill-dress’d fishes,
Because they have no sauces to their stews,
A thing which causes many ‘poohs’ and ‘pishes’,
And several oaths (which would not suit the Muse),
From travellers accustom’d from a boy
To eat their salmon, at the least, with soy;

And therefore humbly I would recommend
‘The curious in fish-sauce’, before they cross
The sea, to bid their cook, or wife, or friend,
Walk or ride to the Strand, and buy in gross
(Or if set out beforehand, these may send
By any means least liable to loss),
Ketchup, Soy, Chili-vinegar, and Harvey,
Or, by the Lord! a Lent will well nigh starve ye;

That is to say, if your religion’s Roman,
And you at Rome would do as Romans do,
According to the proverb,—although no man,
If foreign, is oblig’d to fast; and you,
If protestant, or sickly, or a woman,
Would rather dine in sin on a ragout—
Dine, and be d—d!  I don’t mean to be coarse,
But that’s the penalty, to say no worse.

(From Beppo, 1818)

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In the past two days I’ve been to two good old Roman basic restaurants that served delicious meals and a whole bunch of good old Roman basic tourist spots. (My parents are visiting.)

Last night: Il Galeone, in Piazza San Cosimato, just down the hill from us: either take the bus down the S-curves of Via Dandolo, or take the path through the grass to the two twisting staircases.  It’s one of those places that you really can’t judge from the outside.  Does it just look authentic, or is it really good?  I wouldn’t have tried it without the recommendations of numerous friends, who all said to order the fish soup.  OK.  But what do they mean by “mezzo” (half)?  Here’s what:

These sea creatures have as much dignity in this dish as the octopus wrestling with  Neptune in Piazza Navona:

Other fun things about this restaurant were the service—or was it just that the gentleman loved Jack, who ate a lot of spaghetti carbonara?

—or was it that he made a show of choosing the right glasses for the low-price-range vino rosso we chose?

(which turned out to be quite good.)

And the walls in our dining room, made of old liquor boxes, as if they were packed in a ship’s hold:

The tuna, before and after:

The coziness:

And the walk home past the Fontana di Aqua Paola:

This meal topped off a day of serious ancient-Rome tourism.  We went to the Capitolino, and saw Constantine’s giant digits, Diana of Ephesus’s many breasts, and Hercules’s manly pecs.

We also saw the Forum and waited out a rainstorm.

And we happened upon a Ferrari parade.  Holiday sale?

That was yesterday.  Today, we did the Vatican Museum, Via Cola da Rienza, Piazza del Popolo, Via del Corso, Piazza di Spagna, the Trevi Fountain, and more, in the rain. We found a warm spot and a surprisingly delicious lunch at Il Fagiolo Magico, (the magic bean) off of Via del Corso.  I had pasta cacio e pepe—cheese and pepper. The consistency is hard to get right, but they did it.  Very restorative with the vino rosso della casa on a damp day.

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Last night, the RSFP kitchen did it again.  They had us swooning and stuffing our bellies and calling out for more.  This time, the dish was fish-n-chips.  One of the kitchen interns, Camilla, had been homesick for Scotland and this specialty, so she and the crew fried up a massive amount of fish and potatoes.

She began the meal by suggesting we end with whiskey, and by reciting a Robbie Burns blessing: ”Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat, And sae the Lord be thanket.”

Some in this crowd were so happy to eat good fried food, they went around scavenging from plates the kids had abandoned.  There was homemade tartar sauce and homemade ketchup, malt vinegar, and beer.  One friend said, “whatever we have to do to make this meal local and sustainable [the goals of the RSFP], so that we can have it all the time, let’s do it.  Put in a fish pond in the Bass Garden!”

And then, when we thought we couldn’t eat another bite, out came the toffee cake—the most moist decadently delicious burnt butter sweet sugar whipped cream confection imaginable.  (Camilla, will you give me the recipe?)

The couches in the salone soon became the meal recovery center.

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We’re so coddled here, with the wonderful food prepared for and served to us at the Academy.  So it was with real satisfaction last night that I prepared a meal requiring what felt like authentic labor: beheading fish and whisking for a good half hour.

The meal was utterly simple, and maybe that’s why it was so much fun to make.  I started in the morning at the open air market on Via Nicolini, where I bought a pile of fresh sardines.  The fishmonger threw in a handful of parsley too, which is one of the nice gestures these Roman vendors always make.  It’s both generous and bossy of them: “here, have some herbs” and “if you’re going to cook that, you really should have this.”  (This attitude actually seems to be a regional—or even national—trait.)  I bought lemons at another stall, mixed chicories at another, some apples, brocoletti, and then some pizza bianca at Pasticceria Beti.

Here are the fish, before their “dressing”:

There are a few ways to prepare sardines—going from minimally to maximally meticulous.  I chose the middle road.  The minimal would be just to clean the scales off and cook them whole.  The most thorough would be to cut the heads off, clean the guts out, and bone them before cooking.  The middle way, which Robinson Crusoe would have advised, is to break the heads off with your hands; the attached guts follow; and the boning is easier to do when the fish are cooked anyway.

Sardines are very nutritious, as they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and low in the mercury and other contaminants that settle in the big fish higher up on the food chain. They are very high in selenium and vitamin B12 and high in calcium, niacin, and phosphorus.  Are these good reasons to feel virtuous even when you fry them in butter?

After a good descaling rinse, they’re ready to be dredged in salted flour and fried up in a mixture of butter and olive oil, at high heat.

Before doing that though, I made the aioli with a whisk—and with the assistance of Junior Wells’s Hoo Doo Man Blues, prosecco, and Peter.  I followed Alice Waters’s recipe from The Art of Simple Food.  Start with garlic and a pinch of salt mashed with a mortar-and-pestle; add a 1/4 tsp. of water and an egg yolk. Starting drop by drop, whisk in 1 c. extra virgin olive oil. (When you’re not working with the help of electricity, this takes a good long time.)

The resulting meal was simple, cheap, yummy, and fun.

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