15 October 2008

Octopus Oktapodi Tintenfisch Krake

give me octopus anyday. aegean octopus. caught by baba yianni, lingering briefly in a plastic shopping bag with seawater, eventually tenderized with forty beatings on a nearby rock formation, rubbed, frothed and beaten again. grilled, boiled, stifado (stewed with onion). we children would sit on the beach, sand literally "everywhere," meaning in our ears, noseholes, on eyelashes, skin, bumcrevice, you name it... stickysaltysweaty sand. we played with the lingering octopi in the plastic seawater bags, watched them cling to us with hundreds of tentacle-hickies on our arms. i wonder now if they tasted the salt and sand on us, desperately attaching to what they believed was a step back into home... we screeched and giggled at their stickiness, watching baba prepare their finicky flesh for our meal out next to the water. i remember that was the summer i was wearing my all-time favorite (yes, to this day...) swimsuit, a bright blue onesie adidas, white strips up the sides, burned shoulders and slowly sunbleaching long hair, skinny little swissgreekamerican girl. i wasn't even interested in food at the time, but octopus and fresh figs somehow rest happy in my mind. climbing fig trees on thassos... but i digress, we'll leave the figs for another time,... and the fish that the sea caught for me in my lost and tossed fishing line wound around a little cork board...

ode to an octopus
sticky salty
long and clingy
regal in the sea
loving living under
between behind the rocks
frothy kissy hicky clingy
tender meaty lemon
olive vinegar oniony
m m m!

08 October 2008

Dreaming of Oysters...Mussels, Clams

my baba and i share a love for fresh oysters. i'm thinking about clams, mussels, scallops. smoked oysters, too.
i've been surfing around for inspirations for flavor combinations and came upon a few with oysters and other shell critters this evening.

in november last year, i was visiting a dear friend. we ate at carrabba's, feeling like a meze night, so we ordered a variety of 'appetizers.' among them steamed mussels in a special, garlicky pernod basil sauce. it was a defining moment of culinary divinity, and i never trusted that such an experience might happen at a chain restaurant. a generous reminder that awe-inspiring food living is found everywhere, anywhere, any time! mussels, plump with their soft seafulness. swimming in a sauce that only commanded us to sponge her up with hot crusty bread that evening!
...i'm adding on...tuesday night, a farewell dinner with aunt sue before she heads back down to florida. she, mama and i had lusted after a creamy green-with-parsley clam linguine all the way home on our drive back from baltimore to visit grandma and family. so that's exactly what we did last night! mama and i first made and froze two dozen fat crabcakes (recipe off old bay seasoning tin and some flourish) and then made a creamy white sauce for the clam and chopped fragrant fresh parsley. linguine al dente. serve her up with extra fresh parsley and grated parmesan. belly pleaser, grazie!

clams, mussels, oysters, maryland blue crabs. thank you, salty mama natura!

27 July 2008

Pimenton de la Vera

mama introduced me to this burst of red smokiness, both sweet and spicy-hot versions. she's in love with it, too. brought it back from spain a few years ago when she and baba were traveling through. it's precious like saffron, in my heart, at least. rich, deep, dark red. delcious seasoning for eggs. sometimes, i add a few sprinkles to sizzling and sauteeing onions, garlic, soy sauce and green beans, mmmmm.

pimenton de la vera might marry nicely with saffron itself in a rich creamy saffron sauce or soup. or rubbed into a nice thick ribeye with some coarse kosher salt and freshly ground pink or green peppercorn, grilled. asparagus as accompaniment, mmm.

spicy hot or mild, the smoke in its essence is so precious.

interesting site of further insight:

03 May 2008

salt sel alati salz sal

i ate a smoky, crispy, fatty, salty piece of bacon this morning at work. i work in a local restaurant kitchen. the cuisine is self-defined as new south latino fusion. so tasty. i'm welcoming new flavor combinations, learning to enhance, enrich my cooking techniques, working with commercial kitchen equipment again, growing and playing with food.
back to the bacon. i can't remember the farm it came from, but it was *salty*. i could only eat a very small pinch, even as analati! i lifted it off of the parchment paper saturated in grease after having been baked on a half sheet pan. biting into perfectly crispy pork fat, allowing it to melt against the heat of my mouth, then on to the meat of the piece, chewy, salty. my nose taking in the heavy hickory smoke - so strong, my eyes stung - permeating the air in the kitchen and joining my multi sensory enjoyment of this morsel.
this and my perusing the book entitled SALT, given to me by my mama on greek easter last weekend, have inspired me to blurb about salt. my love affair with salt is a long one. i am exhausted as i write, but i promise to return with more, perhaps even dream about it to share later.
in the meantime, let me leave you with a story i stumbled upon earlier this evening on the web...

...from blog: http://mandalamadness.blogspot.com/2007_09_01_archive.html -- "There was a child made all of salt who very much wanted to know where he had come from. So he set out on a long journey and traveled to many lands in pursuit of this understanding. Finally he came to the shore of a great ocean. How marvelous, he cried, and stuck one foot in the water. The ocean beckoned him in further saying, "If you wish to know who you are, do not be afraid." The salt child walked further and further into the water dissolving with each step, and at the end exclaimed, "Ah, now I know who I am." ~ancient teaching story"

i'm back. i ask myself when it was that i became aware of salt. when i think of salt, when i smell it, taste it, i think of the sea, of my yia-yia. is it strange that i relish the salt that coats my skin after i've been swimming in salty waters, sometimes even lick my forearm or suck on a few strands of my hair? i like its grit, how it pools in dryness on my skin, gritty flowing waves of salt on me.
my interest in any food, herb or spice, any flavoring, really only began in the summer of 1982 when my parents sent me to greece for several months to live with family and attend Greek public school for personal and linguistic development. ( well, there was the event of the lonely iceberg lettuce and a little shaker of Knorr Aromat seasoning, which was the advent of my cooking life...more to that another time) i was a stick-skinny little swiss girl with long hair in spring. by the end of summer, an intense haircut, the advent of puberty and many luscious meals later, i curved out into a plumper little greek girlwoman, shorter-haired version of me. to the meals...

13 April 2008

egg avgo ei oeuf

truly incredible and edible. i love an egg. yia-yia vera ate one every day, preferably dikroko (twin yolk) from the chicken farmer down the street and up the hill in retziki. (sometimes, she would send us to him to get eggs. we would tell him they were for kiria vera, and he always showered us with twin yolks!) we weren't going to go play and roam around retziki in our neighborhood child pack if we didn't eat our boiled egg, nou-nou milk and crusty bread with butter and honey every morning. yia-yia made a mountain of quince preserves every summer for us. she spread it on our thick morning slices of bread and filled homemade pastaflora cakes with it. i want to try quince preserves again soon. i cannot remember what it tastes like, and i don't understand why it's memory is unavailable to me.
yia-yia boiled her sheep's milk, poured it into a clear water glass and allowed it to cool until a skin had formed. as a child, i was revolted by the milk skin. now i crave it, seek it
out. sheep's milk, an egg, and forever lots of salt. the sheep herder lived up the hill behind yia-yia's house. we visited him, too. it was at the end of a day, they were milking the sheep, he and his son. pouring it into the classic aluminum container. alexia was maybe 6 years old. she drank it straight out of the trough, foamy, creamy, unpasteurized hot milk. can you smell it? summer's intensity enveloped in this special nectar, grass, sun, Greek heat.

yia yia told mama once that there are people who are analati, without salt. they need more than the average salt-eating person. i believe i'm one of those analati, i really do enjoy salt. perhaps not to the extent yia-yia did. she would pour it in waves onto her eggs. her meals were an entire morning and part of the afternoon in the making, every one of them divine, a gift from the universe. every one a story. i digress. more to so much more soon.