Saturday, May 27, 2006

Parmigiana di Melanzane (Eggplant Parmesan)

Eggplant Parmesan is one of those classic dishes served in every red checkered tablecloth Italian restaurant outside of Italy; it’s a Sopranos family hit (no pun intended); and it’s probably the most impressive combination of left-overs I can think of. Imagine you make a big weekend spaghettata (spaghetti dinner) and serve lots of fried eggplant on the side. If you’re smart enough to make extra tomato sauce and fried eggplant, the next day you’ll have the ingredients ready for Eggplant Parmesan. Just assemble and bake.

To prepare the eggplant:

1 ½ lbs eggplant for the Eggplant Parm. dish, or more for delicious fried eggplant.
salt for draining
½ cup or so of flour for dredging
oil for frying

Slice the eggplant crossways into ½ inch rounds. No need to peel it. Salt the rounds on both sides and arrange as vertically as possible in a colander so that they can drain. Place a bowl filled with water on top of the eggplant slices to weigh them down and help extract the juices. Let drain for about 2 hours. **I do this for reasons different from what you find in most cookbooks. They often suggest this draining step to leech out the eggplant’s bitter juices. That’s fine but I also find that this improves the texture in the final dish. There’s nothing worse to me than undercooked, spongy eggplant, and I’ve never produced that when I’ve followed this step.
Dry eggplant slices on paper towels. Fill a plastic bag with ½ cup or so of flour. Get 2 frying pans ready with oil to coat the bottom. You can just barely coat the bottom or you can coat it with ¼ inch of oil. How much oil you use depends on you. You have a lot of options here. This Mario Batali recipe suggests baking the slices on an oiled sheet which would dramatically cut down the amount of oil in the final dish. I went for the high caloric version instead. I made a double recipe of what you see here and ate fried eggplant as a veggie side dish yesterday because plain baked eggplant slices just didn’t appeal to me. So once you’ve got your frying pans with oil over medium heat, drop 3-4 slices in the plastic bag with the flour, shake and place them in the pans. Once the pans are full with one layer of eggplant, fry until they’re a medium brown. Flip and fry the other side. Take out and drain on paper towels. Continue until you have fried all the slices.

To prepare the sauce:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, mashed
*1/2 tsp anchovy paste (optional)
3 15 oz cans of Italian San Marzano tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes if they’re in season)
2 bay leaves
*½ -1 cup red wine (optional)
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste

In a large frying pan over medium heat, place the olive oil and onion. Fry the onion until very lightly browned (4-5 minutes) then add the garlic. Cook for 1 minute. If your canned or fresh tomatoes are not the most flavorful, you can add the anchovy paste now to boost the taste. Then add the tomatoes and bay leaves and cook, stirring periodically for 2-3 hours. If the consistency gets too thick during that time you can add some red wine. In the last 5 minutes of cooking add the thyme and oregano. Salt and pepper to taste.

Assembling the dish:
2 cups of the tomato sauce
the fried (or baked) eggplant
3 medium balls of fresh mozzarella sliced as thinly as possible
10 fresh basil leaves sliced thin
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup dry breadcrumbs, toasted in 1 tsp olive oil

Spread ½ cup of sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 oval oven-proof dish. Layer half the eggplant a evenly as possible. Layer ½ the mozzarella. Music to layer mozzarella by: “Woke Up This Morning” (Sopranos Theme Song) by Alabama 3. I have had this song running through my head all afternoon and I don’t even like it. Sprinkle with half the basil leaves and then half the grated parmesan. Spread the rest of the sauce evenly over everything. Continue layering the other half of the ingredients in the same order. Finally sprinkle the top as evenly as possible with the toasted bread crumbs. If you want to be like Carmella or Janice Soprano, you can make the dish up to this point and freeze it. When somebody dies, you can bring the dish still frozen over to the berieved’s house to help them get through the mourning process without having to cook. Otherwise, just bake in a 350F oven for 30-40 minutes until the middle is bubbling. Enjoy with a side salad and some crusty bread.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bruschetta di Melitsanosalata

Here's an Italian style way to eat a summery Greek salad or dip: Bruschetta, of course is a snack of grilled Italian bread topped with something yummy. In this case it's melitsano(eggplant)salata(salad).

This Greek eggplant salad is the best I know if. I’m not a fan of the Italian sweet and sour eggplant caponata, but this Greek dish really has me. Try it on some grilled Italian bread. Yum!

1 medium-sized eggplant
1 small roma tomato, minced
½ cup minced red or yellow onion, soaked in cold water then drained**
1 clove garlic, mashed
2 tbsp chopped walnuts
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped parsley

**I think dishes with raw onion taste better if the onion is soaked in cold water and drained first. The bright, zingy onion flavor remains but the overpowering, sometimes acrid taste is washed away before it ever gets the chance to ruin your dish.

Pre-heat your oven to 350F. Leave the eggplant stem attached but pull the excess leafy-green cap off so that all of the eggplant skin is exposed. Prick the skin in several places with a knife so that steam can escape without the eggplant exploding in the oven. Place the eggplant on a cookie sheet and put in the oven for about 1 hour. Cook until the eggplant is uniformly soft and the skin has turned from purple to brown. Remove from oven. Let cool slightly. As soon as you can handle it, slice the eggplant in half longways. Scoop out all the meat with a large spoon, chop roughly, salt and place in a large mesh strainer over a recipient. Cover the eggplant with a plate and weigh it down. I use a full glass of water on top of the plate as a weight. Let stand for at least another hour until the eggplant has let go of a lot of it’s juices. Music to drain eggplant by: The Shins "New Slang". I just showed one of my English classes the film, "Garden State" and this song, featured in the film, has been running in my head ever since.
Meanwhile chop, mince and mash the other ingredients. When the eggplant is ready, add everything together in a serving bowl. It tastes best after macerating together for at least an hour or 2. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

They're Selling My Dissertation on Amazon!

Holy Toledo! When I've Googled my name in the past, I've always got millions of hits, the first of which are about a Relationship Coach/Self-Help expert or a Latin American Scholar who works at the Univsrstiy of Maine (I have always been green with envy of THAT Susan Campbell!). My name may as well have been Jane Smith. But this time, I Googled "Susan Marie Campbell" and the second entry on the list was MY DISSERTATION ON SALE AT AMAZON.CO.UK!!(??) Honestly, look!

Needless to say, I'm extatic but baffled. Clearly, the still-living poet, Tato Laviera, who stars in half my book (salsa musician, Ruben Blades, stars in the other half) has found a way to get it on Amazon along with his poetry.

But why would they sell a book about Nuyorican (Puerto Rican in New York) poetry and salsa music from English site?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Tourte Milanese

I asked my friend Gigliola who comes from near Milan if she had ever heard of Tourte Milanese (or Torta Milanese) and she began to describe a sort of sweet Christmas fruitcake with vanilla sauce so I'm pretty sure this pie is not Milanese but a French invention. I've been meaning to make this savory pie for years now because the photo of it in the cookbook was so stunning, but I never got around to it because 1. it takes a lot of advance preparation and 2. the homemade puff pastry dough is such a monumental chore that I only do it once a year for Gabriel's birthday Napoleon cake. The recipe comes from French chef, Michel Richard in the "Baking With Julia" cookbook. Once I decided that a good, homemade pate brisee (pie crust) would fit this pie just fine, it came together right away. The advance preparation is 90% of the job. You have to have the pate brisee; 2 fritatta-style disk-shaped omelets cooked and cooled; roasted, peeled and seeded red bell peppers and washed and boiled spinach. Once that is done, all you do is assemble and bake. The dish takes time but the looks and the flavor are really outstanding. This would impress any Sunday lunch guest (even though this version is really different from, simpler than, the original.) Here's the dish:

2 10-inch pastry shells (see recipe here and omit sugar called for)

for omelets:
10 large eggs
1 tablespoon of fresh chives, minced
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons of olive oil

filling:
2 large red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded
1 lb spinach, washed and wilted**
8 ounces provolone cheese, sliced thin
8 ounces cooked deli ham sliced thin

1 beaten egg for egg wash

Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Roll out the pastry dough into 2 circles, one larger for the bottom and the other smaller for the top. Line a deep pie tin with the bottom layer. Press the dough into the edges. Begin filling it with 1 of the omelets, then half the spinach, half the cheese, half the ham, all the red peppers, and then continue in the reverse order with the other half of the ham, the cheese, the spinach and the omelet. Make sure that everything is as flat and even as possible. Top the pie with the smaller pastry shell then pinch and fold the bottom and top shell edges together making a decorative design. Cut holes in the top crust to let out steam. You can do the traditional one dime-sized hole in the middle or any other design you like. Finally, brush on the egg wash with a pastry brush (this will give the baked pie a shiny-brown finish) and place in the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn pie halfway through cooking to ensure even browning. Let pie cool for several hours until it is just warm or room temperature. Slice and serve.

**To wilt spinach: wash it well, drain it and place it in a large frying pan with a bit of olive oil. Salt the spinach to taste and stir turning the wilted bottom leaves over and on top of the raw upper leaves. The water that clings to the leaves after draining will be enough to wilt it. Music to wilt spinach by: Me First and the Gimme Gimmes "Are a Drag" Their punk-rock formula covers of Broadway musical hits will either have you singing to the rafters or laughing your head off. Either way, they're a lot of fun.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Eat Local Challenge? Try Fair Trade Too

Many food bloggers this month are taking the challenge to eat only locally-produced food. This Eat Local Challenge started in California, not a bad place to conduct this experiment. At first, I was intrigued but after only a few seconds of thought, I turned the idea down. You can read some compelling arguments on the subject by Barret in Chicago. I'd like to add two of my own:

1. One of the greatest things about growing up in a working-class immigrant neighborhood outside of Chicago was the great ethnic varieties of food all aorund me. I learned to appreciate Italian, Hungarian, Polish, Czechoslovakian (there was a Czechoslovakia at the time), Puerto Rican, German and Irish food just from the neighbors living on my block. In high school, our bake sales were like culinary anthropology lessons. I know what I know about food mainly because of that early exposure to dishes that came from far away.

2. Eating Locally is only noble to the degree it is insignificant. Now I am no apologist for Dole or The United Fruit Company! Certainly the Eat Local Challenge has within its scope a grass-roots tactic to weaken, or at least not support the exploitative and anti-ecological practices of global agribusiness. If it were possible to achieve this without simultaneously harming 3rd World farmers, I might be persuaded to try it. If Eating Locally really took off, it would have the side effect of 1st World protectionism. My answer is Fair Trade foods. Global (yes! global!) corporations of which Max Havelaar is only an example, sell coffee, mangoes, bananas, honey, rice, sugar, etc, etc. from small farming organizations in the "south" of the world that have a democratic structure, pay fair wages and produce food in an environmentally-friendly way. I think the French term, "Alter-mondialization" (roughly, "alternative globalization") is so much more attractive and viable than Anti-globalization. We can't move back to the pre-industrial past; let's move into the future the right way.

And besides, NOBODY'S taking away my coffee!

Friday, May 12, 2006

"You Grow Girl" Published My Recipe!

My very favorite gardening website, You Grow Girl, just published my recipe for Hortopita (Greens Pie), a dish like Spinach pie but that can be made from any greens including the dandelion "weeds" from your garden (that is if you don't spray them with anything!)

I'm so happy because as YGG claims, "If gardening really is the new rock n' roll, then Yougrowgirl.com is indie-rock" a motto after my own heart. Check it out.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

San Francisco Sourdough Bread Recipe

Here's how to make a real San Francisco sourdough loaf. This bread does not really taste sour. When you bite into a crusty slice, you get a tiny bit of sour along with a salty, rich taste and if you've baked it enough, a pleasingly bitter bite from the deep brown crust. This kind of bread takes time. Not only do you spend 2 weeks developing the starter and time out of your day to feed it regularly (although for me, "regularly" means 3x per week, not per day!) but you mix and knead it one day and bake it the next. How's that for slow? For me, though, it's really worth it. The taste is nothing like any bread I've ever made with conventional store-bought yeast. ***Let me just say that if you think caring for a bread starter regularly is out of the question, you can improve your conventional homemade bread by baking it a at a much higher temperature than the 350F suggested in most recipes. Bake it at about 450F and let it get a rich brown color, darker than usual. That should provide some depth of flavor.

The natural yeast rises very slowly which accounts for the rich taste of the bread. Quick-rising dough tastes more like paste. I have a "wicker" (for lack of a better term) proofing basket that my dough rests and rises in all night before I flip it out onto a baking stone in my oven to bake. So those two tools increase the bread's quality but the stone is absolutely optional. You can do great things even without it.

Here's the recipe:

3 cups of bread starter
approximately 3 cups flour
2 tablespoons salt

I ladle out 3 cups of starter into a large ceramic bowl then add a cup of flour and mix with a wooden spoon. I keep adding flour, mixing and scraping the sides of the bowl until the mixture is too thick to mix with the spoon anymore. Then I switch to my hands. I add another 1/2 cup of flour and knead the dough by folding it over itself and pressing down to flatten it again. I only add as much flour as I need to keep the bread from sticking to my hands too much. The better you get at kneading, the less flour you will need and thus, the better the crumb (inside, non crust part) of the bread. With minimum flour, you can achieve a crumb full of big, fat holes that look like stalagmite and stalactites. Conversely, the more flour you add, the heavier the crumb will be.

I knead the dough for 5-8 minutes then let it rest for at least 20 minutes (and have left it up to a few hours this way without apparent adverse effects). I add the salt and knead the dough a second time. The salt seems to help the dough be more cohesive and less adhesive. This goes on for another 5-8 minutes. Hey, if you have a Mixmaster, use the dough hook on it and relax with a drink. Otherwise, use your elbowgrease.

Now I put the dough into my floured proofing basket (I've furnished the 3 people who have taken bread starter from me with these baskets since I don't know where to find them in Italy). Music to proof dough by: San Francisco post-punk good-enoughs, Green Day. I place the basket into a plastic grocery bag , balloon it out and tie it closed. Now the bread has room to rise and will not dry out while it doubles in size on your kitchen counter and then rests in the fridge overnight.

The next day (could be morning, noon or night, the bread won't suffer either way) I take the bread out of the fridge and remove the plastic bag. Now the bread should slowly increase in temperature and the top should dry out. Once the top is dry, turn the oven on to its highest setting (mine is 500F) get a water spray bottle ready and flour a baking sheet if you don't have a bread stone. Once the oven has reached 500F, turn out the bread onto the baking sheet. Now the dry top will be the non-sticking bottom of the bread and the new top will be the bulls-eye design from the weave of the basket. Open the oven, spray it with some water and close it. Slash the top of the bread in the shape of the letter C and immediately put it in the oven. Spray the oven again.
After about 2 minutes, spray the oven a third time being careful not to hit the bread with the spray. After the first 5 minutes, lower the oven temp to 450F and bake for 20 more minutes. After that, turn the bread 180 degrees to make sure that it bakes and browns evenly. The left rear of my oven is a lot hotter than the front right side. Once turned, bake the bread for another 25 minutes.

Take it out when it is a rich brown color and sounds hollow when you thump it. Let it cool on a rack then enjoy.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Confessions of a Foodie Extremist: Bread Starter from Scratch

I've alluded a few times in this blog to the sourdough bread culture that lives in my fridge. I've given some up for adoption to friends who now make pizza with it. It's become dry bread which in turn gets turned into Greek tatamasalata. Now I'll tell you the whole bewildering truth.
Many years ago, I subscribed to a cookbook of the month club. One of the tomes I got in the mail was Nancy Silverton's "Breads from the La Brea Bakery". Having judged this book only by its cover, I thought it would give me new techniques on making bread with powdered yeast. Normal. Instead, this book is all about becoming a slave to your kitchen. I read the first recipe, a 14-day explanation of how to turn flour, water and organic grapes into a San Francisco sourdough bread starter that can live as long as you will if you take care of it right. I thought, this lady's a nut! Martha Stewart in her wildest dreams could never aspire to these heights of foodie extremist kitchen drudgery. After all, once you finished with the 14-day gloop-making process, then you had to sign on for feeding this beast 3 times a day every day forever. No kidding. Imagine getting a bread culture-sitter for this when you go on vacation. Needless to say, I chucked the book on the highest shelf and left it there for a few years before I went off the deep end.

Graduate school puts you in a strange position. You develop all sorts of high-level taste but you earn near starvation wages. You can't afford anything your newly acquired sophistication demands. Spending $4.00 on a loaf of bread was not only unaffordable to me, it was insulting. This is flour and water, after all. In Paris, every baguette costs 80 centimes because bread is basic, not some floofy luxury good. Yet, I was unable to make really great loaves with powdered yeast no matter what I tried so finally, while writing my doctoral dissertation, I pulled out "Breads from the La Brea Bakery". You see, when you're trying to achieve such a seemingly monumental task, you feel the need for short term accomplishments to cut the sense of anxiety and loathing your disseetation project inspires.

Here's what I did:

Day 1: I mixed 4 cups of 78F water with 4 cups of regular white flour in a 1 gallon glass bowl until everything was pretty smooth. Then I took 1 lb of unwashed organic white grapes (the book suggests red or black, but I ignored it), closed them up in a length of cheesecloth, tied it then squooshed the grapes so that the juice ran into the bowl of flour and water. Then I immersed the cheesecloth and grapes into the paste. Now I had flour, water, natural sugar from the grape juice and the natural yeast from the grape skins, which would feast on the sugar and flour over the next 2 weeks. I covered the bowl with a dinner plate (the book warned that a tight cover might pop off with the different gasses the yeast would produce.

Days 2&3: I just watched for changes in the mixture. On day 2 there were some bubbles in the paste, but the cheesecloth bag never inflated as Silverton said it might. I smelled the bag and it smelled like grape juice (Silverton predicts that or a yeast smell). So far, so good and a fun distraction to my dilemma of whether to add an analysis of Gramsci's Notebooks to my treatise on Nuyorican poetry. Answer: Nah!

Day 4: Silverton predicts the mixture will "seethe with large bubbles" and will smell distinctly like alcohol. Mine indeed smelled like wine. "And will taste sharp and acidic". I didn't go there. This means that bacteria was growing and I needed to feed the yeast to get it to dominate instead. As per instructions, I fed the mixture with 1 cup 78F water and 1 cup flour, lifted up the grape bag, mixed everything pretty well and swooshed the bag around again. Replaced the plate on top and read a bunch of Nestor Garcia Canclini until the next day.

Days 5-9: These are watching days. I checked each day to see how things were changing. The book describes possible developments of a separation of the mixture and the formation of "a yellowish liquid top layer". This happened and was not supposed to be a problem. She said mold might appear. It did and I removed it as instructed, then fed the mixture with 1 cup flour and 1 cup water. The mold was a sign that the bacteria was winning the war. Things went well after that and my culture began to smell like yeast as Silverton said it would. I had time to listen to, transcribe and analyze the lyrics of numerous Ruben Blades releases in the meantime. That was probably the most fun I had doing my dissertation.

Day 10-15: This is the start of what Nancy Silverton calls "the permanent feeding schedule". How ominous. Get how she instills a sense of urgency to this: "After this 5 days-and for the rest of your baking life-you will continue the feeding schedule...It's critical that you watch over your started as a parent watches over a newborn. Don't miss a feeding!" Like watching a newborn?! Have you ever heard Martha talk like that? I followed her instructions to the letter just so that the bread culture would be healthy but I hated every minute of it. Dumping good bread starter down the drain just because none of my friends were as crazy as I and refused the offer of free bread starter. The morning of day 10, I took out the bag of grapes and dumped it in the garbage. It had filled the flour, water, grape juice mixture with the necessary yeast to turn it into a living culture. Then, as instructed, I poured most of the culture down the drain leaving about 2 cups in the bowl. To that, I added 1 cup 78F water and 1 cup flour, mixed and wrote my dissertation for 4-6 hours until it was time to repeat. Another cup of 78F water and another cup of flour more, mixed, cover back on and went and worried about my dissertation some more. Next day the same routine. Dump almost everything down the sink and feed, feed, feed.

But, on day 15, I made bread. And it was GOOD!

***Note. Nancy Silverton's bread culture extremism is due mainly to the fact she's a professional baker who adapted her bread culture idea from Los Angeles artisinal bakery to home kitchen. She has the time to feed her culture 3x a day because that's part of her job. After the 14-day bread starter creation period I started rebelling a lot and the results are still excellent. For example my culture gets fed about 3x per week and in order to survive, it lives in my fridge where it multiplies and feeds very slowly. I make bread once a week, so that works just fine. Well, except for vacations. Anybody want to baby-sit my bread culture this August?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Cinco de mayo

Happy Cinco de mayo! I hope you're all enjoying commemorating Mexico's victorious battle against French imperialism. In Mexico this is a great excuse to drink a lot and in Chicago it's an opportunity to drive around the loop honking like crazy and waving gigantic Mexican flags out the window. (Actually Mexican Independence Day, September 16th, is an occasion for the same). Here in Italy, I miss the downtown revelry so I made myself some Tequila-Drunken Pinto Beans with Cilantro and Bacon. El plato es muy bueno y sencillo. Asi se hace:

***By the way, I took this recipe from the "Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen" cookbook, then changed it a bit. For a guy who used to look like a Mormon boy scout ###, Chicago star chef, Rick Bayless really knows Mexican food. He seems to be on a mission to raise Mexican food to it's well-deserved level of "world-class cuisine" that deserves as much reverence as French or Italian. No Eurocentrism here! Any non-Bayless recipe I've ever seen that includes oregano has specified, "preferably Greek"; he always adds "preferably Mexican".

###You may have noticed that in this current edition of the book, they've made him over to look more like a Mormon beatnik.

INGREDIENTS:
1 generous cup dry pintos (soaked overnight in cold water)
4 ozs cubed pork shoulder
4 ozs bacon or pancetta
1 small onion finely diced
1 jalapeno finely chopped (with or without hot inner ribs and seeds-your choice)
salt to taste
tequila for drizzling on the finished dish
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 cup rice (I like arborio for this)
2 cups water


Put the beans in a medium saucepan with the pork shoulder and cover with 4 cups water. Bring to a boil then cover and lower heat to medium-low to simmer. Simmer for about 2 hours or until the beans are very tender. If the lid is not very tight, you may need to add water periodically to keep the level about 1/2 inch above the beans. Music to boil beans by: Chicago artist, Liz Phair's "Cinco de Mayo" on her album, "Whip-smart".

Once the beans are tender, fry the bacon slowly over medium low heat so that it renders a lot of its oil and becomes thoroughly brown and crispy. About 10 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and add the onion and jalapeno to the bacon grease. (Mmm... bacon grease...) Fry until golden brown. Add to the beans. Salt the beans to taste. The liquid of the beans should have a creamy texture. If it's too thin, mash some beans on the side of the pan with a wooden spoon. That'll thicken it up.

Keep cooking the beans over low heat to blend the flavors while you make some rice. Add the rice and water to another medium saucepan and bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes depending on the type of rice you use. Arborio has a warm stick-to-your-ribs quality that goes really well with this Mexican bean dish. It is especially good the next day placed in a small, non-stick frying pan with a little oil and made crispy on the top and bottom.

Plate the rice and ladle some beans on the side. Sprinkle some cilantro on top, then some of the reserved bacon. Finally add about 1 teaspoon of tequila to the beans and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Salmon Tartar

Last week, I went to lunch with a friend to a frenetic lunch-counter type restautant / fish monger called Da Claudio Pescheria in downtown Milan. They specialize in raw fish assortments. You don't choose your fish, you simply choose the size of your order and you get the freshest recently sliced and/or chopped seafood on a bed of slivered lettuce and radicchio, dressed with salt, pepper and olive oil. Elbow up to the bar (standing room only here, no chairs at all, just cocktail-bar style high tables) and do what you can to get the carpaccio barista to notice you among the hoards of downtown office lunchers. Then head to a table set up with bread rolls, grissini, lemon slices, soy sauce, and Tabasco. Dress your carpaccio/tartar plate as you like and dig in. When we went, one of the roving bread replenishers handed us a small dish of raw shrimp marinated in an orange juice vinaigrette on the house. All in all it was a delicious lunch great if you're short on time and money. You're easily in and out in 30 minutes and a small order (plenty for me) sets you back only 7 euros. After one Da Claudio experience I can now unequivocally confirm that men's blue, pinstriped suits are in inner than in (or required uniformwear, couldn't be sure, really) for the office crowd.

So I've been thinking about this for the past few days and I just had to make something similar tonight. Here's what I made as a generous appetizer for 2:

INGREDIENTS:
1 small-medium salmon steak (My raw salmon is, of course, Moonie-free! Nya-nya to all of you living Stateside!)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tsp grated ginger
3 tsps minced chives
1/2 c finely minced cucumber
salt and pepper to taste
lemon wedges to squeeze

Start by skinning, de-boning and finely dicing the salmon. **If you're smarter than I am, you'll get a salmon fillet. The bones are easier to get out the way. Music to bone salmon by: Post-Punk GODS, The Pixies' "Palace of the Brine" (album: Trompe le Monde", an undeservedly maligned effort.) Place in a bowl with all the other ingredients except salt and lemon. If left for half an hour, the salt would draw out the liquid from the cucumber and give you a soggy consistency and the lemon would "cook" the salmon. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Salt just before serving with a lemon wedge on the side.

This dish really lends itself to interpretation. Add any fresh green herb you think would go well, slivered chilis, soy sauce, wasabe and pickled ginger, finely minced lemongrass and keffir lime leaves, you name it.


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