Sustainable fish balls and the curse of Sapiens

‘After my nana passed away, a few months ago I stopped writing on this blog. I didn’t have the enthusiasm, the commitment… of course I keep on doing the two thing I love most, cooking and reading, but I didn’t feel like sharing, taking pictures, try to find  the right words to make the dishes appealing. Why shouldn’t I admit that I was going to close the blog? So, why did I change my mind? I have to thank my good friend Feride, a few days ago she came over for dinner, and she prepared Aunt Petunia’s Lemon Meringue Pie. When I share with her my idea about closing the blog, she was surprised and she told me that it was a good blog (for a beginner I added), the recipes are easy and usually quick, so she encouraged me to keep on sharing books and recipes.

Today I will propose the recipe of fish balls, easy to prepare and very tasty, I prepare them often as my daughter doesn’t like fish and this is one of the few way she eats with great pleasure. If I should match this recipe with a book, of course I would think about Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, that I mentioned before. I will go further: at the moment I am reading Yuval Harari’s recent book “21 lessons for the 21st century”,  but if you don’t yet know the work of this Israeli scholar, please read his first best seller “Sapiens”; you will understand how it happens that from eating row radishes, nuts and small animals we came to eat food that it is potentially not sustainable for the planet 🙂.

I try to be a bit more informed about the sustainability of what we eat, I ‘ve read that fish farming in Norway has become clean and sustainable, the alternative is to use wild salmon or any fish that you like and you know that is not in danger…

As for the frying oil, please remember that is very polluting, after use, pour the oil in a bottle and bring the bottle to one of the collecting point around you: there it will be recycled without causing harm to the environment…

So let’s stop talking, and start cooking….

Ingredients:

For the balls:

1 kg salmon or any other sustainable fish

2 slice of bread

3 spoonful of milk

100 gr of grated cheddar or parmesan

1 egg

salt to season

for the crust:

2 eggs

200 gr of bread crumbs

To fry:

1 lt. high quality vegetable oil (olive oil is the best of choices)

Directions

  • Boil or microwave the fish for a few minutes. Put it in a food processor and mince it. 
  • In a bowl wet the bread with the milk until soft, then add the minced fish, the egg and the cheese. Mix everything together well. Season with salt
  • Prepare the balls: . Lightly beat the eggs with salt in a deep dish, spread out the bread crumbs on a plate, take pieces of the fish dough and form into 20-25 rounds the size of ping pong balls, dip each ball first in the egg and then cover with bread crumbs, making sure that it is well coated, putting them on a tray ready to be fried.
  • Heat the oil in a deep  saucepan to 170°C
  • Add some of the balls. Cook for about 6-8 minutes until golden brown and crispy.
  • Fry the fish balls in batches, as above.
  • Remove the cooked balls with a slotted spoon and set aside on a tray lined with kitchen paper. Can be served hot or cold.
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Mistletoe puff pastry appetizer with chard and buffalo mozzarella

Still digging into Frazer’s “Golden Bough” to understand why mistletoe is one of the symbols of this season.

The_Golden_Bough
This book can be downloaded for free at the site of the project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/3623

“…Thus among the Celts of Gaul the Druids esteemed nothing more sacred than the mistletoe and the oak on which it grew…”

“…Now, like fern-seed, the mistletoe is gathered either at Midsummer or at Christmas that is, either at the summer or at the winter solstice and, like fern-seed, it is supposed to possess the power of revealing treasures in the earth… The treasure-seeker places the rod on the ground after sundown, and when it rests directly over treasure, the rod begins to move as if it were alive. Now, if the mistletoe discovers gold, it must be in its character of the Golden Bough; and if it is gathered at the solstices, must not the Golden Bough, like the golden fern-seed, be an emanation of the sun’s fire?”

So what would be better than an appetizer in the shape of mistletoe to celebrate the slowly rebirth of the sun after longest night of the year hoping that those tasty leaves will help us to find the treasures of the coming year.

 

mistletoe.jpg

Savory puff pastry filled with a mix of chard (or spinach) and then arranged into a mistletoe branch makes the perfect appetizer this holiday season.

 

INGREDIENTS

Serve 6 persons

  • 2 sheets (40 x 35 cm) of real butter puff pastry
  • 250 gr of boiled and drained chard or spinach
  • 100 gr of buffalo mozzarella
  • salt
  • natural (vegetal) green food coloring
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 tidbit buffalo mozzarella balls

edf

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  • Sprinkle a little flour on top of a sheet of parchment paper.
  • Unfold one sheet of puff pastry on top of the parchment paper.
  • With the help of a blander, mix the chard and the mozzarella (you can season as you please but the natural flavor is exalted by the butter in the puff pastry, so I preferred to add only some salt)
  • Spread the chard sauce on top of the puff pastry sheet being careful not to go too close to the edge.
  • Place the second sheet of puff pastry on top of the first sheet of puff pastry that has the chard sauce. Press gently to seal the two sheets together.
  • I cut the leaves without a template, because I liked them a bit irregular but you can download a template from the internet.
  • Now that you cut the leaves you have to slice them to simulate the veins on a leaf.
  • Starting on one side, make horizontal slices into the sides of the leaf being careful to stop before you reach the center.
  • Repeat the same process on the other side each leaf; again being careful to stop before reaching the center.
  • Starting at the bottom, twist the veins away from you.
  • Continue twisting the veins moving up the tree and then move on to the other side and twist those veins as well.
  • Mix the egg white with some green food color a brush all the three leaves
  • Bake in the preheated oven until puffy and golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
  • Arrange your mistletoe leaves on to a serving platter with three tidbit mozzarella ball to create the fruit effect.

NOTES: You can use Nutella Spread and strawberry or grape to make this a dessert.

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The Golden Log

The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion is an essay written  by the Scottish anthropologist Sir James George Frazer at the end of the XIX century.

Given that we are in the most magic period of the year and I am in my “fantasy” mood I decided to read again some part of this very interesting (yet a bit confusing) essay, to try to understand the origins of “Yule log

The_Golden_Bough
This essay can be downloaded for free at the site of the project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/3623

Here some excerpts that may enlighten the importance on the log during the celebration of the Winter solstice.

“… The custom of kindling great bonfires, leaping over them, and driving cattle through or round them would seem to have been practically universal throughout Europe, and the same may be said of the processions or races with blazing torches round fields, orchards, pastures, or cattle-stalls. Less widespread are the customs of hurling lighted discs into the air and trundling a burning wheel down hill. The ceremonial of the Yule log is distinguished from that of the other fire-festivals by the privacy and domesticity which characterises it; but this distinction may well be due simply to the rough weather of midwinter, which is apt not only to render a public assembly in the open air disagreeable, but also at any moment to defeat the object of the assembly by extinguishing the all-important fire under a downpour of rain or a fall of snow.”

foto tronchetto natale 1.jpg

“… But we naturally ask, how did it come about that benefits so great and manifold were supposed to be attained by means so simple? In what way did people imagine that they could procure so many goods or avoid so many ills by the application of fire and smoke, of embers and ashes? Two different explanations of the fire-festivals have been given by modern enquirers. On the one hand it has been held that they are sun-charms or magical ceremonies intended, on the principle of imitative magic, to ensure a needful supply of sunshine for men, animals, and plants by kindling fires which mimic on earth the great source of light and heat in the sky. This was the view of Wilhelm Mannhardt. It may be called the solar theory. On the other hand it has been maintained that the ceremonial fires have no necessary reference to the sun but are simply purificatory in intention, being designed to burn up and destroy all harmful influences, whether these are conceived in a personal form as witches, demons, and monsters, or in an impersonal form as a sort of pervading taint or corruption of the air”

dav

It is indeed a very interesting book, it helps us to understand the origins of our believes and traditions. Speaking of traditions, in many European countries we find a cake made in the shape of a log: the Christmas Log in the anglophone world, Buche de Noel in France and Tronchetto di Natale in Italy.

I decide to break the tradition and prepare a Savoury Christmas Log with shrimps and smoked salmon, nice on a buffet as well as an entree.

Ingredients

for 6 servings

15 slices white bread

250 gr. ricotta cheese

200 gr. shrimps (boiled and without shell)

150 gr. smoked salmon

Soft cheese (like Philadelphia)

1 tablespoon balsamico vinegar

Salt

dav

Preparation

  • Stack the slices of bread and cut the crusts off.
  • Arrange the slices in a 3 x 3 square and a 2×3 rectangle on Clingfilm, overlapping them slightly.
  • Roll out with a rolling pin until they are all combined together
  •  Prepare a spread combining ricotta cheese and shrimps in a mixer, spread over the square and the rectangle, then cover with slices of salmon.
  •  Roll up and remove the cling film.
  • Cut in half the smaller roll and combine it with the log to form branches
  • Mix soft cheese and balsamico and spread it on the log to create a texture similar to a oak log
  • Garnish with guacamole sauce to imitate mistletoe

ENJOY!

dav

Pesto alla Genovese

Eugenio Montale became a Nobel laureate poet in 1975, the Swedish Academy awarded him despite his modest poetic production (5 books in 50 years of work), declaring that Montale was ”one of the most important poets of the contemporary West”.

montaleGlory of expanded noon
when the trees give up no shade,
and more and more the look of things
is turning bronze, from excess light.

Above, the sun—and a dry shore;
so my day is not yet done:
the finest hour is over the low wall,
closed off by a pale setting sun.

Drought all around: kingfisher hovers
over something life has left.
The good rain is beyond the barrenness,
but there’s greater joy in waiting

translated by Jonathan Galassi (forpoetry.com)

Montale was born in Genoa, in 1896 and died in 1981 in Milan. In his poems the focus is on the landscape, sunny and desolate, stone walls surronding vegetable gardens and cultivation of olive trees. In the inclement sun everything appears hard and cruel. Those poetic descriptions are very far from the turistic leaflets of Portofino or Cinque Terre. True is that Liguria used to be an hard and poor area and many it inhabitants migrated before and soon after II World War.

Pesto alla Genovese is a very tasty sauce, you can use for your pasta, on toasted bread as a snack, is wonderful with boiled potatoes. But mind the ingredients, they have to be fresh (sometimes I found basil that went to seed in the supermarket and it is too hard to get a real nice pesto), prefer pine nuts produced in the Mediterranean area (they are long and thin) rather the Chinese variety that is cheaper but they don’t taste the same (they are bitter). The original recipe traditionally,  is made in the mortar.  You can do pesto in the food processor, but with mortar the green essential oils contained in the basil leaves come off and  the marble of the mortar that is cold and prevents the oxidation of basil.

Ingredients:

  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tablespoon of pine nuts
  • 1 cup of leaves of fresh basil
  • a pinch of rock salt
  • 2 tablespoon of parmesan cheese, grated.
  • 1 tablespoon of pecorino cheese, grated.
  • 5 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Directions:

  1. Wash the basil leaves in cold water and put them on a canvas to dry . They must be perfectly dry before starting the preparation of the pesto.
  2. Put a clove of garlic in the mortar,  Add 1 tablespoon of pine nuts and  crush until cream. Scoop out the garlic cream from the mortar and put aside. You will add it later.
  3. Put the remaining pine nuts in the mortar, half a cup of the basil leaves and few grains of rock salt.
  4. Smash the basil leaves with a rotating movement along the interior walls of the mortar. Add the remaining leaves, some more rock salt grains  and continue smashing.
  5. Then add cheeses. Amalgamate and taste. Adjust with salt if necessary.
  6. Finally, add the oil and stirr gently. Keep the pesto under a light layer of oil to prevent oxidation.

Meat Daffodils

Spring is finally here, days are longer, sky is blue, the sun is mild and a nice breeze is coming from the see. I feel like celebrate it with something cute and cheerful.

A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

daffodil
Courtesy of http://blog.terminologiaetc.it

A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretch’d in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: –
A poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company!
I gazed – and gazed – but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought. (William Wordsworth)

When I was a child, daffodils were the first flowers to blossom in spring, we lived in the Tuscan countryside there were wild daffodils near everywhere. We used to pick them up and bring them to school, our primary school was an old country school with about 20 students, that has been dismissed soon after moved to middle school.

Now I live a very different life, in a metropolis, I speak a different language and I can only travel from time to time to Tuscany. I still believe myself very lucky because my flat’ windows  (I would say my kitchen‘s) overlooks a large garden full of spring flowers and the see, but still I miss the smell of daffodils, and late in June, the smell of lime trees that grow in my parents’ garden.

So, to keep up this spring spirit, today for dinner I prepared those meet daffodils: they are very popular those days in family cooking in Tuscany and you can buy ready to put in the oven in any supermarket. But they are very easy to prepare and there is no need to buy them ready, especially because you can’t choose the meet, the cheese and the sausage you want use.

Meat Daffodils 1

Ingredients

500 gr. of veal medallions sliced in 12 thin slices

150 gr of fontina cheese or cheddar, thinly sliced

3 cottage sausage cut in four piece each

Olive oil, salt and pepper to season

Directions

In a 12 capacity muffin tin line paper cups and line them with the thinly sliced meat, cover with cheese slices as if they were petals and put a piece of sausage in the middle as show in the slides above.

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Gently remove from the tin, wrap the middle of the meet with a cooking twine, so that each of them will resemble a flower and place again in the paper bag in the tin.

daffodils2
Tied with twine and ready for the oven

Season with salt, pepper (if you like) and a bit of olive oil, put in a 180′ C. pre heated oven for 20 minutes and serve it hot.

Daffodils 3
In the plate, ready to be eaten

Enjoy!