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Archive for February, 2008


Tentacles have gone MIA

Now, more than ever, chickens and cows are granted a few more days to graze the fields in order for alligators and kangaroos to take center plate. However, despite this overwhelming rush to serve the more exotic, I was recently disappointed (twice) after ordering a simple appetizer of fried calamari. I thought these restaurants played it safe by omitting, what I claim to be, the tastiest part of the squid – its tentacles. And I make this gustatory claim not because I’m trying to compensate for my long overdue appearance on Fear Factor, but instead do so with concrete culinary evidence on my side: the tentacles have more surface area, which makes them crispier, which in my book translates into yummier.
After striking disappointment at both restaurants earlier this month, I knew it was time to build up the courage and re-enter the squid-frying arena. Actively breaking my vow to never fry in my tiny college apartment ever again, I took out a heavy bottomed pot, cranked up my muffled exhaust fan and opened up all three windows of my apartment in (mid-February) Ithaca. In the end, it was totally worth it.

fried calamari

Fried Calamari

(yields 6 appetizer servings)

Components

  • 1 lb. of calamari, cleaned
  • 1 ½ cups of all purpose flour
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • vegetable oil, for deep frying

Putting them all together

  1. Heat vegetable oil to 350 degrees F and prep the squid by cutting the tubes into ½ inch rings and reserving the tentacle pieces.
  2. Season squid with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Flour each piece lightly, making sure to shake off the excess flour. Fry in small batches until golden brown (approx. 1 minute) and transfer to a paper-towel lined plate.
  4. Serve alongside Saffron Aioli.

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saffron aioli

Saffron Aioli

(yields approx. 1 cup)

Components

  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. hot water
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Steep saffron threads in hot water for 5-7 minutes.
  2. Place the egg yolks into a food processor and slowly drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil to create an emulsion.
  3. Add the remainder of the ingredients and process until well combined.
  4. Refrigerate until ready to use. (Can be made the night before)

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Memories of Italy Hidden in a Salad

While in Italy, I noticed a great deal of attention was given to the palate and the way in which food was perfectly orchestrated from preparation to consumption. Meals had an order to them; appetizers actually opened up my appetite (shocking, right?). Chicken wings swimming in a puddle of sauce or a mountain of nachos forgotten under a cap of plastic-like cheese was simply unheard of. I loved how food made sense there.

Breakfast was usually small and quick – un caffè accompanied by a biscotti was delicious and typical. Ordering a “decaf grande, half-soy, half-low fat, double-shot, marble mocha macchiato, no foam, 2 Sweet-n’-low, extra hot” was grounds for excommunication with a side of public humiliation. Lunches were equally enjoyable, and I can continue to rant about how fabulous the al fresco dinners were, but that’s not what this entry is really about. This entry is my little tribute to the Sicilian classic, Fennel and Orange Salad.

On my trip I learned that salads are not to be eaten as entrees nor are they served as preludes to a meal. A salad should be enjoyed after the main course as a palate cleanser for the sweet finale. The moment I tasted this traditional Sicilian winter salad, I knew it was worth blogging about. The fresh anise flavor that charges through each bite literally douses your taste buds with the most memorable refreshing sensation. The anise flavor is then coupled with the sweet tartness from the juice of the blood oranges, striking that perfect note in your mouth. Add a few olives for some extra tang and your fruitiest extra virgin olive oil for some balance and you’ve got yourself a phenomenal salad!

Fennel & Orange Salad

Fennel & Orange Salad

(yields 2 servings)

Components

  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 blood orange
  • 1 naval orange
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • a few black olives
  • salt, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Prepare the fennel by cutting off the bulb. Then cut the bulb into quarters, and slice each quarter into thin strips. Rinse under cold water and set aside.
  2. Section the oranges and set aside. Then squeeze what’s left to remove as much of the juice as possible.
  3. Whisk the juice of the oranges into the olive oil to create a light vinaigrette. Season with salt and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  4. To serve, scatter fennel slices on a large platter, decorate with orange segments, black olives and drizzle with the light orange vinaigrette.

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My Food Odyssey, online

I finally got around to posting all the food related pictures from my trip on my flickr account. For those who just joined, I just got back from a month-long research project in Syria, Lebanon and Italy where I got to experience firsthand different cultural dining experiences and explore flavors that were out of this world!!