Spaghetti with Bottarga, Preserved Lemon and Chilies

Spaghetti with Bottarga and Preserved Lemon-2667

For the last two years we’ve posted spring recipes for shad roe, a seasonal reward for surviving winter. We’re still rolling with roe this year, but of a dramatically different kind: Spaghetti with Bottarga, Preserved Lemon and Chilies. Bottarga is the salted dried roe of gray mullet or bluefin tuna. Grated over pasta or served in very thin slices, it may be even more of an umami bomb than garum. Until recently only Americans fortunate enough to travel to Sicily, Sardinia or parts of Calabria were likely to encounter bottarga. But about ten years ago lumps of bottarga began showing up in a few American chefs’ hands. Its rich, funky flavor provokes either love or hate, but at twelve to fifteen dollars an ounce, it’s pricey enough to keep all but the curious or committed from seeking it out and trying it. Two ounces is more than enough for pasta for 4. Be forwarned: the curious have a way of morphing into bottarga zealots after their initial taste experience. Think guanciale of the sea. Armed with a small amount of bottarga and prep so rudimentary it makes bolognese look like a kidney transplant, you can make a pasta dish fit for the gods.

The Ant and the Grasshopper… come for dinner.

Little Herds-9651

Eating a cricket involves a leap of faith.  I made that leap, along with a hundred and fifty other intrepid eaters at the Little Herds Future Food Salon event at Brazos Hall in Austin, Texas last Wednesday night.  Crickets, it turns out, don’t taste too bad.  In fact, crickets and mealworms, in one form or another, are downright tasty.  Think crunch.  Think hazelnuts.  I’m serious.

Where the wild things are – Fiddleheads and Ramps with Salami

Fiddleheads and Ramps with Salami-15

In the last couple of years I’ve eaten things I would have included on a culinary bucket list, if I one–nettles and bottarga, for example, and now ramps.  Of course I’d heard of ramps, and when I recently found a bunch (while foraging in the produce section at Whole Foods) I rejoiced.  I could finally that make ramp butter recipe I’d been saving for years.  When when the Hakurei turnips we palnned to write about failed to make an appearance, Jody invoked imminent domain and requisitioned my ramps for this week’s recipe – Fiddleheads and Ramps with Salami.  Forager emptor.  

Tagliatelle with Shad Roe, Pancetta and Spring Peas

Tagliatelle with Shad Roe, Pancetta and Spring Peas-1

The swallows of San Juan Capistrano return to their California mission home every March 19th, one of the natural world’s cyclic wonders.  Nature, however, may have had something rather less dependable in mind with the annual spring running of shadfish.  Last year we posted about shad roe on March 31st.  This year, we’re only a couple of weeks shy of June.  Shad roe is an ephemeral treat, briefly available on short notice, then vanishing, so when the season arrives you have to stay on you toes, prepared to swing into action at a moment’s notice.  I found three seafood stores had the roe… yesterday.  A single purveyor* had it the day I wanted it, one day before blogging.  So if you’re inclined to make this weeks’s  Tagliatelle with Shad Roe, Pancetta and Peas, finish reading this and immediately pick up the phone.  If your favorite fish vendor doesn’t have the roe today, he may be able to get it for you tomorrow.  Next week you might still get lucky, or not.  That’s the way shad rolls.   

A patio of one’s own – Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco

Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco TGF-1

Here’s the scene: working-class neighborhood, first house, first back yard, first patio.  Radical move against the local pave-the-yard-build-a-grape-arbor esthetic.  We christened the patio’s finish by inviting neighbors Pam and Chris to join us for Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco.  At the time, almost two decades ago, I’d heard of Romesco, the thick Catalan sauce based on roasted red peppers and nuts, but not grilled spring onions, which my wife assured me was a big deal in Barcelona.  She was right.  The Calçotada is a month-long Barcelonan lovefest to calçots, spring onions, which are then grilled and slathered with Romesco.  Imagine a sloppy Falstaffian bender lasting most of April, involving untold quantities of red wine and masses of fragrant grilled onions wrapped in newspapers or served in inverted clay roofing tiles and eaten with your hands.  Uh-huh, who isn’t down for that?

Affogato Corretto

Affogato Corretto TGF -2

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single espresso in possession of a good head of crema must be in want of a shot of grappa.  This shot of grappa “corrects” the espresso, resulting in an espresso corretto.  It is also a truth universally acknowledged that a single espresso in possession of a good scoop of ice cream (which combination is known as an affogato) must be in want of a shot of grappa. This “correction” brings forth an affogato corretto.  As a different writer, bearded and burley, might have observed, it’s a damn fine way to drink a damn fine espresso.