Sunday, August 30, 2009

Where to find fish?

American markets are well supplied with fish. Of course, many kinds of fish used in Dalmatian cooking are local to Adriatic Sea. Refrigeration helps a lot. Squid and octopus you can find everywhere. For some dishes, they are even better if they were previously frozen. At least it helps with octopus. However, it limits somewhat your choices. I would never have a frozen squid grilled. Or, once frozen, squid or cattlefish ink is no more usable for ink seasoned dishes.
You can find also a variety of sea bass. Some of them are quite close to European sea bass. Dentex is hard to find. Red snapper is not close to it, although for some tastes it may be even more pleasing. Pink snapper is very close to "arbun". There are many other dissimilar species that tastes equally well as Adriatic fish. I promise to write about it in my future postings.
One of the great replacements for a small coral fish called "kanjac" is a coral grouper. I have a recepy in Croatian on my other blog (link on the top left). The most problematic is the freshness. The fresh and most prized fish is enjoyed "leso" or boiled in a small amount of water with a few cloves of garlic, a leaf of laurel, a few corns of black pepper and a spoon of olive oil. The only one that I dared to try that way over here was a kind of sole. It is so flat that it refrigerates very well and once defrosted smells of sea, exactly as you would like it for "leshada". I buy a one to one and a half pounder, put it in a shallow pan, just cover with water and with already mentioned ingredients boil it for ten minutes. Skin that gives a special flavor to a soup, comes of easily, bones fall off even easier.
For everything else of dubious freshness, use more of "New World ingredients"; tomato, onion and potatoes. You can cook either popara, a lite soup or brodetto, more like a stew with a lot of tomatoes and onions. Once I have mentioned ingredients, you would think you know how to do it. But wait! There is a few more lessons to learn. I will keep it simple. If you are not patient, then go fishing! With fresh fish you can never be wrong regardless how you cook it. Just do not overdo it!
Gone fishing!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dalmatian seafood cooking. What's it about?

It is all about ingredients. Capture it fresh and enjoy its delicate flavors without pretention that you could improve it. Handle it humbly and with restrains. Add what's necessary to make a meal, but let it be what it is.  Don't call it fish. Know it by its name and its flavors!

Sofisticated simplicity, of cooks, dishes and dinners.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fresh Fish

A teacher went fishing with old local fishermen on his twenty-footer. They sailed of at dawn and before the sunrise they lowered the line with some hundred hooks. One hour later the teacher had to pull out the line under the direction of the fishermen. His back started to ache soon but he forgot it immediately when he landed first catch, a 6-pound dentex (zubatac). A few smaller fish followed and toward the end, another dentex, somewhat smaller than the previous one. Before they left home, teacher had just a cup of a marjoram “tea” and hard work made him already hungry. He started thinking about the early lunch (marenda) the moment he landed the first fish.
“Which one are we going to cook?”, he asked the old men, thinking of a great soup that could be made of a dentex. “The smaller one”, said the old men.
“Why the smaller?”, wondered the teacher. “That is the freshest one”, said the old men.
On the small boat there was just a small propane lamp and one pot. Not much ingredients besides few cloves of garlic, some parsley that old men pinched out of a pot on his terrace this morning, few peppercorns and a flask of olive oil. For salt they added some seawater to the pot. Still, teacher had the best fish ever.
“There are only two kinds of fish”, said the old men, “the fresh one and that other.”
And I nearly forgot this lesson.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What is this blog about

If you have ethnic ties to Croatia, or for that matter to any part of former Yougoslavia, you probably remember distinctive flavors of seafood meals you enjoyed during your summer vacation at Dalmatian coast. I was born in Dalmatia and for the first half of my life I was getting imbibed with Dalmatian smells and flavors.
From time to time I get cravings for a simple fish soup, brodetto, popara, gregada or just for grilled sardines. If I decide to cook some of these delicious dishes, the main problem becomes to find the fish. I live about 150 miles from the Atlantic coast, in a triving urban area with abundant supplies of foods and goods from all over the world. However, fish is not like any other food, at least not the fish that gives so distinctive taste to Dalmatian dishes. Some species from Adriatic sea are just not available in United States. I realized long ago that my cravings would never be satisfied if I do not learn to pick proper substitutes from rich fish markets in my new homeland.

That's what this blog is about: traditional Dalmatian seafood and how to cook Dalmatian in United States. For those lucky who sail Adriatic along Dalmatian coast, it may be useful to learn what authentic Dalmatian seafood is and how to find it.
For the beginning, learn to say "bon appetite" in Croatian: U SLAST!