Friday, June 26, 2009

Grilled Sardines and Anchovies Recipe

To celebrate a recent family birthday, we grilled sardines and anchovies on our new mini balcony grill, and I made a polenta ‘lasagna’ as an accompaniment. I had grilled sardines several times on my own, attempting, usually, to recreate the memory of an amazing simple meal of sardines and french fries I shared with my father once in Slovenia. I have made them at home, in a regular pan on the stovetop, and I have made them, and had them made for me, by my friend Cheryl, outside, on an outdoor grill, like this time. But anchovies on the grill I had never tried.

One summer, four years ago, I was teaching in Rome for a couple of weeks, and needing a little single girl alone time, took the middle weekend, and off I went to Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, and back to Naples by boat. Once I saw the sweeping views from the first stop in Positano, I jumped off the bus attempting to find a place to sleep, and viewed, and quickly paid for, a room overlooking the Italian coastline, and the colorful villas dotting the surrounding cliffs. After a refreshing swim in the pool, and washing off all the Pompeiian dust, I headed down the hill for a look at the sea and a bite to eat.

The Italians were often baffled that I was traveling alone, and eating alone was no different. Assuming they felt sorry for me, I got lots of free stuff. My gorgeous meal of Italian flag red cherry tomatoes, twelve butterflied and grilled anchovies from the water my feet could almost touch, and a substantial arugula salad enhanced with olive oil and acidified by a squeeze of the ubiquitous Amalfi lemon, was followed by a gift: a curvy glass of the local liquor with a wild strawberry floating in it. After that meal, the idea of grilling fresh anchovies became as dreamy as memories of my Mediterranean adventure.

I was worried they would stick on the grill if I butterflied them, so I cleaned them and grilled them whole, and left them for just a minute over the heat. These anchovies were an experiment, a little appetizer before the foolproof sardines, fragrant with fresh thyme sprigs, and imbued with smoky flavor. Now that I know I can do it, next time it’s twelve anchovies for each of us, and a small glass of limoncello, perhaps, for the strawberries.

Grilled Sardines and/or Anchovies Recipe

Clean the sardines and/or anchovies by cutting the head off on an angle behind the gills, and then make a small slit in the belly area. Remove the head and then the guts from the slit you just made, and rinse the inside with water. For a prettier presentation, you may leave the head on. Remove any scales on the sardines by running your knife gently the wrong way against them. Rinse again, and set the cleaned fish aside. There’s no need to do this with the anchovies, and there might even be debate about cleaning them at all; they are so small.

I bought my sardines already cleaned by the fish monger, and disappointingly, they removed the tail, too. The tail is my favorite part, not only because it gets nice and crispy on the grill, but also because you can use it to pull all the bones out with one fell swoop once the fish is cooked and on your plate. After you get over a little blood, it’s really easy to clean the fish yourself, and saves money, too!

Dry the sardines and anchovies well, and fill the belly of all the sardines with a thyme sprig. Rub the surface of the fish with plenty of olive oil, and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Make sure your grill is hot, and the coals are well distributed. Put the sardines and anchovies on the grill, being careful not to crowd them. Cook the sardines for a minute and a half to 2 minutes on each side, turning them carefully. Cook the anchovies for barely a minute on each side.

Remove from the grill and serve immediately with fresh lemon, and arugula salad, if you like.

Other recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Wilted Dandelion Greens with Dried Figs and Pine Nuts Recipe, Fresh Coriander, Ginger, and Chile Crepês Recipe (Rava Dosa), Turkish Red Lentil, Bulgur, and Mint Soup (Ezogelin Çorbası)

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Turkish Red Lentil, Bulgur, and Mint Soup Recipe (Ezogelin Çorbası)

I have had a lot more cheese, here in Switzerland, than I have even written about. I have shared fondue, and cheese tarts, and for breakfast, I just cannot turn down the earthy gruyère on my toast with a little Swiss alpine butter. It’s great, but I needed a break. This is not my usual diet, and for some grounding, I made a favorite Turkish red lentil soup from my childhood. It is disappointingly chilly here, so instead of sunbathing at the bains de paquis, and then relishing the cooling effects of the clear lake, I bought a pair of shoes that aren’t sandals, and to warm us, I made soup.

One of the few inexpensive places to eat in Geneva are the Turkish and Kurdish kebab houses. While tasty, I’m sad that kebabs have become the quintessential Turkish food outside of Turkey, when there is enormous variety and sophistication to the country’s food left unrepresented. No matter, I’m happy to eat a good döner kebab when I can, so one day, caught without lunch, we stopped in for one. The Swiss are polite and kind, but the Turks are warm, welcoming, and once you’re friends, friends you are for life. In Turkish, there are even two words for the word friend, highlighting the spectrum of possible closeness. At first meeting, one may be referred to as an arkadaş, or usual friend, and if the relationship becomes longer-term, more like family, then one is called a dost, an intimate, or kindred spirit.

After having eaten at this local place, and speaking briefly in my flawed Turkish with the server and with the owner, Turks from all over the neighborhood began to recognize me. Now, if my husband and I enter a different kebab house and ask, in French, for a savory yogurt beverage called ayran, I’ll hear someone sitting at a nearby table alert the owner, saying, “onlar Türkler”, meaning “they’re Turkish”, and they’ll switch from French to Turkish. “They” are Turkish, not “she” is Turkish. My husband, looking clearly western European, welcomed, too, into the warmth of the Turkish culture, even from Switzerland. Thank you, Turks, for helping make chilly Geneva feel more like home.

Turkish Red Lentil, Bulgur, and Mint Soup (Ezogelin Çorbası)

adapted from The Sultan's Kitchen, By Özcan Ozan
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted clarified butter (I don’t bother clarifying the butter, and you could use only olive oil if you wanted to leave out the dairy)
1 large Spanish onion, finely diced (3/4 cups)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 medium tomato, peeled,
seeded and finely chopped (1/2 cup) (or you may use 1/2 cup of tomato sauce or diced tomatoes)
2 tablespoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon Turkish red pepper or ground red pepper (you may use cayenne, or leave it out)
1-1/2 cups red lentils
1/4 cup long-grain white rice (I sometimes use brown rice here)
6 cups chicken stock or water
1/4 cup fine-grain bulgur (you may also use regular bulgur. I find the resulting textural contrast nice)
1 tablespoon dried mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Plain bread croutons (optional)
Lemon wedges

For the Topping:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or olive oil, but butter really makes it here)
1 teaspoon dried mint
1/2 teaspoon paprika (I also add spicy Turkish pepper to this mixture for a little heat)

In a heavy medium-sized saucepan, heat the olive oil and the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook gently for about 2 minutes, or until they're softened but not brown. Stir in the tomato paste, chopped tomato (or tomato sauce or diced tomatoes), the paprika, and Turkish pepper. Add the lentils, rice, and stock. Cover the saucepan and bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked and the lentils have blended with the stock. Add the bulgur and mint, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the soup is too thick, add a little water.

To make the topping, melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the mint and paprika, and stir the mixture until it sizzles. Ladle the soup into individual bowls and drizzle the butter mixture over each serving. Top with the croutons, if you're using them. Serve at once with lemon wedges.

Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Sorrel and Stinging Nettle Soup Recipe, Oven Baked Börek with Mustard Greens, Feta, and Walnuts Recipe, and Spring Fava Beans with Garlic Yogurt Recipe.

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