this is all straight out of lidia bastianich’s book, ‘lidia’s italy’. it has begun to irk me that for all the wonderful cookbooks that i have lining my shelves, i find myself rarely cracking the covers. i need to do better in that regard as i am well aware that nearly every book i own contains a mini university. and especially in this case where i adore lidia’s food, and have since i was a kid – and there’s so much to learn… and i’d be well suited to learn much of my italian repertoire from her.
these are two recipes that i know i will go back to again and again – together and on their own. they’re pure sicilian… and well, that has a personal allure that i can barely explain. the two cities i dream of spending time are palermo and barcelona. i’ve been to barcelona – but many years ago and for only a couple of days. and i’ve never been to sicily. ever. although i have been to the amalfi coast, twice… but i need to cross the strait of messina. it is something i feel strongly about. maybe ’09 will be my year…
tuna or africa? you decide…
frankly, i’d have to say that the tuna steak right there is about as good looking as a tuna steak gets. it was bought from costco which could potentially mean food coloring, waxing, plumping and extra added mercury… i’ve really no clue how any of that works but was willing to take my chances with this surreal looking piece of fish. wait, i just googled this and sho’nuff, the odds that my tuna was gassed with a smokeless carbon monoxide (banned just about everywhere but the usa) is probably near 100%.
it’s yet another case of the old "too good to be true" reality, here to bite us once again… but see how we learn together? it was worth my ingesting artificially induced watermelon red colored tuna – just so we could have this moment…
the tuna steaks come off the grill and get a drizzle of olive oil and a shake of the oregano bouquet…
adapted from ‘lidia’s italy’ by lidia bastianich
stir thinly sliced garlic, salt and pepper into extra virgin oil and let it sit for up to an hour. reserve some of the oil for later and use the remainder to marinate the tuna for 2 or 3 hours making sure the steaks are well coated on both sides. flip them about 3 times through this process. heat the grill to hot, oil the grates and sear for 2 minutes and then flip for another 2 or 3 minutes. the flesh should not be fully cooked and will continue to cook when taken off the grill. remove to a platter. stir dried oregano into the garlic infused oil and immediately brush over the fish. sprinkle with some coarse sea salt and serve.
a perfect accompaniment to this dish is ‘panelle’ which translates to fried chickpea polenta, in foodspeak. there are 4 ingredients in this panelle and 3 of them are water, salt and olive oil. the 4th is garbanzo flour which i found at whole foods. imagine the three way love child of polenta, french fries and hummus and meditate on that for a moment…
panelle is where it’s at. this stuff is crazy good. you mix it up, slow cook it like polenta for about 20 minutes and then you cool it on a sheet, cut and pan-fry in olive oil. i made a quarter of lidia’s recipe and then cooled it in a small round cast iron pan, hence the triangles. i believe it is traditionally cut into squares. but i’d eat them in mickey mouse head shapes. because they are awesome.
adapted from ‘lidia’s italy’ by lidia bastianich
4 cups water
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil plus more for frying
1/2 pound garbanzo flour
pour 4 cups water, the salt, and the olive oil into a saucepan, and gradually whisk in the garbanzo flour until smooth. set over medium heat, and whisk constantly as the batter slowly heats. it will thicken and eventually steam but does not need to boil. cook and keep whisking, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan frequently, until the mixture is quite stiff and starts to pull away from the sides as you stir it, 15 – 20 minutes.
turn the batter onto an oiled 9×13 baking sheet and spread it quickly with a stiff metal spatula before it cools and sets, so it fills the pan in an even layer. wet the spatula with water and and smooth the top of the batter. let cool for an hour or longer , until completely firm.
cut pieces with a sharp knife into whatever size and shape you like. lidia recommends 1 1/2 inch squares for appetizers and 2×3 inch bars to accompany a main course. lift the cut pieces with a spatula and seal the remainder with plastic wrap and refrigerate for longer keeping.
cover the bottom of a skillet with 1/8" of oil and set over medium heat. when the oil is hot, lay in the panelle, leaving plenty of space between them. fry about 3 minutes until the underside is crisp and golden and then flip and and brown the 2nd side about 2 minutes more. drain the panelle on paper towels and eat while they’re warm.
in palermo they pile these fried panelle in layers onto a semolina sesame seed bun and then top it with fresh sheep’s milk ricotta and pecorino romano.
see why i need to go there?