sea urchin. i’m enamored. and i have been for quite some time although it’s usually called uni and served to me over a slab of rice. well ok, not necessarily – at least not anymore. not since i had it served on a piece of lightly toasted bread, draped with the thinnest, barely warmed slice of lardo at marea in nyc. thank you chef michael white. because that right there was a most memorable bite, one that set the tone for one of my top 3 meals of ’09.
and sure, there have been a few pastas with sea urchin ordered at various restaurants (a voce, esca and marea come to mind…). and then there was that whole bourdain/ripert food porn spectacle at le bernardin… i watched that and yearned… deeply… (for both tony and the taglietelle.)
but just 3 days ago i was lucky enough to find myself in possession of two 80 gram trays of the freshest most lovely sea urchin that one might ever come across – overnighted via fedex from san diego. i nearly made that eric ripert version which is pretty much a butter sauce fortified with pureed sea urchin and then embellished with chives, espelette, parmigiano and a touch of lemon – not to mention the generous dollop of osetra… but it just seemed TOO rich. TOO heavy. not that i’m knocking it. i’m quite sure that it’s an experience unto itself and one that i plan on having at some point, but right now i’m trying to keep it light – so i begrudgingly shied away from that.
and then i found it. right in the ny times. the perfect dish…
a close up for you of one of the most wonderful things i’ve made perhaps ever… but then again i’d not eaten any pasta for nearly a solid month so it’s hard to know. regardless, i highly – but highly recommend this dish.
it blew me away.
spicy spaghettini with sea urchin and tomatoes
adapted from chef beatrice tosti of il posto accanto in nyc
makes 4 small plates
8 ounces dry spaghettini
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
6 cloves garlic, peeled
a scant 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
12 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes, preferably organic, halved
about 2 1/2 ounces sea urchin – one standard tray
freshly grated zest of an organic lemon
small handful flat-leaf parsley leaves, freshly chopped.
bring a medium pot of well salted water to a boil over high heat. meanwhile, in a skillet large enough to later hold all the pasta, heat the olive oil over medium heat. add garlic, reduce heat to low, and slowly cook on all sides, turning often, until cloves are lightly browned and caramelized, about 10 minutes.
raise heat under skillet to medium, add chili flakes and cook, stirring, until toasted, about 2 minutes. add tomatoes and cook, turning gently, just until wilted.
when water boils, add the pasta. stir well. when pasta is cooked through but still firm, drain, reserving 1 cup cooking water.
turn heat under skillet to low. add about 3/4 of the sea urchin to skillet with a splash of pasta cooking water. add pasta to skillet and toss thoroughly but gently over low heat, adding pasta cooking water and more oil to taste if mixture is dry. taste for salt and toss in lemon zest and parsley.
serve hot, decorating each serving with remaining sea urchin.
a huge shout out to catalina offshore products for supplying me with this incredible seafood. they dive for the sea urchin when the weather permits and then ship it directly to your door. it was just excellent and as fresh as it gets.
it arrives in this small, slim box surrounded by ice packs
and this right here is the beautiful golden sea urchin.
which by the way is not actually roe, they’re the gonads of both the males and females..
as in testicles and ovaries.
and dear readers after all we’ve meant to each other
i wouldn’t kid you about a thing like this…