Monday, June 29, 2015

Terrific Spanish Tuna!

You may know that we've very recently returned from an extended vacation (five weeks) in Spain and Portugal.  We had a lovely time and ate some great food.  We were in a number of different culinary regions but there was one constant: the ensalada mixte. 
It is a plate of lettuce--sometimes mixed greens, sometimes straight iceberg or romaine--topped with any number of goodies: roasted beets, cucumber, tomato, red or white onion, pickled or lightly cooked carrots, and more.  The one constant was a quartered hard-cooked egg, and a lot of very tasty tuna.

The photos here are two sides of the same salad. It was one of the best we'd had, and I asked about the tuna, which didn't taste like our normal canned tuna.  I was told it is bonito, line caught and hand packed.  I checked in a grocery and it is about 4€ a jar.  I fully intended to get some...but let it slip and didn't. So sorry!!

A blast from Mantia's past: Fish Tacos!

       It is hugely gratifying to know that even though Mantia’s has been closed for over five years, there are folks who still remember it warmly.  Not so long ago, I ran into one of our most loyal guests. She lamented the loss of the fish tacos we served every Wednesday. And shortly afterwards, along came another with the same sentiments.  Then just recently, I got an email from a third, wanting to know if I’d ever given out the fish taco recipe. No, I hadn’t, but why not now?
               Our menu listed it as “Grilled Fish Tacos with Piña Colada Cole Slaw, Sliced Roma Tomato and Chipotle Aioli.”  We used soft flour tortillas at Mantia’s, but I like the crunchy corn ones. Either way, use the taco-sized tortillas (6- or 7-inch) rather than bigger burrito or quesadilla size.  They are easier to eat without getting too messy.
               We made the aioli using pureed canned chipotle chiles.  However, one can, even the small size, would make enough aioli for the whole neighborhood.  Now I use chipotle Tabasco sauce instead when making these at home.  If you want to use canned chipotles, you can freeze the leftover chiles in an ice cube tray.  You might find that you like the aioli well enough to use on sandwiches and, thinned with a little white wine vinegar, as a salad dressing.
               The cole slaw dressing recipe makes enough for four bags of cole slaw mix. Any remaining dressing will keep for weeks in the fridge.  This slaw is good served with almost any kind of BBQ flavored grilled meat, or try it instead of plain mayonnaise in chicken salad.
               We used tilapia filets, which are tasty, and are thin enough to cook quickly without drying out.  But it’s a farm-raised fish, and I’ve gotten a little wary of most farm-raised fish.  I went to see Ted the Fish Man at the Paradise Seafood Truck and he recommended grouper.  I cut the filets into ½-inch thick slices and it was perfect. 
               With football season here, this is a great dish to serve at half-time for hungry fans of your favorite team.  You can make the cole slaw and aioli earlier.  Then you can cook the fish filets quickly by your preferred method.  Easiest for a crowd would be to run them under the broiler.  The best flavor would come from cooking the filets in a grill basket over medium heat, but if it’s too hot or too cold or too wet to fire up the grill, I would cook them in a skillet or on a stove-top griddle. 

Mantia’s Fish Tacos
Servings: 8 tacos

Cole Slaw:

1 8.5-ounce cream of coconut (found in the drink mixer aisle)
1 6- to 7-ounce can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 14-ounce bag cole slaw mix (the kind with carrots in it)

Chipotle Aioli:
¾ cup mayonnaise
Juice and finely grated zest on one lemon
1 to 2 tablespoons chipotle Tabasco, or to taste (see note)

To finish:
1 ¼ pound firm mild-flavored white fish filet, no more than ½-inch thick
2 to 3 tablespoons packaged taco seasoning
8 taco-sized corn or flour tortilla
2 ripe Roma tomatoes, sliced
1 bunch cilantro, leaves removed from stems

1. Make the cole slaw. In a blender or food processor, combine the cream of coconut, pineapple, mayonnaise and mustard.  Puree until smooth.  Mix one-fourth of the dressing with the bag of cole slaw mix. Mix well and chill for at least an hour. Reserve the rest of the dressing for another time.

2.  Make the chipotle aioli: whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice and zest and chipotle Tabasco (or pureed chipotle chiles).  Chill at least an hour.

3.  When ready to serve, dust the fish filets with the taco seasoning.  Cook by your preferred method. Spread a heaping tablespoon of the aioli on the tortilla or taco shell.  Add the fish and top with cole slaw. Tuck in a slice or two of tomato.  Serve immediately, passing the cilantro for each person to add to taste.

NOTE:  If you prefer to use pureed canned chipotle chiles in the aioli, start with two teaspoons and add more to taste.



Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Another great meal--well earned!

     Today was our first full day in Porto, Portugal.  It was a long and physically challenging but most enjoyable day.  We had a little laundry that needed to be done so we got sort of a late start, after our breakfast of coffee and very amusing pastries from the bakery around the corner from our apartment. Sorry, we ate them all up before I thought about taking pictures

We started out by a tour of the local market, and I’ll post more about that later.  Then a walk down the prime shopping street and to a couple of churches and other landmarks that Tom will talk about on Facebook.  We wanted to have lunch at the restaurant of the Taylor-Fladgate port cellar, Barao de Fladgate which was very highly recommended.  But it turned out to be quite a trek on foot.  On this view, if you look very carefully, to the right of the tallest tower, you will see two small rectangular towers.  These are the steeples of one church we walked past.

Then down toward the long bridge you see in the background, and across it. 
Up the hill and along the avenue at the top of the hill.  Then we wound our way around and up and down. 
You may not be able to see how steep this hill is that Tom made me climb, but at least then we had to go down the other side. 
By the time we got there we were both ready for a seat on the terrace.  It was a bit windy but pleasant enough.
As we were seated, the server placed tastings of white port, olives, bread and butter on the table.  This wasn’t our first rodeo, so we knew we’d be charged for them, but it was pleasant to sit out and nibble, and in the whole scheme of things…
The menu had way too many things I liked but we narrowed it down. Tom had fish soup, which was light and only a bit creamy, with herbed toast cubes to add to it. 
 I chose a chilled melon soup, with “Iberian ham dust” and rosemary.  It was thin but certainly almost all melon, with the addition of a crispy slice of Iberian ham added.
The main course took quite a while to arrive, but we were chatting, admiring the scenery and in no hurry.
Tom’s main course was “Deconstructed Cataplana.”  A cataplana is a piece of copper cookware, a sort of clam shell thing with clamps to close the sides to steam seafood (or whatever). He had several mussels, a couple of head-on langoustines, a few shrimp, big chunks of two different fish, all in a very tasty sauce with a good bit of tomato, a tiny bit of cream, and a very pleasing amount of spice.
My main course was turbot, a fish I love.  Several nice slices were seared and set atop a wonderful sauce (I must try to make it myself) of chives, white port wine reduction, ginger and balsamic vinegar.  Oh yum.  It came with a square of dauphine potatoes and sautéed baby zucchini and corn. 
          Desserts were tempting but we were getting chilly in the wind, so we went in to sign up for the cellar tour and tasting.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that after the tour and tasting, we took a cab back to the apartment for our afternoon hour or so of rest!