Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Making It All Better

Cooks are always learning, improvising and revising, even with tried-and-true recipes. Contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food is no slouch in that department, as he explains in this entry.

I heard Alton Brown on NPR the other day, and he was talking about “artful repetition” in relation to repeating recipes or ideas about food on his show (which I’ve never actually seen, being too cheap to have cable). But I like the notion applied to home cooking in the sense that you really learn how to cook things that taste good through artful repetition, using the same ingredients or techniques again and again, maybe in a slightly different way each time. It’s how I’ve built a repertoire of dishes, so here’s a repeat of a couple of favorites that I make all the time, but never served together until recently.

Olive Oil Poached Albacore with Romesco

For the tuna:

If you can’t find fresh local albacore, most New Seasons have it frozen, although you may have to ask. Cut the “loins” crosswise into pieces about and inch and half thick. Pack them into a small saucepan so they fit fairly tight, then cover with extra virgin olive oil. Heat slowly until the oil just begins to bubble, cover, and cook for about 10 minutes, then remove from heat but keep in the covered pan for another 20 to 30 minutes or until the fish is opaque.

For the romesco:

Roast 3-4 red bell peppers.

An aside: My very first published food article more than 30 years ago was about roasting red peppers, and at the time I used the propane torch I also used for waxing my cross country skiis. Since then I’ve roasted hundreds of peppers using that torch, the burners on my old Wedgewood gas stove, and a hot fire in the Weber, but I think the easiest way is to put the peppers in a hot oven for about 45 minutes. They don’t really need to be completely blackened for the skins to come off, and the step of “sweating” the cooked peppers in a plastic bag can be skipped, too.

Peel the peppers, and discard the seed core and as many of seeds as you care to pick out. Put them into the food processor with 2 to 3 roughly chopped cloves of garlic, about a cup of almonds (I use blanched and slivered almonds, but whole almonds or even walnuts or filberts are okay), a half cup or more of extra virgin olive oil, a quarter cup or so of Katz Gravenstein apple cider vinegar (sherry vinegar is traditional, but the Katz vinegars have more flavor than industrial vinegars), a little salt, and about a half teaspoon of pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika). A half cup or so of breadcrumbs is optional, but makes the sauce a little thicker. Process into a chunky paste, adding more olive oil if necessary.

Serve the tuna warm with the romesco.

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