Hey everyone. It’s my birthday!
I’m getting old. Not that old, but old still. Old for me. When did you start feeling old?
It’s an awkward birthday too. On a Tuesday, and for the first time in years I won’t be at work. Not really sure what to do with myself all day. People keep saying, “do something fun” or “treat yourself.” But treat myself to what? I’m at a loss. Blank. No idea what activity would be deemed special enough to mark my 31 years. Can a birthday really be a big deal without a party, or a meal with family, or getting dragged to drinks by co-workers? I think it can, especially a birthday when Alejandro cooks for me.
And wait, I shouldn’t say “all day,” because Erin and I are checking out potential spaces for Little Mac in Old Oakland tomorrow. And that’s exciting. It’s so hard to move forward with plans before a lease is signed. Although we did have fun choosing wines in Sonoma–something we can for sure take care of beforehand.
My birthday actually came a bit early this year, with a gift from my new friend Scott, owner of the Sausage Debauchery. Scott knows me well, and sent me Sicilian salted anchovies, Marinella capers and mullet bottarga. Ah, bottarga! It’s cured and dried fish roe that you grate over pasta, eggs, crostini–almost anywhere you would use parmigiano-reggiano. Not as earthy as anchovies, but it has the heady brininess that you only find in preserved sea life. I’ve been waiting to try this stuff for years, but it’s always been out of my price range–one small block can go for $80. Scott has both tuna and mullet bottarga for much cheaper. Check out his ebay store for bottarga and lots of Italian goodies you can’t find elsewhere.
I dished up a bread salad to serve as the backdrop for the salty fish roe. A crunchy sweet batard torn, toasted and tossed with olive oil, pan-roasted butter beans, thinly sliced celery and spicy arugula, all topped with a caper vinaigrette and dusted with bottarga. Freshly filleted anchovies sat off to the side, waiting to be covered in extra dressing.
It was good. It was really really good. Ask Erin, she had some too. And she’ll be writing my next post, so please, ask her if you don’t believe me.
Oh hey, I have a limoncello update. It’s mixed with the sugar, and getting nice and mellow before heading into the freezer. Check out my facebook page later in the week for the recipe.
Bottarga Bread Salad with Butter Beans and Caper Vinaigrette
1 can Italian butter beans (use dried if you have them, soaked and cooked)
1 cup very thinly sliced celery (a mandoline works nicely)
Handful arugula, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 freshly baked sweet batard
2 tablespoons salted capers, washed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Put the capers in a deep bowl, add a sprinkle of salt, and mash using a pestle. Add lemon juice, parsley and champagne vinegar. Stir to combine. Slowly whisk in 6 tablespoons of olive oil.
Preheat your oven to 400F. Cut the bread into one inch pieces, and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for about ten minutes.
Meanwhile, drain the beans and rinse well. Heat up a large saute pan on medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When hot, add the beans. Let cook without stirring for five minutes. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper and toss. Cook for an additional 5 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove the beans and add 2 more tablespoons of oil to the pan. Add the toasted bread and cook until golden.
Combine the bread and the beans in a large bowl. Add the sliced celery and arugula and slowly drizzle on the caper vinaigrette. Top with about 2 tablespoons of bottarga right before serving.
Where I Shopped:
Bottarga, Capers: The Sausage Debauchery
I didn’t make it to the farmer’s market this weekend, so I shopped at Star Grocery in Berkeley. They stock organic, California-grown produce and Acme bread.