Friday, October 24, 2008

Mario Batali's Salmorejo: All is not lost.

Salmorejo. Say the word and it is evocative of so many things, possibly. So many Andalusian things? Potentially?

These are things I am not familiar with, rendering me incapable of plying you with language which marks your soul in such a way that you may desire nothing more for yourself than to make this salmorejo and eat it while savoring every last Andalusian spoonful. I wish I could spark your imagination to such a height that you, being so taken by how magical this dish is, immediately spirit yourself to Andalusia figuring everything there must be equally as dreamy and awe-inspiring: Maybe to vacation, maybe to stay.

I don't have the language for two reasons: First, I have never been to Andalusia. I have only been to an Andalusian restaurant of dubious culinary skill which once did business in a magnificent courtyard in Charleston. As for Mario Batali's salmorejo recipe in Food and Wine of September, 2008 - called both a "super thick gazpacho" and a "tomato and garlic dip" - it is not devastatingly special. It improves in the fridge overnight. Sparkling praise, this is not. Consequently, neither experience sent me dreaming of Andalusian afternoons spent nibbling on bits of lovely crusty bread, sipping red wine which glows ruby in the lowering afternoon light, and chatting away with my new Andalusian friends. Nor am I left wishing I could make and eat this salmorejo more often. Or, for that matter, ever. The good news is: It does not turn a person off to Andalusian food. Great, right?

After making this recipe twice (the Hostess is not easily swayed in any direction) I harbor some suspicions where this dippy gazpacho is concerned: First, I suspect that if the tomatoes were slow roasted, it would have been notably more tasty and piquant. As it was, with the gorgeous vine-ripes and romas I used, it lacked flavor. Second, I believe that were the recipe not so rigid with regard to the amount of olive oil used and it instructed the cook to add the 1/4 cup and reassess the consistency in the event it needs a bit more oil, I would eventually come to associate the sludge before me with the pretty pink soup in the glossy photo.

The recipe makes a lot of sludge and therefore uses and solutions had to be developed for a substantial amount of leftovers. Should you find yourself with the same enigmatic, "What to do with all the salmorejo?" puzzle before you, the Hostess has suggestions which were actually much better than the not-gazpacho-y at all soppy thing resulting from making this recipe:

1. Use the salmorejo as a sandwich spread. It definitely took my BLT up several notches: Toasted artisan peasant bread (which you will have left over from the salmorejo recipe), spread with the salmorejo, and layered with seasoned arugula and crispy pancetta. Why, on a particularly big day, I might even combine the salmorejo with mayonnaise as a spread.

2. Use the salmorejo as a dressing for pan roasted fish: I pan roasted a richly pink piece of wild coho salmon for dinner, combined the salmorejo with a bit more olive oil to loosen, coated the top of the coho fillet, and threw both under the broiler for five minutes. It was blog-stoppingly lovely.

3. Use the salmorejo as a dip for a crispy chicken cutlet: Add a little olive oil to the salmorejo and use dip in it trimmed chicken cutlets, then dip the cutlets in seasoned bread crumbs. Place on a canola-greased baking sheet and spray the top of each cutlet as well to help with browning. Bake until golden.

All is not lost.

1 comment:

Visual Vamp said...

Ha ha! What a great post!
Mario Batali needs more time in Spain than a glossy road trip with Gwenyth Paltrow.
There are better Spanish cooks/chefs with cook books out there, if you know what I mean.
xo xo xo