Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Christian Muslim Medley

Listening to global savior and United States President Barak Obama spread his message of hope, peace and justice for all in Cairo, Egypt the other day, I was inspired to go on a mini crusade and create a new dish.
And so, armed with only a Chinese scissors, I marched to the garden and chopped the ornamental heads off of a cluster of unsuspecting Egyptian onions, and converted them into a working dish that I call my, "Christian Muslim medley"— Fusion Pasta For All.

If you've read up on the knights of Malta you may know about the ancient Muslim Christian clash in the southern mediterranean, and the exchanges that took place throughout the centuries not only of slaves and women but also of culture and spice. But, I wonder, is it common knowledge that this is also the place where the hideous food craze called "Fusion Cuisine" can trace its unsavory beginnings?

For a thousand years, ingredients and combinations of such, slowly trickled down through the soups and sauces of the day, or were whisked and beaten into the common Christian kitchens of Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and Malta by their Muslim conquerors. Hence, here, in these places, you will find dishes boasting such exotica as pastes of fragrant cloves, coriander, cumin, fennel and garlic. Or tiny Grattini pasta looking eerily like Moroccan Cous Cous, tossed with the Sultan's raisins and infused with Saffron from Christian Spain.

So, on a congratulationary note, for his wonderful speech, the other day, I would like to offer my creation of this, my only fusion dish of sorts to President Barack Obama. May he and his family enjoy it for a thousand years.

As a foot note— the other name that I came up with for a title was, "The Sultan's Slippery Rings" which obviously is not a reference to his footwear which clearly would be a grave insult, but in fact refers to the squid rings required for the effective execution of the dish. After eight years have passed, I will change it to this.

Plenty for two with leftovers for lunch.

For the sauce:
Good olive oil to coat a stout enameled cast iron pot.
3 Large Egyptian onions chopped into fine rings, or 1 medium yellow onion finely minced.
1 Tbsp rinsed salted capers roughly chopped.
3 Oil packed anchovies finely minced.
1/2 Tsp smoked hot paprika.

Briefly toast the following in a pan and then combine in a mortar and mash to a coarse powder with a pestle;
5 whole cloves,
1 Tsp coriander seeds,
1/2 Tsp cumin seeds,
1/2 Tsp fennel seeds,
3 large garlic cloves.

1 14 oz Jar of whole roma tomatoes,
Pinch of Spanish saffron,
Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper,

For the squid:
A juniper and pinon wood fire cooked down to hot coals.
1 Pound squid tubes and tentacles.
Marinade for squid: Make a paste in a mortar and pestle of a small handful of fresh oregano, 3 cloves of garlic, organic lemon zest from one whole lemon, sea salt and black pepper to taste. Toss the squid with the marinade.
1 pound of Stringozzi pasta.
Have a large pot of lightly salted boiling water at the ready.

Heat the oil in the pot to medium and add the onions, allow to soften at a gentle pace, then add the capers and the anchovies, toss them around a little, then add the smoked paprika. Now add the ground spice powder and stir around for a bit. Now, add the jar of tomatoes and the saffron. Break the tomatoes up with a wooden spoon. Add salt and pepper. Turn heat to a gentle simmer and go outside and chop wood for the fire. Fire starter is unnecessary: Slice the wood into tiny kindling with your ax and place in the fire pit in a pyramid shape and using only one match light your fire. Build it up and let it die down to hot coals. Now add the marinated squid to the fire and grill briefly. Transfer to a bowl and slice the tubes into Sultan's rings. Then add the squid to the sauce and continue to simmer.
Now cook the pasta, drain it, toss with butter and fold it into the sauce. Adjust seasonings to taste prior to enjoying!

Interesting caveat: In all honesty, I haven't actually tried this recipe. That is not to say that I haven't eaten the dish. I have. We have. Just the other day. I simply reconstructed it from memory. So the seasonings and amounts may not be exact— feel your way through. Nothing is written on paper here. Change as desired.

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