A post with Culinary Thoughts, Tips for cooks, not a cooking lesson.
Pescetarianism is the practice of diet that includes seafood and fish, but not the flesh of any other animal.
Apart from eating from the harvest of the sea, pescetarians eat from the harvest of the land and their diet is essentially vegetarian and includes fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, eggs, and dairy products.
Pescetarians in Action from the BBC
One of my special guests for the summer (my daughter Daphne, fresh from London on her summer break) is “pescetarian” and prior to her arrival she requested on a mobile message, to me: “…Crabs in herbs for me pls! XXX “. What a Joy! Who can reject such an opportunity to give Joy to a person you LOVE, through a skill you acquire through the years and people around you “grew” to appreciate and love. That is what food and cooking is all about, each time you present the people you like/love with a “present” they remember in color, presentation, smells and taste. These memories are long lasting in your heart and head although they are totally consumed (and gone) by the end of the Meal. It is the pride of any cook or chef when nothing is left on the plate, and a certain “smile” of contentment appears in the eyes not the lips of your guests.
Cookery is a “sad” kind of ART, for it is consumable and short lasting, still it involves all the 5 senses including touch smell and taste and thus is judged by a more scrupulous set of senses than any other of the arts.
At first I could not get the Mediterranean Blue Crabs I needed to fulfill her request but I went on a Journey (Quest) to find what was required and indeed found it at one of the fishmongers in Jaffa “fresh from the sea”.
Blue Crab – Portunus pelagicus
This one was made into: Blue Crabs in corona beer and Lemon, Saffron & chilies butter, a delightful easy recipe taken from his cookbook Fish & seafood of my friend and one of the best chefs in Israel Jonathan Roshfeld, it is slightly hot and a good appetizer for the meal to come.
Corona beer Saffron and chillies The Chilly Butter From Blue to Orange
I cooked the remaining crabs separately in water vegetables and cooking fresh tomatoes taken out all the white and claws meat added several diced shrimps to it, and separated the Crustaceans meat from the liquids, to make the “filling” for the open ravioli and the liquids as a base for the sauce.
Through the years we had many “own” version on great chef’s recipes from Fredy Girardet (Cuisin Spotanée) – Lobster with Cream of Sweet Peppers, Joel Robochon‘s Giant Shrimps wrapped in Zucchini and champagne Saffron sauce (instead of langoustine), Gordon Ramsey‘s Halibut with or without smoked Salmon and sauce Albert with its wonderful fresh horseradish touch, my own poor versions of Sashimi’s, Sushi’s Carpaccio of AKAMI of Tuna with Takuan, Ginger, and wasabi sesame, Nori & Penko crusted Tuna, sashimi style soy and wasabi sauce, Black Cod (Nobu style, I wish…) with Pumpkin noodles, caramelized Pumpkins sauce. Sea food Pasta and risotto dishes and many more.
The basic idea with cooking in general and fish/seafood cooking in particular is the freshness and quality of the products. After that you don’t really have to be a genius, you need though, good reference points (eat at the best restaurants and try to “analyze” the food), look at chefs working in their kitchens, read good cookbooks and pay attention to the “tips” and of course LOVE messing about in your kitchen / atelier. When eating at a good restaurant for those dishes you like try getting to the bottom of the different spices used in a dish, read between the lines of the description on the menu. You MUST learn well basic cooking techniques and principles of basic stocks and sauces, this is where you learn the basic principles of combinations of herbs, spices, and product be it Vegetables, fish, meat etc. You also have basic knowledge of Gastronomy: The study of the relationship between culture and food. The art of cooking (Culinary art), is only a small part of your Gastronomy studies. When culture, food, artistry, and good senses meet in one place you transcend to a different level of cooking achievements but… beware! There’s no going back from this route, it pulls you deeper and deeper into new heights of achievement you aspire to (that is what separates great chefs from just cooks, and I am by the way just a cook)
A few weeks ago a very polite French foodie and the owner of a well known Alsatian winery, Etienne, tried and succeeded in giving me a great compliment, which although not true was the most polite thing to say at that moment during a dinner in his honor cooked by me at my house (must be read in French accent): “Are you trying to give French CUISINE a bad name”? Hinting that my cooking is of great quality (of course I had my cock-up’s and falls- literally), he saw me sweating over the oven for each dish and maybe felt sorry for me when in fact that was my double Joy the actual act of cooking, for good friends and family, with the best available wine trying to make it original and interesting and I thought I succeeded reasonably well on all counts (including the fall…)
Cock-up is a British Slang noun meaning: A blunder or a mess.
Cock-up’s in cooking are a daily occurrence for cooks, but for Chefs they are completely forbidden! Inexcusable!! A Disaster!!! The trick for cooks is not only to taste often but also to have some tricks under your hat for much needed corrections. As you know Taste comes in 6 traditional Forms : Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, Umami and Piquance (The latter 2 added as the need was formed)
Piquance (hotness, spicyness, burning) was considered a sensation rather than a taste. Since piquance is sensed by taste buds and other nerve endings on the tongue and palate and is created by addition of certain spices, Piquance should be recognized as one of the basic tastes.
Your basic blunders in the kitchen are of the TOO kind: Too Sweet, too Sour, too Salty, too Bitter, and too Piquant too hot, the trick is how to bring you food back to the balance which has no TOO’s in it, dilute your sauce, add a dash of cream or even cream of coconut, a bit of wine, a dash of salt in a sweet dish or a dash of sugar in a salty dish. Make sure the balance of pairing / combining your ingredients is right pairing is not just for taste it is also for color, arrangements etc. as time goes by you improve…
It also MUST look right IF IT DOES NOT LOOK RIGHT IT IS PROBABLY NOT RIGHT, BUT if it looks right it is not necessarily tasty and food MUST be tasty!
For Fish Seafood in detail including voluptuous recipes may I refer you to the Mul-Yam Seafoodpedia an amazing cookbook of the BEST seafood restaurant in Israel– Mul-Yam,, chef Yoram Nitzan. glimpses can be followed in http://dan-alexander-blog.com/tag/mul-yam/
Amazing photos by the legendary food photographer Clay McLachlan edited by Yair Yosefi
As for the WINES anything goes from beer to Champagne and anything in between pairing is not an impossible task I’m sure you can work it out. Need help? Just ask!
Thank you Daphne and Udi, for giving me the joy of cooking, for challenging and encouraging me at the same time and being such good invitees.
Miss you already but C U soon
Aba, The wineguide
P.S Thanks Judy (Soledad Bleu Etoile) for the Fish market photos