Posts Tagged ‘fresh’

‘Abroad’ Question of Taste

October 28, 2009

Okay, you’re probably wondering when I’m going to stop with the feature-length Montenegro narratives and get back to addressing the preeminent question that should be asked of any traveler-returned-home-at-last: So, how was the food?

Right? Because really, one of the best things about vacation – for me, at least – is that sum of moments spent savoring all manner of tongue-twisting specialties in a faraway scene that’s impossibly genuine and yet cinematic-surreal at once. You just can’t replicate that sense of place anywhere else. Proof: spend an afternoon under the shade of sprawling grape vines, flaking apart whole-grilled Mediterranean orada that’s basted in fresh-pressed olive oil – and then see if that frozen mahi in your freezer is ever quite the same (it’s not, by the way).

Perhaps even more significant to a wandering palate is the experience of travel nirvana: the personal-discovery high that occurs somewhere along the path of any globetrotting or cultural romp. Sometimes the feeling is subtle, reflective; others, so profound it can knock the breath right out of you. To a girl who experiences the world food-first, it was a simple forkful that reconciled a part of me that was, if not altogether lost, too often taken for granted. To this end, I’d like to make a sincere apology – ahem – to my tastebuds.

Okay, I know how bad this sounds. And I have to tell you I never thought I’d be in a place to make such an admission. I mean, it’s me. Nevertheless, the misdemeanor stands – enabled by a daily context of over-processed, hyper-sugary, crispy-fried, vitamin-enriched, triple-fortified. We add sodium to lunchmeat, corn syrup to whole wheat, periodic table elements to ice cream; God knows what manner of creation birthed Velveeta. Is it really any wonder that any of us are suffering from tastebud fatigue?

As Montenegrin tradition goes, there’s only one remedy – which is a good kick in the mouth (figuratively speaking, here, people).

Enter simple, fresh flavors that get back to basics and let each dish speak (or shout) for itself: Citrus! Olive! Basil! Thyme! And OMIGOSH is that real butter? No packaged posers, foreign additives or artificial con artists masquerading as anything remotely edible. And good lord, no 100-calorie-counts. Authenticity was never meant to have a shelf life.

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a typical evening table in Petrovac

What manner of eats are we talking about, you wonder? Among my personal favorites, for the epicurious:

  • Fresh, tart yogurt swirled with pomegranate seeds and honey
  • Dried figs strung together like sweet candied necklaces
  • Lamb shank roasted with rosemary and garlic
  • Peppery arugala tossed in olive oil and salt
  • Quick-fried sardines with squeeze of lemon (so long, french fries)

So yes – in a word, the food was fabulous. But more so, it brought back that sense of unspoiled delight so often disregarded for convenience and function. Eating is good, a truth that while generally acknowledged, may just be best unearthed in a warm, crowded kitchen with windows that open onto the sea.

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Summer Table: Minute-Made

August 4, 2009

When it comes to cooking, I’m a subscriber of the ‘food-on-the-fly’ philosophy – which basically amounts to throwing together any and every item from my pantry shelf or refrigerator door, with a vague hope that the sum of aggregate parts will in the end resemble somewhat of a substantial and flavorful (if not refined) main course.

In most cases, pasta dishes are my go-to, since a box of whole wheat rotini is a permanent food cupboard fixture. Toss hot pasta with extra-virgin olive oil and any number of ingredients – frozen spinach and cherry tomatoes; lemon zest and pecorino romano; fresh arugula and kidney beans; shrimp, white wine and garlic; capers and canned tomatoes; tuna and greek olives; fresh basil and toasted pine nuts… the possibilities are endless and are all pretty delicious to boot.

Now that summer is in full swing, I’ve been switching up routine to take full advantage of the abundance of locally grown produce. It’s my own never-ending salad bar. Same rules apply: any and everything is fair game.

One of my favorite food writers, NYT columnist Mark Bittman (aka ‘The Minimalist), shares my ‘fresh-is-more’ approach and is out to prove it with this July story: 101 Simple Salads for the Season. All, in theory, take less than 20 minutes to prepare with simple ingredients in your fruit and veggie crisper. Fear not, carnivores – there are plenty of entries that include meat and seafood, as well as grains, lentils and noodles. #59 is a personal favorite, as are #41 and #47. It’s summer – time to step away from the stove.

Francesco Tonelli for The New York Times
Image courtesy of Francesco Tonelli for The New York Times