Saturday, March 16, 2013

the queen of the sea

This might be a seaside Italian village problem that doesn't translate to other places, but Manuel's grandmother solved that old question, "What do I do when I baked too many orate?"

In all seriousness, a bunch of fresh fish were brought home the other day, and anticipating more hunger then we had, 5 of the white, succulent orate were roasted in the oven, stuffed with herbs from the garden, olive oil, garlic and roasted on a bed of potatoes and olives.  Orata is one of the local fish that is common to find in the Cinque Terre on restaurant menus.  In English, it takes the name "gilt head bream", which is both too long and too ugly to work its way into my vernacular.  Orata remains orata for me.  In France, it is popular as dorade, in Spain, dorada, but regardless of it's name, it's a flavorful white fish that flourishes in the Mediterrainian.  We ate two, and then the next day when we opened the refrigerator, they were still there, looking at us accusingly in our wastefulness.  Commenting on the way the head splits away from the body, Manuel's grandmother informed me that the fish were, in fact, smiling.

Manuel is Ligurian, and so is his family, and he comes from a long line of thrifty people who don't throw anything out.  Knowing that day old roasted fish wouldn't go over well reheated with a group of people who grew up on the sea, Grandma had another simple, delicious solution.  "The Queen of the Sea", she mused, gently starting to separate the flesh from the body, carefully shredding the meat to make sure the small bones were taken out.  "Orata is our queen of the sea here".

She chopped carrots, celery and onions small and thin, then sauteed them in a good pour of olive oil.  After they were translucent and soft, she added a big handful of chopped parsley, and tomatoes, letting the whole mixture simmer for "enough time".  Vegetable broth was in the refrigerator, also made yesterday, so that was added, along with all of the already cooked, shredded orata.  Day old bread was toasted and brushed with garlic and broken up into croutons.

Hearty, delicious and disturbingly simple to have such wonderful flavors, and an easy way to use up a roast fish or two.  Certainly fitting for the smiling queen of the sea.

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