I figure the best way to begin this blog that celebrates food and drink was to use an ingredient that was a bit exotic. I was excited when I opened the package of Bottarga, and before I could even put away the rest of my groceries, I simply had to slice off a thin piece and give it a taste. I've only had it shaved or crumbled, so to take a bite of a solid piece of Bottarga was fulfilling in a very unique way. It has a density from the salt-cure process that gives it some great tooth-feel. A bit chewy and oh so pleasing. And then the fun part - there's an explosion of brine/fish/ocean in your mouth as the roe comes into contact with your mouth. It's fantastic. So good that as soon as my husband walked in the door from work I immediately made him try a piece as well. So that's the pic of my huge piece of Bottarga - along with the new grater I got as well.
I remember seeing an episode of Molto Mario in which Mario Batali used Bottarga on a spaghetti dish. I searched, and found it. I adapted the recipe slightly (my adapted version is below). The dish needed sun-dried tomatoes, and I happened upon these beauties at Whole Foods. Usually I find sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil - these were vacuum packed without oil, and they are delicious. A treat unto themselves. Seriously, I had to stop eating them to make sure I had enough for the meal. They reminded me of slow-cooked tomatoes (I LOVE those year round), but you can taste the warmth of the sun in these.
As I began prepping for the meal, I decided it was best to make use of all of the wonderful things I found at Dean & Deluca during my hunt for Bottarga. So I pulled out the HUGE bottle of Grey Goose from the freezer, and got to work on a cocktail. I've often done a simple Elderflower martini - with vodka and Elderflower Cordial. Yet I also found some Lingonberry syrup, so I added a touch of that to the mix. The Lingonberry is slightly sour, and the Elderflower is deliciously sweet, and the vodka is heaven. Perfect start to a Friday evening.
Finished product looks pretty good, if I say so myself. The recipe called for Spaghettini - which was no where to be found. So I (gasp) just broke up some really nice spaghetti. The dish has some really nice heat to it that lingers in the back of your throat. My husband does not like spicy dishes, but ate every bite of this meal!
And for those who want it, here's what I did:
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 habanero chile, sliced THIN
4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (original says 1/4 cup, but I added!)
1 cup basic tomato sauce
1 pound spaghettini (make sure to save some of the starchy water)
1/4 cup toasted bread crumbs (olive oil, toast on the stove)
Pinch chili flakes
Bring pasta water to boil, and generously salt to flavor the pasta. Begin cooking the pasta - follow directions, however my directions said 9 minutes so I only cooked it for 7. The pasta is finished in the sauce, so don't cook it all the way through in the water.
Start with a cold saute pan, combine the olive oil, chile and garlic. Sweat this over medium high heat until the garlic is soft. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, and let them cook through for about a minute. Add the tomato sauce and one cup of pasta water. Bring to a simmer - it begins to thicken nicely. I ended up adding a second cup of pasta water.
Drain the pasta, and add it to the mixture. Toss it over high heat for a minute. Divide it out into pasta dishes. This dish has some heat to it, at this point you can add a touch of chili flakes to each plate or leave it off, your choice. Vigorously grate some Bottarga over each plate as if you're dusting the dish with cheese (but please - NO cheese with this dish - it will KILL the Bottarga flavor). Sprinkle each with bread crumbs and a drizzle of olive oil and serve.
I served it with some lightly toasted Italian bread slices that I rubbed with a fresh garlic clove.