I just totally won with this dinner. I WON THE PRIZE!
An assembly of some ingredients that work really well together.
If you aren't familiar with it, Bottarga is dried and cured mullet (or sometimes another fish) roe (eggs). It's probably used most in Italian cuisine, especially in dishes originating from Sardinia. It has an extremely strong flavour an odour that is similar to caviar. Because of it's strong flavour, it is best served finely shaved or grated. Look for it in speciality delis/grocers that have a good Italian selection.
Palm hearts are another ingredient that are starting to get more recognition. They're taken from the middle of some types of palm trees and are produced heavily in South American countries like Ecuador, Brasil and Costa Rica. They have an interesting texture, similar to artichoke hearts, but less fibrous and with a centre that is close to a paste. The flavour is quite mild and watery, again, similar to an artichoke heart or fresh bamboo. They're great when used in salads or slice thickly and marinated with olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, garlic and a little chilli. I've only ever seen them sold here in cans.
So how do we combine these ingredients?
Ingredients: (for approx 4 serves)
- 350g of pasta (I used a macaroni sort of thing, but spaghetti is great here)
- 1/2 of a length of canned palm heart. Rinsed and sliced fairly thinly.
- 1 garlic clove. Rinsed under warm water for approx 1 minute, diced finely.
- 1/2 and handful of fresh parsley. Chopped finely.
- The zest and juice of 1/4 a lemon
- 20g butter
- 1/4 grated parmesan cheese (reggiano if you can get it)
- 1 thumb sized piece of bottarga
- Salt for cooking the pasta
- Pepper to taste
- Olive oil
- Make the pasta as per packet instructions. Be sure to heavily salt the water.
- When the pasta is nearly done, put the butter in a medium saucepan. When the butter begins to froth, add the garlic and 1/3 of the parsley.
- Drain the pasta and add to the pan. Toss so the garlic and parsley butter is evenly incorporated.
- Add the palm hearts, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix gently.
- Spoon into slightly warm serving bowls, add some grated parmesan, some cracked pepper, the rest of the parsley and shave/grate the bottarga over (use a very fine grater).
- Finish with a small drizzle of olive oil.
Serve it with a white wine. Brut champagne would be great. As would a young semillon.
So Why Does This Work?
This dish works because of the way everything works together. The bottarga on its own is strong--almost too strong--but the acidity of the lemon balances the intensity, while the parsley gives it freshness.
Palm hearts thrive in garlic, lemon and parsley. Here they act as an intermediary between the bottarga and the other ingredients, creating a sort of "in between" layer. They also have the same colour and texture to pasta, so they add an interesting and unexpected flavour to the dish. And oddly, the canned ones have a very faint taste of bottarga, if you close your eyes.