This time of year always takes me back to Sicily, where we went on our honeymoon. With its melting pot of influences from the Middle East, Spain, Mexico and beyond, I was bewitched by the food from the first bite, and we feasted on tomatoes, aubergines, capers and fish, all of it laced with delicious vinegars and olive oils: rich, sun-drenched food with spikes of flavour from other worlds.
This week’s bean salad has the sweetness of Moorish dates and the freshness of crisp apples and yoghurt dressing, while the bream over the page carries Sicily’s classic agrodolce stamp: that wonderful balance of sweetness and sharpness complements fish so well. With the fish comes a burnt aubergine puree I first had in Mexico (which has exchanged food influences with Sicily for centuries via the Spanish conquistadores); unlike a classic baba ganoush, you do not remove the skins before pureeing the aubergines, which gives them a more pronounced smoky flavour.
Soaking beans is the work of minutes and gives them a silky, luxurious texture (if you’re making this on the hoof, by all means use tinned beans, though). This salad is best eaten when the beans are still slightly warm. Serves four as a main course or eight as a side.
350g dried borlotti beans 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda 2 cloves garlic, smashed once 2 bay leaves3 tbsp sunflower seeds2 granny smith apples, washed 100g rocket leaves 4 small pitted dates, finely sliced For the dressing5 heaped tbsp Greek yoghurt½ large garlic clove, peeled and crushed with a little salt2 tbsp cloudy apple juice 1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, plus a little extra for the apples 1 handful fresh mint leaves, finely shredded 1 sage leaf, finely shredded 1 sprig fresh tarragon, picked 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the beans
Put the beans and bicarbonate of soda in a large pot, cover with plenty of cold water and leave to soak overnight. The next day, drain the beans and tip into a large casserole. Cover with fresh cold water, add the garlic and bay (I like to add a teaspoon of peppercorns, too) and bring to a boil. Turn to a simmer and cook for an hour, skimming off any scum and topping up with boiling water as needed. When the beans are completely tender, drain, transfer into a large serving bowl and season generously.
Mix the dressing ingredients in a jug, season well and dress the beans while they’re still warm; they’ll need another generous seasoning, too. You can do this a few hours ahead, but if you do, cover the bowl to stop the beans drying out and keep them at room temperature or in the fridge, and reheat gently in a pan just before you eat.
Lightly toast the seeds in a dry frying pan. Slice the apple very thinly (use a mandoline, if you have one) and toss in a little lemon juice. Toss the apple, rocket, seeds and dates through the warm beans, taste for seasoning and serve.
Serve hot or at room temperature as part of a mezze, with a rice salad and something green. Serves four.
40g currants 3 aubergines 1 tbsp tahini 1 fat clove garlic, peeled Juice of a lemon 2 medium-large red onions, peeled and finely sliced 1 tbsp butter 2-3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil ¼ tsp brown sugar 2-3 tbsp pine nuts 1 tbsp rapeseed oil 4 fillets wild black bream, skin-on, pin-boned 1 handful mint leaves, to garnishFreshly ground black pepper and sea salt
Cover the currants in boiling water while you prepare the aubergines and onions. Over a gas hob or a barbecue, char the aubergines, using tongs to turn them, until blistered and blackened all over and the flesh inside is completely soft (about 15 minutes); alternatively, heat the grill to high and blacken the aubergines in a roasting tin on the top shelf, turning occasionally. Cut off and discard the stalk, then blitz the whole fruit, skin and all, in a food processor with the tahini, garlic and juice of half a lemon. Season well and set aside. You can make this in advance.
Fry the onions in a wide saucepan over a medium heat with the butter, two tablespoons of olive oil and a quarter-teaspoon each of sugar and salt, until softened – 10-15 minutes. Drain the currants and add to the pan with the remaining lemon juice.
Toast the pine nuts until golden, then add to the currants. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Give the onion pan a quick wipe and add the rapeseed oil. Fry the fish fillets skin-side down on a high heat for three to four minutes, until the skin is crisp, then turn and fry for a couple of minutes more, until the flesh is opaque and flakes easily.
Spoon the warm aubergine puree on to four plates and top first with a fish fillet and then some onions. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil, scatter with mint and serve.
The bean salad makes lots, but you’ll be grateful of any leftovers: they’re lovely on their own, or as a side for sausages or roast or spatchcocked chicken; they also make a mean packed lunch. If you have friends coming over later in the week, make extra beans and puree them with lots of olive oil and rosemary for use as a bruschetta topping; crisp slices of fried serrano ham on top are optional. Make double the aubergine puree and serve it as a dip, or stuff the excess inside a boned leg of lamb before roasting for a slap-up Sunday lunch.
News Source TheGuardianNews