Monday, March 28, 2011

What Basque Cooking Is About

It has been hot in South Florida this past few days, reminding us that the cool weather that I love so much is leaving us soon. Mornings are still cool, but temperatures soared into mid to high 80s during the day.

This is the peak of growing season. It was really noticeable when I visited Robert and Paula at their farm Sunday afternoon. I had to get my weekly eggs and say hello to the baby goats and chickens.

Their tomatoes were ripening, the squash were also ready to be harvested and all the herbs were flowering. All this warmth and abundance of produce put us in the summer spirit.

"What do you want to have for lunch?" mom asked after breakfast. You see, this is how it goes in our family. We finish one meal, clean up, and start thinking about the next one. Is this normal?

"Let's stop at Whole Foods after the farmers' market and see what kind of fish they have today" I told her.

When we arrived, we picked up a whole yellow-eyed snapper. Fresh as can be. "Why don't we make your fish soup? I would love that". We smiled and proceeded with local clams, mussels, and Key West pink shrimp. I was anxious to get home and start cooking.

While my mom was busy in the kitchen making the fish stock, prepping all the vegetables, and also cooking a batch of arroz con leche, Miren and I ate a bowl of heirloom cherry tomatoes with olive oil and sea salt.

We went outside to look at the flowering herbs and our wild strawberry plant. There is one ripe strawberry at the moment. I think I will wait one more day to pick it. There are some more ripening and there is such anticipation in the family. They are nature's candy for sure.

When we came back inside, dad took over baby watching duties. By the time I walked into the kitchen, mom had the arroz con leche cooling and the fish soup ready. "I'm waiting for you to take photos so I can add the fish into it!". She's amazing. So efficient. And well, me?... procrastinating.

But I did manage to make a quick galette with leftover dough from the book shoot. Tossed together strawberries, rhubarb, apple, sugar, and chamomile leaves to make a super simple filling. By the time I photographed the soup, the galette was ready.

"Mahaire!" I shouted to get my dad's attention who was still bird watching with Miren. Lunch was served.

And so when people ask me what Basque cooking is all about I say, "taking what is available and fresh, and preparing it as simply as possible". No big fuss. Knowing how to pick the best ingredients, how to smell the fish and look into their eyes to see how old it is... That is what Basque cooking is about.

All the credit for these dishes goes out to my mom who keeps us nourished and well fed during this crazy time for me. I'm not sure what I would do without her.

Eskerrik asko amatxu.

No comments:

Post a Comment