I feel a special bond to Barbara, the writer behind the blog Winos and Foodies, even though we've never met. Barbara lives in New Zealand. I live in San Francisco. I am positive that if we do some day meet, we'll get along famously. Why? We have one rather random thing in common.
When each of us started our food blogs back in 2005 (she in January, me in June), we both wrote about our trips the previous year to the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal for her, just Spain for me). In the first posts of our respective blogs, we each described a significant meal that featured the same special product. Yes, you guessed it. We both wrote about sardines! What are the chances of that? For that reason alone Barbara and I share a special kinship.
My meal of sardinas a la plancha in Seville completely changed the way I looked at cooking, so much so that I named my blog after the occasion. For Barbara, sardines represented something else entirely. The grilled sardines Barbara ate in Portugal were her last memorable meal before receiving news that forever changed her life. In the middle of her holiday, not long after she had completed a 500 mile (800 kilometer) walk along Spain's Camino de Santiago, Barbara checked into a Portuguese hospital and discovered she had cancer. Read about it in her moving first post.
Recently, after several years of improvement, Barbara received news that her cancer has returned. Barbara's friends and supporters throughout the food blogging community wish for one thing. Some day we all hope Barbara will make a complete recovery.
This year, to raise awareness of the issues associated with cancer survivorship, Barbara created an event she's calling "A Taste of Yellow." She made a simple request: bake or cook something yellow, the color of the famous LIVESTRONG wristbands. Her event provides us food bloggers with a small way to take part in LIVESTRONG Day.
LIVESTRONG Day is the Lance Armstrong Foundation's grassroots advocacy initiative to unify people affected by cancer and to raise awareness about cancer survivorship issues on a national level and in local communities across the United States. LIVESTRONG Day 2007 will occur on Wednesday, May 16, 2007.
If you wish to make a donation to the Lance Armstrong Foundation, please visit the foundation's donation page.
When I picked up this week's CSA basket from Mariquita Farm, I knew in an instant I wanted to make something from the farm's sweet yellow carrots (pictured above) for "A Taste of Yellow." I also wanted to somehow pay homage to that significant meal of sardines that bound Barbara and me together. Unfortunately I couldn't find fresh sardines. Instead I chose another local fish, petrale sole. I decided I would cook the sole a la plancha (in a cast iron pan), the same way as the sardines I ate in Spain. Cooking fish quickly in a searing hot cast iron skillet gives it a delicate crisp (and golden yellow) crust. To provide a textural contrast, I decided to simply whiz the yellow carrots with slowly cooked onions and coriander leaves (cilantro) in a blender to create a silky smooth purée.
To complete the petrale sole dish, I stewed some artichokes and blanched some peas to scatter over the top. Then I whipped up a spicy olive oil-based sauce with finely chopped mint, coriander leaves (cilantro), garlic, ginger, and chilies. The whole dish was spring on a plate, the kind of food I'll surely serve this time next year at Olallie. In the picture below, you can barely see the carrot purée peaking out from under the sole. N loved the dish.
The carrot purée is so simple it doesn't really merit a formal recipe. I'll provide you with a sketch. You could of course substitute any color carrots for the yellow ones I used. Just make sure that your carrots are sweet and fresh, otherwise the dish will be characterless. I've served this successfully as a side dish for other varieties of mild white fish as well as chicken and rabbit. Change the seasoning to suit the accompaniment. The purée could also be thinned with stock or water and transformed into a simple soup.
Peel and slice a pound of carrots. Steam or boil until tender. Over medium high heat, heat a few splashes of olive oil in a wide pan and add the carrots. Sauté until lightly caramelized. In a separate pan over medium low heat, slowly cook half an onion (diced) in a little olive oil until translucent and slightly golden. Chop a handful of coriander leaves (cilantro) and add to the onions when almost done. When both are cooked, scoop the onions and carrots and all their oil into a blender and purée, adding a minimum of water and more olive oil to enable you to blend the ingredients. Season to taste with salt and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. You should end up with a silky smooth carrot purée where the cilantro, caramelized carrot, salt, and lemon juice are nicely balanced.