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A dish I've been trying to get right for years

Posted by Sheryl Julian  July 6, 2009 02:49 PM

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This is taramosalata, a Greek smoked fish roe spread that's either dreamy or awful. Awful versions are very strong, but this is a culture where the taramosalata might be sitting beside grilled octopus and snails in vinegar on a table.

You can buy taramosalata ready made (the color is a pretty pale coral) and the taste is mildly smoky, similar to a smoked salmon pate. Jars of roe (called tarama) are available at Middle Eastern markets, so you can make your own, but every time I've made it, the taste has been powerfully fishy.

I decided to try it again. I'd been thinking about it since "Vefa's Kitchen" came across my desk. When you buy the roe, it's so strong that you have to dilute it with bread soaked in water. This makes sense. Mediterranean cultures have many ways to use up stale bread.

Vefa mentioned using potatoes instead of bread to lighten the roe. In "Flavors of Greece," a book I like a lot, author Rosemary Barron also writes that some cooks prefer to use potatoes and bread together, or simply potatoes. So I decided to use all potatoes, and took Barron's proportions and turned them on their head. I used much less tarama than she suggested and much more potato. The results are wonderful!

Taramosalata
Serves 8

2 large Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn potatoes
1/2 jar (5 ounces) tarama
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons
1/4 cup olive oil
Olive oil (for sprinkling)
1/4 red onion, finely chopped

1. Quarter the potatoes. In a large saucepan, combine the potatoes and water to cover them by several inches. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. With a slotted spoon, lift them from the water and transfer to a plate. Leave to cool.
2. Pull off the potato skins. With a fork, mash 1 1/2 potatoes; set the rest aside.
3. In a food processor, work the tarama and lemon juice until the tarama is loose. With the motor running, add the olive oil through the feed tube until it is all combined. Add the mashed potatoes and work the tarama in on-off motions until the potato is well blended.
4. Taste the mixture for seasoning. Add more potato (mash it first) if the mixture seems too fishy.
5. Transfer the spread to a bowl, smooth the top, and sprinkle with olive oil and onion. Cover and refrigerate for several hours for the flavors to mellow. You can keep the spread for several days. In that case, add the olive oil and onion just before serving. Adapted from "Flavors of Greece"

About Dishing

What's cooking in the world of food.

Contributors

Sheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.

Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.

Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.
 

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