Saturday, August 2, 2014


Fish pâté, a cold dish for a summer's night.

A gentle evening breeze has come up, bringing the sweet scent of jasmine over the garden wall. A full moon rises over the hill. The table is set on the terrace. Candles are flickering, chilled wine is poured. What better place for a dinner party than on the terrace in the coolth of the evening? This is surely what Spanish summer nights are all about.

But—gasp—how  to entertain in such beastly hot weather without slaving over a hot stove?  This is a most important aspect of the “Mediterranean diet”: adapt your meals to the climate. The trick to summertime’s easy living is: don’t even try to serve a “hot meal.” Cook foods in advance and serve them cold or room temperature.

Gazpacho--a cool starter.
Starters: Chilled gazpacho with all the garnishes (that recipe is here) or gorgeous ajo blanco (recipe here), white almond gazpacho garnished with grapes that are ripening on the parra, the grape arbor that shades the terrace.

Main dish: Cold Fish Pâté, made the day before, with bonito and sliced ham, studded with red pimiento and olives. Serve it with greens and sides of sliced boiled potatoes, fresh green beans, quartered eggs and a sharp vinaigrette.

Dessert: Sweet melon, store-bought ice cream or Frozen Torte (stay tuned—that recipe next week).

Fish Pâté

Bonito (sarda sarda) is related to tuna and mackerel.

Bonito is a meaty blue fish, related to tuna and mackerel. You will need a whole fish weighing at least 1 ½ pounds to make ¾ pound of skinless, boneless flesh. Other fish could be substituted. Though I haven’t tried it, I’m guessing salmon would work really well. This is an easy recipe to double. The pâté keeps well, refrigerated. Serve it sliced, slathered with mayo, topped with sliced garden tomatoes for great sandwiches!

Use a food processor to grind the fish, to chop onions and parsley and to make breadcrumbs. 

Serves 6-8 as an hors-d’oeuvre; 3-4 as a main course.

12 ounces skinless, boneless  bonito
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons dry Sherry or brandy
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Pinch of dried thyme
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne
Grated lemon zest
1 egg, beaten
3 slices bacon (optional)
2-3 slices cooked ham
1 roasted red pimiento, cut in strips
3 tablespoons sliced pitted olives
4 cups water
1/3 cup white wine
½  onion
1 carrot
Bay leaf, thyme, parsley, celery
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Cut the fish into chunks and grind it in a food processor or meat grinder. Place in a bowl and add the breadcrumbs, Sherry, chopped parsley, thyme, lemon zest and ½  teaspoon salt. Let the mixture set for 30 minutes.

Add the egg. Use a fork to mix the fish thoroughly. Divide the mixture in thirds. Spread cheesecloth or a dampened clean cloth on work surface. Arrange the strips of bacon, if using, in the center.

Spread a layer of fish paste.
Layer ham, olives, pimiento.

Spread a third of the fish paste in a layer on top of the bacon. Arrange half of the sliced ham, strips of pimiento and chopped olives on it. Spread with another layer of paste and repeat with the ham, pimientos and olives. Spread the remaining paste.

Wrap the layered pâté.
Simmer with wine and herbs.

Wrap the layered pâté tightly in the cloth, forming a rectangle, and secure it with string or sew up with thread.

Place the water in a deep pan with the wine, onion, carrot, herbs, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Add the pâté and cook very slowly for 45 minutes.

Drain well, then place the pâté on a board with a weight on top and let it cool completely. Refrigerate. Unroll from the cloth and cut in slices to serve cold or room temperature.

Cold fish pâté is a fresh entrée for summer dining.

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