Write: Mutfak Sanatları Akademisi Photos: Jacqueline Roditi
STARTING IN SEPTEMBER WHEN SUMMER TURNS TO FALL AND THE LEAVES CHANGE COLOR, BONITO MIGRATE IN DROVES FROM THE BLACK SEA TO THE AEGEAN VIA THE ISTANBUL BOSPORUS, IN WHOSE WATERS THEY WERE ONCE SO ABUNDANT YOU COULD CATCH THEM IN YOUR HANDS…
The Black Sea’s and the Marmara’s fastest and most famous fish, bonito migrates up to the Black Sea in summer and returns to the Dardanelles in fall. Cousin of tuna and mackerel, bonito ranges from the 20-centimeter baby bonito to the large bonito and the giant 10-12 kilo Atlantic bonito, which is rarely seen in fish stalls today. Bonito divides into the stripe-tailed silver and the spotted tunny found in the Aegean. But the all-time favorite is the tasty, scaleless, dark meaty Bosporus fish with thick bones, which, however it is prepared, heralds the end of summer. Grilled, baked, steamed, pickled, even salted, it appears on dining tables at the start of the fishing season, harbinger of a new season and another turning point in life. Although baby bonito may appear as early as August, this is a fish that only acquires its true flavor after it has matured and taken on some fat. Filleted and fried, grilled or pickled in brine, this is the ideal season for bonito.
Its image even stamped on coins in the Byzantine era, bonito is being reinvented today in unusual recipes and cooking methods. Lending its irresistible flavor to innovative dishes like pickled bonito and fish tartare, it is adding an astonishingly creative new dimension to our traditional cuisine.
Ingredients for the tomato juice (2 servings):
500 g tomatoes coarsely chopped, 2 tsp salt, 2 tsp sugar.
Ingredients for the steamed bonito (2 servings):
200 g clear tomato juice, 1 bonito at room temperature, skinned and cut into 2 fillets, 3 white mushrooms coarsely chopped,
1 Charleston peppers thinly sliced, 3 shallots halved, 1 clove of garlic crushed, 5 cherry tomatoes halved,
3 green onions finely chopped, 3 sprigs fresh oregano cleaned, 3-4 sprigs fresh dill finely chopped, 4-5 sprigs flat-leaf parsley finely chopped, juice of one lemon, sea salt, black pepper, 1 tbsp virgin olive oil.
Preparation of the tomato juice: Blend the coarsely chopped tomatoes with the salt and pepper and transfer to a gauze bag. Strain overnight and save the clear tomato juice.
Preparation for the bonito: Heat the olive oil in a skillet and saute the onion, garlic, mushrooms and peppers. After 5 minutes add the cherry tomatoes, clear tomato juice, salt, black pepper and fish. Cover tightly and turn off the heat. Let the fish steep for 15-16 minutes in this hot liquid. Garnish with fresh herbs and drizzle with lemon juice before serving.
(Appetizer for 10 people): 500 g fine, dark bulghur, 3 medium bonito fillets boned and finely chopped,
160 g tomato paste, 160 g pepper paste, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 6-7 sprigs of fresh coriander, ½ bunch fresh mint, cleaned and chopped, 4 green onions, ½ bunch flat-leaf parsley, 4-5 heads of baby romaine], 70 ml lemon juice, 50 ml pomegranate syrup,
2 tsp red pepper flakes, 2 tsp hot red pepper, 100 ml olive oil, 5 tsp salt.
Soak the bulghur in 175 ml of cold water and knead for 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and continue kneading. After 30 minutes add 250 ml more water. Add the olive oil, hot red pepper, pepper flakes, ground cumin and salt. Add the remaining ingredients all at once at the end and shape the mixture into
30 gram balls. Separate the romaine leaves. Squeeze a lemon over the tartare balls and serve with the romaine leaves.
For the pickling liquid (10 servings):
2 tsp ground nutmeg, 5 lemons thinly sliced, 30 g fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced, 1 tbsp salt,
4 thin slices of lemon rind, 2 tbsp mustard seeds, 1 tbsp black peppercorns,
½ tbsp crushed cloves, 2 Mexican green peppers crushed, 500 ml apple cider vinegar.
Ingredients for the pickled bonito
(1 serving): 1 bonito skinned and filleted,
5 tbsp pickle juice,
2 tbsp olive oil,
1 Mexican red pepper cut in thin rounds,
2 green onions cut in Julienne strips, grated rind of half a lemon, a pinch of sea salt.
Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let simmer, then transfer to glass jars. Wait three weeks, strain and use.
Preparation of the pickled bonito: Slice the fillet in thin, half-centimeter slices and arrange on a platter in a single layer. Drizzle with the pickling liquid and wait 10 minutes. Then drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt, lemon rind, green onions and Mexican peppers and serve.