FUSION CUISINE, for this home cook those words make me shudder. Truth is I’m very closed minded about 95% of anything termed FUSION. They say good cooks need to have an open mind but let me explain myself here, and btw, my opinion is only …my opinion. Even if I’m 100% right..LOL. I believe Lidia Bastianich best said this, and I paraphrase..that food tastes best when the ingredients come from the same place. Fusion when using that guideline can be a good thing. The current craze in many 3d generation Italian American restaurants is the Sausage and Broccoli Rabe EGG ROLL. Again, just my opinion, no thank you. Chinese and Italian cooking have zero in common with each other on every level except they share the same regional philosophy of using great ingredients and they take great pride in their cuisines and their food culture. I’ll enjoy the broccoli rabe and sausage filling inside of a fried calzone. That makes sense for me. So…using that line of thinking..countries with different cuisines but sharing a general type of produce, weather, seafood, meats, etc..THOSE cuisines seem to be candidates for a fusion of sorts. Let’s take the Mediterranean region rich in Olive Oil, Olives, similar seafoods, cheeses, produce, wines, herbs, fruits,nuts…with varying degrees many dishes are all decended from or related to other cuisines in the region. Religious and local customs have created many of the subtle or not so subtle differences but whether it is Southern or Southeastern French, Corsican, Moroccan, Sicilian, Maltese, Tunisian, Israeli, Turkish, Greek, Croatian, Italian, Dalmatian, Cypriot, Lebanese..well you get the idea…there’s a common thread in the region’s cuisine which then allows for lack of a better term, some “fusion”. When the cuisines are unrelated fusion, for me, is disastrous.
Fresh herbs are part of the Summer season so…here’s a fusion of Greek and Italian ideas in a wonderfully bright and satisfying pasta dish…SPAGHETTI WITH ALMOND OREGANO PESTO with FETA AND LEMON. Let’s cook!!!
SERVES: 4-6 TIME: 1/2 hour
1 lb IMPORTED ITALIAN SPAGHETTI (or other long pasta) cooked al dente according to package directions
1/2 CUP FRESH OREGANO LEAVES, packed well..no stems, make sure leaves are gently cleaned
1 TBS. DRIED OREGANO
1/8 CUP FRESH CHOPPED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY
1/4 CUP TOASTED UNSALTED ALMONDS
1/8 CUP GRATED PARMIGIANO REGGIANO
3 ROUGH CHOPPED PEELED GARLIC CLOVES
JUICE OF ONE LEMON
1 TSP. LEMON ZEST
1/4 CUP OF GOOD EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
1/3 CUP OF GOOD QUALITY FETA CHEESE, CRUMBLED OR DICED, IMPORTED GREEK WOULD BE BEST
FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER
Using a food processor, add the herbs, lemon juice and zest, garlic, and almonds. Pulse until they are all crushed. DON’T over pulse. Next, slowly add the Olive Oil in stream while the blade is processing. It should look like a pesto now, nice and smooth. Now add the feta, reserving a little for garnish, and gently pulse until is somewhat blended in. TASTE, based on what you think, add salt if necessary to taste and add about 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper. Gently pulse. NOW..leave it out at room temperature for 20 minutes.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions in well salted water and only till AL DENTE. Drain. At that point, pour the pesto over the pasta a gently blend well. Top with some Feta and fresh sprigs of Oregano, even a little squeeze of lemon would be nice. Done.. Enjoy.
So here’s some sidebars…never cook pesto. ever. If pesto is off colored it means it’s old or was cooked..make your own. Herbs are one of the cheapest foods out there in the summer unless you are growing your own, even better. The Consistency of the pesto even with the most exact and tested recipes can vary. If you find the pesto is too thick as more Olive Oil and Lemon juice to get to the consistency you are looking for. Don’t over do the oil though as it will separated out from the mixture and it will get “oily”. Mint (fresh) is an alternative to the grassy green flavor of the Parsley. Feel free to use! Fresh Thyme is another herb to use but it’s quite strong so don’t use too much of that.
Enjoy this sunny dish from my kitchen to yours!!