Taramasalata with Bread
Published by Workman
Sometimes it’s made with the roe of the mediterranean’s plump mullet. Near Greece’s tricky shore it’s the roe of lobsters or crab. A pale pink variety, which the greeks call “white,” comes from carp. Sometimes it’s cod’s roe, imported from iceland and other northern realms. Whichever the roe, it’s called tarama, and salty, appetite-alluring, and mixed in a spreadable “salad,” it is one of Greece’s most famous mezedes.
In cosmopolitan bars, patrons order it to accompany their ouzo or their ouiski (whiskey). In country homes it’s featured as an engagement or wedding banquet hors d’oeuvre. Traditionally the salad is served along with onions and lemons on Clean Monday, the first day of Lent.
Greeks make two versions, one based on soaked bread, the other on mashed potato. With bread, the salad is saltier and more textured. With potato it is sweeter and smoother. Some cooks combine both starches. Substituting shallots for onions and cilantro for parsley offers a bright twist. Some recipes include vinegar, but vinegar can overwhelm delicate fish roe, and that would defeat the purpose!
If you don’t care for cilantro (fresh coriander), use parsley.
Whether you use a food processor, mixer, or mortar and pestle, puree the roe thoroughly with the other ingredients. The more fish eggs that are broken and blended, the better the taramasalata. Some Greeks contend that taramasalata is good only when mashed and melded with a wooden spoon in a wooden bowl.
The Five Cures
Five methods of curing are used for commercially available olives. The Greeks use the first four, the last—lye—cured–is used by U.S. canning companies.
Brine-cured olives are soaked in a salt water brine for several weeks to six months. Sometimes vinegar is added to the brine at the start or the brine is thinned with vinegar in the final weeks.
Dry-cured, also called salt-cured, olives are sprinkled with quantities of salt, much as capers are cured. When black ripe olives are salt-cured, they can be ready to eat in about a week. Green unripe olives take several weeks. Sometimes dry-cured olives are also finished in an oil cure.
Oil-cured olives are soaked in vats of olive oil for many months.
Water-cured olives are soaked in vats of water, then drained and rinsed, then submerged in water again and soaked for many months.
Lye-cured olives are soaked in a solution made alkaline with lye, wood ash, or alkaline soda. The lye method of curing is fast–it takes only a few days. The disadvantage is that it removes much of the olive’s taste. For that reason, lye-cured olives are usually seasoned with herbs and spices.
Makes2 to 2½ cups
Total Timeunder 15 minutes
Make Ahead RecipeYes
One Pot MealYes
OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Cocktail Party, game day
Recipe Courseantipasto/mezze, hors d'oeuvre, tapas/small plates
Dietary Considerationantipasto/mezze, hors d'oeuvre, tapas/small plates
Equipmentelectric mixer, food processor, mortar and pestle
Five Ingredients or LessYes
Mealdinner, lunch, snack
Taste and Texturecreamy, rich, salty, savory, tangy
Type of Dishdip/spread
- 8 slices (½-inch-thick) Greek or Italian-style white bread (about ½ loaf), preferably stale, crust removed
- 4 ounces tarama (about ½ jar), preferably carp or cod fish roe
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
- Olives, for garnish
- Bread, for serving
Place the slices of bread in a bowl and add water to cover. Set aside to soak for a few minutes. When the bread is saturated, squeeze out the water.
Using a food processor, mixer, or mortar and pestle, blend together the bread, roe, shallot, and lemon juice while gradually drizzling in the oil until thoroughly combined.
Transfer the mixture to a serving dish and shape it into a loaf or mound. Sprinkle the cilantro over the top, and arrange the olives around the edges. Serve accompanied by the bread.
2004 Susanna Hoffman