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!
- 1 large (about 10 ounces) russet potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
- 4 ounces tarama (about ½ jar), preferably carp or cod fish roe
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ¾ to 1 cup olive oil
- ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
- Olives, for garnish
- Bread, for serving
1. Place the potato in a small saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Drain the potato and set aside to dry for a few minutes, until cool enough to handle.
2. Using a food processor, mixer, or mortar and pestle, blend together the potato, roe, shallot, and lemon juice while gradually drizzling in the oil until thoroughly combined.
3. 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.