This post is an opportunity for me to pay homage to my paternal grandmother, Marie Pavlovic. Originally from Dubrovnikon the Dalmatian coast, her father had been a Captain in the merchant marine fleet from Croatia, shuttling between the Adriatic and the Mediterranean; Marie was a product of an era permeated by the Austro-Hungarian empire ; she claimed that a cousin of hers had opened the ball at the Habsburg court. ( Are you totally bored? If so, skip the paragraph).
So, with Dalmatian-Croatian (blue) blood, my grandmother and her family settled in Egypt, a British colony. Life was busy with balls and tea parties amongst the European community in Cairo. Then Nasser came along and decided it was high time for Egypt to be in charge of its destiny and in the late fifties all the foreigners had to flee Egypt. My grandmother settled in Lebanon for a while. Lebanon had, for centuries, been a haven for refugees of all stripes, so the early sixties saw an influx of people we used to call the Egyptians (even though none of them were truly Egyptian). My grandmother was clearly out of sync in Lebanese society, but at least she had a few of her Egyptian friends (mostly Greeks and Italians) to soften the trauma of her exodus. They would lament the loss of their world and berate Nasser for forcing them to abandon this (soft) life. Simultaneously, in our neighborhood in Beirut, every time Nasser gave a speech, it was party time! Our entire street would be outfitted with loudspeakers and everyone on our block would be sitting outside listening intently and cheering. What can I say? Beirut was-still is– a city of glaring contrasts.
This is a dish from Dubrovnik in the Dalmatian coast. I dare you to take a bite! It is hard to believe that something black and off-putting can be so delightful once it is in one’s mouth. The octopus is not fishy, yet it gives the rice the aroma of seafood. It is rich, of course, I added a splash of cream and a bit of cheese at the end, but worth it; a dish for a special occasion, and even though it is seafood, it is recommended to serve it with a red wine.
Source for the Croatian Dalmatian Black Risotto, adapted.
INGREDIENTS: To feed about 6 people
- 1 octopus, weight about 2 pounds (1 kilo)-substitute calamari if you wish-
- ink bag, if you can get one (optional)
- 3 onions, chopped
- olive oil, as needed
- 3 large tomatoes, skinned and chopped (or a can of good tomatoes, like Pomi)
- 3 cloves of garlic (I put about 12, but then I am Lebanese, I can’t help it)
- a bunch of parsley, cleaned and chopped, stems discarded (I used cilantro, sorry, I am L…)
- lemons, for garnish
- 1/4 cup of cream (optional)
- 1/4 cup of shredded hard cheese like parmesan or similar cheese
- 2 or 3 cups of white wine
- 1 bottle of clam juice (optional)or any seafood stock
- 2 1/2 cups of risotto rice (arborio or Turkish medium grain or even sushi rice will work)
- Clean the octopus under running water and scrub it with a half lemon if you wish.
- Cut into bite-size pieces (I used kitchen shears).
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add the onions. Fry until they turn golden and translucent.
- Add the octopus, tomatoes, bay leaf, wine and cook for 30 minutes or so at a bare simmer.
- Add more wine, the mashed garlic, and cook 30 minutes longer, also over low heat.
- Add the rice to the broth and the parsley and pepper. Cook for 15 minutes until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid. Add some clam juice or seafood stock if you have any available and cook the rice completely. Add the ink bag the last 5 minutes of cooking. .
- Add a splash of cream and the cheese and stir the pot to mix evenly. Cook a bit more over low heat to incorporate and melt the cheese. Season if needed.
- Serve with a garnish of chopped parsley and lemon slices.
Source for the photo: Wikipedia
33 Comments • Comments Feed