04 July 2009

Great Peasant Dishes of the World

In the early eighties, Howard Hillman wrote the book Great Peasant Dishes of the World. While some of the dishes may have been peasant dishes at one time, many of them are found in fine dining establishments. There is pesto, choucroute garni, moules marinière, and osso buco to name a few.

When asked to define “peasant,” Hillman says:

“In the context of this book, a peasant is a small-scale farmer, rancher, herder, hunter, or fisherman. Unlike the city dweller, the peasant is close to his food source.”

Today that would define every restaurateur to open a new bistro.

You can tell how far food has come in the last 30 years when looking at a book like this. For instance, Hillman says that some of the items in this book are now becoming staples like – carrots. Of course, now days one can find carrots at the 7-11.

Many of the mail-order products suggested in the book can now be found in any supermarket. This recipe for I’a Ota gives a mail order address for coconut cream, which I can find in my tiny local market.

I’t Ota

1/2 pound tuna steak
1/2 pound tilefish or sea bass
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup sliced scallions
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup diced firm tomatoes
1/4 cup coconut cream

1. skin and bone the fish and slice them into rectangular segments measuring approximately 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch by 1 1/2 inches.
2. Place the fish, lime juice, scallions, and salt in a glass or other noncossosible bowl. Mix the ingredients well but gently. Cover, and refrigerate the preparation for 3 hours.
3. Drain off the excess liquid from the bowl and add the tomatoes and coconut cream. Gently but thoroughly toss the ingredients. Serve the I’a ota immediately in chilled glass or porcelain bowls.

Now get out there and hunt for those carrots.

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