Wednesday, March 15, 2006


you can’t make jewelry out of this gold, but you can make an excellent pasta dish! my favorite fishmonger sells a mullet roe (bottarga di muggine in italian) from cabras also refered to as “oro di cabras” or, “cabras gold” = what many claim to be the best roe around. also refered to as sardinian caviar, i have been eyeing the stuff for months now and i finally bought some today. in doing so, i realized that they call it gold for several reasons: 1. there is a limited quantity produced, 2. it tastes heavenly and 3. it’s as expensive as gold!
the mullet swim and grow in the ponds of cabras, on the west coast of sardinia. according to my fishmonger and to some research, these ponds are considered the best environment in italy for mullet. they live and dine in a luxurious oasis resulting in a smooth and exclusive flavor.
in september the biggest bellied mullet are chosen and the eggs are carefully drawn out of the abdomens and are kept whole. they are then cleaned, salted, pressed and dried. the roe is sold whole (refered to as a baffa in italian, or moustache) or grated. if you want the freshest flavor buy a baffa and slice it or grate it yourself. it’s just like parmesan cheese - for the freshest and most intense flavor, you would never want to buy it pre-grated. it’s much tastier if you grate it yourself right before you are ready to use it in a dish. the baffa wears a little “hat” or ”hood” called ”su bibbiu” (the navel) in sardinian, which is attached to one end of the baffa. this hood is actually a little bit of the outer part of the belly that the fisherman keep intact while they cut into the mullet, allowing them to extract the roe without damaging it. i haven’t actually seen this done, but the final result is proof enough. i used cabras bottarga produced by antonello satta, but several brands exist and are for sale on-line as well. try oro di cabras.

an easy recipe for two people:
1 head garlic chopped fine or sliced
1 fresh chili pepper, chopped fine (you can use more or less depending on your preference and depending on how sizzling hot your chilis are!)
1 inch x 1 inch piece of oro di cabras freshly grated
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
4 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil, preferibly fresh pressed new oil
200 grams of spaghetti, preferibly no.3 (the skinny ones)

in 2 tablespoons of oil saute’ the garlic and chili pepper until golden brown. turn flame off. when pastra is cooked al dente in plenty of salty water, drain and add it to the saute. at this point turn the flame back on to low. add the parsley, the remaining extra virgin olive (you can always add a bit more if you like) and the grated “oro di cabras”. mix well and quickly. serve steaming hot. top off each plate with a few slices of oro di cabras for decoration.

p.s.: the little chunk missing on the bottom left corner of the photo is the bit we used for our pasta at lunch today..............


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