It has been a beautiful week here in the piney woods of East Texas. Warm, but not hot, sunny, but not uncomfortably so, and we have enjoyed the outdoors as much as we can. Today we had a picnic in the downtown area where Bryan works. It was refreshing and relaxing, and the little one found many bugs to admire, the favorite, of course, was the rolly polly (or as he says: “Polly polly”).
I have found a long-lost love with relishes and condiments. All of this thanks to two gentlemen: Bobby Flay and his Mesa Grill Cookbook, and Tom Colicchio and his new cookbook, ‘Witchcraft. I am in love with these books and often I look through their pages, drooling over the photographs and getting inspiration from their creativity.
Both, Flay and Colicchio make extensive use of relishes and sauces, and I absolutely love this. Each book has a condiments section that is mouth-watering. I have marked several of these condiments and strangely enough most of the ones I have picked ask for large quantities of onions. So, yesterday, I came home with 8 pounds of onions. I really need to find a better way to store vegetables (certainly not in a large and beautiful ceramic salad bowl). Any suggestions?
One of the condiments that immediately caught my attention was the Raisin-Pinenut Relish. Colicchio spreads it on a vegetarian sandwich made of grilled eggplant and fresh mozzarella, among other things.
As it happens with most things I crave, I wanted to make this relish with the urgency of a person who had not eaten in days (although I doubt said person would bother cooking, but you get my point). The only problem was that I did not have all of the ingredients. I did not have white wine vinegar, I had only golden raisins and a mini-pack of dark ones, and I had already planned to use the red peppers for a Muhammara, which I will share with you soon.
The oregano is a strong player here, because the relish has oregano as well. Colicchio asks for Sicilian oregano, which I didn’t have, of course, but I did have my Aunt Ëngjëllushe’s oregano. She lives in Radhima, a village 20 minutes away from Vlora, and every year she gathers oregano and other herbs, dries them, and my mother, knowing how much I love herbs from home, always saves some for me to bring back to the states.
I store my herbs next to the coffee, so every morning when I open the cabinet, coffee mixed with oregano and cardamom wafts out of the doors, tickling my nose, throwing me back a few years, to my aunt’s house in Radhima. I have heard that coffee must not be kept in the same cupboard as herbs, but I choose to do so, because for those few seconds, I know home once again.
¼ cup of pinenuts
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
½ cup of yellow onion
1 finely chopped clove of garlic
½ cup of mix of golden and dark raisins
¼ cup white vinegar
¼ cup sherry cooking wine
½ cup roasted red peppers, roughly chopped (I used jarred ones)
½ jalapeno, finely chopped
4 fillets anchovies, finely chopped (I used ones from a can preserved in olive oil)
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 cup of water
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
-In a heavy skillet lightly roast the pinenuts. Make sure they don’t burn. Set them aside.
-In a skillet, heat the oil and add the onions, garlic, and half of the oregano. Cook on medium high until the onions become transculent.
-Add the vinegar and the sherry. Lower heat to medium, add a couple of pinches of salt, and cook until the vinegar and sherry have reduced to half.
-Add the peppers, jalapeno, anchovies, pinenuts, sugar, and water.
-Stir well, cover and let simmer on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, until the liquid has evaporated.
-Stir in the oregano. Let cool.
The relish can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to one week. You can serve it on meats, tofu, and spread it over sandwiches.
Ju bëftë mire!