A taste of abedahu (aboudaju, bottarga), Greek olives, reshas, a glass of raki….and Port Said playing in the background. A meze to delight……’Happy Hour’ Rhodesli style.
We’ve written about finding the perfect abedahu, a salted, cured fish roe, a delicacy in our Rhodesli homes – made in Atlanta, GA by the legendary gastronomical culinary craftsman, Dan Maslia. (for information on ordering his abedahu, contact Dan at email@example.com). Dan’s parents brought the recipe with them from Izmir, but it wasn’t until much later that Dan took up the art himself, making it side-by-side with Rabbi Robert Ischay(z’l), the beloved spiritual leader of Atlanta’s Or Ve Shalom Synagogue.
As a boy, Dan remembers cleaning fish at a fresh foods market and carefully removing the sack of eggs (the roe) along with the bones, the entrails that were discarded before the fish was cleaned and ready to sell. Dan carefully salvaged the roe and brought it home for his mother, aunts and neighbors to clean, salt and cure on their back porches to make our precious abedahu. From a time when nothing was left to waste, the roe was turned into a delicate, salted and cured ‘poor man’s caviar’ – savored by our folks. It is served as a delicacy in Italy, referred to as the ‘truffle of the sea’, delicately grated over pasta or other dishes, adding a unique, savory taste to whatever it graces. In Japan, it is called Karasumi, a highly prized and priced delicacy eaten while drinking saki. A treasured delight.
It’s demand has driven up the price and limited the availability of the roe.
Dan still manages to procure some of the finest mullet roe from the southern coast and prepare it as it has been for generations. The amber, golden bars (or ‘dethos’ (fingers) as we call them) are a sight and taste to behold, ‘intense and elegant,’ as described by Lucianna Squadrilli, ‘with a pleasant, bitter aftertaste.’ (definitely an acquired taste.) We love it with a slice of a baguette, or better, with a resha…..a light-as-a-feather, pretzel-shaped, sesame covered biscuit from a yeast dough.
Reshas or reshikas as they are sometimes called, are a favorite in our family. A resha is not actually sweet or savory; it is light and has a crunch that is sensational, especially if you love texture in your food! With a piece of abedahu, a few olives, some raki……our Happy Hour.
Reshas with a cup of coffee or tea and with a chunk of sharp cheese, a delight! My husband and my sons love them with dips such as tarama (a Sephardic caviar spread), with tzatziki (a Greek yogurt dip), and with ajada (a potato and garlic dip). Mostly, they love knowing they are in the kitchen, and grab one when passing through!!!! Reshas take time to make.
So….how does one make these divine reshas? Start by making a yeast dough.
Kaye’s Resha Recipe
2 packets of Yeast Powder or 4 heaping tblsp of dry yeast
1 1/2 C + 1 tsp sugar
1 C lukewarm water
1 C oil
6 – 8 C flour
Start with 2 packets of fresh yeast ( always check expiration date on package). Place in a glass bowl. (*rinse bowl in warm water first). Add 1/2 C of lukewarm water. Add 1 tsp of sugar. Set aside in a warm place ( a toaster oven or microwave….not turned on). Allow yeast to proof ( foam), about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, sift flour into a mixing bowl. (How much flour? you ask.) Start with 1 – 2 C to get mixing started. Add 1 ½ C of lukewarm water, oil, and 1 1/2 C of sugar. You’ll note that we have said “lukewarm” water several times. This means…..not cold from the tap, and not hot. Hot water will kill the yeast, and not only will your dough not rise, it will become heavy and brick like. Trust me….I’ve figured in the past that if warm is good, hot is better. Was I wrong! I ended up with a batch of doorstops, paperweights and hockey pucks!!!! SO…warm means….just that, warm!!!! (Now, go forth and figure out for yourself what that means!!!)
My mom use an electric Mix Master with a dough hook.
As you start mixing, add the foaming yeast mixture. Then, add additional sifted flour, approximately 1/2 cup at a time…..ultimately about 7 Cups. (Add it slowly….it will “suddenly” start to come away from the sides of the bowl and become “dough”). When it begins to come away from the sides, turn the dough onto a floured wood surface or table, adding approximately 1/2 cup additional flour. Work the dough; knead it. You want the dough not to be sticky as long as you can handle it without it sticking to your hands. To achieve this feel with the least amount of flour produces the best results. (You’ll get the feel of it, honest!)
Put it in a bowl, cover with a piece of Pam-sprayed plastic wrap. Tuck the plastic edges in nice and cozy! Put the dough in a “warm” (i.e. draft-free) place and let it rise for about an hour. My mom will tell you this is a good time to go make the beds, or straighten up the house. My cousin Sarita will tell us it’s a good time to run up to Neiman’s and see what’s new. I’ll tell you it’s a great opportunity to start preparing some biscocho dough and make a day of baking!!!! You choose!
After it rises for an hour, punch it down…
Cut the dough into walnut sized pieces.
Roll each piece into a long rope, perhaps 12″ long:
Turn into a pretzel-like shape. “Paint” with an egg-wash and dip into sesame seed. Place onto parchment lined cookie sheet.
Now, let them rest for another hour under cover as they rise again. Place in a preheated 350 degree oven. Here’s the important part: place baking sheet on low oven rack for about 10 minutes or until bottom of reshas begin to turn a golden color. Then place them on the upper rack of the oven. It should take about another 10 – 15 minutes until the tops become a golden brown as well. (This depends on the oven and might take a try or two to figure out the exact timing).
Remove from oven and allow to cool. Return them to a 200 degree for 1 hour to “biscochar” ( crisp ’em up). Enjoy!!!
Now you’re ready. Get your raki…..slice the abedahu. A few greek olives…..turn on Port Said……a few reshas. It’s time for Happy Hour! Enjoy!