Readers offer tips on where to get mysteriously alluring bottarga

By S. Irene Virbila
Los Angeles Times | FOOD

Since my article on bottarga came out on Saturday, I’ve gotten lots of letters from bottarga enthusiasts cheering me on and-or alerting me to other places to find the briny Mediterranean delicacy, as well as a tip for using the cured mullet roe.

Karl Squitier, a classics professor at Cal State Long Beach who teaches a class called “Ancient Eats,” says you can buy bottarga at Cortina’s in Anaheim, a well-known and beloved source for all things Italian in northern Orange County. (Note that at the moment the Anaheim location is closed for renovation after a fire. The Orange location remains open.)

Silvestro Conte, a native of Puglia who is just starting YourItalia, an “eno-gastronomic” travel company based in Washington, D.C., suggests that the best way to peel bottarga is by putting the piece in a bowl of warm water or under the faucet for a minute. “The peel will slide off so easily,” he writes. It's a trick he picked up from fishermen's wives in Sardinia.

Several readers pointed out that Barbara Hansen, a former colleague of mine at The Times, posted a story on her blog TableConversation about bottarga (boutargue in French) at a kosher French-Tunisian restaurant. That would be Got Kosher? Cafe, where owner Alain Cohen prepares pates a la boutargue (pasta with bottarga) and also sells bottarga encased in wax.

Food writer Gerry Furth-Sides reminded me that Sal Marino at Il Grano in West L.A. makes linguine alle vongole with bottarga shaved over the top. He also garnishes his scallop crudo with celery leaves and olive oil with bottarga.

One reader wrote in to ask whether the jar of bottarga di tonno he's had stashed away in a dark cupboard for several years is still good. He just never quite knew what to do with it. My answer? Taste it.

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Meanwhile, after writing so much about bottarga, I had a craving for the classic spaghetti alla bottarga and on Saturday night made the recipe Valentino [ Restaurant ] had given me (transcribed below). The amount of pasta water he adds to the cooked pasta sounds alarmingly large, but works perfectly. Just be sure to cook the spaghetti very much al dente since it continues to cook a little when you add it to the skillet with the olive oil, bottarga and pasta cooking water.

It made a wonderful late supper on a hot summer night in L.A.

Link to original article:


Recipe: Spaghetti with bottarga

25 minutes. Serves 6
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed and left whole
2 cups baby heirloom tomatoes, halved
1 pound spaghetti
1 ounce bottarga, grated (about 1 tablespoon per person), divided
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of liberally salted water to a boil. In a large skillet, heat the oil and garlic over medium heat until hot. Remove the garlic and stir in the tomatoes. Remove the skillet from heat.

2. Cook the spaghetti al dente following the timing instructions on the package. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta with the tomato mixture in the skillet and heat over high heat. Drizzle over the cup of water along with half of the grated bottarga and several grinds of black pepper, stirring until the pasta absorbs the liquid, one to 2 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and serve at once, sprinkling over the rest of the bottarga.

Calories 370
Protein 12 grams
Carbohydrates 59 grams
Fiber 3 grams
Fat 9 grams
Saturated fat 2 grams
Cholesterol 17 mg
Sugar 3 grams
Sodium 58 mg

NOTE: Adapted from [...] Valentino in Santa Monica. [...Serve] the pasta with a glass of Vermentino di Sardegna. Bottarga is available at select gourmet markets.