A Mediterranean lunch on a rainy afternoon

My "baking buddy" Lila from the Culinary School came over yesterday to bake ciabatta, focaccia and small plates to go with the breads. Lila had a catering company in the Bay Area before moving to Santa Barbara and has attended culinary school in Turkey and Italy--and maybe other schools in her amazing world travels. She brought the cookbook Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume by Silvena Rowe to make an artichoke/squid salad and sweet-and-sour eggplant caponata--now two of my favorite recipes. I made the cucumber/shrimp salad with the addition of fresh fennel bulb and leaves, and tuna mousse (recipe). We washed it down happily with the perfect pairing of a ribolla gialla wine from the Friuli region that Lila brought: the La Viarte, which was light and nicely acidic.

Lila showed me how to clean squid:
1. Cut off the tentacles and set aside.
2. Use the back of your chef's knife to scrape the skin from the outside--moving from the tail towards the head. At the same time, the insides will be squeezed out.
3. Pull out the transparent bone. You should be left with a hollow tube of white squid meat.

Tama's Shrimp and Cucumber Salad:

1 Japanese or English cucumber with thin, edible skin, about 2 cups sliced
1/4 cup sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon Mirin (Japanese cooking sake) or 1 teaspoon sugar
*optional 1/2 fennel bulb, sliced thinly
*optional sprinkle of fennel leaves
8 oz. cooked shrimp, cut into small pieces or 8 oz. bay shrimp
Slice the cucumber very thinly and place into a colander, sprinkling each layer with salt. Put the colander inside a larger bowl, cover and put into the refrigerator for half an hour. The salt will draw some of the moisture from the cucumber, making it crunchier. Whisk together the sesame oil, vinegar, soy, and sugar in a bowl. Adjust seasonings to taste--it should be slightly salty and vinegary but not unpleasantly so. Stir into the drained cucumber and shrimp.

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