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Profile: Retiree Carolyn Barcott

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    Carolyn Barcott
  • 2/15
    Feast of Seven Fishes
  • 3/15
    Squid
  • 4/15
    Octopus
  • 5/15
    Marinated Squid & Octopus
  • 6/15
    Crab
  • 7/15
    Crab Salad
  • 8/15
    Shrimp
  • 9/15
    Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce
  • 10/15
    Salt Cod
  • 11/15
    Salt Cod Soup
  • 12/15
    Mussels
  • 13/15
    Creamy Pennette with Mussels
  • 14/15
    Alaskan Cod
  • 15/15
    Alaskan Cod with Roasted Fennel, Carrots and Zucchini

Text, photos and food cooked by Michal Martinek

Dec 18, 2014

Print this recipe

Carolyn Barcott is a very good cook. Raised in San Pedro—a seaport and former fishing community by the Pacific Ocean, south of Los Angeles—in a large Italian family, Carolyn affectionately remembers her grandparents. “On Sundays, our lunch was always promptly at noon,” she says. “My grandmother would get up very early to make the sauce for the pasta from scratch so that it would cook for at least five hours.” Her grandfather, who hailed from the island of Ischia in Italy, taught Carolyn about its culinary traditions. “We always celebrated our culture all year round,” she continues. “But our favorite was the elaborate Christmas Eve dinner.”

Festive and indulgent, the full-on seafood spectacle called the Feast of Seven Fishes originated in Southern Italy but is now popular throughout the world. “My children and grandchildren come to my house every year on Christmas Day, and we all cook together,” says Carolyn. “There are really no strict rules about what kind of dishes are served, as long as the menu consists of seven different kinds of fish and shellfish.” The number represents the seven catholic sacraments: Baptism, Communion, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Marriage, Ordination, and Last Rites. The dishes are tailored to every family’s traditions and favorite ingredients, and they usually include a variety of cold appetizers, a fish soup, a pasta dish and roasted fish.

Age 72 — Hometown San Pedro, California — Where do you live? Between Cypress and La Quinta, California — Occupation Retired — Signature dish I don't have one — Who taught you how to cook? My parents and grandparents and through self-experiment — Favorite kitchen tool A good knife. At the present time I use Cutco. — Always in your pantry I usually use fresh ingredients. I always have chicken and beef stock, and tomato sauce in my freezer, as well as beans that I've made in a pressure cooker. I use my freezer more than my pantry except for flour, sugar and baking things — Go-to snack Hard-boiled eggs — Favorite cuisine Maybe Italian but I like everything — Do you diet? Sometimes. I just watch what I eat. — Food addictions Ice cream — Food allergies None — Food fad pet peeve Gluten-free. Most people don't know what it means but join the fad. — Who’s your sous chef? Anyone that's around — Drinking while cooking? Sometimes I have a glass of wine or a mixed drink. — What’s for dinner tonight? Roast chicken, mashed potatoes, string beans and salad — Do you ever cry over spilled milk? Yes once. I was cooking a Christmas dinner and had about 25 guests coming over. I unwrapped my prime rib and it was terrible. I went to the freezer, took out chickens, Cornish hens and even asked my neighbor what they had that I could use. We had a great dinner! — Best meal you ever had Too many and all over the world. But I don't know whether it was the food or the memories of the people and the places.

Marinated Squid & Octopus

This is an easy appetizer with a nice, kicky taste and chewy texture. It should marinate for at least half a day for the flavors to fully develop. Make sure not to overcook the squid, or it will be tough. Serve with toasted white bread. 

O

  1. Serves 4–6
  2. Marinade
  3. ½ cup sherry vinegar
  4. 1 teaspoon salt
  5. ½ teaspoon white pepper, freshly ground
  6. 1 tablespoon sugar
  7. 2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
  8. 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, finely chopped
  9. ¼ cup olive oil
  10. 1½ cups red onion, sliced into thin half-moons
  11. Poached seafood
  12. 1 gallon water
  13. 1 bay leaf
  14. ½ cup white wine
  15. 2 tablespoons salt
  16. 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  17. 2 medium-size octopuses
  18. 1 pound squid—cleaned, head and body separated, body cut into ¼-inch rings

1

Prepare the marinade. In a bowl, mix together the vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar, mint, and oregano. Add the olive oil and combine. Stir in the onion and set aside.

2

Prepare the seafood. In a large stockpot, bring the water to a boil with the bay leaf, white wine, salt and peppercorns.

3

Hold the octopus by the head, and submerge it quickly in the simmering water 3 times, letting the tentacles curl up. Release the octopus into the water and cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Remove it from the water and let cool. Cut the head off and discard. Slice the tentacles and the body into very thin slices.

4

Drop the squid heads and sliced body rings into the same simmering water and boil for 3 minutes. Drain and cool under cold running water or in an ice bath. Drain again and pat dry.

5

Mix the octopus and squid with the marinade, and slightly press the mixture down so that the seafood is fully submerged. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 12 hours.

Crab Salad

This is an upscale version of your regular tuna salad. The apple provides a nice tart balance to the crab’s subtle sweetness. Try it on a radicchio leaf, slice of tomato, or a cracker. 

O

  1. Serves 4–6
  2. ½ cup mayonnaise
  3. 1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  4. 1 teaspoon salt
  5. 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
  6. 2½ cups fresh crab meat
  7. 1 small tart apple, such as Granny Smith, cut into ¼-inch cubes
  8. 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  9. 3 scallions, finely chopped
  10. Black pepper, freshly ground

1

In a large bowl, mix the mayonnaise with the lemon juice, salt and thyme. Add the crab, apple, celery, scallions and a few turns of the black pepper, and combine. Taste and add more salt, pepper or lemon juice if necessary. Serve chilled.

Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce

Coral pink and dark orange, this elegant and old-fashioned snack is addictive and very easy to prepare. The cocktail sauce is an amalgamation of sour, sweet and spicy notes and provides a gutsy backdrop for the crispy, chewy shrimp. 

O

  1. Serves 4–6
  2. 20 shrimp—shelled, deveined, tail left intact
  3. 1 cup ketchup
  4. ½ cup mayonnaise
  5. 1 tablespoon horseradish
  6. 2 tablespoons vinegar
  7. 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  8. 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until it turns pink, about 2–3 minutes. Drain and chill.

2

Stir together the ketchup, mayonnaise, horseradish, vinegar, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. Cover and chill.

3

Serve the shrimp with the sauce for dipping.

Salt Cod Soup

Preserving fresh fish in salt is a centuries-old way to extend its life, making it possible to transport over a long distance. It is no longer necessary, but the tradition remains, and salt cod is a wonderful delicacy that plays a starring role in this soup, a variation on the classic Zuppa di Baccala. Salt cod needs to be soaked in water to rehydrate it and remove the saltiness. 

O

  1. Serves 4–6
  2. 1 pound salt cod
  3. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  4. 1 shallot, diced
  5. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  6. 3 celery sticks, diced
  7. 1 green pepper, seeded and diced
  8. ¼ cup white wine
  9. 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  10. 4 cups vegetable stock
  11. Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1

Soak the fish in cold water for 24–36 hours (the thicker the fish, the more time it needs), changing the water 3 times a day.

2

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic, celery and pepper, and sauté, stirring occasionally, about 10–15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and have reduced in volume.

3

Add the white wine and cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stock, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

4

Drop the cod into the soup and simmer for 20 minutes. With a wooden spoon, break the cod into small pieces. Taste for salt and pepper.

Creamy Pennette with Mussels

This is a comforting pasta dish featuring fat mussels and sweet peas and oozing with rich creamy sauce. A miniature version of penne is used to keep all components of the recipe in a similar size and to get one big, satisfying bite.

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  1. Serves 4–6
  2. 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed
  3. 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  4. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  5. 1 clove garlic, minced
  6. ¼ cup white wine
  7. 2 cups frozen peas
  8. 1 pound pennette, or similar small-size pasta
  9. ¾ cup heavy cream
  10. 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  11. Zest of one lemon

1

In a big stockpot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté until soft, about 1 minute. Add the wine and stir. Add the mussels, cover and cook until they are open. Drain the mussels and preserve the liquid. Remove the mussels from their shells and set aside. Discard any mussels that haven’t opened.

2

Place the peas in a pot and fully cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.

3

Bring a big pot of salty water to a boil. Cook the pasta al dente. Drain and set aside.

4

Heat the mussel liquid in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the heavy cream and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced in volume, about 20 minutes. Add the mussels, peas, parsley and lemon zest, and combine. Stir in the cooked pasta and serve.

Alaskan Cod with Roasted Fennel, Carrots and Zucchini

Caramelized and full-flavored, the vegetables in this simple dish serve as a rustic pedestal for the noble fish. 

O

  1. Serves 4
  2. 2½ cups fennel (about 2–3), cut in half and sliced
  3. 3 cups carrots (about 5–6), cut into 1/2-inch slices
  4. 6 cups zucchini (about 3–4), cut into 1/2-inch slices
  5. 1 teaspoon salt
  6. 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  7. 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  8. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  9. ½ cup olive oil
  10. 4 cod fillets, or other white fish
  11. Lemon wedges

1

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2

Mix the fennel, carrots and zucchini in a large bowl. Add the salt, pepper, parsley, garlic and olive oil, and combine thoroughly, preferably with your hands. Transfer the vegetables to a 10x15” casserole dish, and roast in the oven until soft, about 50–60 minutes.

3

Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Lightly salt and pepper the cod fillets, and place them on top of the vegetables. Roast until soft and flaky, about 6–7 minutes. Serve the fish accompanied by the vegetables and a lemon wedge.

Comments


1 reader comment on Profile: Retiree Carolyn Barcott.

Creative Kitchen Recipes said:

Really great to see some creative kitchen Recipe ideas. Excellent work.

April 8 at 6:37 am

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