Sunday, February 3, 2008

Product Knowledge

When you work with food there are often times you come across foods you don't recognize, or in this case, foods you recognize but come to realize its not what you thought.

During prep for Family Meal the other day I came across a package that I thought contained Couscous but a closer look at the item itself and the package had me confused.

I decided not to use it that day, unsure of its true nature and tore off the label and placed it into my pocket.

Upon returning home I jumped on the Internet and did some searching. The label stated the product was really "Fregula Sarda" and what little I know about speaking foreign languages I realized Sarda had to be a descriptive. So away I went with searching Fregula

It didn't take long to find some information on the product. Turns out I wasn't too far off thinking it was Couscous. Fregula is actually considered "a tastier cousin to Couscous". After further searching I found the term Sarda refers to Sardinia, the second largest island off Italy.

Sardinia has a torrid love affair with the history of the Mediterranean. Home generations of sailors its no big surprise the island had been occupied by numerous Empires, Peoples, and Cultures. Its here we find where Fregula and Couscous have their connection. Its rumored that Couscous made its way from the Maghreb, The northern most tip of Africa containing such countries as Morocco, Algeria, Libya, and Egypt.

The Mediterranean has been heavily influenced in its culture and foods from the spread of the Ottoman Empire. Spain, Italy, and even France have to submit that some of their culture comes from the spread of the enormous and influential Islamic Empire.

When Fregula arrived in Sardinia they faced the same problem that most products face when spreading across the world. Limited resource of the material used to make the original forces adaptation of the recipe to suit the region. Its then that Couscous became Fregula.

Still using Duram Flour like Couscous, Fregula uses Semolina flour. Semolina is the processed and ground Duram Wheat grain. Easier for them to obtain in Sardinia, Semolina is used in the process of making dried pastas.

These days Fregula is used in numerous applications, often a substitute for Couscous. Most famously used cooked in a Fumet , fish stock, with clams, muscles, and fish and served as a soup.

Treat Fregula almost the same way you would Couscous. The most basic preparation is done by dropping the pasta into boiling water or stock for 7-10 minutes.

For class we boiled it in stock for 10 minutes, removed it and spread it on a sheet tray and toasted it slightly in the oven to dry it out and add texture. We then prepared an assortment of beans, carrots, and fresh herbs. After the Fregula was dried out slightly, we heated butter in a saute pan, added the veg/herb mix then the Fregula. Sauteing it slightly to add color and flavor we presented it much like a pasta salad.

Take notice if you use Fregula you will need lots of salt. The pasta tends to soak up a lot of salt and pepper.

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