Thursday, March 3, 2011
Culinary speaking, the Canary Islands have a particularly wide array of delectable typical foods. Natural, autochthonous ingredients, most of them usually common nowadays, but prepared in a unique way which makes them exceptionally appealing to the gustatory glands. Genuine home made food that gives a whole new definition to the word comfort food. One of those indigenous aliments, and the center of our commentary, is a particular type of mollusk known by the islanders as "lapa", which translated means limpet. My experience with foreigners has showed me that unless you are a gourmet eater, there is a high possibility that you haven't heard about limpet before. Every time, a friend visits, I invite him or her to one of my favorite local restaurants where I introduce him to this unusual dish. And the astonished look in their faces never disappoints me.
Limpets are gastropods. Particularly, in the Canary Islands, there are three different types well known by the natives: white limpet, black limpet and a type of limpet only found in the island of Fuerteventura. The latest considered to be the biggest and most delicious. Limpets have only one shell and they are usually found solidly attached to the abrupt, irregular rocks that form the magnificent coast of the islands. Their consumption goes as far back as the guanches, or the first known natives to the Canary Islands centuries ago. And the tradition lives on.
Nowadays, the government has declared "lapas" protected autochthonous specie, due to its exhaustion by unscrupulous poachers. The law establishes that limpets can only be captured during the months of May, June, October and November. By doing so, the specie will reproduce quickly avoiding the disaster that will be its complete disappearance.
Canarians cook "lapas" in many ways, but my favorite recipe is grilled with mojo verde. It is easy to prepare, and as unpleasant they are to look at, the savoriness of this dish is luscious and divine. I assure you that you will not find quite a sumptuous delicacy anywhere else.
The following recipe is how I like to prepare them.
· 2 pounds of limpets (1 kilo) with shells
· 4 garlic cloves
· 1 cup of chopped cilantro
· 3/4 of a cup of extra virgin olive oil
· 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar
· 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
· coarse sea salt to taste (1 teaspoon approx.)
· Freshly ground pepper
Introduce the garlic cloves and salt in a mortar and crush. Add the cilantro, black pepper and cumin and mix well. Pour the olive oil together with the vinegar and blend all the ingredients.
Heat up a skillet, BBQ, or grill. Carefully, arrange the limpets, shell up when the grill is hot, and spoon the mojo on top of each limpet, one by one. Let them cook until they are soft. This process will take approximately 5 to 8 minutes.
Do not overcook them because they will dry up and become chewy.
I know it could be very hard to find limpets in your hometown. Sometimes they even sell them frozen. However, there is no better pleasure than eating them fresh, and they are much better if they come from the Canary Islands. Reason enough for you to travel here and try them up for yourself. If, by any chance you are here, or plan to be here in the near future, make a note in your diary to ask for fresh "lapas" with canarian mojo at a good local seafood restaurant. And, of course remember to accompany it by one of the popular white wines from Guimar, Tenerife.