I discovered Taramasalata at Jefferson Market in the west village, now sadly closed, more than 35 years ago when I moved to New York, and it still is one of my all time favorites to serve with drinks or, for that matter, for lunch with pita and a salad, or along with almost any fish as the Greeks do.

Taramasalata is widely available, although most commercial brands are laced with thickeners and red food coloring. Whipping up this zesty eastern Mediterranean meze at home couldn’t be easier and is far and away the better than any Taramasalata you will find in the shops.

Fish roe, lemon juice, olive oil, and bread, with the addition of grated onion, sea salt and pepper, is all there is to it. Whipped together into a smooth puree and slathered on toasted pita is, and I’m taking some poetic license here, a savory Aegean taste bite with lyric resonance. Give it a try! The flavor and texture tell the story where words fail. 

Taramasalata   makes 1 ½ cups

  • 3 ½ ounces/100g  tarama fish roe; red or white (see note)
  • 3 or 4 thick slices white bread (about 3 1/2 oz), lightly toasted, crust removed
  • milk or water for soaking the bread
  • 2 heaping tablespoons grated onion
  • 2 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • ground white pepper to taste
  • flaked sea salt if needed
  • sweet or smoked paprika (optional garnish)
  • lemon zest as garnish (optional garnish)

Note: Greek tarama/fish roe is either from cod or carp, and is pink in color. If not available use salmon roe, or any pink or pale white roe. If fish roe is not available use smoked salmon.

Tare the bred into bits and place in a bowl. Add milk or water to soak the bread. Promptly squeeze out most of the liquid from the bread using you your hand. Place the bread in a  food processor or blender. Add fish roe and onion and blitz until well combined.

Add half of the lemon juice and pepper and blitz. With the motor running add the olive oil and remaining lemon juice alternately in a slow steady stream. The mixture will thicken and be quite smooth. Taste and add salt if needed.

Transfer to a glass container, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Garnish with paprika and lemon zest and serve with toasted bread or pita, or as a sauce with fish.

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