Monday, October 26, 2009

MUSHROOM - INFUSED SAUSAGE RAGU

6 lbs of Costco - bought sweet Italian sausage. That's what kept taunting me every time I opened the oversized yellowed door of my prehistoric but still tickin' Amana refridgerator. I knew I had a challenge and grilling a couple of sausages or frying mini breakfast patties here and there wasn't going to make much of a dent. With 3.5 lbs to go, I needed a recipe that took this seasoned ground pork from the sidelines to the spotlight.

I tossed this luscious ragu with al dente orecchiette pasta but I think it would pair nicely with creamy polenta as well. Some other uses may include empanadas, caneloni, lasagna, ravioli or gnocchi. This recipe will also work beautifully with a turkey sausage substitute. Buon appetito!

SERVES 6 - 8
3.5 lbs sweet italian sausage, casings removed
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
8 oz mushrooms such as baby bella or button, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 L chicken stock, low sodium or pref. no sodium
pepper to taste
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 dried bay leaf
2 tbs olive oil

Saute the chopped vegetables with the olive oil over medium heat until soft, about 12 minutes. Increase the heat to med - high and add the sausage to the vegetables. Cook while stirring to break the meat apart until cooked through and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 1.5 to 2 hours. Keep uncovered for the first hour or until the liquid has reduced by about half.

NOTE: If you are using no sodium broth you may add salt to taste once the liquid has reduced. Otherwise, no additional salt will be necessary.

Friday, June 5, 2009

MOSTLY RAW VEGGIE TACOS

Even though this recipe includes some of my favorite ingredients, I wasn’t expecting much else but to calm my grumbling stomach. To my surprise, these quick and healthy bundles turned out to be much more than just fuel for my body. The delicious flavor of this simple recipe can be attributed only to one thing: the use of local and seasonal ingredients. Eat em up while they’re still around.

I didn't have any on hand at the time but 1 tbs of fresh, finely chopped cilantro would be a great addition to the tomato and avocado mixture. Another option would be to add a few leaves to each taco.

MAKES 5 TACOS
½ pint grape tomatoes, quartered
1 hass avocado, coarsely chopped
4-5 leaves of red curly leaf lettuce, roughly chopped
1 ear of corn, kernels removed (use a bundt pan to keep the cob steady and catch the kernels)
salt/pepper to taste
1 ½ tbs olive oil
1/3 c of your favorite salsa, store-bought or homemade
5 corn tortillas

Toss the corn with ½ tbs olive oil, salt and pepper. Set aside. Toss the tomatoes, avocado, remaining oil, salt and pepper. Set aside. Alternatively, you can add the corn to this mixture. For the tortillas, place a damp paper towel on a microwave safe plate. Place the tortillas on top and cover with another damp paper towel. Microwave until heated through and pliable, about 20 seconds. You can assemble the tacos any way you like of course. I found that starting with a bit of salsa, followed by the lettuce, avocado/tomato mixture, corn and finally a bit more salsa worked best.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLE MASH

Not bad for a toaster oven huh?

In an effort to get rid of some root vegetables I had lying around and eat a hot meal, I decided to give the supposed “bake” setting on my toaster oven a try. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t tell you the actual temperature you’re cooking at. I have always thought that knowing what temperature you are baking at was important but it seems that the toaster oven engineers, in their brilliance, don’t share the same opinion. Despite this apparently minor detail, it actually worked very well. Enjoy. I know we did.

SERVES 4
3 small carrots, roughly chopped
1 large baking potato, roughly chopped
1 acorn squash, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tbs olive oil
salt/pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (I think). In the meantime prepare your ingredients. Toss everything together in a shallow ovenproof dish and bake until all the ingredients are fork tender, about 25 minutes. Puree all the ingredients in a food processor (or in my case, a fork) to the desired consistency and serve.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

MY NEW KITCHEN or lack thereof

This isn’t exactly the dream kitchen of an aspiring chef……or anyone for that matter. I don’t even have a real stove or oven. I am limited to a microwave, toaster oven and hot plate. As for appliances, those are restricted to a blender and a mandolin. I foresee lots of smoothies, salads, sandwiches and cold soups in the near future. Could this be the real South Beach Diet? I will let you know how my figure reacts to this regimen. On the plus side, however, I am living on South Beach, which is worth the sacrifice. Our little place is within walking distance to restaurants, bars, shops and, of course, the beach. We don’t anticipate living in this small studio too long but for now it’s not all that bad.

Keeping this short list of meal possibilities interesting will surely test my creativity. A little help from my fellow bloggers and readers could come in handy. I would love it if you shared some of your favorite recipes, particularly salads and dressings. Thank you.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

POMMES ANNA

I first made this dish as part of a Valentine’s dinner for my husband in 2004. Since then it has made several appearances on our table and, most recently, my mom’s table.

This dish is usually made with clarified butter but I find that olive oil works just as well and allows me to save some time. You may also find many pommes Anna recipes that are made in the oven. There are many variations to this elegant dish. The important thing is that you give it a try.

SERVES 4
3 lbs Idaho potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (use a mandolin if possible)
2 tbs olive oil, plus 1 tbs (alternatively, clarified butter may be used)
salt/pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, 2 tbs oil and seasonings. Brush a 9-inch, non-stick skillet with the remaining tbs of oil. Arrange the first layer of potato slices in an overlapping manner until the entire bottom of the pan is covered. Continue to layer the potatoes and discard any liquid that remains. (You don’t have to be as careful with the remaining layers since they will not be visible.) Cook over med-low heat and give the pan an occasional shake to ensure that nothing is sticking. Once the bottom layer of the potatoes is golden brown, crisp and the top layer becomes translucent, about 12 minutes, flip the potatoes over carefully with the use of a large plate. Continue to cook until browned, about 10 minutes, slice into triangles and serve immediately.

SHRIMP AND VEGETABLE SCRAMBLE

My mom loves a good breakfast. For her birthday I thought it would be nice to prepare something special to start her day. This scramble served up with pommes Anna and some Neuskies bacon did the trick.

If you can find Neuskies bacon be sure to give it a try. It’s a bit on the pricey side but worth every penny. Remember to cook it “low and slow.” Cooking bacon over low heat will ensure that it is evenly cooked and crisp all around.

SERVES 3
1 small box cremini mushrooms, quartered
½ bunch asparagus tips, halved on a bias
9 shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 eggs, beaten
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbs flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
salt/pepper to taste
1/3 c olive oil

Combine the garlic, parsley and 1 tbs of the olive oil and set aside. Heat a large skillet over med-high heat. Once the pan is hot add the remaining olive oil. Following the same technique as in the veggie sauté, cook each of the vegetables and shrimp separately in batches until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes for the shrimp, 4 minutes for the asparagus and 7 minutes for the mushrooms. Remove from the pan and set aside. Once your last batch is cooked, return all other batches back to the pan along with the reserved parsley/garlic mixture, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Add the eggs and cook while occasionally stirring until it reaches your desired doneness. Serve immediately.

Monday, June 1, 2009

SPRING PEA SALAD WITH TOMATOES, PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO AND TORN BASIL

I made this salad for my mom a few weeks ago while visiting her in New Jersey. Nothing could be better. Nothing could be easier. I only hope that you can still find some fresh peas so that you can try this heavenly salad for yourself. I should have posted this sooner but had been so inundated with our move to Miami that I have neglected my dear blog.

I didn’t think you’d need a recipe for this one. Just toss it all together and taste as you go. Some sweet balsamic vinegar or glaze might be nice with this as well.

Peas, shelled
Tomatoes, roughly chopped
Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved
Basil, torn
Salt/pepper
Olive oil

Sunday, May 31, 2009

CAL PEP barcelona restaurant review

A few days before leaving Barcelona, my husband and I treated my mother-in-law to a pre-birthday lunch at one of her favorite restaurants, Cal Pep. It is a fantastic tapas restaurant featuring a gamut of fresh Mediterranean seafood as well as a few classic must have’s: Spanish Iberian ham, butifarra or pork sausage and my personal weakness, croquetas. Locals and tourists alike have hailed this small, well-known establishment for years. It’s popularity becomes evident before walking in the door which is usually ajar due to the line of people happily waiting – with a drink in hand – for one of the few seats at the bar. Even before the open, there is already a line of ravenous customers anxiously awaiting their turn to eat plate after plate of regional goodness. Although Javier, a charismatic server, likes to joke by telling the tourists that the seafood is from La Sirena, a local frozen food market, Cal Pep remains true to Catalan form by serving up the freshest ingredients available with seasonings typically limited to salt and olive oil.

Below are some of the dishes we have had……

• pan con tomate / toasted bread rubbed with tomato and olive oil
• almejas con jamon / clams with Spanish ham
• pimientos de padron / padron peppers
• croquetas
• fritura mixta / deep-fried mixture of seafood
• garbanzos con chipirones o sepia / chickpeas with mini squid or cuttlefish
• chanquete con huevo / tiny fried fish (similar to whitebait) with a fried egg
• tallarinas con ajo y perejil / small clams with garlic and parsley
• arroz caldoso de marisco / rice and seafood in savory broth

Since everything is prepared to perfection it would be impossible to pick which dish I liked best. The last dish however, is something I highly recommend if it is available. Paella is the Spanish national dish, yet it can be nearly impossible to find a proper paella in a restaurant. Although it is not paella, this arroz caldoso comes very close in flavor and is absolutely divine. Also, if you have never had tallarinas and enjoy clams, I would advise you to try this superb local specialty as well. Whatever you decide, I am certain that Cal Pep will leave you with a lasting impression of the magic of Catalan cuisine.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

BARCELONA-STYLE CHICKEN AND RICE

It’s not that I have had this dish in Barcelona, but it’s definitely a creation that wouldn’t have been possible without this city’s influence. The characteristic Catalan marriage between earth and sea flavors, a component that I rave about in the “earth and sea paella” post, gives the classic, chicken and rice dish a twist. The fish stock I used is actually an accumulation of left- over stock from previous paellas as well as the remaining juices from any clam, mussel or other seafood dishes that I strain and freeze for a later use. This recipe also takes advantage of the bountiful artichokes that are available right now. In a pinch, frozen artichokes or any other vegetables would probably work nicely. As for the preparation, the technique is the same as that of a paella. In fact, if you have never made paella before, which I admit can be intimidating, you could use this as practice. This dish is less expensive and the stakes aren’t as high.

SERVES 6-8
1 lb chicken sausage, cut into 1 inch pieces
8 fresh artichoke hearts, cut into six or 8 pieces (reserve in a bowl with water and lemon juice to prevent oxidation or use frozen artichokes, no cans/jars)
2 large onions, finely chopped
6 c or 1.5 L fish stock/broth, homemade or store-bought
2.5 c short grain rice
Salt/pepper to taste
2-3 tbs olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cook the sausage with some of the olive oil over medium heat in a very large skillet, paella or clay pot (like the one in the picture) until cooked through, about 7 minutes. Remove, set aside and cook the onions with the additional oil until tender and golden brown, about 15 minutes. In the meantime bring the stock to a boil in a separate pot. Return the sausage and any juices along with the drained artichokes and rice to the pan. Cook, while stirring occasionally, until all the oil has coated the rice and it becomes translucent or pearl-like, about 4 minutes. At this point you can stop the cooking process and reserve in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours (also, do not boil the stock). Otherwise, increase the heat to medium-high. Ladle the boiling stock into the pan, add salt and pepper to taste and give it a shake so that everything is in an even layer. Cook until ¾ of the stock has reduced, about 10-12 minutes and place in the oven for another 8-10 minutes or until the rice is cooked through. Remove from the oven, tent with foil and allow to rest for up to 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

NOTES:
· The general rule for this style of rice dish or paella is 1 part rice to, slightly more than, 2 parts boiling liquid. I know that sounds very official and all but it depends on whether you like a dry or moist consistency, how high the heat is, etc.
· Unlike a risotto, a paella should never be stirred after you have added the liquid.
· Never skimp on the time used to cook your onions. They should be tender, golden brown and almost paste-like. This is a very important part of Catalan cuisine that adds tremendous depth of flavor if done properly. This is a great technique to use in vegetarian dishes as well.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

ARUGULA AND MACHE SALAD WITH PICKLED ONIONS

I remembered that I had some of the pickled red onions left over from the “octopus and potato salad”. When I opened the container I was pleased to find that the extra time had done the onions good. They were tender, full of flavor and their color had transformed into a beautiful fuchsia or magenta. The onions stand out even more against the bright greens in this salad. I later used the remaining onions to make a spicy tomato relish for a veggie burger. It seems that the possibilities are endless!

SERVES 2
1 handful mache
1 handful arugula
2-3 spring garlic or scallions, thinly sliced on a bias (white and light green parts only)
5 green olives, halved (pitted if necessary, preferably anchovy stuffed)
5 cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt/pepper to taste
Olive oil, to taste
1/3 pickled onions recipe, see below

PICKLED ONIONS
1 red onion, thinly sliced
¼ c apple cider or white wine vinegar
¼ tsp salt

Combine ingredients and allow macerating in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours to achieve the vibrant color you see in the picture. Keep for a minimum of 1 week.

To assemble the salad, arrange the vegetables, except the pickled onions, on a large platter. When you are ready to serve, sprinkle the onions over top and season with salt, pepper and olive oil. No additional acidity is needed due to the pickled onions.

THE S. PELLEGRINO WORLD'S 50 BEST RESTAURANTS 2009

Since we are preparing for our move back to the states, we have been performing the daunting task of packing our belongings.  While in the kitchen wrapping a glass in newspaper, I came across a picture of 4 of the best Spanish chefs: Ferran Adria, Andoni Luis Aduriz, Joan Roca and Juan Mari Arzak.  Break time!  Next to the picture was an article featuring the recent S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants awards.  4 of Spain's gems were in the the top 10, more than any other country!  Two of these fine establishments are right here in Catalonia and the other two are in the Basque Country.  Adria's El Bulli has been named number 1 again for a total of 5 times, 4 of which have been consecutive. Aduriz, a 38-year-old superstar chef, maintained Mugaritz's place at number 4.  Roca's El Celler de Can Roca jumped a whopping 21 places to number 5 and Arzak remained at number 8.  Spain has been steadily climbing the charts in the culinary world so the remarkable outcome was not very surprising.  The feeling I had was pride and thankfulness for my unique gastronomic experience over the last two years.  Although I did not have the opportunity to work with any of these top 10 chefs personally, my three teachers were disciples of either Adria or Aduriz.  I am grateful for them and this wonderful adventure, and  I am feeling quite sad that it is almost over.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

BAR MUT barcelona restaurant review

This restaurant, which turned out to be one of Barcelona’s hidden treasures, is a mere 3 blocks from our apartment. We didn’t know it existed until we came across it while walking through our neighborhood just a couple of weeks ago. Curious, we walked inside for a peek at the locale and the menu. It was a casual but sheek establishment resembling a wine cellar equipped with a sophisticated Spanish menu of tapa-sized dishes. We weren’t hungry at the time but we left, certain we’d be back soon. Shortly thereafter, my husband surprised me with a lunch reservation for our anniversary.

As soon as we sat down the host elaborated on the menu which changes slightly depending on the availability of ingredients. While we struggled over which of the appetizing dishes we were going to order, little bites of Spanish omelet were brought to our table. We finally ordered and anxiously awaited our food. To start, we had the famed “Cantabrico” or Bay of Biscay anchovies and crusty bread. Simple. Delicious. The next dish was the “empedrado:” a salad comprised of salted cod, tomatoes, tender white beans, onions and peppers. It was spectacular and presented beautifully with a black olive infused oil drizzled over top. After only these two perfect dishes we were confident that the rest of the food would be magnificent and, as we waited, our anticipation grew. Next up were the steamed cockles sprinkled with fresh herb oil. Not too much though. Masking the freshness and abundant natural flavor of what were the best cockles we had ever had, would be a sin. They were yet another testament to the phenomenal taste of Mediterranean seafood. Following the cockles was the savory, fork-tender chicken thigh wrapped in crisp skin with sweet baked pears. I rarely, if ever, order chicken at a restaurant but when the host explained the cooking process, one I had learned in culinary school, I decided it would be worth it. Our last savory dish incorporated flavors of the earth and sea, my favorite characteristic of Catalan cuisine. A portion of slow-cooked pork neck topped with sea cucumbers and sautéed artichokes (This cut of pork is possibly the most flavorful and tender of all. I hadn’t even heard of it until BCN since it is primarily used for grinding in the U.S.A). We had already ordered dessert when we were surprised with a complimentary chocolate molten cake with hazelnut ice cream. As you may have guessed, it was wonderful. The moist cake, spewing with chocolate, mixed with the hazelnut ice cream to create an explosion of flavors and textures. This dessert was followed by a crème patissiere-filled millefeuille or puff pastry. This is a simple, but scrumptious dessert that my husband loves. My particular weakness, torrijas (similar to French toast) was last. Unfortunately, it was the only thing I did not like. However, I was not disappointed because it had nothing do with improper preparation, but with the fact that I was unaware that it was infused with orange zest, an ingredient that I am not particularly fond of.

Needless to say I highly recommend this restaurant if you are in the area. Although pricey, it instantly became one of our top 3 restaurants. I only wish we had discovered it sooner since we are moving back to Miami in a matter of days. However, it’s better late than never!

BAR MUT (I suggest making a reservation)
Pau Claris 192
08037 Barcelona, Spain
+34.932.174.338

Friday, April 24, 2009

SWEET AND SAVORY PEAR TART my hemc #32 contribution

HEMC or hecho en mi cocina (made in my kitchen) is a blog that hosts monthly events for other bloggers to participate in. Each month an ingredient is selected, in this case puff pastry, and anyone can make a contribution by:
· creating something with that ingredient
· taking a picture of it (optional)
· posting it on your blog, indicating that this is your HEMC contribution
· notifying HEMC that you have done so by leaving a comment on their site with a link to your recipe
At the end of the month all the contributions are displayed on HEMC for all to see. This is my first time participating in the event. This recipe is an adaptation from the “Warm Pear Tart with Blue Cheese and Honey” in Tyler Florence’s Eat This Book, one of my favorites. The ingredients are pretty much the same but by changing a few things here and there, I have made it more to my liking. The process couldn’t be easier and the result is delicious and eye-catching.

250 g or 9”x 11” puff pastry
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c tbs butter
2-3 pears, cut into ¼ slices
Honey for drizzling
1/4 – 1/3 c gorgonzola
2 tbs toasted almonds (preferably marcona), coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 F or 200 C. In the meantime roll out the pastry onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. The pastry needs to remain cool so place it in the refrigerator while you get your other ingredients ready. Arrange the pears on the pastry to your liking leaving an inch or so for a border. Sprinkle with sugar and dot with butter. Bake for 40 min, turning the tart after 20 min. After 40 minutes, carefully place the tart directly on the rack with the use of a wide spatula and cook for an additional 5 minutes. This will ensure that the crust is crisp in the center. Remove the tart and place on a cooling rack. Dot the tart with gorgonzola, sprinkle with almonds and drizzle with honey to your liking. Serve warm or at room temperature.

HEMC requested that I post my entry in Spanish as well…..

HEMC o hecho en mi cocina es un blog que se dedica a organizar eventos en cual otros bloggers puedan participar. Cada mes escogen un ingrediente, en este caso hojaldre, y todos que quieran contribuir tienen que:
• cocinar un plato relacionado con el tema
• tomar una foto (es voluntario)
• crear una entrada en tu blog que especifique que esa es tu contribución
• dejar un comentario en HEMC con enlace a tu receta
Al final del mes todas las contribuciones se exponen en HEMC. Esta es la primera vez que participo en el evento. La receta es una adaptación de “Warm Pear Tart with Blue Cheese and Honey” en Eat This Book, escrito por Tyler Florence, uno de mis favoritos libros de cocina. Los ingredientes son mas o menos iguales pero al cambiar un par de cosas he consiguido algo mas a mi gusto. La elaboración no podría ser mas fácil y el resultado es delicioso y atractivo.

250 g hojaldre
50 g azúcar
50 g mantequilla
2-3 peras, cortadas con un grosor de ½ cm
Miel
50 g gorgonzola
2 c.s. almendra tostada y troceada (preferiblemente marcona)

Pre-calentar el horno a 200 centígrados. Mientras se caliente, colocar el hojaldre sobre una bandeja con papel de plata. Es importante que la pasta se mantenga fría así que ponerla en la nevera mientras prepares los otros ingredientes. Colocar las peras encima de la pasta a tu gusto dejando un borde de 2-3 cm. Espolvorear con el azúcar y poner la mantequilla en trocitos. Cocinar por 40 minutos, girando la tarta después de 20 minutos. Al cabo de los 40 minutos, poner la tarta, con mucho cuidado y la ayuda de una espátula ancha, directamente sobre la rejilla del horno por 5 minutos. Esto asegurara que la costra del centro quede crujiente. Retirar la tarta del horno y colocala encima de una rejilla para que se enfrié un poco. Repartir el queso en dados, las almendras y la miel a tu gusto. Servir templada o a temperatura ambiente.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

OCTOPUS AND POTATO SALAD WITH CREAMY PARSLEY VINAIGRETTE

I hope my readers like octopus. If not, I hope that these recipes change your mind on, what I admit, can be an intimidating ingredient. If you’ve read my blog before, you may remember that my husband is a huge fan of octopus. This recipe was the first course of his recent birthday dinner and, not only was it easy to put together, it was a hit!

SERVES 4
12-15 new potatoes, sliced in ½ inch rounds
1 lb cooked octopus tentacles, thinly sliced (you can get this from your fish monger)
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 c apple cider, red wine or white wine vinegar
¼ tsp salt plus more for boiling the potatoes
6 stalks spring garlic or scallions, thinly sliced on a bias (white and light green part only)
Creamy parsley vinaigrette, recipe follows

CREAMY PARSLEY VINAIGRETTE
3/4 c loosely packed flat-leaf parsley
2 anchovy fillets
1/3 c olive oil
2 lemons, juiced
1 tbs capers
Salt/pepper, to taste
1-2 tsp mirin or honey (to balance the acidity of the lemon juice)

Combine the red onion, vinegar and ¼ tsp salt. Cover and place in the refrigerator. The longer they marinate the better. They will keep for at least one week. Next, combine all the ingredients for the vinaigrette, blend until smooth and creamy and set aside. If you will be using the vinaigrette that same day, do not refrigerate. Otherwise, allow the dressing to come to room temperature before using. Boil the potatoes in generously-salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool. To assemble the salad, cover two serving platters with a layer of the potato slices, pile the octopus in the center and sprinkle with the spring garlic. At this point you can cover the salad and refrigerate for later use. When you’re ready to serve, drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and scatter a generous amount of the reserved red onions. Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil if you’d like.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

MIRAMAR girona restaurant review and stage

Last December some very dear friends invited my husband and I to eat at Miramar, a family-run, Michelin-starred restaurant in Llanca, Spain. Our friends have known the executive chef, Paco Perez, and eaten at his restaurant for years. Being the foodie that I am, they were convinced I would enjoy it.

Since the words “mira mar” literally mean “sea view,” in Spanish, I was expecting just that, a view of the ocean. However, I wasn’t prepared for how spectacular my first impression of this restaurant would truly be. The splendid view and subtle yet elegant décor implied that this was going to be a meal to remember. We began by ordering a fabulous bottle of red wine and a few things to nibble on: anchovy fillets with roasted red pepper strips and fresh herb oil, Spanish Iberian ham of the highest quality accompanied by the classic Catalan toasted bread rubbed with fresh tomato and olive oil and, finally, fried calamari rings. Choosing my next dishes from a menu riddled with delights such as sea urchin and black truffle risotto or sea bass with tender onions, romesco and calamari linguini proved to be difficult. Finally I settled on the oyster tartar with oscetra caviar and apple foam for my first course and the lobster and cuttlefish rice dish for my second course. The presentation and taste was flawless as was the service. After our meal I had the opportunity to thank and meet Mr. Perez as well as his talented and warm staff. My friends negotiated a short stage or internship for me and 3 months later I was back at Miramar expanding my culinary horizons.

Thank you Paco, Montse, Zaira, Richard, Antonio, Hideki, Pablo, Toni, Ariel, Juan and Maria for your generosity and kindness as well as the unforgettable learning experience. I wish you all the best.

For your first experience at Miramar you may want to consider one of their set menus. The tasting menu has 6+ courses and is a steal at 75 euros.  They also have the seasonal menu at a very fair 50 euros.  Call ahead to make a reservation especially during the busy summer months.
  • +34 972 380 132
  • Pg. Maritim 7, Llanca, Spain
If it's a nice day I urge you to take a walk, before or after your meal, on a picturesque waterside path called "camino de ronda."  The Miramar staff or locals can direct you.  It's a must!


MORE FOODIE BLOG FINDS TO SAVOR

If you aren't hungry, you will be after viewing these blogs.  You've been warned!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

SPANISH FOOD GUIDE

I just stumbled across this website while translating a few Spanish food words for a post. I thought you might find it useful as well.

EASY PEASY SALAD

I should probably be embarrassed at how this salad was born: sheer laziness. It’s a rainy, lazy day here in Barcelona. It’s the kind of day that makes you want to stay in and take a nap or watch a movie. Given the conditions, even cooking wasn’t at the top of my list. With the persistence of my grumbling stomach, I mustered enough motivation to shell some fresh spring peas I had picked up at my local produce market. I was going to eat them as is when I saw a bottle of sweet Modena balsamic vinegar peaking at me from the back of my pantry. Armed with the peas, the vinegar, some sea salt and extra virgin olive oil, a simple, quick and delicious salad was born. I suppose it’s ok to be lazy once in a while if a new tasty recipe results from it.

Serves 2
3 c shelled peas, raw
3 tbs olive oil
2 tbs sweet balsamic vinegar or glaze
Salt, to taste

Pour 1 tbs of the vinegar and 1 tbs of the olive oil in small bowl, without mixing, and set aside. Toss the peas, remaining olive oil, remaining vinegar and salt in a separate bowl. Spoon the salad onto a plate, drizzle the reserved dressing around the peas and serve.

THE CHINA STUDY a must-read book

By now most, if not all, of us acknowledge that what we eat plays a role in our health. However, after reading The China Study I am amazed at how important and wide that role really is. This book is a compilation of ground-breaking studies on the cause and effect relationship between food and diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes to name a few. The astonishing results speak for themselves. The author, Dr. Campbell, is an equally impressive man. He has lead a 40-year long career that makes for an extraordinary resume. This book is referred to as his legacy and is the result of a 20-year long investigation that is said to be "the most comprehensive study of health and nutrition ever conducted."

Of all the books I have read about nutrition thus far, this is likely the most important one. I want to thank my aunt Debbie for recommending it to me.

Friday, April 10, 2009

SEARED TURBOT FILLETS WITH FISH BROTH REDUCTION

My style of cooking has really evolved in the last few years. I have experimented with using fewer and fewer ingredients so that I don’t overshadow the star of the show. This hasn’t been too hard to do in Spain, especially with seafood. Everything caught in the Mediterranean seems to be richer in flavor than in any other region I have tried. A short list of ingredients is also beneficial in that it makes for easier and more cost effective meals. Finally, these types of recipes are a great opportunity for novice cooks to become more familiar with the ingredients they are working with. Today I purposely limited my seasonings to salt and olive oil because I was curious to see what I could make of it. Leave no doubt, quality and freshness triumphed over quantity.

SERVES 1-2
2 turbot fillets or other white fish such as flounder or snapper
1 lb small rock fish (about the size of your hand or smaller)
Salt, to taste
2 tbs olive oil

Place the rock fish in a small pot and fill with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for 15 min, removing the bubbles that rise with a slotted spoon every so often. These bubbles are filled with impurities that you don’t want in your broth. Remove from heat and allow to stand for 20 min. Strain and set aside or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Boil the broth in a small pot until it has reduced by ¾, about 30 min, and set aside. In the meantime, you can prepare ingredients for the accompaniment of your choosing. I served it with my veggie sauté with parsley and garlic. Heat a medium-sized skillet over med-high heat. Season the fillets with salt, sear with the olive oil for 20 seconds on each side (longer for fish with thicker flesh such as sea bass) and place on a serving platter. Pour the reserved fish broth into the hot pan. This will, almost immediately, finish reducing into a sauce. Add salt to your liking and pour over the reserved fillets. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

FOODIE BLOG FINDS TO SAVOR

These are some new foodie blog discoveries.  They are all fantastic and among my favorites.  I hope you enjoy them as well.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

PENNE TOSSED WITH DUCK RAGU AND WILTED ARUGULA

Since our time here in Barcelona is coming to an end, I am trying to use up every last thing in our pantry, refrigerator and, in this case, freezer. That’s where this duck leg comes in. The last time I made duck it was duck confit. Like any properly made confit, it was incredibly tender and flavorful, but a bit too rich for me. In fact, I think I prefer a confit of chicken leg instead. The natural high fat in the duck plus all the oil you need for this cooking process was too heavy for my taste. This ragu is much lighter, as far as duck is concerned, but none of the flavor is sacrificed. This is also an impressive, yet inexpensive dish you can amaze your friends with. I only used 1 duck leg and half a box of pasta and that was enough for three servings. Finally, don’t stop with penne, this ragu would be a fabulous filling for ravioli, cannelloni or even lasagna!

SERVES 3
1 duck leg, skin removed
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1/2 c red wine
2 garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
1 pinch each dried rosemary and thyme
1/2 L low or no sodium chicken stock/broth
1/2 c flour for dredging
2 tbs olive oil
Salt/pepper, to taste
1 large handful arugula
200g penne (a little less than half a box), cooked

Heat an oven safe pot, large enough so that the duck can lie flat, over med heat. Dredge the duck in the flour and sear in the olive oil until browned, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove the duck and set aside. Add all the vegetables except the garlic and sauté, adding a bit more oil if necessary, until tender and golden, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and herbs and stir to combine. Add the wine and cook until the alcohol has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Return the duck to the pan, add the chicken broth or stock, bring to a boil and bake uncovered for 1 ½ hours. The liquid will reduce by about ¾ into a rich sauce. Flip the duck over, cover and cook for another 30 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bone, shred or chop and return to the pot, discarding the bone. Add salt and pepper to taste. At this point you can use immediately or store for up to 3 days.

To assemble the dish cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box in heavily salted water. When cooking pasta the water should be as salty as ocean water. Simmer the ragu over low heat. When the pasta is ready, drain, add to the ragu and stir to combine. Remove from heat, add the arugula and incorporate. The residual heat should be enough to wilt the arugula. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and parmegiano reggiano if you’d like.

NOTE: If you want to make home-made ravioli the easy way, buy wonton wrappers at your local Asian market and defrost. Place a bit of the filling, (should be very finely chopped and cooled completely in the refrigerator) in the middle, brush the edges with an egg wash and fold to make a triangle shape. For a large square shape, place another wonton wrapper on top. Keep in the refrigerator for 1 day or freeze flat on a tray. When you are ready to cook them do so in a wide but short pan. Do not crowd the pan or allow the water to boil vigorously as this could break the raviolis. Cook them for about 1 minute or until heated through. Top with a few arugula leaves, extra virgin olive oil and parmegiano reggiano.

Monday, April 6, 2009

MOROCCON-SPICED CHICKPEAS WITH ONIONS AND TOMATOES

This dish is quite the blog evolution. I came across this spice mix on a fellow foodie’s blog called Cook Sister. Apparently she too borrowed the spice mix recipe from another food blog titled Kalyn’s Kitchen. Now I have adopted it as well. I think this is a keeper too. I followed the spice mix almost exactly but made my own rendition of their recipes and it was a success. I can’t wait to try it with other ingredients as well. The wheels are already turning and I am sure you will see it, evolved yet again, right here.

SERVES 6
1 lb bag chickpeas, soaked over night, rinsed and boiled 1 hour or until tender
1 recipe Moroccan spice mix (see recipe below)
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 14 oz can whole tomatoes
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Salt/pepper to taste
1/4 c olive oil

MOROCCAN SPICE MIX
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 pinch ground cloves

In a large skillet sauté the onions with the olive oil over med-high heat until soft and golden, about 12 minutes. In the meantime combine the spices. Add the spice mix to the onions and cook for another minute. Incorporate the tomatoes, crushing them by hand as you add them to the skillet and the remaining ingredients. Mix to combine and cook for an additional 10 minutes to allow the flavors to come together. Serve immediately or store for later. It keeps very well and gets better with time.

NOTES;
· I prefer making my own chickpeas but you may substitute an equal amount of jarred or canned chickpeas for a quicker meal.
· If you want more of a gravy add another can of tomatoes and/or some chicken or vegetable stock and reduce until the desired consistency.

FRENCH APPLE TART to die for

Really, this is to die for. Not only that, it is dangerously simple to make. I say dangerously because I am afraid that due to its ease, I will be making this little slice of heaven more often than I should. I have already made it twice in 10 days and I don’t usually have much of a taste for desserts or baking. As you can see from the picture it is also a very attractive tart that you and your guests will be in awe of.

SERVES 6
1 puff pastry, defrosted in the refrigerator (the one I found was about 9” x 11” or 250 g.)
3 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced into ¼ inch pieces
½ c sugar
3 tbs butter

FOR THE GLAZE
¼ c apricot preserves
¼ c rum

Heat gently until ingredients are combined and the preserves have dissolved.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper, lay the puff pastry flat on top and place in the refrigerator. Once the oven has reached 400 degrees and the apples are prepared remove the pastry from the refrigerator. Arrange the apple slices over the pastry so that they overlap. Carefully trim the ends of the arranged apples so that the pastry edges are exposed without cutting into the pastry. Sprinkle the sugar over the apples and dot with the butter. Bake for 40 min, turning the tart 180 degrees after 20 min. In the meantime make the glaze. After 40 minutes, carefully remove the cookie sheet and parchment paper, place the tart directly on the rack with a wide spatula and cook for an additional 5 minutes. This will ensure that the crust is crisp in the center. While the tart is still hot, brush the top with the glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

OCTOPUS NICOISE

This summer while in Sardinia, my husband’s love of octopus was revamped with a vengeance. This is likely due to the fact that you can find at least one dish containing this cephalopod on most Sardinian menus. No two dishes were alike and, I have to admit, they were all delicious. Now, of course, we are no longer in Sardinia and it is up to me to come up with a gamut of meals containing, you guessed it, octopus! This is my latest creation which is a mere interpretation of a classic. Buon appetito.

SERVES 4
2 stalks spring garlic, thinly sliced (use scallions or shallots alternatively)
1/3 c Nicoise or other similar olive, pitted and halved
10 new potatoes, quartered
2-3 tbs salt for boiling
1 lb cooked octopus tentacles, thinly sliced (you can get this from your fish monger)
Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
Handful of baby greens such as arugula or mache
1 tbs capers
1 handful green beans, ends cut and halved on a bias

FOR THE VINAIGRETTE
1tbs capers, finely chopped
1 anchovy fillet, finely chopped
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c total of parsley and mint, finely chopped
1 tsp mirin or honey
Salt/pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and set aside.

After you have made the vinaigrette, place the potatoes in a pot with the salt and water and cook over med-high heat. Once the water has come to a boil the potatoes should cook for approximately 10 minutes. Using the same pot, plunge the green beans into the boiling water. Cook for 3 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon and place in ice cold water to stop the cooking process and retain the bright green color. Once the potatoes are done, drain and set aside. To assemble the salad, arrange all the ingredients to your liking. Drizzle the salad with the vinaigrette generously just before serving.

Friday, April 3, 2009

VEGGIE SAUTE WITH PARSLEY AND GARLIC

It’s artichoke season and these beauties are hard to resist. Today I used them in a simple yet satisfying medley of mushrooms and spring garlic. After the fact, I thought some asparagus tips and/or a few scrambled eggs would also have been a divine addition for future sautés.

The key to getting great color and flavor when sautéing is to use a larger skillet than you think you need and avoid crowding the pan. My second piece of advice is to “leave it alone!” People love to hover over the stove and stir. Premature and excessive stirring prevents caramelization and, therefore, flavor development because it causes the release of the natural moisture in food. In a nutshell, the result is more like steaming rather than sautéing. Keep yourself busy while sautéing by preparing other ingredients or checking your email. Also, learn to use your nose. You definitely know the smell of something that is burnt but you can also learn to tell when something is perfectly caramelized.

SERVES 2
2 artichoke hearts, cut into sixths, chokes removed (no cans or jars for this one!)
2oo g or a large handful of your favorite mushrooms, halved (ie; button, cremini, shitake, etc.)
5 stalks spring garlic, white part only, cut on a bias (alternatively use scallions)
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tbs flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
3 tbs olive oil
Salt/pepper to taste

Combine the garlic, parsley and 1 tbs of the olive oil and set aside. Heat a large skillet over med-high heat. Once the pan is hot add the remaining olive oil. Sauté each of the vegetables separately in batches until golden brown on all sides, remove from the pan and set aside. Cook time for the artichokes and mushrooms is about 3 minutes per side (6 min total) for each and cook time for the spring garlic is 2 minutes. Put all the cooked veggies back in the pan along with the reserved parsley/garlic mixture, salt and pepper, stir to combine and serve immediately. If you are going to add a couple scrambled eggs do so after you have combined all the ingredients.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

VIENA barcelona restaurant review

If you are in Barcelona and in the mood for something tasty, quick and inexpensive, this little dive is the perfect solution. The menu consists of a large variety of hot or cold sandwiches and a few salads. The restaurant itself is small and has bar-style seating only. Due to its popularity, it will most likely be crowded and lacking in available seating. If this is the case, don’t fret. The food is served and eaten rather quickly, making for fast turnover. In the meantime you can ask for a beer while you wait and peruse the menu.

My husband and I have tried quite a few items on their menu. My favorite, however, is the “lomo, queso y cebolla” or “pork, cheese and onion” hot sandwich. My husband prefers the “Flauta Iberico.” This is a simple cold sandwich comprised of only two high quality ingredients: Spanish Iberian ham and fresh baguette. If you have ever had top quality Spanish ham, you know that you don’t want to cloud its amazing taste with too many ingredients. Whatever you decide, I suggest asking them to cut your sandwich in half especially if it comes in a baguette. I would also recommend getting an order of their crisp french fries as well.

I have only been to the Viena on La Rambla 115, but apparently there are more locations. Here is their website for your convenience: http://www.viena.es/

Friday, March 20, 2009

TAPAC 24 barcelona restaurant review

I am sad to report that I was very disappointed with my long-anticipated and built-up expectations of Tapac 24. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the owner, Carles Abellan, was at one time an apprentice of the number one chef in the world, Ferran Adria. Furthermore, one of my esteemed professors at Hofmann culinary school worked at his other, also highly acclaimed, restaurant, Comerc 24. However, I am convinced that the primary reason for my disenchantment is not due to the hype about this tapas bar but rather the poorly executed dishes we were served.

There were many menu items that I rarely see at tapas venues but that my husband and I love. In fact we had a hard time deciding which ones to choose. Finally we settled on the following 6 items: fricando, croquetas, rabo, esqueixada, patatas bravas and bombas. I thoroughly enjoyed the esqueixada: a tasty, cold salad comprised of salted cod, peppers and onions. I also liked the bombas, fritters of mashed potato and ground meat, but they were a bit on the cold side. The patatas bravas were freshly made and crisp but greasy. Both meat dishes, fricando and rabo, were fork tender but smothered in strange sauces. Finally, the Spanish ham croquetas, usually my weakness, were salty and tasted like milk. After such a disappointing start you might wonder why we dared to order dessert but we did. I couldn’t resist trying the torrijas (resembles French toast) with vanilla whipped cream and I am glad I did. It was absolutely delicious.

This is largely a negative review and you will surely find that many, if not most, other reviews of this restaurant differ greatly. What I would like you to keep in mind is that even though this is certainly not the among the worst places to eat in Barcelona I would never recommend it because there are many other gems in this city that are far more deserving of your palate, time and money.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

TENDER TURKEY OSSO BUCO WITH MUSHROOM GRAVY

“Wow, can we have this for Thanksgiving instead of turkey and stuffing?” That was what my husband said several times while eating his dinner tonight. I have to admit that I agree with him 100%. A whole turkey, no matter how moist and delicious, can’t compare to this memorable meal……

I hadn’t heard of turkey osso buco until recently when my mother mentioned that she came across it on Giada’s Everyday Italian show on the Food Network. Coincidentally, a few weeks later I stumbled upon this elusive cut of turkey at my local meat market. I bought some without having a clue as to how I was going to prepare it. In terms of the ingredients, I kept it simple and standard. The taste, however, was anything but. The vegetables and broth reduced into a rich, tasty gravy. As for the turkey, let’s just say that no knives were needed! This may have been the first time we have had the pleasure of dining on turkey osso buco but it certainly won’t be the last.

SERVES 2-3
2 lbs osso buco, about 3 pieces (alternatively, you may use turkey legs)
1 c flour
Salt/pepper to taste
1/4 c olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
8 button or baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp dried thyme
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/3 c dry white wine such as pinot grigio
1/2 L low or no sodium chicken broth or stock

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In the meantime pat the turkey dry with paper towels then salt and pepper it generously and dredge in flour. In a deep, oven-safe pot or dutch oven just large enough to fit the turkey in one layer, heat the oil over med-high heat. Brown the turkey on both sides until a golden brown crust forms, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the turkey from the pan and add the onion, carrot and mushrooms. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the wine to the vegetables and cook until it has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Return the osso buco to the pan along with the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and bake uncovered for 2 hours, or until the meat is tender and falling off the bone. Turn the turkey after the first hour.

20 minutes before the osso buco is done, you may add vegetables of your choosing, such as potatoes, carrots or green beans. Alternatively, you may steam, sauté or blanch them separately to preserve their vibrant colors.

Friday, March 13, 2009

FRUIT LEATHER

I recently went back to the states to visit my family. While I was there I stocked up on some of my favorite treats such as Lara Bars and fruit leather. Knowing that she would love it, I let the 10-year girl I tutor try some of the fruit leather. Well, she certainly did love it and devoured it all in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately for me, you can’t find fruit leather anywhere in Barcelona. Being the sucker that I am, I offered to find a recipe and make some for her from scratch. Luckily, it is very easy. It does require a lot of drying time but you can put a batch in the oven before going to bed since it cooks at a very low temperature.

Fresh fruit
Honey or other sweetener to taste, optional
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 120 degrees F. In the meantime, puree all ingredients until smooth. At this point you may strain the puree through a colander. Line a baking dish or rimmed baking sheet with microwave safe plastic wrap. Pour the mixture into the pan to ¼ inch thickness. Bake overnight or 8-12 hours. Leave the oven door ajar to allow moisture to escape. It is ready when it is smooth and no longer sticks to your finger. If it is not done after 8 hours and you don’t want to keep using the oven, you may let the fruit leather sit out on your counter for another 24 hours or until it has completely set and no longer sticks to your finger when touched. Roll into a log and store in an airtight container for up to a month.

MARINATED BROCCOLI SALAD

I don’t usually post many of my breakfasts and lunches since I mostly eat fresh fruit and vegetables for those meals. This easy, healthful and satisfying salad, however, is worthy of the spotlight. I usually double the recipe and keep it in the fridge for up to a week. It just gets better with time. My husband and I love eating it as a snack, meal or side dish.

SERVES 4-6
1 head broccoli cut into florets
1 small box button mushrooms, halved
1 tomato, chopped
½ shallot or red onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, peeled, left whole
2 tsp mustard
2 tsp honey
¼ c. apple cider vinegar
¼ c. olive oil
Salt
Pepper

Mix lemon, vinegar, mustard, honey, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Once the salt has dissolved, add the olive oil. If the vinaigrette is too strong you may dilute with a few tbs of water. Add remaining ingredients, toss and marinate at least one hour. You can also marinate overnight. Toss the salad occasionally so that all the get coated with the dressing. This salad should keep for up to a week.

PITA CHIPS

This is another simple crowd pleaser. These chips can be served with hummus, tatziki or any other of your favorite dips. They can also be crumbled over salads like croutons. At my house we, like them so much that we even eat them straight out of the bag.

Pita (the thin ones)
Olive oil
Dried thyme
Sesame seeds
Salt

Preheat oven at 205 degrees C or 400 degrees F. Remove the baking dish that comes with your oven and line it with aluminum foil (If you use this baking dish, you won’t have to turn the pita chips over). In the meantime brush both sides of the bread with a thin but even coating of olive oil. Sprinkle both sides with salt, thyme and sesame seeds. Cut each pita into 8 triangles. Place the triangles on the baking dish in a single layer and bake on the highest rack for 7 minutes or until golden brown. Remove chips from oven and allow them to cool on paper towels, a wooden cutting board or a cooling rack. Once completely cool you can serve or store in a freezer bag for 7-10 days.
NOTE: The heat from my oven in Spain comes from the top even when I am not broiling. If your oven is different the cook time may be a bit different.

TATZIKI

This is a great, crowd-pleasing dip to have on hand for snacking. If you are entertaining make sure you have plenty available as I am sure it will disappear before you know it. Serve with home-made or store bought pita chips such as Stacy’s.

1.5 c (about 14 oz) thick greek yogurt, ie: Fage
1.5 cucumbers, shredded
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/4 c mint, thinly sliced
2 tsp vinegar or lemon, or more to taste
2 tsp olive oil, or more to taste
Pepper, to taste
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tsp salt, plus more to adjust seasoning if necessary

Allow the shredded cucumber to sit in a bowl with the salt for a minimum of 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the shallot and mint. With your hands or a dishcloth, squeeze all the moisture out of the cucumber. Mix the cucumber with the remaining ingredients, taste, adjust seasonings if necessary and serve with pita chips.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

PUTTANESCA SAUCE for fish, pasta and....

In the past I haven’t exactly been a big fan of this sauce, but recently I have gained a whole new appreciation for it. It is currently one of my favorite things to make due to its robust flavor and ease of preparation. The first time I made it I poured it over cod and a bed of sautéed leafy greens. Most recently I tossed it with some spaghetti. Either way, it’s delicious, trouble-free and satisfying.

THIS RECIPE IS SUFFICE FOR ONE BOX OF PASTA OR 6 FILLETS OF FISH
3 tbs olive oil
2-4 anchovy fillets packed in oil, chopped (not optional!)
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
28 oz can of whole tomatoes
1 large tomato, chopped
Pinch red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper
2 tbs capers packed in brine, coarsely chopped
½ c black olives (ie: kalamata or picoline), coarsely chopped
Salt/pepper to taste

OPTIONAL
Fresh herbs (ie: basil or parsley), torn
Parmigiano Reggiano, the real stuff, freshly grated

Place the first 3 ingredients in a large skillet over low heat. Once the anchovies have dissolved add the remaining ingredients, stir, bring to a boil and remove from heat. If using fresh herbs, add after you have removed sauce from heat. Toss with pasta or spoon over your favorite white fish. Top with freshly grated Parmegiano Reggiano.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD………….

After an unusually gloomy, damp and cold week in Barcelona the gods granted us an absolutely glorious weekend. In order to take advantage of the blue sky and warm sun, my father-in-law and I went hiking in some nearby mountains. It is the second trip he has taken me on and I, a die hard city girl, have fallen in love with the fresh mountain air and breathtaking scenery which includes views of Montserrat and the snow-capped Pyrenees. 
After a difficult and, at times, perilous 3-hour trek we were starved. Thankfully, his girlfriend had paella waiting for us ravenous hikers when we returned.
What a treat, what a day!


Friday, March 6, 2009

NO MUSS NO FUSS ROASTED CHICKEN

It’s not a 30-minute meal but it is certainly an easy, no fuss dinner you can make any night of the week. Once you put the ingredients together, stick it in the oven and set your timer you can forget about it and tend to other things like relaxing with a glass of wine or chatting with a friend. The only thing that will prove difficult will be resisting the intoxicating smell of comfort food filling your home. Another advantage is that you can play around with the seasonings since the most important thing is the technique. One variation I love includes replacing the herbs de Provence with curry powder and filling the cavity with chopped apples. Either way I am sure you will love the ease and fulfillment of this recipe.

SERVES 4
1 whole chicken
1 tsp herbs de Provence or Italian seasoning mix
¼ c olive oil
1 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
½ c chicken broth or white wine (or ¼ c of each)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the seasonings to make a wet rub. Place the chicken in a baking dish and distribute the rub all over the inside and outside of the bird. Pour the broth and/or wine into the bottom of the dish and bake, uncovered for one hour. Baste the chicken and bake for another 20-30 minutes or until juices run clear. A thermometer should register 165 degrees F in the thickest part of the breast.

NOTES
· After the one hour mark, you can add some chopped root vegetables such as potatoes, yams or turnips.
· Roasting racks work best to ensure all of the skin gets crisp and golden.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

CRISPY MONKFISH BITES

Monkfish, as far as I know, is not a fish that is commonly eaten in the USA. Here in Barcelona, conversely, monkfish is incredibly popular and it’s easy to see why. Although the exterior of this fish, with its disproportionately large head, leaves much to be desired, it is prized for its meaty, tenderloin-like flesh. In terms of taste and texture, it resembles fresh cod and can be prepared in a variety of ways. Also, the head (be sure to remove the skin first) and bones may be used to make a lovely broth for soups or rices. The recipe below is a simple crowd pleaser. I hope you enjoy it as much as we have. If you can’t find monkfish you can substitute another meaty white fish such as cod or haddock.

SERVES 4
1 lb monkfish, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tbs garlic salt
1/4 tsp ground oregano
1 tbs lime juice
1 lime quartered
2 eggs, beaten
1 c flour
vegetable oil for frying
salt

Season the monkfish with garlic salt, oregano and lime juice. Allow the fish to marinate for 10 minutes. Dry the pieces with paper towels then plunge into the flour, then egg and finally flour again. Heat enough oil over med-heat heat so that the bites can be completely submerged. Carefully fry the fish until the crust becomes a pale golden brown, about 1 minute. Remove, place over paper towels to drain, and salt immediately. Serve promptly with lime or lemon wedges.

SPANISH CROQUETAS

To make croquetas you need to have one of two qualities or both: patience for being in the kitchen for a prolonged period of time or a weakness for these irresistibly creamy fritters. I am guilty of both, particularly the latter. I cannot resist a well-made croqueta for anything in the world. I am offering some substitutions that will make this dish a bit easier like the rotisserie chicken and store-bought béchamel, but it will still be time consuming. I can say, nevertheless, that every second is worth it. Also, what I do is make about 75 at a time and freeze them. They can be taken directly from the freezer and fried whenever you get a hankering for one of these mini delights.

MAKES ABOUT 75

FOR THE FILLING
2 large onions, very finely chopped
1/4 c olive oil
10 oz or 300 g Spanish Serrano ham, finely chopped
1 rotisserie chicken, meat removed and very finely chopped (pref. in food processor)
1 L béchamel, homemade or store-bought

FOR THE BATTER
4 c flour (includes 1 c for dusting countertop)
6 eggs, beaten
3 c breadcrumbs

Oil for frying, pref. vegetable

In a large skillet, gently sauté the onions in olive oil for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile you can prepare the rest of your ingredients. Once the onions are very tender and pale golden brown, add the chopped chicken and sauté over med-high heat until browned, about 5-7 minutes. Lower the heat slightly and add the ham then the béchamel. Cook while occasionally stirring until the mixture starts to come away from the sides of the pan and you have a thick paste, about 12-15 minutes. At this point, the mixture needs to cool completely in the refrigerator so that it is easier to handle. I like to put the mixture in a pastry or freezer bag in the refrigerator over night. Once the paste is completely cooled cut a ¾ inch hole in the plastic bag and spread the mixture in long rows over a generously flour-dusted countertop. Cut into 2-inch long pieces (scissors work best) and plunge into the flour, then egg then breadcrumbs. At this point you can fry them in hot oil until all sides are dark golden brown and serve. Otherwise lay them on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and freeze. Once the croquetas are frozen they can be stored in freezer bags.

NOTES
· If you are not freezing the croquetas but storing them in the refrigerator for later, dip them in breadcrumbs again before frying.
· My husband and I like to serve the croquetas with lime or lemon wedges. This is not a Spanish but a Cuban custom we learned in Miami.
· Croquetas are a great way to make use of leftovers or the boiled chicken used to make broth/stock.

EARTH AND SEA PAELLA-STYLE RICE

My favorite aspect about Catalan cuisine is the tendency to combine flavors from the earth and sea. This practice goes well beyond the American surf and turf and includes combinations between chicken and shrimp, salmon and beef or, as in this case, pork and cuttlefish. You might think that these flavors would overpower one another but in actuality each component makes the other stand out more so than if it was served alone.

Rice is another important element of not just Catalan but all Spanish cuisine. However, I have lived in Barcelona now for almost 2 years and am still not quite sure what the difference is between a paella and an arroz (rice dish). Here in Catalonia paella is usually made from seafood while the Valencian paella, considered the original, has no seafood at all. To make it even more confusing the shallow pan used to make paella is called a paella in Catalan. Luckily everyone seems to agree on one thing: paella is something that should be shared with family and friends. It is a delectable dish that will surely impress your guests and result in a rewarding experience for the chef.

SERVES 6-8
7 c chicken stock not broth, pref. homemade
3 c short grain rice
Sofrito (recipe follows)
1 tbs salt or more to taste

FOR THE SOFRITO
¼ c olive oil
1 lb cleaned cuttlefish, finely chopped (you can substitute calamari if you can’t find it)
1 lb pork neck, chopped into ½ inch cubes (neck is best but shoulder will do)
½ c tomato puree
2 large onions

Heat a large skillet over med-high heat. Have a splatter screen ready. When the pan is very hot, coat with the olive oil and add the cuttlefish. Once you spread the cuttlefish in an even layer place the splatter screen on the pan and cook until golden brown without stirring, about 5-7 minutes. While cooking, the cuttlefish will start to pop out of the pan like popcorn so if you don’t have a splatter screen you should hold a lid over the pan without sealing it. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cuttlefish and set aside. Repeat with the pork working in 2-3 batches. Once the last batch of pork is carmelized incorporate the rest of the pork along with the reserved cuttlefish and onions. Lower the heat to med-low and cook until the onions are fully cooked and the oil begins to separate from the rest of the ingredients, about 15-20 minutes. Add the tomato puree and cook for another 5 minutes.

TO FINISH THE PAELLA:
Bring the stock to a boil. In the meantime, warm the sofrito in a large shallow pan or paella over medium heat. Add the rice and stir until it is coated with the sofrito and the granules become transparent, about 5 minutes. Add salt to taste. Spread the mixture evenly over the pan and ladle in the boiling stock. Cook for 15 minutes uncovered and do not stir. Remove from heat, cover and allow to rest for 5-7 minutes.

NOTES: (a few tips to break up the prep work)
· Make the chicken stock up to 2 days prior to making the paella. You can also make it sooner and store in the freezer.
· Make the sofrito up to 1 day before the paella.

Monday, March 2, 2009

TOSTONES

Plantains, whether green or ripe, are to Dominicans what potatoes are to the Irish. For me they have always been one of my favorite comfort foods. In fact, as a child I ate so much of this irresistible starch that I remember my grandmother telling me that plantains were going to start coming out of my ears. My personal favorite plantain recipe is mangu, a boiled green plantain puree. However, like a potato they can be baked or fried as well. Below is the recipe for twice-fried green plantains or tostones. I most recently made them to accompany the octopus salad but they may be served as a side dish to any savory meal.

Green plantains, peeled and cut into 1-inch rounds
Vegetable oil
Salt

Heat enough oil in a skillet over medium-high heat to cover the rounds at least half way. Fry the plantains for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove the plantains from the pan and place over paper towels to soak up excess oil. Once the plantains are cool enough to handle, smash them flat. I use the bottom of a glass for smashing and a piece of aluminum foil for the base. Working in batches, fry the smashed discs until they are crisp and have a deep golden brown color, 1-2 minutes. Remove from pan, set on paper towels and salt immediately. As soon as you are done frying them all, serve right away. Green plantains, whether baked, fried or boiled do not keep well for long.

OCTOPUS SALAD

February 27th was Dominican Independence Day! To celebrate, my husband and I hosted a traditional Dominican dinner. This is the first of several dishes I made that will be posted.

This is an easy, flavorful and light dish. Dominicans traditionally serve it piled on top of tostones (fried green plantains). However, I often serve it atop endive leaves, which makes for a healthier and easier alternative. In terms of taste, this dish is similar to ceviche. In fact my friend suggested that these same ingredients could be used to make ceviche by swapping the cooked octopus for raw white fish or other seafood. If any of you decide to try making ceviche this way I would love to hear from you. Furthermore, if you are squeamish about octopus, don’t be. I have made this dish many times even for the pickiest of guests and I never get to enjoy leftovers. However, if you are certain you dislike octopus you can substitute it for an equal amount of cooked shrimp or cooked fresh tuna. Serve this as an hours dourve, first course, or light meal.

SERVES 4
3 c cooked octopus, chopped, canned or fresh
1 box cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 small onion, finely chopped
½ green pepper, finely chopped (or 1/4 each green and red pepper)
3 limes, juiced (lemon may be substituted)
1 c finely chopped cilantro
4 tbs olive oil or more to taste
salt/freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes. You can make this 1-2 days before serving as the flavors will only continue to develop.

THAIS RODRIGUEZ, PASTRY CHEF EXTRAORDINAIRE

I mentioned in the “about me” section that my sister, Thais, is a pastry chef. Her career began at my mother’s restaurant, Sazon in Ridgewood, NJ. Being a family restaurant, Thais had various responsibilities but it quickly became clear where her true talent and passion lay, dessert-making. She became the official pastry chef for Sazon and worked there for almost two years. She later attended the famed French Culinary Institute in New York City. Having demonstrated great ability, her teacher was happy to give her an outstanding recommendation that landed her an internship at Jean-Georges, a top 10 NYC restaurant according to Zagat. Thais currently works at Salud Restaurant & Bar, also in NYC.

To add to her repertoire, Thais is often contracted to make her stunning and succulent desserts for special events such as birthdays and weddings. If you or someone you know is planning a special event in the NYC area, feel free to contact Thais via email at thaisnr917@yahoo.com. Having had the pleasure of trying her scrumptious creations, I have no doubt you too will be delighted.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

CALCOTADA


Last week my friend organized a “Calcotada.” This is a meal, no, a feast in which you begin by eating heaping piles of grilled calcots (thicker but similar to scallions) dipped in salvitxada sauce (similar to romesco). It may not sound like much, but I assure you it is quite the event. The calcots are charred black so the outer layer must be removed before you can dunk them into the sauce. After you’ve drenched your calcot you dangle it above your head, while trying to avoid the dripping sauce, and open wide. This is obviously a very messy affair which is why you are given a large bib and wet-naps. Following the calcots, we were served Spanish potato omelet (tortilla Espanola), green salad, roasted eggplant and red peppers (Escalivada), followed by grilled meats including sausage and various cuts of lamb. This was accompanied by potatoes as well as navy beans and finally dessert. Of course, it wouldn’t really be Spain if we didn’t have an endless supply of wine.

TWO GREAT READS!!

I have just finished devouring two amazing books: The Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose and the Enzyme Factor by Dr. Hiromi Shinya. If you have any interest in learning more about diet as it pertains to health and well-being, I highly recommend both of these reads. They both have many similarities because they focus on the importance of enzymes and the health of your gastrointestinal system as a means of achieving optimum health and preventing disease. The diet recommendations have some parallels except the first book stresses the inclusion of raw fruits and vegetables into your diet where as the latter focuses largely on whole grains.

If you have already heard of or are curious about the advantages of raw food and want to include more of them into your diet, I recommend the book by Natalia to read first. It is shorter and provides valuable information without being overwhelming. I have been following her recommendations for a couple of weeks now and feel great. It’s a way of eating that I believe I can stick to because it emphasizes incorporating vs. exclusively eating raw foods.

If there is anything noteworthy about my progress with this diet I will be sure to fill you in. I would love to hear your comments as well. Here are the authors’ websites for you to peruse:
www.enzymefactor.com and www.therawfooddetoxdiet.com. As for the books, I purchased them on www.amazon.com since they seem to have the best prices. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

CANNOT-SCREW-UP RIBS

The name I have given this ribs recipe reminds me of when I first started making them. No matter what I did or what recipe I tried, I just couldn’t seem to get it right. One evening, after yet another rib catastrophe, I decided to give up on them. But really, what person in their right mind, who likes to cook and isn’t a vegetarian, would give up on these tasty temptations. Once I came back to my senses I called my mom for some guidance and gave it another try. I was astonished to realize that the most important factor in making ribs is time. No matter what the cooking time is on your recipe, if they are not fork tender and falling off the bone they need to be cooked longer. That being said, below is my basic recipe for ribs. Feel free to play around with the seasonings. One of my favorite variations is to replace the adobo with Cajun or blackening seasoning. The wine and seasonings reduce into a rich gravy that you can drizzle over the ribs.

SERVES 2

1 pork rib rack or pieces
½ c. white wine (you may substitute beer, chicken broth or water)
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbs. adobo or garlic salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If you are using a rack of ribs vs. pieces, I recommend that you remove the skin that is stubbornly stuck to the back of the ribs. Use a paper towel to prevent your fingers from slipping. Place the ribs in a baking dish and season. Add the wine, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 2 hours or until ribs are fork tender. Uncover and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes per side or until golden brown and serve. If you are using a glaze or barbeque sauce, brush the ribs with the mixture and cook for 2 more minutes per side.

The last two steps may be done on a grill for a smokier flavor.

SPRING SALAD WITH FRESH PEAS AND HERBS

I know it’s not spring yet but I saw these fresh peas at my local produce market and couldn’t resist the urge to buy some. It’s actually the first time I have ever bought fresh peas and wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. Finally, I put this salad together with some ingredients from my fridge. It turned out so well, that I decided to share it with you. I can’t wait to try this salad again in the spring when the peas will surely be sweeter. I didn’t include measurements in the recipe so you can play around with quantities and use your intuition.

Watercress
Red leaf or other lettuce, torn
Tomatoes, chopped or sliced
Leek sprouts or thinly sliced shallots
Fennel, cored and thinly sliced
Fresh herbs, leaves only (ie: flat-leaf parsley, mint, dill, fennel frawns)
Raw peas
Sea salt/freshly ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Lemon juice, fresh

Wash and prepare all but the last three ingredients to your liking. Gently toss the vegetables with salt, olive oil and lemon juice or other mild vinaigrette just prior to serving. Alternatively you may allow each person to dress the salad to their liking at the table. Serve as a snack, light meal, first course or side dish.