Monthly Archives: May 2014

Lunching in Tuscany

20140531-155554-57354274.jpgIt’s just starting to get hot here – like 100F hot – and thankfully the humidity hasn’t kicked into full steam mode.  Still, it’s hard to think about eating anything heavy, especially in the middle of the day.  And, who wants to slave over an oven or range when you’ve escaped the heat outside?

A few cans, a few minutes at the cutting board, and presto chango —

Insalata di Tonno e Fagioli (Tuna and Cannellini Bean Salad)

Now, pour yourself a nice, chilled white wine and pretend you’re in Tuscany!

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Chorizo for breakfast

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If I’m making breakfast for family and friends, I’ll make something sweet, because I like to bake, especially for company.  When it’s just me, though, I usually make something on the savory side. Back when I could eat eggs and dairy, I would make a pretty mean frittata or omelet.  Nowadays, its a tofu scramble with whatever is left in my vegetable drawer at the end of the week.

This morning, with a bunch of cilantro and an avocado, I didn’t exactly have the makings for a scramble, but I did have the inspiration for a flavorful hash.  Yes, a tofu scramble would be a lot healthier, but after a 25km hike with a 10 kilo pack, I decided to treat myself to this Chorizo Hash.  Don’t skip or skimp on the avocado!  It really balances the acidity and spice of the chorizo nicely.

O Valencia!

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I don’t remember eating dessert in Spain.  It’s not that there aren’t any desserts, but usually, I was so full and it was so late at night, that if I had room left, I tended to ask for fruit, like oranges with cinnamon and honey. This tart fuses those flavors.  Bright, citrussy, and not too sweet, it is the perfect finish to a sunny day.

Valencia Orange Tart

 

Getting saucy

Albóndigas en Salsa de Tomate (Meatballs in Tomato Sauce)

Setas al Ajo (Garlic Mushrooms)

I’ve been craving paella lately, and it’s so much better when its shared alongside a good Spanish red and a lively conversation.  Sounds like the recipe for a dinner party!!!

If I’ve learned anything entertaining friends, it’s that not everyone shows up on time – maybe they get lost or maybe they’re just not obsessively punctual like yours truly.  So, I fix an appetizer or two that we can munch on as the group comes together.  The main course tends to be something that comes out of the oven after the last guest arrives or can stand the rest.  Or, occasionally in the case when I haven’t had time to prep the ingredients in advance, isn’t even close to ready and becomes its own entertainment as guests stand around my open kitchen watching me finish cooking.

Normally when I make paella, my tapas selection tends towards olives, marcona almonds, sausages.  This time, I decided to try a couple of warm tapas, Albóndigas en Salsa de Tomate (Meatballs in Tomato Sauce) and
Setas al Ajo (Garlic Mushrooms).

Note to self: buy more GF bread next time!!! The sauce on these meatballs was so good, one friend kept going back and scooping out one meatball and two or three spoonfuls of the sauce, which he would them mop up every last drop of with the GF bread I had toasted.  Another piled mushrooms on pieces of toast like bruschetta, so that the garlicky sherry sauce would soak in.

 

 

Cashew “Crack”

20140520-181207-65527791.jpgA colleague and good friend is leaving the island, and I wanted to do something to see him off, but my baking has been limited by an almost total lack of GF supplies.  I can find a flour blend or two, but they just don’t seem to be up to the task, and I can’t find xanthan or guar gum to save my life.

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with nut flours with great results (check out these Peanut Butter Cookies).  My friend loves cashews, and so I thought, “why not substitute cashew butter?”  At first I thought they might not have enough flavor, but a few tweaks and voila Cashew “Crack” Cookies, a wicked combination of crunchy and chewy that you can’t stop eating, even though you know you should.

 

Oh hammour

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It didn’t take long for me to start talking about food with my local friends. Everyone has their favorite kababji, but the food vaies only slightly depending on whether the spice blend used is Iranian or Iraqi influenced or Turkish or Lebanese.  More often than not, the decision on where to go seems to comes down to the juice and sheesha options.

After several days in a row of dinners consisting almost entirely of meat (and an occasional chicken kabob for good measure), I needed a change, or possibly more appropriately, an intervention.  The menu said hammour with citrus, coriander, and chile, and it mentioned a side of steamed vegetables, which in itself was starting to seem worth the price of the plate.  I freaked out a little when I saw the bright yellow sauce, but one taste, and I was won over.

Grilled Hammour (grouper) with Mango, Chile, and Cilantro Sauce

I’ve made this recipe a few times now, and the sauce was just as awesome on a grilled salmon fillet.  Watch out, though, the chiles sneak up on you.

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