Before moving away from Barcelona, the sweet ladies on my team gave me a book of tapas recipes as a going away present. Naturally, the book is written in Spanish, so it takes a fair amount of translation work on my part to figure out the recipes. I don’t think I always get it right, but it usually comes together in the end.
The book isn’t dedicated solely to Catalan tapas; all of Spain is represented, and this Basque classic has been tempting me from its pages for weeks. It has been calling to me like a salty sea siren (not a sea wife, mind you – shout out to my fellow Game of Thrones fans!), luring me in like centuries of sailors before me, and I decided to embrace the salt cod.
Davis and I entertain pretty frequently, and I wanted to shake up our Sunday supper menu a bit. As a good party hostess, I sent out a message before dinner stating that we would be eating something that might not suit everyone. Fortunately for me, everyone was stoked at the outcome – even the fish averse asked for seconds.
I won’t lie though – this is a labor-intensive meal that takes some forethought. You have to soak the fish for at least 8 hours, and change the water fairly often to make sure it’s not too terribly salty. It’s worth the effort, but a 30 minute meal this is not.
As you may have noticed, I’ve been really scattered for the past 6 weeks. On top of moving back to the US, we did not have reliable Internet at our apartment in Barcelona for the last month. I felt like I spent a lot of time cooking, but no time actually being able to write or read about it. I am working hard to change that situation now that we’re settling into our new apartment in Brooklyn.
I successfully made my way back over the pond just in time to have Thanksgiving dinner with a bunch of friends. Since our apartment here wasn’t quite ready yet, we held a potluck at a good friend of ours and I made the turkey. Most people that I talk with get anxiety about preparing a turkey but, while it’s not that I don’t get that same level of anxiety, at a certain point I turn my “to hell with it” on and just get going on it. I wanted to make the turkey and I’ll do it.
In my quest to try all things Spanish during my last weeks abroad, I attempted to make dishes using ingredients that I’ve not had much experience cooking with in the past (or at all; who cooks with requesón in Los Estados Unidos?!). Also, I’ve been trying to eat as many tiny dishes as I can to get my fill of European-style dining – big lunches, little dinners – before heading back to the gigantic-dish-with-an-extra-side-of-ranch-dressing extravaganza that is my motherland.
Requesón is a Spanish cheese that I’d never heard of, to be honest, but I see it in every grocery and even a few little corner stores here. Its consistency lies in limbo somewhere between cottage cheese and ricotta, without an overwhelming flavor with a creamy/crumbly texture. Through a bit of online research, it’s also apparently low in sodium and calories, so it makes for a great diet cheese as well. Good to know. Yes – diet food. Sure.
Crostinis are, in my opinion, the world’s best appetizer. Handheld, immensely customizable with as many toppings as you can think of, and “crostini” sounds so much fancier than “little toasts” ever will. Unfortunately, I didn’t have anyone to share these little guys with, but that was probably for the best since it would have broken my heart to part with any them.
A bit of an announcement: Davis and I just found out that he’s been offered a job in New York, and we will be moving back to los Estados Unidos by the end of the year. While I love my motherland and am excited to return, I’m already filled with sadness about all the things I will miss about Spain.
While I’m not prone to hyperbole often (but I really am, let’s not lie), my absolute FAVORITE of all food things in Catalonia is, without a doubt, pa amb tomaquet. I eat it every day on my breakfast entrepan, and I am having a bit of a crisis about what I will go back to eating at home. It is the most simple thing in the world, and I’ve always found those kinds of dishes to be the most delicious.
It is so crazy to know that my living experience in Spain has an expiration date. I have always tried to recognize and appreciate how incredibly fortunate that I am to be here in the first place, and now I’m even more determined to savor every second of this amazing country.
A while back, I had dogeared this recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything that used a cream based saffron sauce with white fish. A few weeks ago, I had decided to throw Mr. Bittman’s wise sauce/fish pairing suggestion aside; I took a chance and made this dish using salmon. I am the first to admit that it simply wasn’t a success. This saffron sauce needs to be the star of the show, and salmon rarely wants to share the spotlight. As with almost any other time you that put two divas in the same show together, there was very little working together.
The next day for our lunches, I had made some chicken and rice and upon seeing my poor, neglected saffron sauce in the fridge – I suddenly became overcome with regret at my fish hubris. In that moment, I decided that what this bootleg bento box needed was a dollop of bright yellow saffron. I have to say, I definitely ate well for lunch that day.
Ahhh, gazpacho. My favorite of all summer things. I apologize for all the tomato-heavy posts lately, but ‘tis the season, so to speak. When living in the Northeastern United States, I always looked forward the produce output of August. What other time of year can you find plump, fire-engine red tomatoes with a flavor so intense it (almost) makes you sad for cooler temps? This being my first year in Barcelona, I’m not sure what I can really expect from the produce season. Maybe the novelty of being able to get delicious summer fruits later in the year will wear off, but then again, I seriously doubt that.
Gazpacho can be a personal, creative dish depending on your mood or whatever ingredients you happen to have at hand. I like mine as simple as can be: tomato, garlic, bread and olive oil. However, I still have half a watermelon in my fridge, so I might get creative this weekend…
In Spain, there is the one dish that gets ordered nearly every time it is on the menu and that is Patatas Bravas. I don’t know if that stands true for everyone in the whole country, but almost every time we’re out with anyone, some version of the fried potato and spicy-sauced deliciousness finds its way to our table.
Patatas Bravas translates to “Brave Potatoes” which doesn’t really mean a whole lot in the literal sense of the phrase. However, any potato that gets dipped in hot oil and spicy pimentón sauce is pretty brave by my standard.
It seems like every coffee shop, restaurant, and cervecería has their own take on bravas sauce. Some serve it with just a spicy oil sauce, while others create a creamy mixed sauce with the addition of mayonnaise. We decided to make these bravas with a bit more kick with the addition of cayenne pepper, but the cayenne is not in the traditional recipe and you can do without it. We also skipped pouring the mayo over the dish and kept the mayo on the side as a dip. I guess the point is: this dish is flexible. Here is how we did it.
It has been a whirlwind two weeks in the Roxie Ginger household. We normally take an annual vacation to coincide with our anniversary, but this year due to work commitments, we had to make some scheduling compromises and couldn’t be gone on our anniversary day. We spent 9 days in the UK watching the Olympics and spending time with dear friends in Scotland, and as soon as we returned I had a whirlwind week with my boss visiting from New York. In all the excitement, Davis and I almost didn’t find time to celebrate 6 wonderful years together.