Welp, that was quick and embarrassing.
Longtime readers will remember me following along with the 2010 World Cup and Spain’s march to victory, and it was a thrilling thing to behold. La Furia Roja has played well since then, taking another Euro title in 2012 and just falling short to Brazil in the Confederations Cup last year. To suggest that expectations were high for the team would be an understatement, but I don’t know if anyone was really expecting them to take a second world title, as awesome as it would be.
Sadly, a pair of horrible losses have put to rest any hopes of that happening, as following a perfunctory match with Australia the team will be headed back to Spain. Listen: I’m not foreign to the concept of losing. Being from the Philadelphia area, it’s a universal truth that any Philadelphia sports team* with any semblance of momentum will more likely choke instead of sealing the deal. There are a few exceptions to this, of course, but when books like this exist and your baseball team is the first to log 10,000 losses in its lifetime…well, I think you can catch my drift. What was so heartbreaking about these particular losses was the complete and utter self-destruction witnessed on the pitch; if watching the 2010 Spain squad was like observing a fine-tuned Ferrari engine at work, this was more akin to watching a Ford Pinto explode.
The final twist of the knife was watching David Villa (oh, just Spain’s highest goal-scorer for the national team but had yet to make an appearance until this match) make his final appearance for the side in the match against Australia that was meaningless other than for pride…but at least he managed a goal before he was summarily subbed off.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens over the next few weeks/months and then if they can get it together in time for Euro 2016, but in the meantime I’ll be over here watching 2010 WC videos on YouTube. (OK, so I’ll still be watching this World Cup too, if only to cheer on Leo Messi and some of my other FC Barcelona boys still in contention as well as the US as they face Portugal and Germany.)
At least I can comfort myself with some good food while I watch and wallow, right?
First up: a whole mess of pan-South-American dishes after the first Saturday of matches, which brightened up an otherwise pretty grey day.
Tuna-avocado ceviche, mango-strawberry-peach gazpacho, and mango-chipotle quail all were bright, refreshing, and light. Sushi-grade tuna is always a splurge in our household, but this is my favorite way to have it because it doesn’t take long for everything to come together and even the next day the fish is still quite tasty, if just a touch chewier from sitting in the lime juice.
Then Sunday it was Franny’s calamari with chili and garlic, drunken spaghetti, and tomato-basil salad. The tomatoes were good, but I know in a month or two they will be fantastic and therefore I really need to wait before making this again. The calamari dish is easily among my favorite, favorite ways of preparing squid: cooked on a screaming hot cast-iron skillet, it’s then gently cooked with some chili pepper paste, garlic, and olive oil. The rings are so tender with just the right amount of heat, and it took all of my self-discipline not to eat the entire bowl. David Rocco’s drunken spaghetti recipe is probably my favorite variation because it delivers that wonderful wine flavor, but only needs two cups of the stuff to finish the pasta in a pan rather than cooking it with wine and water.
Spain’s bitter defeat against Chile killed my appetite last Wednesday, I think, because even trout with ham couldn’t cheer me up that much. But hey—that’s how sports go, and it’s not like Europe has ever done well in Southern American World Cups anyway.
And speaking of the World Cup, I’d be remiss in not sharing John Oliver’s wonderful segment on it from Last Week Tonight as he very eloquently explains everything that is wrong with FIFA (read: everything) but despite that fact he just can’t stop watching:
The accuracy in this piece is so spot-on, it’s painful.
Franny’s Calamari with Chili, Garlic, and Lemon
adapted from Franny’s Simple Seasonal Italian
serves 2 as a hearty appetizer or meat course, or 4 to 6 as a light appetizer
- 1.5 lbs cleaned squid, bodies cut into 1/4-inch rings and tentacles left whole
- 1-2 large garlic cloves, minced
- Juice of a lemon
- A few squirts of chili paste
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp canola or grapeseed oil
- Kosher salt
Pat dry the squid with paper towels and then transfer to a plate. Season well with kosher salt.
Make the sauce: whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, chili paste, and olive oil along with a good pinch of kosher salt in a large bowl and set aside.
Heat a cast iron skillet for at least five minutes on high heat, then add the canola/grapeseed oil, heat but don’t smoke it, and then add half the squid and sear for a minute before flipping and searing for another 30 seconds, and then transfer to the bowl with the garlic-chili mixture. Cook the remaining squid in the same way, but the Franny’s team advises not crowding the pan so if you can’t fit the squid in comfortably, just sear in smaller batches. When it’s all cooked and in the garlic-chili bowl, toss well and serve immediately.
*Not just sports team, as Smarty Jones was also unable to cinch the Triple Crown, coming in second in the final leg of the race series in 2004. SIGH.