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Fedelini with Creminis, Guanciale, and Sage

This post marks the start of a series of experiments that can be credited to none other than Mimi Thorisson of Manger. A few days ago I came across her most recent post in which she chronicles foraging for porcinis to make the most beautiful homemade ravioli I’ve ever seen, and while initially I wanted to make the recipe she posted, I realized there were some issues:

  1. The only porcinis I can find are dried. (Not a dealbreaker, but they aren’t really in the spirit of the recipe.)
  2. The recipe also calls for pork cheeks. Pork cheeks, sadly, are not readily available near us, at least in a way that would make them easy to transport home.

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Lorraine Pascale’s pan-seared mascarpone gnocchi | The Manhattan [food] Project

For years, my normal weekend morning ritual has been parking myself on the couch and watching cooking shows while I figured out what we were making that night for dinner. There were shows I loved, those I tolerated, and others I would either tune out or treat as open season for my snarking. As the Food Network specifically has moved further and further away from its traditional dump-and-stir shows, the ratio of shows I actually love and derive inspiration from to those I mock has tipped wildly towards the latter category so when Cooking Channel was once again made available through my cable provider I was thrilled. Not only would regular reruns of Good Eats be back on our TV, but I was excited to see what new shows have come on since we last had the channel three years ago.

Admittedly, anything I’ve seen that’s been produced by the channel hasn’t blown me away, but two hosts from the BBC have left me delighted: Lorraine Pascale (currently of Lorraine’s Fast, Fresh and Easy Food and Rachel Khoo (Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook: London and Little Paris Kitchen: Cooking with Rachel Khoo). Unlike certain cooking hosts out there, both Rachel and Lorraine primarily cook food from scratch without being overly fussy or precious about it, and the recipes they present are actually interesting. My one complaint is that not every recipe is readily available online (Lorraine’s are a little easier to track down) so if something intrigues me I’ll sit with my notebook and furiously write down the ingredients and instructions, but it’s also refreshing to be engaged with a cooking show again so I’m not really complaining.

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Tomato-Onion-Grana-Padano Pizza

One thing I was hoping we’d be able to do following our vacation was to make one last jaunt to our local beach, and thankfully this past weekend gave us two picture-perfect days to choose from. While everyone else in New England descended upon their favorite orchard in which to go apple picking (or so it seemed based on my Facebook feed), we spent a few hours on Saturday enjoying the unseasonably warm day—warm enough to even make a quick dip into the Sound. Even with these little heat snaps though I am only too aware that we are in a new season, as daylight is slowly becoming less and less prevalent in the evening and the notion of turning on our oven isn’t completely abhorrent anymore. So what better way to mark that shift than by cranking it to full blast in order to make some pizza? Read More

Autumn Gintonic “La Tasqueta”/ El gintònic tardor La Tasqueta

Like I had predicted a few weeks ago, our trip included many a good gintonic, especially when we were on the beach in Caldetes. While the lion’s share of them were traditional—served in giant balloon stemware and garnished with a hefty lemon peel—the creative  minds at La Tasqueta de Caldes had to be the ones to make the slightest tweak  to the formula to not only make it a little more unique, but also make it the perfect transitional cocktail between summer and fall. Even better is that no pumpkin-spiced-anything had to be involved in its creation.

Truth be told, this is a much better combination than that expected mix.

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Montserrat

Well, it was a whirlwind of a week, but we’re back and rested and tanned. This trip was exactly what we needed: days spent sitting on the beach and swimming in the sea, long walks around neighborhoods both familiar and new, and meals filled with delectable food and drink. We covered a lot of ground and still didn’t manage to fit in everything I wanted to see…but then that leaves plenty to explore on our next visit.

La Riera in Caldes d’Estrac

Michael likes to tease me that I’m always content to go back there versus trying somewhere else new, and it’s true that if I could go there as often as I pleased I would, but this trip convinced him of the value of revisiting a place that is already somewhat familiar. This time we were not only able to revisit favorite restaurants, but also try out a bevy of new ones and squeeze in a half-day trip to Montserrat, in addition to indulging in significantly more beach time than the last time around.

Plaça de Sant Felip Neri

Another difference from the last trip is my eagerness to write about this one. I’m still not sure what prompted the writer’s block that plagued me two years ago—I still think the cold and grey weather was the culprit in addition to the shorter days—but despite feeling a familiar twinge of melancholy, I’m also incredibly eager to capture all of our experiences to paper. I won’t subject them all to you in this space, but you’ll have to forgive a number of Catalunya-specific posts likely over the course of the next few months as daylight becomes shorter and plumb this trip and its many meals for inspiration.

¡Jamón jamón!

Maria Elena, calling it like she sees it. Goddamnit I love this movie. (click image for source)

In poking around my blog’s archives, I found a post from 2009 documenting some tapas Michael and I made with our dear friend L to go along with a viewing of Vicky Cristina Barcelona later that evening. I cringe when I look at it now: awful photos and rather inane (and inaccurate!) commentary dominate it, and I barely wrote about the movie itself. I remember having a plan to go see it in the theater and then going to Barcelona Wine Bar when it came out, but weddings (including our own) and unexpected unemployment kind of put the brakes on that plan. Eventually I got the DVD, and then downloaded the soundtrack…and somewhere between seemingly endless drives around New Haven while listening to the soundtrack and a few more rewatches  when we moved to New York, I came to the realization that I couldn’t quite quit this movie despite identifying several irritating quirks as well as having a general unease in enjoying anything Woody Allen makes. Read More

Spanish-style gintonic

Don’t let the passing of Labor Day fool you: summer is most definitely still in session through most of September and we’re about to experience the warmest temperatures we’ve had all season this week, so I have no problem promoting a refreshing, summertime beverage despite it being past the acceptable date to wear white. Besides, in just over a week we’re going to Spain, and specifically going back to Barcelona and Caldetas/Caldes d’Estrac, and while I am naturally planning many ways to eat our faces off I’m also really looking forward to indulging in a few gintonics while we’re there too. Unlike here where at most places a G&T is simply some gin, tonic water from a beverage gun and maybe a wedge or wheel of lime, but in Spain it is most definitely a cocktail

Typically served in wine goblets instead of highballs, they also tend to be made with the little single-serving bottles of tonic water rather than stuff from the aforementioned beverage gun, and good, bottled tonic water is something special. As Danny Castellano noted in the episode “The Desert” of The Mindy Project, “tonic water’s tonic water, okay? It’s refreshing, it’s crisp. It’s the tiniest bit sweet.” A good gintonic lets that part of tonic water shine, and the addition of juniper berries and wheels of lemon and lime just make the tonic all the more flavorful.

If you need further proof that the Spanish gintonic surpasses all other versions of the drink, just see the delightful standoff that took place some time ago between Mario Batali and José Andrés on Twitter:

I think José Andrés won the gintonic-off.

This is a recipe for a very simple but highly flavorful version of the G&T, and it’s worth finding a container of juniper berries in addition to a little four-pack of good tonic water (Fever Tree is delicious) to while away the remaining weeks of summer, and to embrace those rare and overly-warm autumn days. As it always does, winter is coming–let’s all take a step back to enjoy the warmth.

Gintonic, Spanish-style

makes 1 cocktail, adapted slightly from Made in Spain by José Andrés

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 200 mL bottle Fever Tree tonic water, either Indian or Mediterranean style (Michael prefers Indian-style, while I love the  Mediterranean)
  • 1-2 leaves lemon verbena (optional but awesome)
  • 3-4 juniper berries, slightly crushed
  • 1 lemon wheel
  • 1 lime wheel

In a large goblet or wine glass, combine gin with tonic water and ice and add garnishes as desired. Serve immediately.

For added effect, aerate the tonic water by pouring down the spiraled handle of a bar spoon or from a great height.

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