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Shrimp and Orange Salad with Arugula and Fennel

It’s not even August and apparently stores are stocking their shelves for Hallow-freaking-ween. I’m very much aware that holiday creep is a huge thing in retail (back-to-school seems to go back on the shelves around the Fourth) but especially after the winter so many of us had to endure this year, well, cheering on the arrival of the season of inevitable misery seems abominably cruel. It’s not like this summer has been particularly arduous here in the Northeast—we’ve had some periods of hot and/or humid weather, but we’ve been pretty lucky so far: a day or two of intense humidity have beckoned a cold front blowing through almost immediately thereafter, and otherwise we’ve had pretty pleasant weather. There have been many a weekend afternoon spent on the local beaches, and even an evening or two listening to the rain while we sit on our balcony.

In short, I’m doing everything I can to appreciate the summer while it’s here, and I will be loath to give it up because gauzy clothes and cool drinks are superior to wooly socks, fun-size candies and hot toddies, no matter what anyone says. Read More

Argentinian Ribeye Skewers with Chimichurri

Argentinian Ribeye Skewers with Chimichurri

I can’t believe I’m writing this on the day of the World Cup final—it definitely has flown by even faster than it did four years ago, and what a tournament of surprises: who would have thought that the US Men’s National Team would not only make it out of the Group of Death but that Tim Howard would make a record 16 saves during the match against Belgium? (I’m pretty salty that he isn’t on the best goaltending award shortlist, by the way.) Moreover, who would have expected the epic meltdown that was the Germany-Brazil semifinal, especially considering that Brazil had the ultimate home pitch advantage? Read More

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.

Marca says it all. (via theworldsgame tumblr, link in image)

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.

What a goal. (Source linked in image.)

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? Read More

Ramp Butter and Pancetta Crostinis from Franny's

Ramp Butter and Pancetta Crostinis from Franny’s

Back in December when I was going through my stash of new cookbooks and flagging recipes to make, one of the first that spoke to me immediately was for Franny’s ramp butter and pancetta crostini. After I rued the fact that it was December and that ramp season was still months away, I turned the page and lo and behold the good folks at Franny’s realize that one cannot live on ramp butter alone. An assortment of seasonal compound butters were listed,  including a divine chili butter that is also quite easy to make and an excellent foil for pancetta, even if you are using butter straight out of the freezer.*

After I got my hands on some ramps a few weeks ago, though, I was determined to make the ramp butter. Not only did I want to make the crostinis, but Michael suggested putting pats of it on some butterflied trout and veal porterhouse steaks we had purchased at Stew’s in the place of making a sauce. Kept frozen, the butter would be able to sit for a few months in the freezer, so unlike most of our ramp preparations we’d be able to enjoy it long after the season had ended…provided it lasted that long. Read More

Chilean sea bass tiradito

Chilean sea bass tiradito

[Ed: I’m trying to write some shorter posts to get me in the habit of writing much more regularly. So we’ll see how this goes.]

Chilean sea bass is not a fish that comes to our kitchen often, mainly because it’s both expensive and generally believed to be horribly overfished. The latter point might not be as troublesome as I had previously thought, though, because apparently measures have been taken to atone for overfishing and there are now viable options that are considered good choices. So I now feel slightly less guilty over succumbing to the temptation of buying Chilean sea bass (that was on sale!) last weekend in order to make this tiradito from The Family Meal.

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Obligatory beauty shot of  ramps.

Obligatory beauty shot of ramps.

A few months ago when we were in the throes of absolutely miserable weather, I had this feeling that ramp season would be embraced even more fervently than before, if only because it was definitive proof that spring was finally here and the long tyranny of this winter had come to an end. There had been some backlash against the ramp’s trendiness over the last few years, with some sniffing that while good, the hype surrounding them had ballooned out of control. Even by the time I had first gotten my hands on a few bunches back in 2010 the eye-rolling had already begun, but thankfully that hasn’t stopped the influx of ramps into the Union Square Greenmarket. As J. Kenji López-Alt rightly pointed out in 2011, part of what makes the ramp special is that we do have to wait for them to come every year and when they are available we have to make the most of them—in our increasingly on-demand society, it’s kind of refreshing to exercise some patience when it comes to food.

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Spinach Salad with Prosciutto and Valdeón

Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette, Prosciutto, and Valdeón

It’s been a while since I’ve recounted a week sabor de soledad, even though Michael has had several trips taking him all over the place in the last year or so. Two weeks ago he was in the fabulous city of Tokyo on a last-minute trip, and I have to say that I was pleased with the dishes I turned out while he was away. It’s funny—I’ve become more of a salad person over the last few years, but I’m never so prolific in making them until I’m on my own. I can only account the follow reasons as why I’m so Team Salad:

  • Easy to scale down to one person.
  • Cheese is often involved, especially the cheeses I love but only rarely indulge in.
  • They are relatively fast dishes to prepare.
  • Oh, I guess they are allegedly healthy too.

I feel like such a traitor to both Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson, but unlike fictional characters, eating vegetables on a regular basis is an unfortunate necessity.

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Arancitacello/blood orange 'cello

Arancitacello/blood orange ‘cello

As recently as a few years ago, you would be hard-pressed to find any citrus fruits that went beyond your basic lemons, limes, navel oranges, and grapefruits save for a few short weeks a year. Much like ramps in springtime, you’d be forced to overload on as many blood oranges, Meyer lemons, kumquats, pink lemons, and Cara Cara oranges as you possibly could and figure out ways to use them as quickly as possible. With some of those fruits that limited window of availability is still the case, but I was pleasantly surprised to find some blood oranges not only in stock, but on sale a week or so ago at Fairway. In March, no less!

I had it in my head to make a batch of limoncello (or any other kind of citrus-based digestive) as it’s been years (literally!) since I made polpelmocello back in New York, but I wanted to do something different yet again. Blood orange ‘cello crossed my mind more than once, but I was worried that I had missed that particular train by the time I had the time to give it another try.

And then blood oranges went on sale for $1.99/lb a couple of weeks back, and I knew that it was time to make it.

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Frisee Aux Lardons avec Ouefs Pochés et Gorgonzola/Frisee Aux Lardons with Poached Eggs and Gorgonzola

Frisee Aux Lardons with Poached Eggs and Gorgonzola

Another day, and more eggs. Only this time they are in a salad, and they are far more pleasing to look at because I took this photo last June when we were enjoying the height of natural light. (Oh natural light, how I miss you.)

But of course, this proves the eternal truth that just because a salad is called such a thing, there is no guarantee that it’s going to be rabbit food, given that friseé is one of those greens that isn’t the most nutritionally dense (at least compared to the ubiquitous kale) and it’s basically coddling a wonderful combination of Gorgonzola, bacon bits, and poached eggs–nary a spa food in the lot save for the greens. But that’s kind of what makes it wonderful: it strikes the right balance between heavy and light that leaves you satisfied without feeling like you have a gut full of food, and it’s also a one-course meal that can come together relatively quickly if your multitasking skills are in peak condition. (Mine vary by how tired I am when I get home from work, but I can still pull this together in about 20 minutes.)

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Baked eggs with sobrasada at La Tasqueta de Caldes.

Baked eggs with sobrasada at La Tasqueta de Caldes

One of the aspects of Spanish food culture that I love is how they eat eggs at any time of day, with no need to cloak it in the really irritating “breakfast for dinner” trope.* The tortilla is perhaps the most famous way they cook eggs–check out Le culs en rows for her rather brilliant mini-tortillas that you can make in a muffin tin, by they way–but I’m convinced that the Spanish version of any egg preparation is the best. When we do have some eggs on Saturday mornings, Michael follows the technique that José Andrés calls for in his scrambled eggs with shallots and scallions recipe and they always are really creamy and tender because he makes sure they are still a little runny when he pulls the pan off of the heat. And then there is the baked egg variation, which I first enjoyed at La Tasqueta de Caldes in Caldes d’Estrac and I’ve been trying to recreate ever since.

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