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.
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? Read More
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.
New Year’s Eve is my favorite food holiday, full stop. We don’t have to follow any specific food traditions, and instead we can make a number of small bites that follow whatever whims we may have in mind that particular year. In reality, the only rules that we do have around the holiday are simple:
- No leaving the apartment, even to do this same thing at someone else’s house, because that never ends well.
- Loungey clothes are necessary, if not required.
- Games will be played
- Wine, especially bubbly wines, will be consumed.
When our friend W asked what our plans were, I explained that we were pretty rigid on the not-leaving-the-apartment thing (seriously, the last time we tried to do this on New Year’s Eve, I ended up with a stomach virus) but that they were welcome to join us. As soon as she said that they would love to come, out came the cookbooks to brainstorm some ideas on what to make. I may have also put the El Bulli episode of No Reservations on while I browsed, and ultimately came up with more ideas for this dinner than I did for the dinners I was supposed to be planning for…because that’s how things tend to go.
Besides: a meal of this scale requires several days of brainstorming, and I ended up finding some fine meals to have on Sunday and Monday shortly thereafter. So there, husband. Read More
I had high hopes for this tortilla, and while it was delicious and did a pretty good job of matching the idea of the final product that was in my head, there’s also much room for improvement. But that’s how cooking goes some days. The key is, of course, is to crack a few more eggs and try it again.
My initial vision was to make a Spanish-style tribute to one of the best omelettes I’ve ever had: the omelette aux fines herbes at Pastis.* It’s enormous and fluffy and comes with a side of frites, and paired with a good French 75 it’s my platonic ideal of brunch these days. While the dish as-is would be a wonderful dinner, I’m not one for making frites at home, much less on a weekday. Here’s where the Spanish inspiration came in: crumble in some high-quality potato chips (in our case, the house-made chips from Fairway) along with the herbs into the eggs, and cook it all as a tortilla, served with a big salad.
Because really: if really tasty potato chips are good enough for both Feran Adrià and José Andrés to make the tortilla process a little faster, then they are good for all of us. While the resultant tortilla was tasty, it wasn’t perfectly cooked: the middle was a little runny while the exterior was just a touch too done. This didn’t bother me personally as I like runny eggs, but I’d really like to master the balance of exterior to interior doneness and make a tortilla that is as pretty as it is tasty one of these days. I’ve read that smaller pans are best, so I’ve placed a smaller nonstick on my birthday wishlist and hopefully in a few weeks I’ll be able to report on my success or lack thereof.
So let’s call this the “before” photo, and the “after” will come when I have less pan to work with and the same number of eggs. Pending that experiment, a recipe will soon follow.
*I wasn’t into eggs, much less an omelette, until a few years ago and therefore I have a very limited data set for reference. Feel free to instruct me on where to find better omelettes in the comments.
One of the things that was challenging during our trip to Barcelona last year was trying to stay well-hydrated. We’d be the obnoxious Americans carrying around the giant 1.5 liter bottles of mineral water (sin gas) while we walked and went sightseeing, but the weather was warm, even for the first day of fall. Even then, nothing ever felt like it was properly slaking our thirst; that is, until I realized that the key to hydration, at least for me, was eating (drinking?) lots and lots of gazpacho.
It seemed odd at first–given its Andalusian provenance, I wasn’t expecting to find it as readily as I did in Barcelona–but I’m pretty sure the restaurateurs knew that few other foods are as fully restorative during hot weather as even a small serving of this soup. Thanks to unseasonably cool weather once we came home, though, my craving for gazpacho completely vanished and I didn’t think of making it again until a few weeks ago when we were in the middle of the first of a series of unpleasant heatwaves. Loosely following a recipe from José Andrés, I immediately remembered the appeal of this dish: an abundance of water-logged vegetables that help you stay hydrated, but do so while also helping you feel full. (Thanks, fiber!) That it requires minimal prep work and that a blender does all the work is icing on the cake.
Yes, that’s a whole mess of Spanish and Català up there in the post title. No, I make no apologies.
This meal was a bit ambitious for us, even for a Sunday night: in the mood for some delicious José Andrés-style tapas after hearing about Michael’s visit to Zaytinya during his recent trip to DC. Picking four dishes (the three listed here, along with a variation of this salad), I made a plan to get some of the work done early in the afternoon, after my workout but before I went down the street to see the Chilean movie No at the local non-profit movie theater. I really thought that I had it all in hand: I made the sofrito for the rossejat after we got back from the store, and everything else was pretty much self-explanatory. Or so I thought. Read More
Michael didn’t really believe me, I think, when I first mentioned that a storm was coming this weekend (and said storm has since blanketed the Northeast with a sizable amount of snow), but he willingly went along with my plan to stay in on Friday and Saturday and cook anyway. He balked a bit when I came home Thursday night laden with bags of provisions–likely thinking I was going overboard–but lo and behold, my instinct to stock up was right on the nose. That I was also able to get in and out of Fairway despite the fuller-than-usual parking lot was simply a bonus.
So while the snow fell and the wind howled on Friday night, we opened up a bottle of prosecco and got to work on a tapas spread. The one you see above was a bit of a punt. A delicious, delicious, punt.
It all began innocuously enough: I asked Michael what he’d like to make for dinner while the Food Network played in the background, and he requested tapas. So I pulled out my copy of Culinaria: Spain to browse through their tapas spread, first pausing in the Catalonian chapter to see if they had anything tasty that might also work. Between the two, I found a simple dish of sautéed shrimp with a tomato-based romesco sauce, and a bacon-and-egg tapa called duelas y quebrantos, which translates to “pain and destruction.”
We should have taken it as a sign. But then again–what would be wrong with eggs and bacon? Surely Ron Swanson would approve.
T.S. Eliot had it right: while April carries the promise of spring and teases us with ramps and morels and other ephemeral delights, we’re still stuck with some of the least inspiring fruits of the year as lamented recently by my friend Kitchen Witch. Yes, we still have citrus since the growing season for many of the best fruits now extend through May, but after a solid five or six months of tart acidity, I know I’m dying for something, anything, different in the fruit stand that’s in season and therefore not mealy or ludicrously expensive. And in April, usually, that seems far too much to ask.
But then, while flipping through my copy of Spanish Country Kitchen one lazy Saturday morning, a dessert I had flipped past hundreds of times stood out to me as perhaps the perfect dessert for this time of year: fresh orange juice with strawberries. While most of the seasonal citrus fruits are beyond their peaks, Valencian oranges are just getting started: first appearing in February, they are available through October, and are ideal as juicing oranges. Seeing some good-looking Californian strawberries on sale 2/$5 at Stew Leonards’ sealed the deal, and a few nights later we enjoyed this simple treat on one of the warmer spring evenings we’ve had lately. Read More