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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

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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Shrimp with garlic and cava reduction/gambes a l'all amb reducció de cava

Shrimp with garlic and cava reduction/gambes a l’all amb reducció de cava

The last few weeks have not been particularly kind to us here at The Manhattan [food] Project, thanks to a series of injuries, illnesses, and mounting work stress that inevitably comes at the end of the calendar year. While everyone is physically fine (or at least close to it) now, in the last few weeks I had to deal with a husband who had a nasty sinus infection and a father who smacked his head against a curb when he tripped on a slippery ramp in Danbury during a weekend visit. (They are both fine now, but I feel like my sanity was hanging by a thread there for a while.) Even before all of that excitement I had been feeling discouraged, frustrated, and uninspired, and had it not been for an email exchange with a lovely reader, I’d be a lot crankier right now because I wouldn’t have this dish, straight from La Boqueria, in my repertoire. Read More

Our plate at Bar Pastoral:  Casatica with roasted garlic, Manchego with horseradish (I think), Caveman Blue with honey, and some prosciutto di San Daniele and chorizo.

Our plate at Bar Pastoral: Casatica with roasted garlic, Manchego with horseradish (I think), Caveman Blue with honey, and some prosciutto di San Daniele and chorizo.

Not long after our friend T moved out to Chicago, he sent me a link to a wine bar/cheese shop that wasn’t far from his apartment that he thought I’d like, all but promising to go there when I eventually paid him a visit. I hadn’t forgotten about the place in the intervening months that followed, so when I was finally able to head out to the Windy City a few weeks ago to finally see him, going to Pastoral (the wine/cheese shop) and its sister bistro next door Bar Pastoral was one of the few definitive plans I had for the trip, and perhaps the only disappointment I had was that I only was able to eat there once.

But oh, was that one time a memorable one!

T was completely wiped from a particularly grueling work week, so by the time we sat down at the bar he was more than happy to let me run the show. Since this was my first time there, I decided to cede control to our very helpful bartender, who recommended a nice selection of cheeses: a soft cheese made with water buffalo milk, a lovely blue cheese, and a firm cheese that I’m pretty sure was Manchego. (This bad food blogger forgot to write them all down. Boo.) Some slices of chorizo and prosciutto di San Daniele finished the plate, along with a little loaf of crusty bread and a nice glass of red wine. Even better was that each cheese came with its own specific garnish, ensuring that when you loaded up a piece of bread with your cheese of choice, you were going to get a complex, complete bite.

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