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English Tomato Salad from Hawksmoor at Home (The Manhattan [food] Project)

English Tomato Salad from Hawksmoor at Home (The Manhattan [food] Project)

In my continuing campaign to prolong summer while it is still summer and protect us from Fall Creep, I humbly submit this salad as evidence that it’s far too soon to be wishing for pumpkin lattes and fucking sweaters. This salad is summer. It’s delicious and nourishing and it will not taste nearly as good at any other time of year as it does now, and therefore you should make it immediately. Incidentally, since today is the last Wednesday in August, it is officially La Tomatina: a festival in Buñol, Spain that is essentially a town-wide tomato fight. Most of us can’t be there in person to participate in the festivities, so why not use it instead as an excuse to splurge on some fantastic heirloom tomatoes?

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Tortilla de patatas y finas hierbas/truita a patates amb les fines herbes

Tortilla de patatas y finas hierbas/truita a patates amb les fines herbes

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.

Pastis's omelette aux fines herbes with French Fries

Pastis’s omelette aux fines herbes with French Fries

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.

Stay tuned!

*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.

Burnt tomatoes with anchovies, goat cheese, and parsley-garlic-oil sauce.

Burnt tomatoes with anchovies, goat cheese, and parsley-garlic-oil sauce.

I have all of these posts in mind with all of these wonderful salads and drinks and the like in mind, but all that occupies my mind right now is the savage beating my beloved Spanish national team endured at the hands of the Brazilians. To be frank, the latter deserved the win; I don’t really understand what Vincente del Bosque’s strategy was during the match, particularly when it concerned not playing Cesc Fabregas at all and David Villa only a minimal amount of playing time. It will certainly make the qualifying matches much more interesting to see what he’s trying to do this time around, at least, but at least this Confederations Cup final has me intrigued by Neymar but I’m also very much waiting for him to be an overdramatic diver. Meanwhile, it was particularly horrific to see a great side completely fall apart during this game. I mean, who approved Sergio Ramos to take a penalty kick?? Xavi spoke for all of us with his facepalm:

We are all Xavi here. Image via @barcastuff

We are all Xavi here. Image via @barcastuff

One stat that popped up at the end noted that the winners of the Confederations Cup never go on to win the World Cup, but I feel like Brazil winning this and then hosting the World Cup next year is all but setting them up for a triumphant return to global football supremacy. I’m optimistic Spain can put a big old wedge in that plan, but in the meantime I should stop bitching about football and instead talk about the fantastic meal we made ourselves during the course of the match. Read More

Spaghetti tagliuzzati con zuppa di aragosta

Spaghetti tagliuzzati con zuppa di aragosta

Lobster and pasta: it sounds so simple, doesn’t it? And doesn’t it sound like the epitome of the springtime or summer meal, something to enjoy after a nice day at the beach, perhaps served with a refreshing beer or glass of white wine?

Oh, were it so simple. The truth of the matter is that this is a dish that demands patience. Not only does it take some work to get all of the components ready, but it’s one that requires you to wait until the ingredients are in season because anything otherwise would result in a less-than-stellar meal. I knew this when I first saw the recipe in Made In Sicily months ago, so I abstained from even thinking about it. But then Memorial Day weekend came, and Michael was home after a long week in England, and Fairway had lobster on sale. Even the tomatoes smelled delicious, despite it not quite being peak tomato season just yet in our neck of the woods.

In short: I waited long enough to have this, and to borrow a phrase from Alton Brown, my patience was going to be rewarded. Read More

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Pan-Fried Striped Bass with Pancetta and Parsley

A few months ago, right around Valentine’s Day, one of my coworkers asked me for some advice on making paella, and if I’d mind lending him a cookbook with a recipe in it. That night found me pulling my various Spanish cookbooks and reviewing the paella recipes contained therein; I wanted to give him one that was authentic but presented in an accessible way. I ended up bringing in my copies of The Barcelona Cookbook and Made in Spain for him to peruse, and between the two he was able to cobble together a recipe that would work for him.

My point of this story? When I went and pulled all of those cookbooks off the shelves, I realized I had upwards of at least fifteen dedicated to Spanish and//or Catalonian cooking. And that only counts the books we keep downstairs–the less-often used go upstairs in our loft “library.”

Common sense, recollection, and this blog’s archives tell me that I shouldn’t be so surprised by this, but I am all the same. Read More

Basque-style mussels and white bean stew.

Basque-style mussels and white bean stew.

I know the first post in this series was for an agua fresca, but I should make it clear that juicing is not something we do at all, but every once in a while I’ll crave something sweet and light and that fresh drink mix does the trick nicely. But then I see things like this interview and I’m kind of boggled by anyone being satiated by only drinking a few juices during the day and waiting until the evening to eat a meal of solid food. Then again, there’s no way I could do what I want to do powered simply by juice, because you can’t lift heavy or lift in volume on what appears to be a very limited amount of calories, particularly in the protein realm.

Because that’s the thing about doing things like barbell deadlifts and squats: for me, I need to feel like I have some serious fuel in the tank to get over the mental hurdle that is pulling a series of heavy triples in a row, or doing a circuit that calls for ten to twelve rounds of pressing sixty pounds over my head and squatting it on my back, all the while feeling confident that every time I do so I’m completely in control of the barbell in my hands. Fueling those pre-workout dinners with something that’s both filling but not stuffing can prove to be a challenge, but I find a nice balance with seafood, especially when I pair it with beans or quinoa. Read More

Bucatini con pesto trapanese/Bucatini with Trapanese pesto

It was with very mixed emotions I said goodbye to Michael a few Saturdays ago—I was off to Pennsylvania for some early-birthday celebrations with my family, while he was getting ready to head to England for a near-week-long trip. This wasn’t the longest he’s ever been away, but it is the furthest, and not having him handy when I was cooking, even remotely, meant that I was really on my own when it came to meal planning that week. And unlike the last time he was away for a long stretch, I wouldn’t have nearly enough time as I have in the past to plan my meals; after all, there was a Clásico to watch, and a barbell to lift, and groceries to buy on Sunday once I returned home from the Stamford train station. Fortunately, I was wise enough to ask for Made in Sicily for my birthday from my family, so I had a quiet ride on the Keystone to flip through its sizable pages.

It’s a pretty exhaustive tome on all things Sicilian that’s heavy on the vegetable, pasta, and seafood dishes, and it made me wish a few times at least that my birthday was a little earlier on the calendar so I’d have more time to take advantage of the many delicious tomato dishes on display. Other recipes definitely intrigued me until I realized the called for bottarga or uni (i.e. sea urchin roe), two ingredients that aren’t exactly cheap here in the U.S., but perhaps if I’m feeling particularly adventurous (and flush with cash), there may come a time to treat myself if only to try it in the future. I settled on a recipe that I had seen before, but never made from this book: a pesto trapanese that was exactly what I wanted: a fresh sauce made thicker by the inclusion of almonds and more refreshing with a healthy addition of mint. It may not need the processing I put it through via the blender, but I prefer a blended  pesto over a very rustic one, and I loved how it coated every strand of the bucatini. Read More

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.

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Chicken Liver Tortilla/Tortilla de Higaditos de Pollo

Tommy DeVito: Hey, what do you like, the leg or the wing, Henry? Or ya still go for the old hearts and lungs?
Henry Hill: [Vomiting] Oh, that’s so bad!

Goodfellas

Despite Michael being the resident meat-lover in our household, I’m the offal enthusiast. I can’t get enough of the so-called nasty bits, and I think this has something to do with the fact that my grandmom would always let me have the various turkey giblets when she would roast a turkey, and I’d happily snack on a lung or heart with abandon. These days I naturally gravitate towards any offal tacos I find at a taqueria, but can usually only look with longing at the many recipes in our cookbooks that feature things like chicken liver or tripe because someone doesn’t like the smell/taste. (To be fair, this is how I feel about broccoli. Nasty stuff, that is.)

This means I am usually Tommy DeVito to Michael’s Henry Hill, and I’ll admit I enjoy quoting the line above with the same amount of glee that Joe Pesci does in Goodfellas. Related: that is an excellent movie. Read More

Hable con ella - Alicia

I’ve been slowly making my way through the Pedro Almodóvar library, and one thing I’ve found that even in his most straightforward of films is that he always manages to include at least one good WTF moment that changes the whole path of the narrative. There’s always this element of the unbelievable, but to spin an oft-quoted English saying, one must keep calm and trust Almodóvar because he always manages to work himself and his characters out of any overly odd plot twist. The twist in Talk to Her (Hable con ella) is one I won’t give away as it’s pretty disturbing, but just when you think a character suddenly becomes completely unlikeable, redemption comes about in a strange way.

Hable con ella is one of those films in which the titular women are not present; they are in the past, and they are potentially in the future, but they primarily exist as coma patients during most of the film. Instead, the story is told from the perspective of the men who love them and care for them: the clownish Benigno and the standoffish Marco. It’s a story of men trying to understand women they love: Benigno thinks he understands Alicia because he talks to her, and has been doing so in the four years she’s spent in a coma; Marco is seen as someone who was open and could not stop talking to Lydia during the idyllic period prior to her accident.

They talk because they think that is what a good lover does; the problem, of course, is that they were pretty horrible at listening to the women they loved. Read More

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