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.
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 emotion 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.
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!
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
Copper River Sockeye Salmon with Mojo Sauce
Heat waves are awesome, aren’t they? They sap your energy completely, make venturing outside after 8AM and before 8PM a dangerous proposition, and–if you’re anything like me–a big ol’ sweaty mess. I literally walked across the river from my office to go to the farmers market on Thursday at lunch (at most six-tenths of a mile) and came back drenched. And very flushed (from exertion, not from sun thankfully). The trains didn’t fare much better–Friday afternoon three (!) trains coming from New Haven got tangled up in wires because of the heat, so I had to drive myself home because they suspended service around 5:00.
At least I wasn’t one of the poor people who were trapped on those trains. Read More
Chorizos and Morcillas over Caramelized Onions
We’re sort of settling into a new routine here: Fridays have become our designated night to explore area restaurants so weekends can be spent cooking at home and taking advantage of all of this gorgeous natural light that we have in our new place. We’ve already dabbled in American, Italian and Mexican fare with varied results, but one place we have yet to go to is the Stamford outpost of Barcelona Wine Bar. You know–that place whose cookbook we write about on a fairly regular basis? We live within a very easy walking distance (it’s shorter to walk there than it is to walk to Havana Central on the West End from our old apartment) but I’ve resisted going there because a.) it’s not going to be a cheap tab and b.) I prefer to go there feeling and looking more fabulous than I usually do after hoofing it back from the train station on a warm Friday night.
We’ll rectify all of this soon, but in the meantime we’re mining the cookbook for gold. And the above recipe–blood sausage, caramelized onions, bread (and our addition of chorizo) is golden. Much like the caramelized onions. Read More
Cotzas a la Marinara (Algherese mussels, sailor-style)
I had a few key negotiation points when it came to the move–I wanted to live someplace more urban than suburban and on the Metro North New Haven line–but one of the most pressing, at least from a timing perspective, was being able to watch FC Barcelona in the Champions League final on the 28th. After all, I had spent all season following this tournament (in addition to La Liga play) and the match was guaranteed to be a good one–they were going to play Manchester United! Good to his word, Michael took care of it and I was able to watch the Catalans win the Cup in a most triumphant fashion, unlike the clásicos from April that were just bitter and awful and so heated. Watching Barça slowly decimate Man U, sapping their energy in chunks (and then finishing them off with a decisive third goal courtesy of David Villa) was just what I needed as we started sifting through our things and emptying boxes.
So naturally I made sure that I had Catalan Cuisine unpacked in due order so we could make a lovely victory spread of tapas. Read More
Looks good, doesn’t it? Another delicious plate of braised goodness to enhance a lovely Sunday afternoon, right? Nothing like taking some delectable ingredients for a long, wet thermal haul in the old dutch oven on top of the stove, right? Well, not exactly.
This lovely dish starts in that most delightful of French way: bacon. I usually start a braise off browning meat in olive oil, then moving onto the veggies and finally building the liquid up before adding the meat back in and walking away for a good couple-a hours. To make something French, simply make bacon lardons thy fat source and replace any diced onions with pearls. I don’t mean to demean the difference, in fact these simple swaps can makeover a dish and take something you know how to do and turn it into something new. Read More