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Open-Face “Bikini Comerç 24” Crostini

Writing about Tapas 24 in Barcelona has been on my to-do list since we finished our lunch there three and a half months ago, but I hesitated only because I was determined to offer a reinterpretation of one of the dishes we had and it took a little time to get it right. My notebook is covered with sketches of ideas and I’ve tried a few different iterations over the past few months, and I think I am satisfied enough to provide you with a delicious, very simple canapé for any New Year’s Eve celebrations. Better yet, it will not require to you get your hands on a fresh black truffle. (I know, I know—how magnanimous of me. You can hold your applause until the end.)

A moment of relative quiet in Tapas 24.

Tapas 24—it probably helps to add some context—had long been on my list of must-visit places in Barcelona (it’s strongly recommended by the crew at Barcelona Wine Bar via its guide to the best in Spain), but it was only on our most recent trip that we were able to make that a reality. The chef Carles Abellan was an acolyte of Ferran Adrià before setting out on creating his own little empire of restaurants, and Tapas 24 became the more casual offshoot of his first restaurant Comerç 24. Michael rightly likens the atmosphere of the place to that of a bustling train station, only I can assure you that the food is far better even than the likes you would find at Grand Central Terminal. There’s a set menu of classics plus daily specials, and during our meal we were both able to find a favorite off of each menu. While Michael preferred the pork belly with cabbage, shallots, and butter lettuce, I was partial to the bikini Comerç 24 for reasons that will be wholly unsurprising.

Bikini Comerç 24.

To be completely honest, I was a little mad at this sandwich because it’s simply black truffle, mozzarella di bufula, and jamón ibérico pressed between two pieces of white toast and cut into triangles, but all was quickly forgiven when I bit into the first one. My eyes bugged out (so much that Michael kept taking pictures of me diving into the rest of the plate) and I had to pace myself from wolfing down the whole plate before he could even get a taste. Even in the haze of a sandwich-induced stupor I knew that I’d want to revisit this again and again, so once we got back from our trip I started my experiments shortly thereafter. Read More

City Hall Subway station--probably the closest I'll ever get to it

City Hall Subway station–probably the closest I’ll ever get to it

A few days ago various sites were sharing photos by James and Karla Murray, authors of Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York as they were doing a ten-year update in which they revisited several iconic mom-and-pop businesses in the city from their book to see if they were still there or had caved to the whims of modern New York and closed. Sadly, many are no longer there, either being replaced with banks and Subway shops (seriously) or sitting as unused and blank spaces. Change and gentrification, especially in a place like New York, are inevitable, but it always hurts a little more when something goofy and unique is replaced with another soulless corporate box of steel and glass.

I’m angry that the glass box that replaced the M&G Diner is still going unused. Read More

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

GIft Ideas 1 2013

(Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

With the gifting season in full swing (Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate!), one of the most frustrating things I tend to encounter in shopping for gifts is finding things that stick to a certain budget. My team at work, for example, tends to stick to a $20 limit for its gift exchange, and it’s difficult to think of things that satisfy the following gift criteria that I have in my head:

  1. Relevancy
  2. Practicality/usefulness
  3. Unexpectedness (as in, it should satisfy the above two and also be a genuine surprise, if possible.)

So I’m going to share some of the things I really like and/or purchased and some of the things I think would make awesome presents for those who you want to provide something nice, but something useful. Read More

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.

Macerated Fruit with Yogurt Spheres

Macerated Fruit with Yogurt Spheres

A few months ago I went to my grandmother’s house to help with the cleaning out of her things. After a tumultuous January in which many scenarios were possible but very few actually took place, my mom was finally tasked with the onerous job of cleaning out and selling my grandmother’s house, as she is now in a very nice nursing home. My parents wanted me to have the chance to get some things from her house, and among the vintage Pyrex, old books, some truly beautiful crystal glasses, and the furs that belonged to my great-great aunt, I inherited a little set of lovely sherbet glasses that my grandmom used to serve shrimp cocktail during holiday dinners.

When I saw them for the first time in years, my mind flashed to the strawberries in orange juice and sugar that I made last year, and how lovely the dish would look in these gorgeous little glassesand vowed to wait until spring hit to give this a try. But then I was flipping through Made In Spain for the umpteenth time a few weeks later, and my eye was drawn to the yogurt spherification recipe that I had earlier discounted for its perceived inherent fussiness..and an idea struck.

CSC_4007

In addition to the macerated berries, how neat would it be to reference the dots in the glasses with little spherical blobs of yogurt? And more importantly, how much fun would it be to just try making these blobs at all?

You see, this whole notion of spherification (or, in this case, reverse spherification) first came about by the minds at Unilever in the 1950s, but it was well over 30 years later when it was employed into fine dining by Ferran Adria and his crew of chefs at elBulli. Reverse spherification is perhaps best known for creating the elBulli spherical olives made from olive juice and various pasta-less raviolis; turning yogurt into spheres is a less complicated endeavor because the only special ingredient you need to do it is sodium alginate.

The difference between straight spherification and reverse spherification is the kind of bath used to create the spheres. In straight spherificatoin, sodium alginate is mixed with the liquid you want to use, and then that is piped into a water bath spiked with calcium chloride. In reverse spherification, the bath is made from sodium alginate and the liquid you want to turn into spheres needs to have calcium in it–and yogurt has enough calcium naturally to make this possible.

The photos above are from the second time I made yogurt balls, and I’m going to try to make some more over Memorial Day weekend, only this time I want to incorporate some more flavor into the yogurt: some a little sweet, others more savory.

This technique definitely has some fun possibilities and I can’t wait to explore more of them.

 

Cava with Clementine Air

Happy New Year! ¡Feliz Año Nuevo! Feliç Any Nou! I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful holiday season and that the return to real life is as painless as possible.

One of the things on my Christmas wishlist was a copy of Decoding Ferran Adrià because it had been years—literally—since I had seen it; cooking through Ferran Adrià At Home and The Family Meal over the last few years had gradually built up my interest once again and I wanted to revisit the special that turned this chef into more of a household name. In the age of Pinterest and the revival of recipes featuring canned cream-of-whatever soup mixed with cream cheese and boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the name of comfort food, revisiting the world of mango caviar and carrot foams feels delightfully subversive. It’s also ever-so-slightly more accessible to me these days, mainly thanks to Adrià acolyte José Andrés. (He’s my latest culinary crush, after all.) Read More

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