Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Journey to Spain

It has taken me a couple of weeks to get my act together since returning from our journey to Spain.  There are few things greater in life than an amazing vacation spent with people that you feel that you have known all your life.  We spent a majority of our time in the city of Madrid with day trips to Toledo, Segovia, Chinchon, El Escorial. We enjoyed Madrid's National Art Museums which included Del Prado and Reine Sofia.  For soccer fans, we toured the Real Madrid stadium (Wow!). We enjoyed an evening of traditional Spanish flamenco dancing (Wow, again). We rode a subway in Madrid at 1:00 a.m..  The city was just getting cranked up for the evening. We drank coffee, enjoyed cold vermouth, the husband ventured out of his comfort zone and enjoyed baby eels, octopus, squid and barnacles (Yes, they are exactly what you think the shells that you scrape off the side of a sea wall or your boat containing a snail like creature), Spain was unbelievably hot and unbelievably beautiful.  The list goes on and on.  Since, I can only hold your attention to the post for a limited time-here are the highlights.

Let's start with Madrid.

Madrid is the capitol and the largest city in Spain. Located in the central part of the country Madrid is home to roughly 6.5 million people.  A cosmopolitan city that has preserved the look and feel of its history and architecture.




The Spaniards have never met a stranger.  Their strong sense of hospitality, warmth and friendliness is contagious. They welcome you into their families with hugs and besos (kisses) on both cheeks. And then, STOP THE PRESSES! They feed you.


Food and drink are to be enjoyed, never rushed.  Sharing a meal is about family and friends. 





It is about long and lingering conversations late into the night. Spain's economy and national politics are the important topics of the day.


The Opportunities to enjoy food, wine and friendship were endless. The family decided that it was important that we develop an appreciation for Spanish wines-that was easy. We tasted six different Spanish wines. We decided that the white grape Albariño grown in the Northwest part of Spain in Galacia was one of our favorites.

What would wine tasting be without cured iberico hams, chorizos, salamis and slices of manchego cheese?






After an evening of friendship, good wine and food

In Spain pork rules, the wine is local and olive oil is the only oil that should be used.



Fried potatoes, with fried eggs on top and then topped with iberico ham. Can you say heaven? I can. 


I had the pleasure of watching our host prepare a family style paella without fancy ingredients and a special pan.  I photographed the process and did my best to capture the recipe with pen and paper. This is a family recipe that is handed down from mother to daughter and I am going to give it my best shot in my next post to share it with you.

Until later.
Velva



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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday Supper: Pollo Con Arroz Amarillo (Chicken with Yellow Rice)


The heart and soul of a Spanish home is its kitchen.  

Our family traveled to Spain this summer. We spent two weeks with our host family who shared their hospitality, culture and food, with us.  Our lives are forever changed.  I will be working on a post about our experience which included the privilege of watching our host prepare a family style paella that I would like very much to share with you.  Stay tuned!

This recipe is reminiscent of the soulful spirit of the Spanish table and highlights the flavors of the culture which includes olive oil, onion and garlic.  

A delicious one pot meal that is easy to prepare and is destined to be shared with family and friends.   If you want to "Jazz up" this meal include a homemade Autumn Sangria and flan for dessert.


Pollo Con Arroz Amarillo (Chicken with Yellow Rice)
Serves 8-10


Ingredients
1-1/2 lb.. chicken 
1 small yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 packet of a Spanish seasoning product called Sazon (includes saffron and turmeric to provide the yellow color to the rice).
1 chicken bouillon cube
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup cooking wine
1-(16-ounces) green peas
1 (4-ounces) red pimento ( either diced, in strips or whole)
2 bay leaves
1- (8-ounces) tomato sauce
1-(12-ounces) beer 
4 cups Valencia rice (pearl rice) or regular rice if not available.
4 cups water

Directions:
Using a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat oil and brown chicken along with onions and garlic.  Add spices (Paprika through Spanish seasoning packet).  Add the liquids except the beer.  Add the uncooked rice and 1/2 of the green peas.  Stir well, cover and cook for approximately 30-45 minutes 
(the remaining peas and the pimentos are used to layer on the cooked chicken and yellow rice.)  Stir through and cover again.  If you notice the rice does not have enough liquid, add more water and reduce the heat and simmer longer until the rice is very moist.  When the rice is cooked, add the beer and stir.  The dish is ready to serve.

Enjoy!


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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Winding Down with Arugula-Proscuitto Flatbread Pizzas

It has been a crazy, busy, wonderful summer.  Time to wind down and relax.




Fire up the grill for easy to prepare flat bread pizzas



Sit, relax and enjoy.


Argula-Proscuitto Flatbread Pizzas
Serves 4
Recipe from Food Network

Ingredients:
2 pieces lavash or other flatbread, halved
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1/2 cup grated fontina cheese (about 2 ounces)
4-ounces thinly sliced proscuitto, torn
4 cups baby arugula
1 bulb fennel, halved, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola or other blue cheese (about 2 ounces)

Directions:
1.  Preheat a grill to medium.  Lightly brush the lavish with olive oil, then grill until marked on the bottom, about 2 minutes.  Flip the bread and immediately top with fontina.  Continue grilling until the cheese melts, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a platter and top with the proscuitto.

2.  Combine the argula, fennel, parsley and red onion in a large bowl.  Drizzle with the vinegar and 1 tablespoon olive oil: season with salt and pepper and toss.  Pile on top of the pizzas; sprinkle with the gorgonzola.  Serve.

Enjoy!

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Scenes from my Pantry: Succotash of Fresh Corn, Lima beans, and Onions

We have been trying to eat down the refrigerator and pantry this past week.  Made a delicious summer succotash with lima beans, corn, onion, garlic, and garden tomatoes.  I am reminded how much better my body would feel if I ate simple, healthy dishes like this one more often.


Succotash of Fresh Corn, Lima Beans, Tomatoes and Onions
Makes 6 Servings
Recipe from Epicurious



Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 cups chopped onions
Coarse kosher salt
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 cups chopped red tomatoes (about 1-1/2 pounds)
2-1/4 cups corn kernels cut from 4 ears of corn ( preferabley 2 ears of white corn, 2 ears of yellow corn)
2 cups fresh lima beans or 10-11 ounces of frozen lima beans or baby butter beans, thawed
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

Directions:
Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and sprinkle with coarse salt.  Saute until  soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add tomatoes, corn, and lima beans.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover,  and simmer until corn and lima beans are tender and tomatoes are soft, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add basil.  Serve.  

Note: Can be done 1 day ahead.  Cover and chill. Rewarm and serve.

Enjoy!


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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Savoring the Season: Summer Berry Bread Puddings

This is a summer bread pudding that is dressed to impress.  There is nothing complicated here.  The season's berries are peaking and they steal the show here in this easy to prepare bread pudding.



You may want to skip the main entree and go right to dessert


Berry Bread Puddings
Serves 8
Recipe from Epicurious


Ingredients:
8 cups of bread, cubed or torn into 1-1/2-inch pieces
4 cups mixed berries, such as blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, or blueberry (in any combination)
8 eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 cups half and half
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Prepare eight invidiual soufflé  ups ( 1-cup capacity) with cooking spray.  In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with the berries to distribute evenly.  In another bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk or electric mixer on low speed until frothy.  Add the sugar and beat until well blended.  Add the half and half, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg and continue beating on low speed until well blended.  Fill soufflé cups with bread and berry mixture, mounding it a bit on top.  Pour egg mixture over the bread and berries, filling evenly to the rim.

Place the soufflé cups in a large ovenproof baking dish and pour boiling water into the dish until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the soufflé cups.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick placed in the center of the puddings comes out clean.  remove from oven and allow to cool.  These can be made one day ahead; simply refrigerate overnight and serve at room temperature.  Just before serving, dust each top with powdered sugar.

Enjoy!
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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sunday Supper: Good Old Fashioned Fried Chicken

There is no rhyme or reason, why southern comfort foods have recently taken up residence in my head, it started with peach cobbler and now….well, it has drifted off to fried chicken.  


Maybe it is the sizzling sound, the crispy skin or maybe it is the comfort of the flavorful fat.




I needed a good old fashioned basic recipe-nothing complicated.  My sister said, to check with dad, he has a good fried chicken recipe that he makes in his cast-iron skillet, and finishes it off in the oven.

The finished dish has taken aspects of what I have been told is my dad's recipe and added a twist and a turn of my own.  A twist, soaking the chicken in buttermilk really adds to the level of moisture.  The turn, skipped the finishing off in the oven, mostly, because I am lazy.

The result. Easy and uncomplicated. My dad if he tasted it,  I think he would say it was pretty good.



Old Fashioned Fried Chicken
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
8-10 pieces chicken
1 cup self rising flour
2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. ground black pepper
1-1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. paprika
2 cups buttermilk
Oil for frying (peanut, vegetable or canola works fine)

Directions:
1.  Place chicken pieces in a plastic container and cover with buttermilk.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2.  Drain chicken in a colander.

3.  Place first six ingredients in a ziploc or other plastic bag (flour through paprika).  Shake to blend.

4.  Dredge chicken in seasoned flour and shake off excess.  Place floured chicken pieces on a cookie sheet.

5.  Add enough oil to create about 1/2-inch in a large skillet (cast iron works best).  Heat oil to 325 degrees.

6.  Place chicken skin side down into pan.  Cook chicken untl golden brown about 10-12 minutes per side. 

7.  Drain chicken on a sheet pan with a rack.  Season with salt while hot.  

Serve and enjoy!

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Savoring the Season: Roasting and Preserving Paste Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a funny thing.  If you enjoy tomatoes then you are easily lured into growing them.  It can be a rewarding experience, or not.  You will surely learn to share your bounty with Mother Nature and all her friends (BUGS and WORMS).  Last season I was on a kick to preserve my tomato bounty without any regard to the varieties being grown in my garden. What is a "duh" moment now alluded me last season.  Are you ready?  Paste tomato varieties are meaty and flavorful.  More importantly they really stand up to roasting.

Fast forward to this season.  I decide to select a variety of tomatoes that include a small paste tomato called Gilberte and the famous Italian variety San Marzano which is considered to be one of the world's best sauce tomatoes.  A glass of wine in hand, it is time to jump online and head over to my favorite seed company High-Mowing and order up my first ever tomato seeds. For the first time I have grown my own tomato seedlings and have close to 40 seedlings that need to be transplanted.  This where my husband rolls his eyes…..I am the only one in the family who enjoys tomatoes.  Go figure!

The first harvest is the small and hearty Gilberte paste tomatoes with a couple Tequila Sunrise peppers thrown in for show.


Halved, with fresh garden onions, garlic and a couple of garden peppers.  Seasoned with basil, oregano, sea salt and fresh ground black pepper and then tossed with olive oil.  Roasted in a pan at 450 degrees for about 30-40 minutes.


Yields pure heaven 



Ready to be processed in a blender.  Served hot wth good pasta or put into freezer bags to be enjoyed long after the season is over.  Can you guess which one I did?



My San Marzano tomatoes are just ripening.  I will let you know how they work out.
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