Monday, July 19, 2010

Spain photos

I have posted our family photos from Spain in three Picasa web albums. They are not particularly sorted — I culled out some of the bad ones, and tried to deal with the weirdness that my sister's camera and mine were in radically different time zones (California and New Zealand are something like twenty hours apart). But there's still plenty of redundant photos, and it turns out Picasa is worse than I thought at reordering, sorting, and captioning large collections of photos.

In any case, the first two of the following three albums each contains close to one thousand photos, which is the maximum that Picasa will allow in an album, and the last is about five hundred:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cooking in Spain: El mercado municipal

On our final full day in Almuñécar, we finally made it to the public market, where we should have been shopping all along. The mostly-indoor market occupies on city block, and is roughly half fish. The other half is mostly vegetables, with some meat stands, out-door flower vendors, and a "nutritional herb" stand mixed in. We bought swordfish steaks for 6.80€/kilo (under $4/lb), which I grilled while B made a fantastic garlic-green bean saute. We also made a fresh salsa of tomatoes and onions. While I'm on the topic of food prices, I should also give a shout-out to Spanish wines. I don't recommend that you put a lot of effort into finding them in the US — around here, you might as well drink Oregon or California, which make good wines and you don't have to pay shipping. But in Spain, the wines are great and mostly inexpensive.

Cooking in Spain: Grilled tortillas with hummus and babaganoush

It's a shame that we forgot to take photos of more of our dinners in Almuñécar, all of which B and I cooked for the family. Our third night we grilled tuna and corn, and on our fourth night we made a pasta primavera. On our fifth night in Almuñécar, we wanted something different. So, while B did most of the cooking in the downstairs kitchen (hummus, babaganoush, and a large greek salad), my sister and I grilled tortillas on the roof. We made a simple dough from flour, salt, olive oil, and water, and rolled the tortillas with a wine bottle. Then we fired up the grill and cooked the rounds until about the consistency of crackers.

Cooking in Spain: Grilled zucchini and swordfish

We are in the slow process of sorting all our photos from Spain — eventually I will link here to a handful of Picasa slideshows. Making the work harder is the fact that we had two cameras, one of which was set to New Zealand time and the other to California time, and so the computer has failed to get the order of the pictures correct. Also making the task more difficult is that we took around three thousand photos: B averaged two hundred a day.

In the meantime, I'll start putting meals up here. After a few nights in Lisbon, we flew to Málaga, rented a car, and drove to Almuñécar, where we rented a house from a local Brit for a week. We arrived on a Sunday, so only the tiny British-Expat store was open, and we got supplies for pasta and tomato sauce. The following day we went to a real grocery store, where we found zucchini and amazingly-priced frozen swordfish.

The house we rented had fantastic views.

B and my mom prepped in the kitchen, while my sister and I fired up the gas grill on the roof patio.

We started with the zucchini. B had removed the ends and halved the fruits, and we brushed them in local olive oil and grilled them on both sides.

When I grill meat and veggies I like to do the veggies first, so that the grill is very hot for the meat. We brushed the fish with oil, salt-and-pepped it, and grilled it on both sides, rotating each piece partway through to get that wonderful cross-hatch look.

The house came with a cat named Billy, who enjoyed the scraps of fish we gave him. The family enjoyed the dinner as well. Not pictured is my father, taking the photo.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

First dinner back: pasta with tomatoes, basil, and ricotta salata

Our plane back from Spain got in late Wednesday night. On Thursday, we woke up super early, parked in North Berkeley, and spent the day enjoying the Gourmet Ghetto. Ah, it's good to be back in Berkeley. For breakfast, we had waffles and ever-strong coffee at Guerilla Cafe. After a walk to campus for some errands, we went to the brand-new Philz Coffee, my new favorite coffee shop in Berkeley (it's adjacent to Guerilla, my old favorite). We worked there a while, and then went to Gregoire for lunch. We got take-out — B had a shrimp-and-chipotle wrap and I had a Caesar salad with scalops — and walked up to Indian Rock for a picnic. Eventually we made our way back down, and then did our usual Thursday shopping: Safeway, The Cheeseboard, and the Farmers' Market.

At the market, we were excited to find the beginnings of summer tomatoes, and so got to have one of our favorite summer dinners: pasta with tomatoes, basil, garlic, and ricotta salata. During tomato season, we have this dish, which we learned from the Alice Waters books, about once a week. It's fantastic on its own, and also as an accompaniment to light seafood — sole or clams or .... This Italian-flag-colored dish is unassuming, and goes well with a Chardonnay, Chablis, or white "table wine" blend.

Birthday dinner: Broiled salmon, steamed broccoli, parsley mashed potatoes, and avocado mousse

My birthday was Friday. We've been having camera problems today — largely an artifact of my running out of disk space because I've been keeping all my photos on my laptop (I've decided to buy a new computer just for photos and mp3s) — so I don't have pictures to show you. Suffice it to say, B cooked me a dinner that was both beautiful and delicious.

For the main course, B baked thick fillets of salmon, which he had topped with some minced garlic and parsley. He baked the fish for 22 minutes, and it came out divine: cooked all through, but only just, and still tender and moist. Meanwhile, he reduced red wine with some more parsley and garlic on the stovetop, and used used it as a topping for the fish. As sides, he steamed broccoli above the pot of boiling potatoes. The broccoli he served unadorned, and the potatoes he mashed with butter, parsley, and a little garlic.

We finished the meal with red wine and a salad dressed in a "vinaigrette" made with salt, olive oil, a clove of garlic, and a touch of the red wine we were drinking, not the cheap stuff that went into the reduction.

For dessert, which we ended up saving until the next day because we were full, but it would have paired wonderfully, B made a phenomenal avocado mousse. You might not think "avocado mousse" would be a good idea, but it is. We first had an avocado mousse at Red Agave, a Latin American and Spanish fusion joint in Eugene, where we went for B's birthday last January. It is, in fact, a very Spanish dish: it's a foam. In any case, B made the mousse with avocado and vanilla, and egg whites and cream and sugar. Mmm hmm.

Three dinners: Asparagus pizza; Pasta primavera; Broiled salmon with red wine reduction

Composed salad with fennel, beets, and prawns

B and I just got back from two weeks in Spain, so expect a post and slideshow soon. In the meantime, there were a few meals from before we left that must be posted.

For this composed salad, we cooked the beets the way we've learned to from the Alice Waters books: wash the beets well but do not peel them, and wrap them tightly while still wet in foil; place in a hot oven (whatever temperature you need for the rest of your baking that day) and bake for at least an hour, and better an hour and a half; transfer the hot beets to a bath of ice water, and the skins should easily slough off; cut the beets and place in a bowl with some salt and vinegar (no oil!) to marinate for at least half an hour. We boiled fennel greens to make a thin broth, and poached the peeled fennel hearts. We hard-boiled eggs, and also butterflied and briefly boiled prawns. To complete the salad, we dressed lettuce in a garlic vinaigrette, and garnished everything with some capers, kalamata olives, anchovy fillets, and sprigs of fennel. We served the salad with fresh home-made whole-wheat baguette, parsley butter (lots of parsley, some butter, some garlic, some salt, some lemon juice, processed in the cuisinart), and a French rosé.