Sunday, September 26, 2010

Asparagus with Vinagrette

Asparagus a la Vinagreta
Have I mentioned that we STILL don't have wifi? It has been a constant battle with the internet company and they don't quite seem to understand our frustration and borderline fury with them.  And so, my roommates and I spend another evening at a café sipping cappucinos and doing our respective business online. It's ten fifteen right now and a perfect seventy two degrees so I can't complain too much. I brought this asparagus dish to a dinner with some of my international friends before seeing Eat Pray Love at San Sebastián's International Film Festival!  Obviously I waited for two hours outside of the cinema to get a perfect view of Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem walking down the red carpet :)  This asparagus and vinagrette dish was inspired by a one I saw at a local pinxtos bar.  I'd been wanting to make a vegetable dish in order to offset the gelato I've been eating.  Anyway, my friends and roommates especially loved this dish.  Its a really good combination of textures and temperatures because the asparagus are roasted in the oven and the vinagrette is cold.  Plus, if your kitchen is more equipt than mine is right now this dish only takes about fifteen minutes!

One bunch fresh asparagus (approximately 20 spears)
3 cloves garlic
1 red bell pepper
2 medium tomatoes
1/2 small onion
1 lemon
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste

Hey, guess what?  The oven works!  Took me an extra second to realize it was in celsius rather than fahrenheit but I got it.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Wash and trim about an inch and a half off of the bottom of each asparagus spear.  Lay in a baking or casserole dish and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Thinly slice two cloves of garlic and sprinkle them over the asparagus.  Bake in the oven for ten minutes.

As for the vinagrette, if we had a food processor or even a blender in our apartment this probably would have resembled more of a vinagrette and less of a salsa but were compromising here!  All the chopping I had to do made this considerably more time consuming but if you have a food processor or blender it will be super simple!  Core and seed the tomatoes and dice as finely as humanly possible.  Do the same with the red bell pepper and onion.  Since your using raw onion you might want to cater this recipe to the amount of raw onion taste you can handle.  I, for one, love onions in any way shape or form so I used half of an onion and the flavor was definitely there.  Place all of the vegetables in a bowl and, using a cheese grater or microplane, grate the remaining clove of garlic. Add the olive oil and squeeze the juice of the one lemon into the bowl.  Watch out for seeds.  Add the teaspoon of dried paprika, stir and taste.  Season with salt and pepper and you're done!  When the asparagus comes out of the oven, place on a serving dish and top with vinagrette. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Goat Cheese Stuffed Figs with Serrano Ham

Higos con Queso de Cabra y Jamón Serrano

One of my favorite appetizers in the world is goat cheese stuffed figs wrapped in prosciutto.  I also do the same with dried dates and it's amazing. While adjusting to my new kitchen here I decided I would make something that required little or no cooking.  So, I decided to Spain-ify these little one bite wonders.  Yes, Spain-ify them.  Normally I use the dark purple figs found in the United States, a log of goat cheese from any decent grocery store, and deli sliced prosciutto di parma ham.  Here in Spain, purple figs are nowhere to be found.  At first, I thought the figs sold nearby my flat were just unripe. But after perusing several of the fruit markets in San Sebastián, I realized that the figs were perfectly ripe and naturally green in color.  As far as I can tell the taste is almost exactly the same as that of purple figs, perhaps a bit milder.  Figs in general have a very mild taste. Thats why, when combined with the strong taste of goat cheese and the salty bite of prosciutto, they become the perfect hors d'oeuvre.  

I had never even eaten a fig until this past summer and now it's my mission to get everyone to try one of my figs.  For those of you who have never eaten a fig, I've included a picture of what they look like to the left. Figs are soft and filled with a million tiny edible seeds.  The queso de cabra, or goat cheese, here is much softer as well. You can buy it in a log or a container and it tastes distinctively like goat cheese but the texture is more like that of brie.  And of course, I had to use Spanish ham.  Serrano is a dry cured Spanish ham that is very similar to Italian prosciutto, so it was the clear choice.

10 figs (green or purple)
6 oz. goat cheese
10 thin slices Serrano ham

First, run all of the figs under warm water to clean them because they tend to get slightly sticky.  Slice each fig in half exposing the seedy center.  Slice each piece of ham in half lengthwise to make twenty thinner strips of Serrano ham.  Using the back of a teaspoon, lightly press each fig half so that there is a small indent for the goat cheese.  Using the same teaspoon, place a small amount of goat cheese on top of each fig half, wrap in Serrano ham, and spear with a toothpick.  Repeat until all figs are assembled.  Voila!   I'm expanding the palates of my friends here daily, and my roommate Brittany is especially into these appetizers :) The flavor is not like anything you would expect, especially given that most people have no idea what a fig tastes like. These are seriously delicious. Enjoy!

Friday, September 10, 2010

San Sebastián Week 2 and Tortilla Espanõla

San Sebastián Week 2 and Tortilla Española

YES I can blog again!  I'm sorry it has taken so long but we still dont have wireless internet hooked up! Wow I have a lot to say its almost overwhelming, but bare with me. Brittany, Lexie and I have spent several hours sitting at an outdoor bar crowding our three laptops onto a tiny table to use their wi-fi (or "wee-fee" as they say it).  These first two weeks in San Sebastián have been incredible.   I am already in love with our apartment even though I feel like it was decorated by a ninety year old cat lady.  It has three bedrooms, a bathroom, a tiny kitchen and tiny living room, but its home :) Since moving into our little flat I have learned SO much more about the city.  The above photo is the view from our living room window.  I continue to be charmed by the number of people sitting at the bars below us each and every day for their afternoon sangria or glass of wine.

Naturally, I've done a significant amount of food investigation since I've been here. Tapas, or pinxtos (peen-chos) in basque, are by far the main dining option in San Sebastián and all over Spain.  Pinxtos are small bites that are sold cold at the bar of a restaurante or ordered warm from the kitchen.  Originally, the pinxtos tradition was invented to keep people from getting drunk as they hopped from bar to bar throughout the night.  Now, San Sebastián is known for its delicious bars and restaurants that offer the small savory dishes.  

Among the seemingly endless amount of bars and restaurants there is a surprising number of Turkish "Doner" Kebab places.  We discovered these kebobs early on and have since compared them to a New York hot dog stand because of their presence on every other street corner.  These aren´t the same kebabs that we are used to back home (see Chili Chicken Mango Kebabs). These kebobs are different and they´re awesome. The chicken is topped with lettuce, a spicy red sauce, and creamy white yogurt sauce that makes it sloppy to eat but well worth the mess and pile of napkins. However, I took a peek into the kitchen of one of the kebab places only to discover that the chicken is shaved from a large mass of chicken parts somehow glued together and spinning vertically on a spit. Questionable.  But delicious nonetheless.  My recommendation to anyone who visits Spain would be to try the kebab, but forego watching them prepare it.

Another popular dessert item around here is called  Dulce de Membrillo which is literally a brick of quince jelly.  Quince is a fruit that is basically hybrid between an apple and a pear.  Dulce de Membrillo is sticky, dark orange in color and as you can see, does not look especially appetizing.  The texture is like a combination of apple sauce and Jell-O, the taste can be described as such as well.  If you´ve ever eaten those fruit leather snacks as a kid, you get the gist.                                                                  

As for cooking, I will most definitely make pinxtos throughout the semester so that you can get a feel for what I've been eating. However, the cooking resources here are not what I am used to, to say the least.  It's going to take me a little while to get used to the limited amount of cookware in the kitchen and foreign ingredients that are available to me in the local markets.  To the right is the little set I've been using in our kitchen for my photos.  I found those black lights in one of our closets. Natural light coming through that window is hard to come by as there is another apartment building about ten feet away. Opposite the kitchen table there is a small fridge, horrendously inadequate counter space, and and unreliable set of stove burners.  The oven has yet to be tested.  I'll get around to that as soon as I figure out how to turn it on.

For my first cooking experience in San Sebastián I decided to get in the Spanish spirit and make a traditional Tortilla Española.  Tortilla Española is essentially a potato omelette and should´ve been easy enough to make.  It was a semi-flop.  Perhaps it was the egg yolks that are distinctively more orange than egg yolks in the United States.  Either way, it´s a little difficult to cook when a recipe calls for ingredients using the American system of measurements but the food here is weighed using the metric system.  Not to mention the complete lack of any measuring device in our flat.  Oh well.  I followed the recipe and the flavor was there but somehow the proportions did NOT work out.  Way too much potato and not enough egg.  Hey, we ate the whole thing anyway.  I´ll try again once I get a little more in the swing of things.

There are SO many things I want to cook while I´m here.  However, I´ll probably have to adjust that list to better suit my current cookware/ appliance situation.  There are actually several things I´ll have to adjust to while I´m here: navigating my bike through crowded sidewalks, the merely suggestive nature of all traffic lights, the fact that every door is "Push" as opposed to "Pull", hanging my laundry out on a clothes line, checking the weather before hanging my laundry out on the clothes line etc...  So that's what I've been up to.  One of my regular posts is coming up in the very near future!  Tonight we're celebrating Lexie's twentieth birthday and I'm making the hors d'oeuvres...