Zucchini and Jamon Iberico Risotto with Manchego Cheese

Risotto

 

I love risotto.  I love the variety of ingredients you can add  to the humble rice, and make it a truly gourmet meal.  Plain, with just saffron, or loaded with veggies, it really is a crowd pleaser.  I love also that you have to dedicate your time to risotto, it makes me feel like I am making something with a lot of love and patience.  Mind you, it isn’t the longest dish to prepare, but it is constant.

I remember I didn’t particularly like risotto when I first tried it.  I thought it wasn’t cooked properly.  But, of course, I later realized that like pasta in Italy, the rice has to be al dente too.  Risotto is also a tricky dish, in so that you really have to practice a few times to get it to be perfect.  My first attempts were complete disasters.  One turned out to be a sticky mess, that you could plaster walls with, the next one, watery and runny.  Only with practice and the guide of my fantastic Zio Gianni did I learn how to really cook food, with mastery and patience.  Now, I can basically make it with my eyes closed, since it was a dish that I prepared daily at my restaurant.  I can tell by sight when I am going to add the last spoonful of stock, and if you pay attention, and practice, you will too.

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I decided to use some Spanish ingredients, to mix it up a bit.  I love that risotto is a blank canvas, where you as the artist can create your own masterpiece.

So, if you fancy trying this version of mine, here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 2

1 tbsp Olive oil

2 tbsp Butter

1/2 Onion, finely minced

1 glass Dry White Wine

120 g Carnaroli rice

6 cups Chicken Stock

Salt and Pepper, to taste

1/4 cup Jamon Iberico or Prosciutto, julienned, plus a tsp for garnish

1/4 Zucchini, julienned

1 cup Manchego Cheese, grated

1 tsp Chives, minced, for garnish

In a stock pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil.  Lower the heat to simmer.  Keep hot.  In a large and deep sauté pan, add the tbsp of olive oil and tbsp of butter, over low heat.  When melted, add the onion and sauté, until very soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.  Raise the heat to high, and add the rice, and salt; cook, stirring constantly, until the rice starts to become translucent, 2-3 minutes.  Add the white wine, and let it evaporate.  Add enough stock to fully cover the rice, about 3 ladles full.  Lower the heat to medium, and cook, stirring constantly.  (Until you get the hang of it, and so it won’t over cook, taste the rice after each addition until it is almost fully cooked, but has just a little bit of bite. )  When the stock has evaporated, but there is just a little bit of film on top, add another ladle full of stock, trying the rice, and continue stirring.  This should take between 10-12 minutes approx.  On your last ladle full of stock, add the zucchini and ham.  Cook, stirring until the stock is almost completely evaporated, but still creamy.  Turn off heat, and add the remaining tbsp of butter and the cheese, and mix.  Cover and let it sit for about 2-3 minutes.  This part is called mantecare.  Mix well again, add the pepper and more salt if needed, and serve with the ham and chives to garnish.  Buon Appetitto!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

 

 

Two awards in one week! Wow wow wow! The Liebster Award

Wow, I feel humbled and elated to have been nominated for another award this week!  I have to thank cupcaketravels for nominating me.  Her wonderful blog that mixes amazing food, a new-found (well, sort of new) passion for cycling, and doing it all in a new country, France, is an inspiration to all of us!  Go check it out!

Now, these are the rules to follow for the award:

1. Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you.

2. Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and link back.

3. Answer the 11 questions proposed by the blogger who nominated you.

4. Select 11 people for the award.

5. Pose 11 new questions to the new nominees.

6. Copy and paste the award on your blog somewhere.

Here are my questions to answer:

1. Who was your favourite pet?

Definitely my sweet wiener dog, Kalik.  Had her for 16 years and passed away when I was 33, so that was half of my life with this amazing pup!

2. If you could do anything and be paid for it, what would it be?

Apart from what I am actually doing, which is cooking for money, so to speak, I would like to get paid to travel too…..

3. What is your all-time favourite, above-all-else- food?

Hmmm….that is particularly tricky!  I guess it would have to be a plate of gnocchi, or some tagliatelle with white truffle.

4. What was the best present you ever received?

My mum coming out of the hospital on my birthday last year.

5. What was the best present you ever gave?

A trip to 3 Michelin star restaurant Arzak to my boyfriend, 4 years ago, with a group of friends.  At the chef’s table.  Great night!

6. If there is anything you regret so far in life, what is it?

Not to have been able to spend more time with my dad before he passed away.

7. If you could go back and tell your 10-year old self one thing, what would it be?

Don’t grow up too fast.

8. What is guaranteed to put you to sleep?

Watching Formula One racing.  Something about the sounds of the cars and it’s almost always on a Sunday afternoon after a big meal…….

9. What makes you laugh the most?

Watching my dogs do silly things.

10. What is your favourite movie?

Dang, another one….I guess I would have to say Blade Runner, seen it about 30 times.

11. If you could only choose one music album to listen to for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Oy Vey!  David Bowie’s greatest hits…..I think!

Here are my nominees:

 

Sexy Cuisine

Maggie’s One Butt Kitchen

 

 

Eat Good Blog

Peri’s Spice Ladle

 

 

Fabulous Naturalista

Hola Yessica!

 

 

Chef Lippe

Fueled by Vegetables

 

 

Bread and Sweetpeas

Bombay Chow Party

 

 

Table of Colors

Now, here are your questions!:

1.  What is your favorite thing to cook?

2.  What is your perfect Sunday afternoon?

3.  Which is your no.1 bucket list destination?

4. White or Red wine?

5.  If you were an animal, what would you be?

6.  Most memorable kitchen disaster?

7.  Favorite childhood food?

8.  What song describes your life right now?

9.  Beach or Mountain?

10. What’s your favorite national holiday?

11.  Who is or has been your biggest inspiration?

 

 

Chicken Paprikash

Chicke Papirkash

 

I know that there are as many recipes for this dish as there are days of the year.  But I love this one, also taught to me by Adrienn, and what I love about it is its simplicity.  With just a few ingredients and steps, it is such a classic and homey meal, that I turn to it time and time again.  Every single time I make this dish, I wonder why I don’t make it more often.

That sauce.  It is just spectacular.  I could eat it on its own with a spoon, it’s that good.  Generally, when I have leftovers, I dice up the chicken and then toss the remaining sauce with some pasta or rice.  But not last night.  I made this for a friend of mine who came to dinner, and he was so excited that I had made the chicken for him again.  I had one of the thighs, and he finished off everything else.  My daughter didn’t even have any….not because she doesn’t like it, she just got her braces put in, poor thing.  He also polished off the barley that I had made to go with it, because I don’t have the thing-a-majiggy to make fresh Spaetzle and it is near impossible to find the ready-made kind here.

This is a perfect weeknight meal, you probably have everything in your pantry to make this dish.  So why not try it next week?

Here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 3-6

3 chicken legs, cut into drumsticks and thighs

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

6 tbsp vegetable oil, I used olive

2 large onions, finely diced

1 heaping tbsp sweet paprika

Water

1/4 cup sour cream

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper, and toss with the flour to coat.  Shake off excess.  In a large frying pan, heat up the oil over medium high heat.   When the oil is very hot, place the chicken skin side down and cook, until it is golden brown and crispy.  Turn and cook until the other side is golden and crispy.  Set aside.

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In the same pan, add your onion, lower the heat to medium low.  Cook for about 5 minutes, and add some more salt and the paprika.  Cook the onions about 15 minutes, until totally softened and starting to caramelize.

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Add the chicken, and add enough water to cover the chicken up to 3/4.  Raise the heat to high, bring to a boil, and then lower the heat and let it simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes.  If the water is evaporating too quickly, add a little bit more.  You want to have a thick sauce, not too watery but not just the onions and the remaining oil.  When the chicken is cooked through, turn off the heat and add the sour cream, mixing well.  Serve immediately with Spaetzle, wide egg noodles, rice, barley, or any type of grain that you like the best!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Wonderful Team Member Readership Award

wonderful-readership-award2

I want to thank Daisy and The Fox for nominating me for this award!  I have just recently begun to follow her beautiful and inspiring blog.  It really is amazing that just a few short months ago, I started on this adventure, having a desire to share all my culinary passions and travels.  Never did I think that I would meet so many people in this wonderful community and learn so much from them.

As the rules say, which are very simple, I have to nominate 14 other blogs that I love:

Things my Belly Likes

Colovibes

Acorn in My Kitchen

Made by Mike

Putney Farm

Girl in a Food Frenzy

Dutch Goes Italian

Chica Andaluza

Playing with Flour

Deux Chicago

Aly Garlic Hands

Daily Frosting

Can’t Stay Out of the Kitchen

Blue Jelly Beans

And that’s all folks!  Thank you so much again Daisy and The Fox!

Hungarian Cucumber Salad

Hungarian Cucumber Salad

 

About 7 years ago, I had the most wonderful nanny, her name is Adrienn.  She hails from Hungary, and my daughter and I were lucky enough to be taught a few wonderful dishes that she prepares.  This salad is something fantastic.  Simple, easy, healthy.  It is a perfect side dish to many dishes, not necessarily Hungarian.

I remember her making this the way I assume her family taught her.  She didn’t use measuring spoons or cups, all she did to make the dressing was grab a glass and fill it with the desired quantities of what she needed.  I studied her closely, me being the perfectionist in the kitchen, and this was a challenge.  I am quite accustomed to making dishes that people have taught me this way, but still get a little nervous when they do.

I am going to share this recipe with you the best I know how, feel free to tweak it as you need, because to some it may lack salt, and to some it may be too sweet.  The one thing I do stipulate, as she said to me, please try to use Hungarian Sweet Paprika.  I am told it is the best!

Hungarian Paprika

So here’s what you’re going to need:

1 large cucumber, thinly sliced with a mandoline (or as thin as you can get it with your knife)

3/4 tbsp sugar (or to taste)

3/4 tbsp paprika

1/2 tsp salt or more to taste

Water

Distilled White Vinegar

Place the cucumber slices in a deep bowl.

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To the cucumber, add the 1/2 tsp of salt, and mix well with your hands, coating all the slices.  In a large drinking glass, fill half of it with water, and add the sugar and paprika.  Mix well until the sugar is completely dissolved.  You should have a very red liquid.  Add the vinegar a little at a time, until you reach your desired acidity, I think it should be at least a tbsp.  Add your dressing to the cucumber slices, and let marinate in the fridge for at least an hour.

Hungarian Cucumber Salad

 

Your cucumber slices should be quite soft.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Cassia’s Favorite Stuffed Green Peppers

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I have to admit, I was very, very surprised the first time I served this to my daughter.  I figured she would look at me, thinking I had gone mad for serving her a green pepper, with what looked like cheese on top.    But, she just cut a bite, put it in her mouth and said she loved it.  Mind you, she was about 7 at the time.

Ever since, she asks me to prepare these stuffed peppers for her.  Honestly, as a kid, I hated them, but, as tastes change and your palate becomes more forgiving and sophisticated, I learned to love them.  These truly remind me of home, not any country in particular, just home.  Throughout the years, we started to adapt our cooking from just Colombian flavors to a more Caribbean style, incorporating ingredients that we had on our lovely island of Nassau, and also some suggestions from a certain “auntie” who is Jamaican.  My Auntie Sharon introduced to us so many Jamaican products, since we were new to these sorts of things.  Ackee, bread fruit, how to eat Guava ( in the dark, if you’re asking, so you won’t see the worms! ) and also, Pickapeppa Sauce.

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Pickapeppa Sauce is akin to Britain’s HP sauce, but with a bite, more tangy and less sweet.  We started incorporating this in many, many recipes.  And this is a staple in my house that I bring back from Miami whenever I can.  I can assure you, that adding this to your beef stew, hamburgers, even dips will give it an extra-special kick!  And apparently it’s really awesome with cream cheese.

So, why not try these stuffed peppers today?

Here’s what you’re going to need:

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1/2 leek, sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

50 g cherry tomatoes, halved

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp cumin powder

Salt and Black Pepper, to taste

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp jalapeno powder (or chili powder if you can’t find)

400g Ground Beef or Pork (or a mix of the two)

2 tbsp raisins

2 tbsp Pickapeppa Sauce ( HP Sauce if you can’t find Pickapeppa)

3-4 long green peppers, sliced open, seeds and ribs removed

1/2 cup cheddar cheese (more to taste)

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).  In a large sautee pan, heat the olive oil over medium low heat.  Add the onion, carrots, leeks, garlic and cherry tomatoes.  Sautee for about 10-15 minutes, until softened.  Add the tomato paste, cumin, salt and black pepper, garlic powder, and jalapeno powder.  Sautee for another 8 minutes, until nicely softened.

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Raise the heat to medium high, and add the ground beef or pork and cook until browned.   Add the raisins and the Pickapeppa Sauce and cook, stirring until mixed.  Take off heat.

Carefully stuff the peppers until full but not overflowing.

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Place in a baking dish, and top with grated cheese.  Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes*, until the peppers are softened and the cheese has melted and is bubbling.

Serve immediately.

*  If you prefer the peppers to be softer, you can parboil them for 2 minutes.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Can Pineda Restaurant – My absolute and a local favorite off Barcelona’s beaten path

Restaurant Can Pineda

As most of you know, I am living in an empty house, with just a few kitchen utensils, waiting on my impending move to Madrid.  Eating out has become more of a necessity rather than a luxury.  But, all that said, Can Pineda is a luxury only reserved for special occasions, such as birthdays, anniversary’s etc.  It isn’t somewhere you can make it to everyday, or once a month even.  Your wallet and your waistline would suffer, that I can assure.  It most definitely is somewhere you HAVE to go one time, or 3 as I have been.

This time around the special occasion was my birthday a few weeks ago.  Paolo introduced me to this place way back in 2009, and go ever so often to whet our appetites when we can.

Again, Can Pineda did not disappoint.  One look at the menu and I knew I was in culinary heaven.  Being truffle season, the menu did not disappoint.   We decided to go the full monty, and order whatever tuber-inspired item was on there, with a good measure of Chuleton!

The place itself is fantastic.  Packed with knowing locals, who return time after time, it is a nice change from my neighborhood, which caters mostly to tourists.  The decoration is slightly kitsch bordering on outdated, more like your grandmother’s kitchen, rather than culinary hotspot.  But, all those insignificant details are forgiven the moment you place your first forkful in your mouth.

Our first plate was a simple, and the only way it should be really, yet perfect plate of Tagliatelle with White Truffle-

White Truffle Pasta

 

Butter, pepper and a small fortune of the good stuff, Tuber Magnatum, or better known as White Truffle from Alba.  The reigning queen of the truffles.  We decided to share all of our dishes, so we could taste more than just two, and I was left wanting more.  Not that the portion was small, it was perfect, it’s just that I don’t get to eat white truffle very often so I wanted to go all Miss Piggy on it.

Next up, is a Can Pineda classic.  None other than the orgasm inducing Poached egg, Seared Foie Gras, Shaved Black Truffle over a bed of blood sausage.

Poached egg, foie gras, black truffle

 

This is what I call paradise.  The egg, that humble ingredient, is totally elevated to royal status in the company of foie and truffle.  For being a half sized portion, this was enormous.  We each got a whole egg, (otherwise, how do you separate a poached egg?)  Loaded with the good stuff, there was nary a crumb left when we finished.

Up next, a Catalan classic, meatballs in a wild mushroom ragout -

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The meatballs were as soft as pillows, the ragout was rich and unctuous.  This is Catalan food through and through, these flavors are unmistakable.

And our final plate, the pièce de résistanceChuleton de Vaca Vieja,  which is basically bone in prime rib from “old cow”.

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And no, we don’t eat it this rare, we were brought our own very personal hot stone to cook it on, which I love.  Paolo likes his very rare, and I medium rare.  That way, each of us gets our way!

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Can Pineda will always be one of those places that we return to on our visits back to Barcelona.  And it should be on the top of your list too, whenever you come!

Carla

Can Pineda

Calle Sant Joan de Malta 55

08018 Barcelona

+34 93 308 3081

http://www.canpineda.com