Leek, Bacon, and Mushroom Quiche

Quiche with leeks, bacon and mushrooms

 

quiche with leeks, bacon and mushroom

 

photo 3

 

Last night around 10 pm, I remembered that I had invited a friend over for lunch……uh oh.  I had completely forgotten, and didn’t have anything in mind or ready to prepare.  So I looked in my fridge and pantry……and voila!  I love that you can make a Quiche out of basically anything.  Just as long as you have the mains, which are flour, eggs, cream and cheese, it doesn’t matter what the fillings are.  I think that it’s versatility has made it a mainstay in my house!.  So these were the ingredients I had in my pantry and fridge, but feel free to swap any of the ingredients for the ones you have on hand.

So here’s what you’re going to need:

For the crust:

250g all-purpose flour

150g butter, chilled and cut into 1 inch cubes

1 tsp salt

1 egg

1 tbsp cold milk

For the filling:

1 leek, halved and thinly sliced

2 slices bacon, julienned

1 small can sliced mushrooms, drained

1 egg

3 egg yolks

300ml heavy cream

1 1/2 cups Emmenthal (swiss cheese), grated

1 tsp salt

freshly ground pepper to taste

pinch of nutmeg

 

In a large bowl, add the flour, salt, and butter, mix with a pastry blender until it resembles coarse sand.  Add the egg and milk, and mix with your hands until it forms a ball.  Flatten it with your hand into a disk, and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, make the filling.  Saute the leeks and bacon together over low heat for about 10 minutes until soft and bacon is cooked but not crispy.  Let cool.  In a large bowl, mix the cream, eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Add the leek mixture, and half of the grated cheese.  Mix well and set aside.

Pre-heat oven to 190C (375F), take dough out of the fridge and place on a counter dusted with flour.  Roll out the dough into a disk that is about 2mm thick.  Place in a buttered tart or springform pan, cover with plastic and refrigerate for another 20 minutes.

Take the dough out, and with a fork pinch all over.  Cover with parchment paper and place pie weights or beans in the pan.  Cook in the oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 170C (350F) and remove the parchment and pie weights, and cook for another 5 minutes.

Take out of the oven, and sprinkle the remaining cheese onto the bottom of the crust, and then add the filling mixture.  Cook for about 25-30 minutes, or until it is set but still has a slight wobble.  Let cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature.  Serve with a green salad and basic vinaigrette!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Moros y Cristianos – Refried Black Beans and Rice

Moros

 

I grew up in Miami, and one of our Saturday night staples was going to Habana Vieja Restaurant on Coral Way.  This “upscale” Cuban restaurant was (and I say was because it sadly no longer exists) where we would go eat dishes that I thought had the funniest names; Vaca Frita (Fried Cow), Ropa Vieja (Old Clothes), Fufu con Masitas (Mashed plantain with pork chunks, and last but not least, Moros, or Moros y Cristianos.  As a kid, I obviously was not aware of the deep historic meaning, and racial undertones, of the name of the dish.  It literally translates to Arabs (moros) and Christians (cristianos).  This has its roots in old Spain, which once, and still now to a degree, is a mixture of both cultures, as does most of the Cuban food we eat today.

All things aside, this is one of my favorite things to eat!  Here in Spain there is a lot of white bean and lentil consuption….but only in cuban or other latin restaurants will you find the black or red pinto varieties.  I miss my latin roots so much, and so does my daughter, that at least once a month I make beans and rice, and of course, the next day we mix them up and fry them up to serve alongside whatever we are eating….fish, chicken, beef, pork, you name it.  Most of the time, we eat it on its own, since its so delicious and it really doesn’t need to be an accompaniment.  I am sure you can find a million different recipes, but I hope you try mine, with a touch of roast red peppers and some sherry.  Also, I think my mom’s white rice is pretty spectacular!  To make a vegetarian version of these beans, just swap the beef bouillon cube for a vegetable one, and you have a perfectly well-balanced meal!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4-6

For the beans:

2 cups black beans, soaked in water and salt overnight

2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 large onion, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 large green pepper, minced

1 tsp dried oregano

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 small can of roast red peppers, minced

1/4 cup sherry

1 beef or vegetable bouillon cube

For the Rice:

1 1/2 cups long grain white rice

1 tbsp onion, minced

1 small garlic clove, minced

1 tbsp green pepper, minced

2 tbsp olive oil

Salt to taste

3 cups water

 

To make the beans:

In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, green pepper, garlic and oregano, sauté for 5-6 minutes, or until translucent.  Add the red pepper, sherry and bullion cube, and cook until the sherry has almost evaporated.  Add the pre soaked beans, salt and enough water to cover them about 3 inches.  Raise heat to high, cover leaving just a crack open so the steam can come out.  When it boils, lower the heat to medium low, and let cook until the beans are tender and it has thickened into a stew consistency.  About 2 hours.  If you find that the water has evaporated and the beans aren’t tender enough, boil another cup of water and add it to the beans.  Never add cold water because it will “stunt” the cooking of the beans.

In the mean time, prepare the rice.  Wash the rice with cold water, and strain.  In a medium stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic and green pepper.  Saute for about 5 minutes, and add the rice, give it a good stir to coat the rice with the oil and veggies.  Add the salt to the water, and stir it up, then add to your rice.  Raise the heat to high, bring to a boil and then lower to medium low, with the stock pot half covered like the beans.  When the water is halfway evaporated, (about 10 minutes, you will see the top part of the rice to be dry-ish and hear water bubbling in the bottom) with a large wooden spoon, “turn” the rice so that the wetter rice is on top, and the dryer rice goes on the bottom.  Cook for another 10 minutes, or until the rice is dry.  It will be kind of sticky, but don’t worry.  Take off the heat, cover it and let it rest another 10 minutes, and before serving fluff it up with a fork.

When the beans are ready, you can either serve them with the rice on the side, or grab a cup of the rice, and add a spoonful of the beans, mix well.  That is now Moros!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Arista di Maiale Al Rosmarino – Pork with Rosemary

Pork with Rosemary

 

This is recipe no. 3 from our “Italy, The Beautiful Cookbook” challenge.  My husband chose this one, and I am so glad he did.  Insanely simple, with incredibly familiar ingredients, this too, was a winner. The book says that this recipe is from Tuscany, but I am sure there are versions of this from every region in Italy.

I love rosemary.  Rosemary is one of my favorite cooking herbs, thus I have an incredibly large bush on my balcony, and apart from using it in the kitchen, it smells divine.  I think my favorite part is when I’m picking the leaves off the stem, and its sap imparts its beautiful, medicine-like aroma.  During the cooking process your kitchen will smell incredible too, with all that delicious garlic and rosemary!  After the pork is done, you finish the sauce with a nice, dry white wine.  Classic Italian cooking, simple ingredients creating a masterful and superb dish.  Easy enough for a weeknight if you have time, perfect for a Sunday roast, too.

So here’s what you’re going to need:

1 fresh rosemary sprig

6 garlic cloves, crushed

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 chine of pork, about 2 1/2 lbs (1.25kg)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

1/2 cup (4 fl oz/ 125ml) dry white wine

Finely chop the rosemary leaves.  Mix rosemary and garlic with salt and plenty of pepper.  Rub the meat well with this mixture and tie it securely to the bone.  Place the meat in a dutch oven or aluminum saucepan with the oil and butter.  Bake in a preheated oven at 400F (200C) for 1 1/2 hours, turning frequently.

Untie the meat and remove the bone.  Arrange meat in slices on a serving dish.  Pour wine into the pan and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits and season to taste.  Serve this sauce with the meat.

Serves 6

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Penne Con I Broccoli – Penne with Broccoli

Penne with Broccoli

 

This is our second recipe from our cookbook “Italy, The Beautiful Cookbook”, and one that my daughter chose.  I wasn’t very surprised, as she loves broccoli, but then I read the rest of the ingredients and thought, she obviously only read the title.  I was quite perplexed at the combination of ingredients as well, broccoli, tomatoes, onions, raisins, anchovies, pine nuts…….in my brain, these ingredients really shouldn’t go together.  But they did, marvelously well, and we were all really surprised.  My hubs mentioned that he felt that it was because there were really no overpowering flavors, it was just the right amount of each ingredient for it to be harmonious, delicate even!

This recipe is from the southern Italian region of Apulia (Puglia).  As the south of Italy was conquered and influenced by the Arabs, this recipe started to make more sense, it was an obvious melange of Arabic and Italian cooking!  The use of savoury and sweet is very Arabic, hence the pine nuts and raisins, but then combining it with broccoli, tomatoes, garlic and anchovies is redolent of southern Italian cooking.  Many of you will want to omit the anchovies, as I know that not everyone is on that bandwagon, but I ask you to try it out, if my daughter, who hates all things fishy, couldn’t tell and was waxing poetic about this recipe, I am positive you won’t either.  Because the recipe calls for you to mash it and then fry it in the olive oil with the garlic, it basically melts in the oil, and adds just a hint of salt and umami to the dish.  If you are still hesitant, reduce the amount, but don’t leave it out!

So here is what you’re going to need:

Serves 6

1/4 cup raisins

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 onion, chopped

1 can (1lb/500g) whole, peeled tomatoes

salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 head broccoli

500g Penne pasta

6 anchovy fillets in oil, mashed

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 cup pine nuts

Grated Pecorino cheese

Soak the raisins in lukewarm water to cover until needed.  Heat half the oil in a large skillet over moderate heat.  Add the onion and sauté until translucent.  Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook for about an hour to reduce the sauce.

Meanwhile, separate the broccoli into florets and stems.  Peel and slice the stems.  Drop into a saucepan of boiling water and cook until the penne are al dente.

Fry the anchovy fillets gently with the garlic and pine nuts in oil, until the garlic is fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.  Add to the tomato sauce.  Mix in the strained raisins, broccoli florets and a spoonful of the cooking water from the pasta, cover and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender, stirring frequently.

Add the strained penne to the skillet, and raise the heat to high, stirring frequently to incorporate all the sauce.  Serve immediately with the grated Pecorino cheese.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

 

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

 

Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day.  Happy Valentine’s Day!  I think chocolate is a must-do today, right?  I made these biscotti to take to a coffee for an international group here, where we were all advised to take something sweet or savory, wear red, and bring a gift.  Of course, there were all sorts of treats on hand, but I am quite happy that no one brought anymore biscotti.

I personally love biscotti, which in Italy they are actually called Cantuccini, since biscotti just means cookie.  I have been making them since times immemorial, I think since I was 16 or so, for my mother’s bridge games.  Rarely do I make them with chocolate though, since I find them harder to pair with dessert wines.  Alas, the chocolate tradition won over today, so I naturally decided to pair them with hazelnuts, since all things that resemble nutella are delicious in my book.

I really like these biscotti because not only are they incredibly chocolatey, I don’t use any fats like butter or oil so they are not sooooo damaging to your waistline!  If you can, try to use some high quality chocolate, such as Valrhona, since the main ingredient is chocolate!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Makes about 30 biscotti (Adapted from the New York Times Recipe)

1/2 cup whole toasted hazelnuts

1 1/4 cups four

1/4 cup good quality cocoa powder

pinch of salt

3/4 tsp baking powder

2 large eggs

3/4 cups sugar

2 tbsp sanding sugar

1 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 350F (180C).  In a large bowl, sift together the flour, chocolate, salt and baking powder, set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the eggs and sugar, beat on medium speed until just mixed.  Reserve one tbsp of the egg mix in a small bowl.

Add the dry ingredients, a little at a time, and beat on low-speed until just incorporated.  Fold in the hazelnuts.

Form into a log shape, about 18 inches long and 3 inches wide, and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Brush on the egg mix you set aside, dust with sanding sugar and the black pepper.

Place in the oven and cook for about 15-20 minutes, or firm.  Take out and let cool for 5 minutes before cutting into diagonal slices, 1 inch thick, with a sharp serrated knife.  Place back on the cookie sheet, on their side, and cook for another 15-20 minutes.

Let cool on a wire rack, and they can be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

Michy’s Bread Pudding

MIchy's Bread Pudding photo 2 (1) photo 3 (1)

I am not a huge fan of bread pudding.  I like it, I don’t LUUUURRRVE it.  So, why did I make bread pudding?  Well, two reasons.  1) My daughter begged me to make cheese fondue last week, and I seriously miscalculated the quantities of how much bread we could eat.  2) My good friend Michelle Bernstein (of Michy’s Restaurant in Miami) makes the best bread pudding, hands down.

I tried Michy’s bread pudding 3 years ago when she invited me to eat at her restaurant.  It’s the only dessert she has in her cookbook, “Cuisine a Latina” too.  It’s that good.  What I love about it, is that even though it is quite a rich and decadent dessert, it really doesn’t feel like it, and I think it has to be the addition of brandy, chocolate and the fact that it soaks up the custard for up to 48 hours.  Booze and Chocolate.  Two of my favorite things!  Mixed together, even more yum factor. So, as I generally do, I tweaked her recipe a bit, (But I will give you the original and you can do as you choose!) by using cranberries instead of raisins, and using all of the brandy used to soak the cranberries instead of just a tbsp!  I love the taste of a slightly boozy dessert, but if you prefer yours with a little less ripple, keep to the original recipe!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

1/2 cup raisins (or any dried fruit you like)

Grated zest of 1 orange (I used lemon and it was equally scrumptious)

1 cup brandy or sherry (but go to town, I think rum would even be amazing in this)

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup half and half

6 large egg yolks, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

4 cups diced (1 inch) soft crustless challah, brioche, or white bread (I used crustful baguette)

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Vanilla Ice Cream for serving

Put raisins and orange zest in a small bowl, add the brandy, and let the raisins and zest soak, covered, in the refrigerator for 24 hours or up to 1 week.

Put the cream and half and half in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat.  Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl.  Whisk one-third of the warm cream into the egg mixture, a little at a time, to prevent scrambling the eggs, then whisk in the rest of the cream mixture.

Add the bread to the bowl and stir to soak it with the custard.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, or up to 48 hours.

Put a rack in the center of the oven to 325F (170C).  Butter six 4 to 6 ounce ramekins or baking dishes.  Drain the raisins, reserving the brandy.  Add the raisins and a tablespoon of the brandy to the bread mixture and mix well.  Spoon into the prepared ramekins or baking dish.  Sprinkle chocolate over the top of the bread puddings.  Put the ramekins in a roasting pan and fill the pan with enough warm water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Bake, uncovered, until the pudding is just set, about 25 minutes; when you shake the pan, the custard should wobble for just a moment.

Remove the pan from the oven and carefully place the ramekins on small serving dishes.  Serve the bread pudding hot, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream right on top.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Stracotto Al Barolo – Braised Beef in Red Wine

Stracotto al Barolo

I know, I know.  I suck.  Not having posted a thing since October is terrible.  But, sometimes life gets in the way, holidays, etc. etc.  But, I am back!  This year, I wanted to do something that I had read about a year ago, it was a group of people who chose a cook book and did a recipe or two from it.  I really can’t remember the fundamentals, but at home I decided it would be a great way to expand my knowledge, and to actually crack open my cook books and magazines.  It also think it will be quite fun because it’s a great way to involve the whole family.  My way of doing it is this: Every month, one of us chooses a cookbook.  I chose this months, “Italy – The Beautiful Cookbook”.  Then, we choose 9 recipes, 3 recipes each, to make in one month.  Obviously, I am going to try to stay true to the ingredients, but will omit or swap some ingredients that I simply can’t find here.

So, today is one of my recipe choices, only because its Sunday and it is a time-consuming recipe, the beef has to marinate overnight.  I chose this recipe because the picture in the book looked divine and the ingredients were promising.  This recipe hails from Piedmont, a northern region in Italy bordering France, so I am not surprised that it is basically like a Beef Bourguignon, but with Barolo wine and different herbs and spices.  That suits me just fine, I basically kind of wanted something heart and belly warming since I am sure we all can agree that this is one helluva cold winter!  This dish is simply delicious.  As the beef is cooking, your house will smell incredible, really mouthwatering.  I could hardly wait until the beef was done!  Rich and complex, it is a perfect sunday lunch meal.  I am absolutely positive it will become a favorite of yours too….my family devoured it!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 6

2lb (1kg) braising beef (I used eye of round)

2 carrots, cut into several pieces each

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

2 celery stalks, cut into several pieces

1/2 cup parsley

2 bay leaves

1 tsp juniper berries (which I didn’t find)

1/2 cup diced lard

1/2 bottle aged Barolo wine (or any other full bodied red you have on hand, I used Rioja)

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

Combine the meat, all the vegetables, the herbs, and the wine in a large bowl.  Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.

Remove the meat and dry well; reserve marinade.  Make little cuts on the surface of the meat and fill them with lard.  Brown the meat thoroughly in the butter and oil in a flame proof casserole.  Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).  Lift out the marinade vegetables with a slotted spoon and add to the meat.  Add 1 cup of the wine and salt to taste.  ( I added all the wine from the marinade).  Cover and braise in the oven for about 3 hours, adding more wine as needed to keep meat from drying out.  Halfway through the cooking time, take out the meat, slice thinly, and put back into the wine, with any juice on the cutting board.

Remove meat when done and place on a platter.  Put the vegetables and wine through a food mill or grind to a textured purée in a food processor.  Reheat this and pour over the meat.  Serve at once,  with potatoes, but I chose polenta.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Murgh Makhanwala (Butter Chicken)

Butter Chicken

 

I have no idea if this is the authentic recipe, but let me tell you, it tasted damn well delicious! For me Indian food is akin to comfort food.  Blame my college room-mate, who I love dearly and her family hails from Gujarat;  she was the person who used to cook for me when I couldn’t even boil water.

I don’t think there is anything more satisfying than a deliciously spiced meal, with loads of extra tasty sauce to sop up with home-made bread, in this case, Naan.  I stole this recipe from the Saveur website.  It popped up in my inbox, and I couldn’t get it out of my head since the moment I looked at it.  Normally my main problem in making Indian food is finding all the right ingredients.  This one is fairly easy, the only ingredient missing was the fresh or frozen curry leaves, which I still haven’t managed to find here.  Hopefully, one day I will, but to tell you the truth, I don’t think it would have changed much in this dish.  This chicken is really “finger lickin’ good”…..I mean, with all that yummy sauce, it begs for you to let your table manners go for the night!  As always, the true testament of a dish being good or great….my daughter eating it all, and then taking some for lunch the next day!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

For the chicken:

1/2 cup greek yogurt

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp oil

2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp crushed red chile flakes

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 3″ piece of ginger, peeled and sliced cross-wise

Salt, to taste

1 3-4 lb. chicken, cut into 8 pieces and skin removed

For the sauce:

1 tsp crushed red chile flakes

4 cloves of garlic, minced

4 whole cardamom pods, cracked

3 whole cloves, crushed

1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained

1 3″ piece of ginger, washed and grated

1 bay leaf

1/3 cup heavy cream

4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes

4 fresh or frozen curry leaves

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

 

Marinate the chicken:  Combine all ingredients except for chicken in a food processor; purée.  Transfer marinade to a large bowl and add chicken, tossing to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.  (I did overnight, I think it made a difference.)

Heat oven to 500F (250C).  Transfer chicken to aluminum foil lined baking sheet, and spoon any marinade left over on top of the chicken.  Bake chicken until light brown but not cooked through, about 20 minutes.  Transfer to a rack, set aside.

Make the sauce:  In a large pot over med-high heat, combine chile flakes, garlic, cardamom, cloves, tomatoes, ginger, bay leaf, and 2/3 cup water.  Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to med-low, and cook, stirring often and crushing tomatoes with a spoon, for 25 minutes.  Discard bay leaf and transfer sauce to a food processor, purée.  Return sauce to pot and continue cooking over medium-low heat until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes.  Add reserved chicken pieces and any marinade left over from the pan, along with a 1/3 cup water.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens and chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Stir in cream, butter, garam masala and curry leaves.  Reduce heat to low and cook until flavors meld, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a serving platter, garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve with warm Naan bread.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla 

El Cisne Azul : Mushroom lover’s heaven in Madrid’s Chueca neighborhood

cisne azul

Once in a blue moon, you come along a little slice of heaven.  This is just what happened to me and two good friends yesterday.  After a weekend full of food debauchery, sampling some of Madrid’s best tapas bars, we never thought it could end on a better note than it did.  That is El Cisne Azul, easily discarded as a shabby bar in this vibrant neighborhood full of modern and beautiful bistros.  You will be very sorry if you do, though.  A true diamond in the rough, this little bar probably hasn’t changed its appearance in many, many years.  You know what though, I am kind of glad.  I much rather they keep spending their hard-earned money on quality ingredients rather than jazzing up the place.  And this shows.  Their specialty is wild mushrooms, proudly written on the front door, “Fresh Wild Mushrooms all year round”.  You walk in, and it’s a small place, with only about 4 tables and 2 high tops, with a very large bar for standing room only.  On one end of the room is a large refrigerator/display cabinet that holds the prized bounty, only the freshest wild mushrooms and vegetables.

We were lucky to grab a table, as 10 minutes passed the place was jam-packed with people waiting to eat their delicacies.  One man was at the grill, proudly and rapidly serving up all the goodies.

The menu is quite extensive, you have your house specialties, sautéed mushrooms, Revueltos (scrambled or fried eggs) with mushrooms, Foie gras with mushrooms, and then some Chuleton.  But we came for, yup, the mushrooms.

We started our bacchanal with some beautiful house wine and a plate of sautéed Amanita Caesarea, which is known as Caesar’s Mushrooms, because it apparently was a favorite of the Roman Emperor Claudius.

photo (38)

 

This mushroom has an orange cap and a white stem, with a slight nutty flavor.  It can be eaten raw, like a carpaccio with some oil and parmesan shavings, but we decided on the sautéed version.  Lightly salted, it was a fantastic started, since it really has a very delicate taste.  Mind you, the servers know what they are doing, because they chose the order!

Next up was Zucchini Flowers sautéed with Truffle Oil.

photo (39)

 

This was very nice, but call me crazy.  I prefer the Italian version, where they are stuffed with cheese and fried.  Nonetheless, they were very, very good.

Our next dish was a Fried egg with Black Trumpet or Black Chanterelle mushroom.

 

photo (40) photo (41)

 

 

I am sure you know my love for eggs, so there is nothing more delicious than a plate of eggs with wild mushrooms.  Black Trumpets have a deeper, earthier taste.  They can also be made in stews with beef or venison, since it really handles red meats very well.  But, a risotto or pasta with them is equally delicious.

The star of the day, was the Porcini mushrooms with Torta del Casar Cheese.

photo (42)

 

Torta del Casar is a sheep’s milk cheese from Extremadura region in Spain.  It is a nutty, slightly strong cheese, which is traditionally eaten from its rind, since it is quite creamy.  We knew this had to be good, but it was a religious experience, really.  The two combine so perfectly, and quite frankly, really balance each other out.  I could eat this every day, but then I would also have to run a half marathon every day to compensate.  I really don’t have words to describe how good this is, so I will just leave you to look at the picture and imagine it.

So, after this the server asked us if we wanted anything else, and we thought that we should leave a good thing be.  But, he told us that to finish off our meal, we should try the “Majorero” cheese from the Canary Islands, that is grilled and served with onion marmalade.  YES PLEASE!

photo (43) photo (45)

 

This cheese is similar to Manchego, sheep’s milk, and can be cured, semi-cured and soft.  I imagine this was the last variety, because of it’s ability to melt.  This reminded me so much of our queso tierno in Colombia, which we also grill to get that beautiful crispy crust and gooey center.  But props go to the boys at Cisne Azul, who paired it beautifully with the onion marmalade.  We were crazy about this.

So, then the server asks us if we wanted dessert.  We thought we had already had dessert, thinking the grilled cheese with jam was our last plate.  So, we said no, we were fine.  Then he told us that they had some house made Macarons, with Porcini cream custard filling.  What the what?  It was so odd sounding, we just had to try it.

photo (44)

 

Upon taking the first bite, we all looked at each other with this perplexed look on our faces.  Our mind couldnt’ really process the incredibly weird combination of sweet porcini’s.  But as we kept chewing, our faces started contorting in these orgasmic expressions.  Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?  It is a spectacular flavor combination!  I can’t get enough of these, and I will order them every time I go!

So folks, if you are in Madrid, you cannot afford to miss this place.  Good service, authentically kitsch decor, exceptional quality food.  Who could ask for anything more?

El Cisne Azul

Calle de Gravina 19,

28004, Madrid

Metro:  Chueca Line

+34 915 21 37 99

Lentil and Chorizo Stew

Lentil and Chorizo Stew

Yesterday my baby girl was home sick with a tummy bug, which incidentally I caught, so I decided to make her a clear broth.  I had some chicken and ham bones in the fridge, plus loads of veggies, and I always have some herbs and spices on hand, so it was easy-going.  Today she is feeling much better, and I put that delicious stock to good use.  Lentils-  I love lentils, having grown up eating it almost every week.  In Colombia our grains are usually accompanied with white rice, but here in Spain, lentils are eaten as a dish on its own.  That is what I was going for today, swapping my usual “latino” herbs and spices for some more “mediterranean” ones.  Oh, and let’s not forget the chorizo……no lentil dish worth its name would be without it here, since pork is king!

Lentil and Chorizo Stew

I love the chorizo in the lentils, it gives it a warmth and depth that really isn’t achieved with in our Colombian counterpart; at least in my home our lentils were more of the vegetarian variety.   Also, I added some smoked sweet “pimenton” to give it that extra smoky kick!  Adding the chorizo and pimenton makes this more of a one plate meal, no accompaniment needed, and as the weather cools down, it definitely warms your belly too!

So here’s what you’re going to need”

4 cups dark stock (recipe below)

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1/2 green pepper, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 carrot, chopped

1/4 cup chorizo, cubed

1 tsp smoked sweet pimenton or paprika

1 cup Pardina lentils, or Lentilles du Puy (french lentils)

2 bay leaves

1 sprig of thyme

Salt and Pepper, to taste

In a medium sauté pan, add the olive oil and warm it up over medium low heat.  Add the onion and green pepper, and sauté until softened, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and tomato paste, and cook for another 5 minutes.  Add the carrot, chorizo and pimenton, stirring and cook for another 2 minutes.

In the meantime, in a dutch oven or medium stockpot, bring your stock to a boil.  When boiling, add the vegetables, lentils, bay leaves and thyme.  Season with salt and pepper, and cook over high heat for 10 minutes.  Lower the heat to medium low, and simmer for another 35 minutes or until the lentils are fully cooked and it has slightly thickened.  Serve with fresh crusty bread and enjoy!

For the Stock:

This is a go to stock recipe that can be used as a broth, or base for other food preparations.  This makes about 6 cups, and feel free to swap some of the vegetables and herbs for what you have on hand.  The most important part is the cooking time so it really develops some flavor.

Makes about 6 cups of stock

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

1 leek, sliced

3 shallots, diced

2 carrots, diced

2 celery sticks plus some leaves, sliced

1 large tomato, diced

1 cup cabbage, diced

1 tbsp tomato paste

Chicken bones and neck

3 ham bones

8 cups water

2 sprigs of sage, roughly chopped

2 sprigs of thyme

3 bay leaves

1 tsp black peppercorns

Salt, to taste

In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat.  Add the leek, shallots, carrot, celery, tomato and cabbage, cook for about 15 minutes, until softened.  Raise heat to high, add the tomato paste and your bones, stirring constantly to incorporate the paste.  Add the water and the rest of the ingredients.  Boil for about 10 minutes, and then lower heat to medium high, and cook for another 40 minutes.  Turn off heat, and cover to let the flavors meld for another 20 minutes.

Strain through a chinois, and return to the dutch oven.  If you want a very clear broth, like consome, then when the stock is simmering, add 2 scrambled egg whites to the stock, and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.  Remove the egg whites, this picks up all the impurities and leaves you with a crystalline broth.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla