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  The decoration is slightly kitsch bordering on outdated, more like your grandmother’s kitchen, rather than culinary hotspot.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 -

Iphone 2012 599

 

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”.

Iphone 2012 601

 

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!

Iphone 2012 600

 

Iphone 2012 602

 

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

 

 

Restaurant La Estrella – A fantastic surprise in Barcelona’s Borne Neighborhood

Restaurante La Estrella

I have lived in Barcelona for 10 years.  Currently, I live in the Borne neighborhood, in the heart of the city’s old town, where tourists out number the locals.  Restaurants in this area generally cater to the former, so as a local it is almost impossible to find some place that isn’t completely overrun by snappy waiters bringing you over priced and totally under-whelming food.

Not so in this case.  Tucked in a side street next to La Estacion de Francia, you would pass by this place and not even give it a second thought.  I myself have passed by about a thousand times, and only because a very good friend of mine, whom I trust completely when it comes to food and restaurants, told me that this was a pretty spectacular place.   Last night, Paolo and I decided to try it, because it was close to home and we really didn’t feel like cooking.  From the look of it on the outside, I honestly expected very normal food, more like these places you go to that have some salads, some croquetas, some beef, some fish but nothing out of this world.  One look at the menu, and boy, how wrong I was.

The first thing I realized, that if you like cod, this is the place to go.  Barcelona is a city that adores its cod.  You can find it in so many different ways, from fritters to salads, to croquetas and then more than 20 main dishes.  Stuffed with foie, “a la llauna” which loosely translates in the can, but that just means it’s braised in sauce in an earthenware dish, al pil pil….the list goes on.  La Estrella had about 6 different dishes paying homage to this humble yet delicious fish.

The Maitre, Jordi, came to our table, and started to explain all the dishes that were off the menu that night.  First of all, let me tell you it is a true joy to go to a restaurant that has no Michelin stars and find such impeccable and truly passionate service.  You can tell that this is what he loves to do, and it comes through.  After he explained the aforementioned, we chose 3 dishes off menu.  How could we not?  We were completely enthralled and practically salivating at the descriptions.  And I kid you not, they surpassed our expectations.

After we placed our order, I chose one of my favorite white wines.  Vallegarcia Viognier, from Castilla- La Mancha.  He replied that it was an excellent selection, and promptly brought out a very large decanter on ice.  I was incredibly thrilled, because not many restaurants decant white wine for you, and I thought it was a wonderful touch.

Vallegarcia ViognierJordi explained that he loves decanting this wine, because it changes as it breathes.  I wholeheartedly agree.

We were brought out an amuse bouche of Codfish Brandade, very popular here in Catalonia and also in Southern France, it’s a smooth mousse of cod baked in cream and spices.  Rich, decadent and delicious.

Codfish Brandade

 

It’s more common incarnations is actually stuffed in piquillo peppers, but I love the stuff, and was very happy that it was schmeared on some buttery toast.  Perfect small bite that was a harbinger of the rest of our amazing meal.

Our first appetizer was razor clams from the delta of the Ebro river with walnuts sautéed in olive oil.

Razor Clams

 

Our maitre explained that these razor clams from the delta, are much smaller than the ocean variety that you find here.  Also, being much sweeter and fatter on the inside, the one very big difference is that they contain no sand.  We were pleasantly surprised to find he was right, not a trace to be found.  The walnuts were a perfect match, giving it umami, and not even salt was necessary since the razor clams were super sweet and tender.  I personally devoured about 8 of them in the matter of minutes.

Next up is one of the house classic specialties, Gratineed Asparagus with Cabrales cheese and sautéed walnuts.

Gratineed Asparagus with Cabrales Cheese and Walnuts

 

Cabrales cheese is a very strong blue cheese from Asturia.  On its own it can be overwhelming in taste.  Combined with the nuttiness of the asparagus and the walnuts that tempered it, it became softer and more nuanced.  Something that needs to be mentioned, is that the asparagus were cooked to perfection.  Perfectly crispy.  There is nothing more horrible than limp watery asparagus.  This dish is meant to be eaten with some bread, because you will be mopping up the cheese after you’ve eaten all the asparagus.

Now on to our main dishes.

I went for another reiteration of “Surf and Turf”, this time with something that I just started eating this year.  Pigs trotters.

Pigs Trotters with Porcini mushroom and shrimp sauce

 

What a fabulous combination!  Completely de-boned pigs trotters, lightly crusted with bread crumbs, with porcini mushrooms and a shrimp sauce.  This is Catalan food at its best.  Taking one of the most unassuming and honestly peasant like foods and pairing it with royalty, the porcini and a smooth veloute of shrimp.  The layers of flavors is amazing, the brininess of the shrimp veloute, then you get a punch of the smokiness of the trotters, lastly being rounded out with the earthy umami of the porcini’s.  I was glad that we chose off menu.

The star of the night, in my and Paolo’s opinion was the tuna.

Yellowfin Tuna with smoked salt and tomato confit

 

The über fresh (brought it at 9pm that night) Yellowfin Tuna, with a touch of smoked sea salt and tomato confit.  One bite and fireworks went off in our mouths.  The tuna, being so fresh, was treated like any fresh fish should, let it sing on its own.  The smoked salt elevated the tuna, and the tomato confit was the perfect partner in this amazing duo.  I secretly wished I had ordered this, not because mine wasn’t amazing, but I just know that tuna this fresh and perfect is hard to come by.

Now, on to our desserts.  By this time, I realized that the chef, a.k.a, the Maitre’s wife, had attended the same culinary school that I did.  That basically means, the desserts are going to be spectacular.

Tiramisu with chestnut ice cream

 

Tiramisu with home-made Chestnut Ice Cream.  It was delicious.  One of the best tiramisu’s I have tried here in Barcelona.  The Mascarpone was creamy and light, the biscuits soaked in espresso were dense and moist without falling apart.  The addition of chestnut ice cream was an excellent choice.

Paolo chose the homemade Salted Caramel ice cream.

Salted Caramel ice cream

 

Whoa Nelly!!!  I love caramel.  I love salted caramel.  I kept on going back between the two and uttering “Oh my God, it’s so good.”  Honestly, they were both amazing.   I can’t wait to go back because they have all these other desserts that I want to try, like a six layer homage to chocolate in different textures, a cactus and lemon sorbet, goat cheese ice cream….and a few more that I can’t remember but I know that when he mentioned them, I wanted to eat them all.

This is an absolute “must go” restaurant in Barcelona.  Service, food and wine all impeccable.  Go with an empty stomach, you won’t want to leave a thing on your plate!

Restaurant La Estrella

www.rst-laestrella.com

Calle Ocata, 6

08003 Barcelona

+34 93 310 2768

 

Arroz Caldoso a “Seis Manos” – “Six Hand” Seafood Stew and Rice

Arroz Caldoso de Pescado

 

This is one of those feel good Sunday dishes.  All over Spain, you can find variations of this.  Truly one of the most comforting and homey dishes, it is also a main feature in many menus here, from small family run restaurants to Michelin starred dining rooms.

Rice is taken very seriously in Spain, with a plethora of incarnations, from Paella to Rice Pudding, Salads to Stews, it is almost national pride.  I have called this “Six Hand” because it was a collaboration between three people, our amazing hostess, Dolors, long time friend and extraordinary woman, my friend Fer, who hails from Zaragoza and is a killer in the kitchen, and myself.  Each one of us had a part in making this dish, and it was such a great experience, because that is what Sundays are all about.  Family, Friends, Food and Fun.  Oh, and spending an afternoon in our hostesses breathtaking Ramblas loft was a plus, too.

The key to arroz caldoso is in the stock.  This is an inexpensive way to make a dish for a large family, and because you are showcasing the stock, it has to be quite amazing.  It is the canvas to the rest of the ingredients, and you can let your imagination go wild.  We decided on monkfish, squid, shrimp and mussels.  Then, the finishing touch, is obviously the rice.  And bomba rice is the one that you need to splurge on, since I was informed that if you use regular short grain rice, there is a chemical reaction that occurs when paired with shellfish stock.  Apparently, the grain splits, and lets out too much of its starch, making this more of a cream than a stew.

It was an amazing lunch, and all of us, even the kids (all 10 and under) repeated three times.  Now that speaks for itself!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 6-7

3 liters good quality shellfish stock, preferably homemade (recipe below)

3 tbsp olive oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

6 roma tomatoes, finely diced

1 nyora pepper, soaked and peeled

2 tsp spicy Pimenton powder (or hot smoked paprika)

400 g monkfish, cubed

1 large squid, cut in bite sized pieces

a few pinches of good quality saffron threads

400 g Bomba rice

400 g shrimp, peeled and deveined

200 g mussels, steamed and shelled

Fresh parsley, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

 

In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and sauté until sauce has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Add the nyora pepper, stir until mixed, and sauté another 5 minutes.  Salt and pepper the squid and monkfish, and add to the tomatoes along with the pimenton and saffron.  Cook for about 15 minutes or until tender.

Add your shellfish stock to the fish and squid, add the rice and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and let simmer, about 10 minutes.  In the last few minutes of cooking, add the shrimp, mussels, parsley and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately.

For the stock:

5 liters of water

shrimp shells and heads from the shrimp you will be using in your stew

monkfish heads and bones (ask your fish monger to give these to you when you buy the monkfish)

fennel, stalks and fronds

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 tomatoes chopped

1 bay leaf

some saffron, nyora peppers, pimenton and salt and pepper to taste

Add all the ingredients and boil for about 40 minutes.  Spoon the foam off the top as it cooks.  When done, leave on the stove and cover, and let it sit, so the flavors will meld, about 20 minutes.  Strain and reserve.

 

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

 

Kiosko Universal: Fresh fish in Barcelona’s Boqueria Market

For about seven years now, I have treated myself to a few lunches at Kiosko Universal.  Back then, it was full of people who worked at the market who knew that the time that you spent waiting was well worth it.  But, as Barcelona’s tourist boom hasn’t stopped, it is now filled with hungry tourists who visit the market and have been tipped off by someone that knows this is THE place to get a quick bite of some extra fresh grilled fish.

There’s nothing fancy, no molecular cuisine, no Michelin stars, just plain old great grilled seafood.  The restaurant is on the left side of the market, at the entrance.  A very large bar and some 7 tall tables make up the seating area.  You have to give your name at the bar, and the number in your party.  Then some 15 minutes later, your name will be called and you will be seated.

Around the bar is the best place to sit, because you can see all the fresh fish that you can just point to and they will grill it for you, with just a touch of parsley and garlic oil.  Always cooked to perfection, it comes with some very homey french fries, like the ones your mother used to make, kind of soggy, but always good.  The menu is large, but simple.  Starters are mainly mixed grilled veggies, mixed grilled wild mushrooms, some Pimientos del Padron, or a salad.  Then you have your 10 different types of fish, from Swordfish, Yellowfin Tuna, Sole, Sea Bream, Hake…..the list goes on.  There is beef also for those of you who don’t like fish.  Then, there’s also the selection of grilled squid, razor clams, mussels, clams, cockles, shrimp, scampi…..it doesn’t get better than this!

Yesterday I met up with a couple of my girlfriends, and we ordered our mixed wild mushrooms, since they are in season now.

With the parsley garlic oil and a touch of Maldon Sea Salt…..they were absolutely delicious!

Then, I decided to try something different from my usual, yesterday they had a special, it was a Cuttlefish and Pea stew, in a gorgeous tomato sauce.

I loved it.  You definitely tasted the mild brininess of the cuttlefish, but the sauce was meant for sopping up with some fresh, crusty bread.  I would never have thought to make a dish like this, so it was a real treat for me.  And since the weather is cooling down a bit, every bite kept me nice and warm.

The girls shared a mixed seafood platter.  This is the house specialty.

Beautiful Scampi, with some hefty shrimp, over a couple of razor clams, and mussels, clams and cockles.  This is practically on everyone’s placemat when you go there.

The great part is that you don’t pay a hefty price either.  You can eat there for 25 euros, including wine, and your tummy will thank you profusely.  I always recommend it to out-of-town guests, because it’s great to eat in the hustle and bustle of the market, and you know the fish is fresh…..brought to you from only a couple of stalls away!

So, next time you’re in Barcelona, and you make the pilgrimage to Boqueria, you must have a bite to eat at Kiosko Universal.  You won’t regret it!

Carla

Kiosko Universal

Boqueria Market

93 317 82 86

 

 

 

Coca de Trempo with Sobrasada, Mahon Cheese and a drizzle of Honey

A few weeks ago I did a post about Coca, which is a Catalan flat bread.  It was so good, that I decided to do another type of Coca, typical from the Island of Mallorca.  This Coca is one of my favorites.  It is very akin to an American Sausage and Peppers Pizza.

All the flavours are there, and more!  Trempo is a salad from Mallorca, that consists of peppers, onions and tomatoes.  And when you have left over, you put it on the coca and bake it.  My dish was by no means original, but it was my variation.  I have to say, though, that the night I made it, one of my guests and friends is from Mallorca, and he gave me the seal of approval.
Chock full of taste, I added three types of peppers, tomatoes, spring onions, black olives and some fennel fronds.  Then, topped it off with Sobrasada, a cured type of sausage from Mallorca as well, is like a very soft chorizo full of paprika, which gives it its distinctive red color.  It is so tasty, spread on bread, with some honey, or topped with cheese.  So I combined all these flavours to make this Coca.  And I had all my Spanish friends moaning in delight, and couple of calls for the recipe!  If you can’t get sobrasada sausage, you can substitute it with some crumbled cured paprika chorizo.
So here’s what you’re going to need:

Coca Dough Recipe

1 green pepper, finely diced

1 red pepper, finely diced

1 yellow pepper, finely diced

4 spring onions, white parts only, sliced thinly

Olive oil, for cooking

4 medium Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely diced

1 cup black or green olives, pitted and sliced in half

Fennel fronds from 4 fennel bulbs

Salt and Pepper to taste

200 g Sobrasada Sausage , crumbled

200 g Mahon Cheese, grated (or any type semi firm cheese, like light Cheddar, Jack or Gouda)

Honey, to drizzle over

Make and bake the coca, let cool.  In a large sauté pan, with just a drizzle of olive oil, over high heat, sauté your peppers for just 2 minutes.  Set aside in a bowl.  Add another drizzle of olive oil, and quickly sauté the spring onions for another minute or so.  You want the vegetables barely cooked.  Mix with the peppers.   Mix in the tomatoes, fennel fronds and black olives to your peppers, onion, salt and pepper.  Spread on top of the baked coca dough.

Top with the Sobrasada Sausage, grated Mahon Cheese, and drizzle with honey.  Broil in a 250 C oven for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese melts.  Serve immediately.

Now for the next month, we will be travelling to Pamplona, Bilbao for a Russian/Basque Wedding and San Sebastián.  Then we are off to Naples, Italy for four days, to gorge ourselves with pizza and seafood, then heading home to Miami for 2 weeks to see the family!  I am so excited to post about all the places we eat while travelling and then all the goodies from the USA!  So, if I don’t reply or get in touch with you all in the next couple of weeks as quickly as I do, it’s only because of that.  Happy August Everybody!  Back in Barcelona on the 3rd of September!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

Mosquito: Cheap and Cheerful in Barcelona’s Sant Pere District

I’ve been going to mosquito for years now.  It is a place I discovered through friends, and what a discovery.  It is possibly, hands down, the best dim sum and authentic Asian food I have tasted here in Barcelona.  It has been, at sometimes, a weekly tradition with a friend of mine, and every time I go, it always delivers the flavours that I am looking for.
It is a small, unassuming space, if you were walking down the road, you would probably pass by it without a thought.  Once inside, you know immediately that the food will be Asian.  Is it the little paintings on the wall?

Or maybe it’s the Chinese newspaper plastered along the wall of the bar?  Or just the smells emanating from the kitchen?  Anyway you realize, it always satisfies, and your wallet will be happy as well.  Never have I paid more than 35 euros, for two people, and that is a lot of food, wine and water included!

Today was like any other day, we ordered the same things as usual.  The only difference was I didn’t order the Peking Duck or the Sichuan Beef, because my friend is vegetarian.  But I did sneak in a tid bit just for myself!

Yup, the Pork Bun.  I have no idea if it is as authentic here as in China, but let me tell you, it’s delicious!  It’s soft and fluffy, yet dry and moist at the same time.  I love it.  It is a  new discovery, as of 2 years ago.  But, I am happy to have included it in my repertoire!  I love it.  But that is the only “meat” thing we had.  (Ok, I had.)  Can you tell that I love it?

Next up was our Shrimp Shiujiao.  Now, I have to order two of these, because I love eating all six of them on my own.  They are so good, it doesn’t matter how many times I come here and order them, I always, always end up moaning in delight.

They are always made as you order, never frozen, and don’t come from a package.  (As most dim sum here in Barcelona do.)

Of course we had to have our veggies.  We decided on steamed Bok Choy with Shiitake mushrooms, and an order of my absolute favorite….Kimchee.

 I can’t get enough of Kimchee.  I know it isn’t Chinese, it’s Korean.  But, one of my favorite things in the world.  I could eat it non-stop.  Really, I could.

Then, our last order was for Thai style Fish Cakes.  My friend Michelle loves these.  She could eat the whole basket, and then some.  And the dipping sauce….a sweet vinegar concoction with fresh sliced chilies…..heaven.

4 glasses of wine, and 2 large bottles of fizzy water….it all came down to an affordable 32 euros.  In Barcelona it is extremely difficult to find such amazing and affordable food!

So, if you’re in Barcelona, and you tire of tapas, try mosquito, you won’t be disappointed!

mosquito

Calle Carders 46

+34 93 268 7569

http://www.mosquitotapas.com

 

Linguine with Clams, Mussels and Cherry Tomatoes

On Saturday night, we had a few friends over for dinner.  One of our friends was here on vacation with her son, and she had mentioned to me that he was really keen on trying seafood from Spain.  So, it was our duty to make this pasta with mussels and clams.  Then our other friend arrived, who is quite a foodie and great cook himself, so we all gathered in the kitchen, and I followed his detailed instructions, because he said he had spent a good deal of time perfecting this dish.  This is the perfect summer pasta dish, easy, delicious and just a little bit spicy!

So, here are his instructions on how to make an amazing Linguine with Cherry tomatoes, clams and mussels!

For 4 people you will need:

1 kg linguine or spaghetti

1kg mussels

1/2 kg clams

4 tbsp olive oil

1/2 kg cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1/4 cup white wine

2 garlic cloves, chopped

3 dried chilli peppers

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 tbsp of parsley, chopped

Under cold running water, scrub and de-beard the mussels.  In a large stock pot add one tbsp olive oil and the mussels and clams.  Cover and cook over high heat until they open and release their water, about 5 minutes.

Strain the liquid that they released into a small bowl and set aside.  Discard any mussels or clams that have not opened.  Now, take about 10 mussels and clams out of their shells, and reserve.  Discard those shells, and keep the rest of them in their shells.

To a large sauté pan, add the rest of the olive oil, garlic, chilli pepper and the sea food without their shells.  Saute over medium heat until the garlic is just fragrant.

Now add the wine, and cook until it evaporates, about 5 minutes more.

When the wine has evaporated, add the tomatoes, your reserved clam and mussel juice and the salt.  Cook over low heat until you have a thickened sauce, about 8-10 minutes.  Take off heat while you boil the pasta.  Strain one or two minutes before the time that is on the package directions.

When the pasta has been strained, toss it into the sauce that you reserved, cooking it in with the sauce the last few minutes until al dente.

Add the chopped parsley, fresh pepper and serve.

From my kitchen (and Fernando’s) to yours,

Carla

 

Coca de Escalivada at Cal Marquet : Catalan flat bread in the Mountains

This weekend was a friend of mine’s 40th birthday.  As per tradition, he celebrates it in his brother’s Macia (farm house) in Manresa, 60km outside of Barcelona. His brother raises and breeds pheasants, but he also has a zoo licence due to all the animals he keeps there.  I love going there, because it is very close to the city, but you feel as if you are in the middle of nowhere.  It’s an hours drive and one treacherous 2km dirt road up the mountain to reach Cal Marquet, but truly worth it, just for the views alone.  The actual building is almost 300 years old.  The family have kept the structure intact, but modernized all the rooms.  There’s an infinity pool, a sauna and a jacuzzi too.  So, coming up here is a real treat!

The view from the front terrace, where we had our dinner.

This year he asked me to cater Friday nights dinner, and I immediately thought we should do it family style because it was 25 of us, and I didn’t feel like being in the kitchen the whole night and missing the party.  I decided to make the Coca de Escalivada, because it is a very Catalan dish, and most of the guests were Catalan.  There are many types of Coca, from savoury to sweet.  Each city or region has its own version.  I decided on this one because it is easy to make, since I was also doing Beef empanadas, cheese borek (turkish style patties), spring rolls, jerk chicken wings and blue cheese and caramelized onion sliders.

Coca is actually very easy to make, with very little proofing.  The most laborious part really, is grilling the vegetables and peeling them.  But honestly, I will definitely make this recipe again, maybe using different toppings, but it was delicious and so easy.

So here’s what you’re going to need:

300g bread flour

1 packet instant yeast

2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

50g shortening (not vegetable, lard, basically)

3 tbsp olive oil

120ml warm water

1 large red bell pepper

1 small eggplant

1 onion (I didn’t use it due to the birthday boy’s aversion to them)

1 can oil packed tuna, drained

6 large anchovy fillets

1 clove garlic

1 small sprig of thyme

1 tbsp parsley, chopped

pinch of salt

3 table spoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp pimenton (smoky paprika)

In the bowl of a stand up mixer, combine the flour, yeast, salt and sugar.  Add the shortening, olive oil and water and mix with the paddle attachment on low-speed, until the dough just comes together.  Now, switch to the dough hook, and mix on medium speed for 10 minutes.  (If you don’t have a mixer, then place the dough on a floured work surface and knead for 15 minutes.)  The dough should be smooth and pliable but spring back when it touched.  Place in a large, well oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel.  Put it in a warm oven (50 C) and let rest for at least an hour, or until doubled in size.

In the meantime, grill your vegetables.  I put my eggplant directly over the burner, because it gives it an amazing smoky flavour.

Do this until the veggies are completely charred on the outside.  Then place them in a plastic bag and let them sweat for about 10 minutes.  When they are cool to the touch, peel them, and slice into 1 inch long slices.  Set aside.

In a mortar, place the garlic clove, thyme, parsley and the pinch of salt, and mash to form a paste.  Add the olive oil and paprika and mix well.  Set aside.

When the hour is up, take the dough out of the oven, and raise the heat to 220 C.  On a well floured work surface, roll out the dough to a rectangle, the same size as your baking pan.  Lightly oil the baking pan, and place the dough on top, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and let rest another 30 minutes.

Unwrap the dough, and place the red pepper and eggplant slices on top, in an alternating pattern.

This actually resembles the Catalan flag.  Now, brush the top with the garlic paprika oil.  Wait a few seconds and give it a second coat, using up almost all the oil, making sure the garlic and herbs are evenly distributed.  Leave just a bit to brush after it’s out of the oven.

Place in the 220 C oven, and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven, and place the tuna and anchovies on top in alternating rows, and then brush with the remaining oil.  Serve hot, warm or cold.  It’s super versatile!

And now, here are some pics of the farm animals!

Catalan Donkey…..forgot his name but he’s soooo cute.

The cockatoo that says “Roberto”

Peacock strutting his stuff for his harem of hens

And he had all his ducks and geese, lined up in a row…..sort of.

Carmela de Espana, the Tibetan Goat.

Miss Piggy. Yes, that is her actual name.

Pegasus, the (non) flying horse.

View of Montserrat on the drive back home.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Gaig Restaurant: One Michelin Star restaurant with roots in traditional Catalan Cuisine

Last night, my boyfriend and I were lucky enough to eat at this amazing restaurant.  I’ve lived here for ten years, and this is the first time I’ve been, and I am so incredible pleased.  I know the now defunct El Bulli changed food forever with the inception of molecular gastronomy, but that has never been nor will ever be my cup of tea.  Yes, I recognize the importance, and have had a lot of fun trying some of the things that they have come up with, but if I never had to eat another foam or spherification of something, I would be a happy girl.  I like FOOD.  I like composite plates of perfectly cooked food, be it simple or complex.  But to give me a spherical olive, that isn’t an olive but tastes like an olive, well, the first time you’re impressed and surprised, the second time, it’s like, just give me the (expletive) olive for God’s sake.

Gaig is not one of those types of Restaurants, and I am so, so happy.  A week ago it was my boyfriend’s “Santo”, which is Saint’s Day.  Here the celebration of your Saint is almost as important as your birthday.  In Catholic tradition, you are generally, if not exclusively, named after a saint, and there is a Saints Calendar which tells you what day your name-saint is celebrated.  Anyhow, I digress.  So, as a present to my man who has almost everything, I took him to Gaig.  We both enjoy food, be it casual burgers and ribs, to places like these.

Gaig can be found in the second floor of Hotel Cram, in the center of what we like to call midtown Barcelona.  It is a small, warm and inviting space, the decor in red, white and black.  It is very calm and elegant.  It’s very much understated, and I believe that it to let the food be the star.  Which it is.

I always like taking a picture of the place setting and the menu before the meal.  It gives me an inkling into the personality of the restaurant.  This was beautiful and simple.  The menu was beautiful as well.

A head of garlic, star anise, the third one looks like an apricot stone, and a vanilla pod.

The house hors d’oeuvre were, from left to right, Ham crisp, Cod fritters, Croquettes, and Wonton chip with parmesan cream and sage.

We started with the wonton, because of the delicate flavor.  The sage was powerful for its tiny size, complementing perfectly with the creamy parmesan.  The cod fritter was creamy and subtle, the ham crisp was just that, a tiny morsel packed with that wonderful Iberian ham, and the croquettes, well that was the best I have ever tasted.  These are simple, Catalan flavors.  Done well, they are truly incredible.  And these were just that.

  Our first starter, on the left, creamy scrambled egg with yellow chanterelle mushrooms.  Ok, I have mentioned in the past my love affair with eggs.  For me, an egg is a thing of beauty.  This was a PERFECT scramble, super creamy, the only addition to it was the delicate chanterelle.  Such a humble, yet divine dish.

Next to it was a cold Vichyssoise.  Also perfect in its simplicity.  Food that is well done does not need any smoke and mirrors.  I really applaud chefs that present food like this, because, no they aren’t giving us anything we haven’t tried before, but it shows their confidence that they are giving you the best of an already amazing dish.

Here we have a beautiful and colorful plate.  This was Oyster, mussels, scallops, razor clam with pickled (escabeche) vegetables, with tuna lightly marinated in soy sauce.  I really commend the Chef on this dish.  This dish was über delicate.  The vegetables were almost raw, and there was almost no seasoning.  The accomplishment to this was that the seafood sung.  I have never tasted mussels this good.  The oyster was sublime.  I loved my razor clam, my boyfriend found his too chewy.  In the mix was a little bit of shiso…..and that was just about all the flavor this dish needed.  Shiso is such a delicate and lingering flavor.  It paired well with all the crustaceans without taking away their natural sweetness or briny flavor.  And the tuna.  It was again, perfect.

Meat cannelloni with a Truffle Bechamel.  This, my friends, is what I am talking about.  This is what put Carles Gaig, head chef and owner of Gaig, on the map.  This is heaven on a plate.  I cannot tell you how incredible this was.  If I was at home, I would be running my finger over the sauce to sop up every last teeny bit of it.  It was that good.  Why mess with perfection?  He didn’t.  By far, hands down my favorite dish of the night.

Baby octopus with artichokes in a red wine sauce.  This is a dish that is just fantastic.  The octopus was so tender, the artichoke hearts perfectly cooked.  The red wine was never overpowering but lending it a depth that it could not have had without it.

On the right, is another very traditional Catalan dish called “Suquet de Peix”.  I am not sure how to literally translate, but to sucar is to dunk.  I imagine the reason is because the sauce begs to be dunked or dipped by your fish, potato, bread, spoon….whatever.  This was a perfectly cooked piece of John Dory with potatoes.  The sauce is very rustic, onions, tomatoes and peppers, slowly cooked until their natural sugars come out.  Lightly seasoned with Pimenton, which is spanish smoked paprika.  It was heavenly.  Another one of his triumphs.  Why mess with it, again?

Now we are starting off with the meat courses, the first one is pan seared foie gras, with salsify and a baby red swiss chard leaf. I have never tried salsify, which is a root vegetable.  But it was caramelized, and paired with the foie, along with the swiss chard, it really lightened up the whole dish.  It was equally umami, tart and bitter.  Wonderful.

Our last savoury dish was “Pichon”.  Pichon is a young pigeon that is bred for eating.  Not the street pigeons.  It is a dark, very tasty meat.  But, this was my least favorite dish.  Although the preparation was fantastic, on the left you have the breast that was grilled, and on the right the leg was in confit.  The only thing that made me not enjoy this dish was the sauce.  It was made from the birds own kidneys.  I am not a fan of kidney.  It just reminds me of my mother making me eat kidney as a kid, and as soon as the plate came out, that brown hue just took me back there.  It was delicious, but I didn’t enjoy it, having my thoughts plaguing me with images of me crying as soon as I saw what my mother was putting on the dinner table.  But, to you kidney lovers, this was a very, very good dish.  The kidneys were very delicate, and I am assuming if you love them, you would give this a thumbs up.

Here we have the cheese plate.  This was lackluster, at best.  I love cheese.  But I think that my boyfriend and I have had so many cheese plates, and buy cheese so often, that this just did not measure up to our standards.  By no means was it not good, just not what we have gotten used to.  The plate is amazing.  And the apricot and orange marmalade was fabulous.  But you had to use it sparingly so it would not over power the delicate cheeses, except the Stilton.  And even with that one, it only needed a little bit.  The one to the left was a Petit Nevat.  It’s a creamy goats milk cheese, from Catalonia.  In the middle we had a dry and cured sheep’s milk, which I don’t remember the name.  It wasn’t my thing.  Very reminiscent of a Manchego, which I am not a huge fan of.  And on our right, Stilton.  I love Stilton.  So, obviously this was my favorite one.

When our first dessert was brought out, I was about to cry.  I knew exactly what it was going to be.  A deconstructed Crema Catalana.  I was going to cry not because I don’t like crema catalana, but because I make this on a weekly basis for my cooking classes, and cannot have another bite of it.  But thank God I did.  It was incredible.  On the bottom, Lemon jam.  Middle, caramel ice cream.  Top, catalan crème foam with the caramelized sugar.  Amazing.  Delicious.  I ate the whole thing with reckless abandon.  This is probably the best Crema Catalana I’ve had in my life.

Having said that, the chocolate textures dessert was rather disappointing.  Yes, it was chock full of “African Chocolate”, but it was lackluster and failed to deliver that rich chocolate flavor I so crave and desire when I eat it.  But the dish and presentation was beautiful.  It was a chocolate sponge cake, with chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache, and dark chocolate crisp.

My favorite part of the night, was when the Carles Gaig, the head chef, came to our table, and invited us into the kitchen.  I am definitely starstruck with chefs, as how some people would be with celebrities.  They are my celebrities.

Except for those two teeny things I didn’t enjoy as much, this evening was perfect.  It was a special night for both of us, and it was an incredible meal.  If you can, you must make it to Gaig.

Gaig Restaurant

Aragon 214, 08011 Barcelona

+34 93 429 1017

http://www.restaurantgaig.com

Beef Fajitas

My daughter is a good sport.  She loves and eats the food I put on her plate.  But, I also cave in to her personal requests, and one of her favorites (besides pasta and pizza) is Fajitas.   I usually make them with chicken, but rarely do I make them with beef.  Why, I wonder?  Not sure about that, but making this at home sure beats eating the overdone and super salty ones you can get at any restaurant.  It’s so simple, the only real prep work is marinating them an hour before hand, but with just a teeny bit of preparation, you can make this classic at home too.

I marinated them with a few of my favorite ingredients, lime juice, cilantro and chilies.  But as usual, feel free to add any other ingredients that you love!   We did a veritable smorgasbord of items, home-made salsa, my boyfriend’s kick-ass guacamole, some sour cream, grated cheese for my daughter, and some extra jalapeno’s for me!

Home made tomato salsa

Paolo’s kick ass Guacamole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love easy dinners like this.

Fresh, delicious and we all sit together and build our own fajita.

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4

1.5 lbs (750g) skirt or flank steak

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tbsp of ground cumin

Juice of one lime

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeño or 2 thai red chilies, minced (seeds and all!)

1 small bunch of cilantro, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

1 large onion sliced

1/2 red pepper, sliced

1/2 green pepper, sliced

Flour or corn tortilla wraps, or you can do lettuce wraps too.

In a deep platter, add your beef, olive oil, cumin, lime juice, garlic, chilies, salt and pepper and cilantro.  Mix and coat the steak well, marinate for at least one hour in the fridge.

In the meantime, prepare the rest of the veggies and set aside.  Have a beer and call a friend while you’re waiting.  (Or anything else you need to get done!)

Pre-heat your oven to 100 degrees C.  Place a large skillet over high heat, and let it heat up.  Remove your steak from the marinade, and wipe off ass much as you can.  When the skillet is really hot, sear your steak, cooking for 3-4 minutes on either side, depending on thickness, cook less time or more.  If really thin, 1-2 minutes should do, if very thick, 5-6.  I like mine pretty rare in the center, so I do a quick searing.   Take your steak off the skillet, and tent in aluminum foil and place in your oven.

Now, in the same skillet, add just a teeny bit of oil, and cook the onion and peppers over high heat, 5-6 minutes.  I like mine pretty charred.  When done, switch off the heat, and take your steak out of the oven.  Slice it thinly, and make sure to pour any of the accumulated juices into the pan with your veggies, and place the sliced steak back in the skillet with the veggies and juice.

Serve hot on the skillet with tortilla or lettuce wraps, and all your “trimmings”.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla