White bean, Bacon,and Morcilla Soup

A few years ago we went to Asturias, which is a region in the northern Atlantic coast of Spain.  It is mountainous, verdant, bountiful.  It is also coooooooooold!!!!  There is a dish that I have always been wary to try, Fabada Asturiana, because I didn’t like white beans.  I love beans, black beans and red beans, but had never had white beans.  I just thought they looked weird.  Like white asparagus.  I thought white beans looked like the pasty, malnourished cousin to the powerhouse of red and black beans.  But, like all things that I generally “don’t like”, I had never really tried it.

So, when we were in Asturias, we went to eat at a friend of a friend’s house.  And they brought out the Fabada.  I didn’t know where to hide.  Actually I couldn’t because we were in their kitchen and I was kind of sitting in the corner, so I couldn’t run either.   My parents taught me well though, when you are at someone’s home, always eat what they put in front of you.  So, I bucked up and took a bite.  WOW.  What a surprise.  It was absolutely amazing, and the white beans were so much smoother and more mellow to their red and black counterparts, really letting the rest of the ingredients shine, but complementing them in such a perfect way.  Fabada is a hearty, stick to your ribs winter stew.  To tell  you the truth, I can’t eat that often, because it is quite heavy, chock full of bacon, chorizo sausage, and morcilla (which is blood sausage).  So this soup is my reinvention, and because it doesn’t cook down to stew form, but stays more like a soup, I feel it is a bit lighter.  I also added tomatoes, leeks and carrots which Fabada does not have, but I needed a bit of vegetable to counter the amount of pork in this stew.  I also omitted the sausage, because I wanted it less greasy.  But by all means, toy and tinker with it.  Make it your own.  And for the ham bones, I used Serrano ham bones, but you can use regular if you can’t find them easily.

Serves 6

100 g thick cut bacon, in slices

3 tbsp olive oil

2 Iberian ham bones (or normal ham bones)

1.5 leeks, sliced

1/4 cup chinese cabbage, thick parts, sliced

7 cherry roma tomatoes, cut in half

2 tsp tomato paste

3 small sprigs of thyme

1.5 cups white beans, soaked overnight

3 liters water

1 carrot, sliced

1 morcilla sausage, sliced

Place the bacon, oil, ham bones and leeks in a heavy stock pot over medium high heat.

Saute for 15 minutes, or until the leeks are softened.  Add the chinese cabbage and tomatoes, and saute another 10 minutes.

Add the tomato paste, thyme and let it caramelize, about 2-3 minutes

.  Add your beans and water, cover and raise the heat to high.

Bring to a boil and lower the heat again to medium.  Boil, covered, for about 1.5 hours, adding more water if it is getting too dry.  When the beans are almost tender, add the carrot and the morcilla (blood sausage) and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve with hot crusty bread.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Tonkatsu with White Rice

I am a working chef, yes.  But by no means am I a Japanese chef.  The other night I had a class where I had to make Maki’s, Yakitori chicken wings, and Tonkatsu pork.  It was so much fun and incredibly tasty and simple.  My daughter is obsessed with everything Japanese, so I thought I would treat her to something that isn’t Ramen or Sushi, which she already gobbles like a true Japano-phile.

So, I made my way to our local Japanese market, and picked up the ingredients my friend Miki (who is Japanese) instructed that I needed to make the Tonkatsu.  And a few more things since I got excited!

In my class I made the sauce myself, so I will give you the recipe for it so you can make it at home if you don’t want to purchase it.  And I made it with chicken instead of pork, to be a little healthier……just a little.  It’s still fried you know.  By no stretch of the imagination is this a authentically perfect version of Tonkatsu, it is mine with a few tweaks of things that I love.  (You’ll notice leeks.)

So, here is what you are going to need:

Serves 4

4 thin cut chicken breast

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

1/4 cup flour

1 tbsp shichimi spice mix

2 eggs, beaten

1/8 cup milk

1/4 leeks, julienned

1/4 cup chinese cabbage, sliced

For the vinaigrette:

1/8 cup rice wine vinegar

1/2 tsp shichimi

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup water

For the Tonkatsu sauce:

1 cup ketchup

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup sake

1/8 cup mirin

2 tbsp sugar

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tbsp ginger, grated

For the white rice:

3/4 cup white jasmine rice

1.5 cups water

Julienne your leeks, and place in a bowl of water to let the dirt out.

Then you will need to slice the cabbage.  And let the dirt out too.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the panko, flour and shichimi.

Then beat the eggs with the milk in another bowl with a dash of shichimi.

Dredge your chicken cutlets in the egg mix, and then the panko mix.  Set on a baking sheet.

Now, combine your ingredients for the vinaigrette, and mix with the cabbage, set

aside.

In a large skillet or frying pan, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil.  When hot, but not smoking, add the chicken cutlets and fry until golden brown.

Place on a tray with paper towels to soak up the oil.  In the meantime, on a plate, place your cabbage salad on one side, your julienned leeks in the middle, and a dollop of the of the tonkatsu sauce.  Place your chicken on top of the leeks.  Enjoy!

To make the tonkatsu sauce:

Mix all the ingredients in a heavy bottomed saucepan, and heat until ingredients have melded and are slightly thickened.

For the rice:

In a saucepan, place your rice and water, cover and cook over medium low heat until the water has evaporated, about 20 minutes.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

Caramelized Onion and Corn Soup with Thyme

One of the things I miss most about living in the States is fresh corn.   Ok, ok, I miss a lot of food items that can be found in the States, be it fresh or fast or packaged.  But corn…..I love corn, in all ways, on the cob, creamed, canned, grilled, in chowder,  salads, salsa, as a tortilla, chip, arepa…..the list goes on and on.  It must be my Colombian heritage, because corn is in practically everything we eat.

In Barcelona, you can’t get good, fresh, corn.  I am sad.  I also don’t have a terrace with a barbecue, that makes me even sadder.  But, one thing that makes me happy is my itsy bitsy herb “garden”.  (I know it isn’t a garden, since it’s on my itsy bitsy balcony, but hey, a girl can dream right?)

So I decided, since the days are longer and warmer, to make a corn soup, to pay homage to my homeland.  The good ‘ole US of A.  Oh, and the whole my herb garden makes me happy bit is because I was staring at them and said, corn, thyme….YUM! Unfortunately it was this horrible packaged, pre-boiled corn, so if you can find fresh corn, then I am sure sure sure yours will be like a gazillion times better than mine.  Ok, it’s not that bad.  I just feel like complaining to the corn farmers here.

Anyhow, here is a nice and simple recipe that highlights one of my favorite ingredients, Corn!

Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine

Caramelized Onion and Corn Soup with Thyme

Serves 4

1.5 liters water

4 ears of corn, shucked

1.5 tbs butter

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 tsp sugar

1 small potato, cut into small cubes

1/4 cup white wine

1 sprig of thyme, and more leaves for garnish

1/4 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the water to boil in a large pot, and add the corn, cook around 5 minutes.  Cut the kernels off the cob once the corn has cooled.  Return the cobs to the water, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.  Discard cobs and reserve the corn broth.

In another pot, melt 1 tbsp of the butter, and add the onions.  Cover and cook over med heat until they are softened, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.  Add the sugar and cook another 5 minutes, or until they are caramelized.

Reserve 1/2 cup of the corn kernels, and add the remaining kernels and potato to the pot with the onions.  Add the wine and simmer over medium high heat until almost evaporated.  Add the corn broth, thyme and heavy cream, cover and simmer until the potato is tender, about 10 minutes.

Discard thyme.  With an immersion blender, or regular, puree soup, and season with salt and pepper.

In a skillet, melt the remaining butter, and add the reserved corn and cook over med high heat, until nicely browned.  Season with salt and your reserved thyme leaves.  Ladle the soup in bowls or mugs, and top with the browned corn and thyme.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

 

 

VILA VINITECA: My little slice of paradise in Barcelona

I recently moved into an area in Barcelona called the Born.  It is one of the oldest neighborhoods, with gorgeous cobblestone streets, lively bars, a simply awe-inspiring church, and my favorite part, the most decadent delicatessen and wine shop.  Whatever I am saving on rent from my previous apartment, I am spending it in here!  And you can also have lunch, or a snack in the store, and sample all the gorgeous cheeses, “jamones” and just about anything else they have in stock……which is a lot.

Recently I went in and grabbed a bite, ok a big bite, to eat.  And I was in heaven.  The menu is basically a list of cheeses, cured meats, some seafood (all canned, but the best quality) and a few salads.  I can never decide on the cheese, so I always ask for the 5 cheese sampler.

But I also wanted something fresh, so we asked for a plate of their tomatoes and tuna belly (ventresca)

In Spain, the canned tuna is exceptional.  It is nothing, I mean nothing compared to what I used to get in the USA when I lived there, that was this dry, sand-papery kind of thing that you had to add mayonnaise to it.  And the tomatoes!!!  Look at them, my mouth waters just from thinking about it.  It was a plate of “Corazon de Buey” or Bull’s heart due to their shape, which is large and full of ridges, and Kumato tomatoes.  The bull’s heart are a fleshier, jucier more delicate type of tomato, whereas the Kumato is round, small, and has a greenish-brown tint, and has a more pronounced flavor.  I prefer the Kumato.  All drizzled with some extremely high quality extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkled with some salt from Ibiza, you can see it in the background in the light blue tin.

Then, of course we had some ham, “Joselito” ham to be exact.

This is not your normal Iberian ham.  It is truly a gift from the Gods, or from some very delicious piggies.  If you aren’t familiar with “Jamon de Bellota”, it is ham made from Black pigs, that are only fed acorns.  And it produces this beautiful dark red hue, with just the perfect amount of fat on it.  When you put it in your mouth, it basically melts and delivers an incredible “umami” sensation.  It is best eaten with “pa amb tomaquet” which is country bread spread with tomato, olive oil and salt.

Then on to our cheese plate…..EUREKA!!!!!  I love cheese.  If I were stuck on a desert island, I hope there are some goats or sheep or cows, cause I need to have my cheese.  As I said, we chose the 5 sampler plate.

From the bottom to top :

Tou de Tillers – A mild and creamy (delishhhhhhhh) cow’s milk cheese from the Catalan Pyrenees

Tome des Coucherins – a firm, mild cow’s milk cheese from France.  This one was just ok, but hey, they all can’t be stars!

Comte- a strong, firm cow’s milk cheese, aged from 2009, from France.  I really liked this one, but you can’t have too much, it really has a pronounced flavor.

Tome de Savoie- this was a semi-soft sheep’s milk cheese.  I really enjoyed this one, it had a more pronounced flavor than the first one, and it paired really well with the jam that they gave us, which I will tell you about later.

And last but not least, or basically my favorite,

Shropshire Blue- This is the king of all cheeses.  The big kahuna.  The bees to my knees.  Ok, it’s a cheddary-blue cheese from England, reminiscent of Stilton, but softer, more melt in your mouth feel.  This is my go-to cheese.  I absolutely could eat this everyday.

And all of this accompanied by this incredible violet jelly.  I was a bit unconvinced at first.  I have tried cheese with rose petal jelly, but never violet.  It was delicious.  It wasn’t as “perfumey” as I thought it would be.  It was a very delicate taste, and it combined perfectly with the fattier cheeses, giving it a completely balanced taste, none of the flavors overpowering the others.  And it was so beautiful to look at too, it’s pinkish-lavender hue looked extremely beautiful on the white cheeses.

If you are ever in Barcelona, and you want a fabulous glass of wine to wash down all this food glory, or just do some shopping to take back home, you need to make your way to Vila Viniteca.  It’s just perfect.

Carla

Vila Viniteca

http://www.vilaviniteca.es

Carrer de Agullers, 7

+34 902 32 77 77

Barcelona

Pancetta, Pear and Parmesan “Strudel”

 

 

Hello readers!

How was your weekend?  Mine was great, caught up with some friends who we hadn’t seen in 3 years, took them to a nice tapas restaurant, and then had some cocktails.  But anyhow, today I thought I would post an incredibly simple, yet ridiculously delicious cocktail dish or starter.  I made this a couple of weeks ago for a dinner party, and it was a hit.  So much so that I took an initial picture of it when I cut it open, but then I arranged the slices on a plate and put it on the table, went to get my camera….and *poof*.  They were gone.  Not all of them, because I had one, but the picture would have looked terrible.  So I only have the one picture that I don’t think does it any justice, but I think that by the ingredients you know it’s going to be good.  So go ahead and try it the next time you have guests over.  Or not.  You can definitely make it any time, since it is so easy.  So here goes!

Pancetta, Pear and Parmesan Strudel

1 package of Filo dough

3 Concorde pears, peeled and cut into match sticks

150 g of Pancetta

50 g Walnuts, coarsely chopped

60g of Parmesan cheese, grated

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsp of olive oil

4 tbsp of butter, melted

Poppy seeds for garnish

Pre-heat your oven to 350 deg F (180 C).  On your baking sheet, lay out your filo dough.  Start by placing the pancetta over the filo, overlapping the slices.  Then scatter the nuts over the pancetta.  Scatter the pears and parmesan, add the salt and pepper and drizzle your olive oil over the whole thing.

Roll it into a log, making sure that you seal the edges.  Brush the melted butter over the whole log, and sprinkle with poppy seeds.

Before you place it into the oven, it is incredibly useful if you cut the slices prior to cooking, cutting almost all the way through, but leave it intact on the bottom.  If not when it’s cooked and crispy, it will be almost impossible for you to cut it without losing half of the filo.  Trust me, I’ve tried it and cried.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until it is gold and crispy.  Take it out of the oven and let it cool for about 20 minutes before serving, as it gets cooler the flavors meld together and it is delicious!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Spaghetti with Smoked Salmon, Asparagus and Horseradish Cream Sauce

Why, oh why don’t I make this dish more often?  I always forget how much I love spaghetti with salmon.  And I also love whipping up a sauce with the ingredients you find in the fridge, it just feels so great when you make a delicious dish with random ingredients that are in your home.

So, yesterday I had a few friends over from lunch, and I saw the smoked salmon, these perfect little asparagus tips, and some cherry tomatoes.  As I was chop chop chopping away, I went to grab a glass of water, and I saw my horseradish.  Horseradish is really hard to find here, but I was at the Deli Shop the other day, which is this food store that has imported food from all over the world, and got me some Coleman’s Horseradish.  I have been putting this stuff on everything.  Cause I’m obsessive like that.  So, I decided to add some to the sauce to give it that flavorful kick, instead of just having a very calm cream sauce.  I thought that maybe it was going to be too overpowering, but it was the perfect addition to give the sauce a little acidity and bite.

This is a really simple meal that can be put together in about 20 minutes, tops.  And it reeks of sophistication.  So, you’ll be hailed as a fantastic host.  Here is the recipe that I used yesterday, but feel free to add or omit ingredients according to what you like or you have in your fridge!

Oh, and I also got a nifty new gadget, it’s a cheese grater, but it’s also a cup, so as you grate the cheese it falls into the cup!  I love it, it has three different hole sizes for grating!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spaghetti with Smoked Salmon, Asparagus and Horseradish Cream Sauce:

Serves 4

1lb Spaghetti

1 tbsp butter

1 tsp olive oil

12 asparagus tips, 6 chopped, 6 reserve the tips and make ribbons from the base

500ml Cream

200 g Smoked salmon, chopped

2 1/2 tbsp horseradish

4 cherry tomatoes, minced

1 tsp parsley, finely chopped

Salt and Pepper to taste

Parmesan Cheese, grated

Boil enough water for the spaghetti

In a saucepan, add the butter and olive oil over high heat.  When the butter is melted and bubbling, add the chopped asparagus.  Reserve the ribbons for garnish.  Saute for about two minutes, until bright green but still crispy.  Add the cream and horseradish and lower the heat to med.  When the sauce has thickened, add the salmon, salt and pepper and take off heat.

When your water is boiling, add the spaghetti and cook according to package directions.  Strain, and add the cream sauce and toss until well mixed.  Top with your cherry tomatoes, parsley and asparagus ribbons.  Add parmesan cheese and eat it all up!

 

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla