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  The decoration is slightly kitsch bordering on outdated, more like your grandmother’s kitchen, rather than culinary hotspot.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

 

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

 

 

 

Fried Green Tomatoes with Three Chile Sauce

Fried Green TomatoesThe other night I made enchiladas.  And unfortunately I don’t have a picture of them, otherwise I would have obviously shared the recipe with you.  But, I will share the chile sauce recipe, because you can use this on any type of enchiladas you wish.  I made them with chicken, onions and cheese.  If you have a hankering for a vegetarian version, well, go ahead and use this sauce to coat them.  It is spectacular.  That’s why I chose to top the tomatoes with the sauce too, and I plan to use this sauce as a base for other things too, or maybe just as a flavor enhancer.  The deep rich smokiness elevates a lentil soup, perhaps, to plain ole good for you, to hell yeah! for your taste buds.

Fried green tomatoes are super simple.  But I thought I would include this recipe, so you could have the sauce too!  So, you craving huevos rancheros?  Add this sauce to them.  Maybe some nachos?  Bring this out as a dip.  Or maybe you want to make a butternut squash soup.  Well, this sauce will lend the perfect balance to the sweetness of the squash… endless possibilities, one sauce!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

1 large green tomato

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup olive oil

Maldon Sea Salt

For the sauce:

3 guajillo peppers

2 ancho peppers

3 new mexico peppers

1 cup soaking liquid

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp achiote powder

1 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp garlic salt

1 tsp onion powder

1 small can diced tomatoes

3 tsp brown sugar

4 tsp cumin powder (if you don’t like cumin as much as I do, add less.  But trust me on this!)

1 tsp dried oregano

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1 dash ground chipotle

1 bay leaf

Salt and Pepper, to taste

 

To make the sauce:

On a comal, or griddle set to medium high heat, toast the dried peppers on both sides, about 1 minute per side, until fragrant.  Don’t let them burn, if they do, chuck them out because they will just become bitter.  Slice the toasted chiles, and remove seeds and veins.  Then place in 3 cups boiling water, and soak for about 20-30 minutes, or until tender.  Strain them, and reserve one cup of the soaking liquid.  Puree the chiles with the soaking liquid and reserve.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the olive oil, onions and achiote powder.  Saute for about 7 minutes or until the onions are softened.  Add the minced garlic and sauté another 2-3 minutes, or until fragrant.  Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil.  Add the pureed chiles, and lower the heat to medium and let cook for about 15 minutes, or until thickened slightly.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Reserve the sauce for whatever you need.  Will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.

For the tomatoes:

Slice the tomato in 1 inch thick slices.  Arrange the slices on a paper towel and let the water from the tomato be soaked up.  Beat the egg in a small bowl, and add the cornmeal on a plate.

In a small frying pan, heat the olive oil over high heat.  When it is very hot, dip the tomato in the egg, then coat both sides with the cornmeal and fry for about 2-3 minutes per side.  Drain on a fresh piece of paper towel.

When they are all done, arrange on a platter, sprinkle with sea salt and dollops of the chile sauce.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

 

Zucchini, Onion and Goat Cheese Frittata

FritattaBack home.  And my kitchen is empty.  Having a friend over for lunch.  Eeeeeeek!  What to do?  Well, for me, a Frittata is probably one of the easiest, sexiest and filling things to make in a pinch.

Frittata is the Italian version of Tortilla.  Yet, the preparation is slightly different, and hell of a lot easier!  It’s basically cook it in the pan, then finish it in the oven.  It’s a cinch.  You get your proteins, your veg, your healthy fats and it’s so versatile.  Don’t like zucchini?  Use eggplant.  Don’t have eggplant?  Well, throw in some mushrooms.  You get the gist.  I love using cheese with eggs, so I just ran downstairs to my local grocer and picked up some goat cheese.  Yummy, light, pairs perfectly with almost anything.  Also, if you feel like just having the Frittata isn’t enough, well make a nice side salad with a Dijon vinaigrette….and it is perfect.

So what are you waiting for?

Here’s what you’re gonna need:

8 eggs, beaten

1 small onion, sliced thinly

1 zucchini, cut in half and sliced

2 tbsp olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Goat Cheese, use as much or as little as you like

Pre-heat oven to 200 C.  In a large sauté pan, add the olive oil over medium high heat.  Cook the onions and zucchini until tender, about 10 minutes, stirring often so they won’t burn or stick.  Add your salt.

Add the eggs, and swirl pan to coat.  With a wooden spoon, mix the eggs as if you’re scrambling, to cook the bottom a bit, like I explained in my Tortilla post.   Lower heat, and let cook for about 6-7 minutes.  Add the goat cheese and pepper on the top,then pop it in the oven so the top will set, about 7 more minutes.

Plate, serve and enjoy!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Baked figs with cinnamon, vanilla honey and greek yogurt

Baked FigsMy father’s side of my family is from Egypt, Syria and Turkey.  Ever since I can remember, at our family reunions there was always an abundance of home-made Baklava, Mamoul, dates, and figs.  And this dessert is what taught me to love figs.

Normally, you find those dried figs that look a little daunting, but delicious none the less.  Fortunately, my family had a love affair with fresh figs, and this was the dessert that was made for extra-special occasions.  And let me tell you, it is an incredibly delicious and seductive dessert.

Figs are delicious on their own, but paired with cinnamon, honey, vanilla, baked and then a dollop of greek yogurt, they become sublime.

This is a ridiculously easy dessert, and one that will shine at your next dinner party, or even just to make for a simple weeknight’s dinner.  Trust me.  You will make this over, and over again!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4

12 fresh figs

4 cinnamon sticks, each one cut in 3 pieces to make 12 in total

1 vanilla bean

2 tbsp sugar

3-4 tbsp honey

Greek yogurt

Pre-heat the oven to 200 C.  Wash the figs, and cut them in a cross form, leaving the bottom intact.  Place in a large baking dish and  insert a cinnamon stick into each fig.

In a small bowl, place the 2 tbsp sugar.  Cut the vanilla lengthwise, and scrape the seeds into the sugar, and mix well.  Sprinkle the vanilla sugar over the figs.  Then drizzle the honey over the figs.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Place 3 figs in a bowl with some of the honey from the baking dish, and add a dollop of the greek yogurt.  Repeat for the remaining figs.

Place the honey and rest of the greek yogurt in bowls so everyone can help themselves to more if they want.

Baked figs in honey

 

 

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

 

Just one of THOSE days.

You know those days when you’re in the kitchen, and EVERYTHING goes wrong?  Well, today (and the better part of last night) was one of THOSE days.

You see, I had a massive craving for baked beans.  Not the British style baked beans, but Boston Baked Beans.  So, I grab a recipe book that I have, called The Boston Chef’s Kitchen.  It is a beautiful book, and it has recipes from Boston’s great restaurants.  So, obviously, it being Bean Town and all, I was pretty sure there was a recipe for baked beans.  There was.  But you know when you read a recipe, and you think….hmmm.  There is something missing here, and in this case, a totally incomplete recipe.

Ok, no problem, because, by this time, I am pretty much ready to rework most recipes anyway.  But, simple little things like, the recipe called for 1/2 an onion, but it didn’t specify if it was to be sliced, diced, chopped, grated etc.  No problem.  I diced it.  Then, it also called for 1lb of beans to a measly amount of sauce.  Ok, just add water, it will reduce.  Then it called for you to add the beans directly to the previously mentioned un-watered sauce….which is tomato based.

Now, here is where the real problems started.  I have been making beans since I can remember.  As my family is from Colombia, beans are practically served at every meal.  And we always soak, then boil the beans, THEN add the sofrito (base of tomatoes, onions and peppers).  Against my better judgement, I went ahead and did exactly as the recipe told me.  Place the soaked beans, sans boiling, into this tomato/molasses/onion concoction.  Red Flag number one should have flown, no SLAPPED, me in the face.  You never ever ever place beans with a citric in its raw form, because, alas, as most of you know, they will NEVER soften.  So…..I basically have been trying to make baked beans for the last 12 hours.

Ok, no problem again.  Life-lemons-lemonade adage, I hop down to my local and favorite sausage deli, and decide I was going to use this gorgeous bbq type sauce and make a braised bbq sausage.  This store, apart from amazing high quality sausages, makes a variety of them with different flavorings, such as with black truffle, chinese 5 spice, spinach and pine nuts, foie gras, etc.  But today, stupidly, I chose Coca Cola and Caramelized onion.

WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING??????  I mean, I am basically going to braise a sweet sausage in an already sweet sauce.  Duh!!!  But hey, that wasn’t it.  I brought the dang thing home, started to sear it, and I guess since Coca Cola can dissolve a freaking bolt, why would sausage casings hold up to it?  Well, they didn’t.  So, again, I thought, add the sauce and make some mock bbq chili.

Nope.  What turned out was this overly sweetened sausage ridiculousness that ended up in the garbage.  I don’t normally throw away food, but I was so frustrated at the whole fiasco, I just didn’t even want to see it anymore.  Please forgive me.

So, I am now having corn on the cob for lunch, and will leave you with some pretty pictures of my neighborhood and the awesome sausage shop.  Just don’t get the coca cola ones.