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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

Casa Pacheco – A haven amongst the acorn fields

Casa Pacheco

This past weekend, we took a day trip out to Salamanca.  Neither Paolo nor I had ever been, and we had been gifted a night at the Parador, so we decided to take a nice road trip to ham country.  That is, Jamon Iberico country.  Wow.  I am speechless as to the incredible amounts of ham we had, but it was worth the dieting that I am now embarking on.

We arrived just about lunch time, so Paolo said I should get on Trip Advisor to see what places were near that we could grab a bite.  I chose the #2 ranking, Casa Pacheco.  Funny enough, there was no #1 ranking, and honestly, Casa Pacheco should be bumped up to that space.  Not knowing really what to expect, we certainly were incredibly surprised!  Driving past Salamanca into the heart of Bellota (acorn) fields, filled with happy Pata Negra pigs roaming vast expanses of land, feasting on thousands of acorns.  There were also happy cows and sheep roaming, and I love to see that an animal that I am going to consume, is having a great, stress-free life.  That in itself should have clued us in to the amazing meal we were about to have.

The town itself is small, I’m talking about drive past it in 20 seconds small.  And if we had not looked on Trip Advisor, we would have completely missed it.  Situated right on the main road that crosses the town, is a small unassuming doorway to foodie heaven.  We walked in, and my first thought was that we had made the wrong choice.  A pintxos bar to your left, and two small tables on the right, nestled between two enormous bull heads.  Me being an anti-bullfighting kind of person, I thought, oh boy, we’ve walked into the dragon’s lair.  Then, as we were taken into the main dining room, still small but with about 8 tables, I felt as if I had just landed in Spain.  Yes, I’ve lived here for 10 plus years, but you can hardly say Barcelona is Spain.  THIS is Spain.  A veritable shrine to a specific bullfighter was the decorative theme of the restaurant.

Casa Pacheco

 

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As it turns out, the bullfighter Julio Robles, used to live very close to the restaurant, and he was a regular and a very, very good friend of the owner’s father.  I guess you could classify this as his museum.

We sat down and received the menu and the owner started to tell us what specials there were out of the menu.  It was a very, very difficult choice.  If it was humanly possible, I could have ordered all of it.  We finally made our choice, to eat some traditional ham, Jamon de Guijuelo,

Jamon de Guijuelo

 

and some croquetas, but the twist, they made the with oxtail.

Oxtail Croquettes

 

The jamon was perfect, shiny, flavorful, delicate yet robust.  The croquetas were fantastic too, I have never tasted croquetas made with oxtail, and I have to say, the béchamel was one of the lightest and best I have tried.  The owner told us that it was their first time making the croquetas with oxtail, and honestly, I think they need to make them again!

Then we chose to try a dish that is typical of that region, called Patatas a la Importancia.  This basically translates to Potatoes of Importance.  Just from the name, I had to try them.

Patatas a la Importacia

 

Now get this, it’s potatoes that are sliced, battered, fried and then cooked in broth.  Battered and fried potatoes.  Can it get more decadent than this?  (Actually yes, just wait to see what I ate next.)  It was a pleasantly peculiar dish.  I really liked it, and I think it is an amazing way to “class” up the simple potato, I guess hence the name Of Importance!  It definitely had a very home-made feel and taste, the broth was delicious, thickened slightly by the batter and potato starch.  I am really happy we chose to try it.

Now, on to our mains.  Paolo and Cassia decided to share an Entrecote, cooked on the stone.

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Look at that beef.  It was divine.  So delicious, so much flavor.  It was very tender, and the good part was that they could choose how much they wanted it cooked, since Paolo likes his beef still almost moo-ing.  The thing that really surprised me was the salad you see in the back,

Ensalada de Maruja

 

This, I was told is called Maruja or Pamplina.  On first inspection, I thought it was some type of sprout, but then after tasting it, I realized it is more akin to watercress in taste.  The owner explained that this grows on the side of river banks for only a few days a year, and it is a specialty in Salamanca.  It blew my mind.  Obviously I looked it up, and found out that we call it Chickweed.  I had never tasted it before in my life, and I find it so awesome to discover new tastes and food!  It was lightly dressed with a vinaigrette, pomegranate seeds, and a good dousing of crushed garlic……not for the faint hearted I assure you.  Make sure EVERYBODY else at the table eats this, if not you’re in trouble!

And, now to the most decadent dish I have ever consumed in my entire life :

Braised Oxtail

 

Braised oxtail with caramelized onions and foie gras.  Yup.  Heart attack material.  But man, oh man….this was beyond delicious.  There are actually no “real” words to describe how good this is.  The oxtail was perfectly cooked, it fell apart at the mere touch of it.  Then mixed with the onions and the foie……Oh boy.  I unfortunately could not finish it, because we had gorged ourselves with so much food before, but had I known how incredible this was going to be, I would have starved myself for weeks so I could consume not one, but two helpings of this.

Obviously we had no room for dessert, I was in sort of a food coma at this point so I can’t tell you what they were, even.  But, let me tell you this, I recall that they all sounded delicious.

If you are ever on your way or passing through Salamanca, make this is the number one priority on your list.  You seldom find little gems like this anymore, a small unchanged restaurant, tucked away and run by the 4th generation of the same family.  It is food at its best, rustic, homey, delicious.

Casa Pacheco

C/. Jose Antonio s/n

Vecinos (Salamanca)

Tlf. 923 382 169

http://www.casapacheco.net

 

Tele Pescaito: Andalusian Delights in the suburbs of Madrid

Tele Pescaito

 

Hello all my lovely friends!  I am so sorry for being away for so long, the last few weeks have been madness I tell you!  Two weeks ago I spent all my days packing up and shipping my things to Madrid, our future new home as of 2013!  And then unpacking them, and last week was work work work and then my big birthday bash on Saturday!

I have eaten and cooked in between, but just did not have any time to post.  Now, I have a whole month with no telly, a couple of pans and some plates and cutlery, a sofa, a bed and a teeny little table.  I have now started “Survival Mode”.  So, it will be interesting to see what I can come up with, now that I don’t have my barrage of culinary utensils.  I kind of feel like when I was in university.  The basics only.  Oh, how spoiled I have gotten since then.  Nary a cookbook, I tell you!

After having unpacked TWO whole households, we needed to eat, and not use any energy whatsoever.  We are completely unfamiliar with our new surroundings, but luckily my cousin lives in Madrid and she clued us in to a fantastic place down the block from our new house.

Tele Pescaito.  Literally translated to: Phone Fishy.  Yup.  Not a very glamorous name, but basically they are telling you that they deliver.  See, the pizza delivery in Spain is called Tele Pizza.

What a great surprise though, on the outside it is really nondescript.  Inside, it’s like you’ve walked into another world.

With all of four tables, this place is tiny.  But, it was packed!  People come and go, eating a couple of bites and then mosying off to another bar for another bite.  The walls are covered with photos of bullfighters and ceramics, the chairs are hand painted and so are the tables.  The service, well, it was like being in your friends bar.  We were welcomed as if we had known each other forever.  That was  a really nice change to Barcelona, where service is bare minimum bordering on rude.

Once we were settled and the drinks were ordered, our server brought out our cutlery, with a really nice surprise.

 

As our drinks were put on the table, so was this:

Beautiful Boquerones (white anchovies) over Salmorejo, which is a thicker version of gazpacho.  This is a real treat, that I am staring to get used to every time I go to Madrid.  When you order a drink at a bar, free of charge, you’re brought out a tapa.  Life is good, friends, life is good.  Topped with some lovely parsley garlic oil, it was a perfect start to a very rustic afternoon of  delights!

The menu to me was mostly incomprehensible.  I have never travelled to Andalucia, therefore, things like panochas, parrochas, puntillitas, chopos, pijotas and the like were all lost in translation.  I look forward to discovering all of these things at my soon to be new local digs!

We ordered some ham croquetas, because I am a croqueta freak.  I was really happy when they arrived, none of them being the same size or shape as the other.  This is the true test of their freshness, and that they just weren’t taken out of a box and dropped in the oil.

 

These have to be hands down some of the best that I have tried.  They were luscious without being heavy, full of meaty bits of jamon.  Then I decided on having something that I had no idea what I was ordering and I was in for another happy surprise!

 

I cannot for the life of me remember what they call them, but they are battered and fried squid tentacles.   I love tentacles, always grabbing the legs first when I order calamari.  I was struck by the sheer size of them though, this was a massive squid!  They were chewier than squid rings, but I tend to like that.  Meatier also.  I am sure my blogger friend Chica Andaluza could help me out on the name though!

We also ordered some Flamenquines.

Flamenquin

 

Yes, I admit it looks like a bread coated hot dog.  But looks can be deceiving!  What this is, basically, is Chicken Cordon Bleu’s Badder, Bolder and more Rebellious cousin!  It is a thin steak, stuffed with Iberian ham and manchego cheese!

 

It was ridiculously delicious!  I can’t wait to have some more soon…..and then I will need to get myself some cholesterol medicine, but hey, you only live once!  By the way, the chips (fries) were pretty spectacular too!

Now, we moved on to dessert.  This also was something that I had never heard of, but I will never forget.

Piononos

 

The Pionono.  WOW.  LUSCIOUS.  LIGHT.  MOIST.  RICH.  It’s all of those things all rolled up into one tiny little cake.  This hails from Santa Fé de Granada.  It is a little cake, that is soaked in a light syrup, then topped with cream and lots of cinnamon.  Paolo was triply excited, because he absolutely loves these.  And to think it is only about two minutes walk from our house. We are definitely going to have to up our workout schedule.

Then, the server brought us out a glass of Pedro Ximenez, a truly decadent Sherry, on the house with these delightful little bread sticks!

 

These are fried bread sticks covered in cinnamon sugar and anise seeds.  I love anise seed.  We dipped them in our sherry, and stroked our full bellies.  What a wonderful afternoon.

Conclusion.  They eat a lot of fried food in Andalucia.  But, it is damn good.  We will be back, in fact, I think Paolo has already been back a few times.

So, if you’re ever in Madrid and want to get off the beaten path, take a trip to Tele Pescaito.  Or you can just get some delivered! It is totally worth it!

Tele Pescaito

Taberna Andaluza

Av. de San Luis, 166

28033 Madrid  –    Tel. +34 91 7670513

 

Enjoy!

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

 

 

 

San Sebastian – Donosti- Basque Country

San Sebastián.  What can I say.  Eating capital of Spain?  Hollywood of Gastronomy?  With 6 Michelin stars, it definitely is a place to diet beforehand and then eat with reckless abandon.  We did nothing but….eat, and eat, and eat my friends.  And that is the only thing I have really ever done in San Sebastián.

Tucked in Spain’s northern coast on the border with France, it is a place of beauty, and brawn.  Not only are the chefs heavy weights, here, but the people themselves are from a different ilk.  Taller.  Paul Bunyon-like, if you will.  I mean, they have log chopping and stone throwing competitions, for Pete’s Sake!  But, that wasn’t why we came.  We came looking for “Chuleton” and “Pacharan”.  The former being a succulent, Fred Flintstone like bone in rib eye, and the latter, an after dinner (or lunch, in many of my cases) digestif, made with anise and endrinas, a type of wild berry.  And we found it.  Our first stop, was a place that was recommended to us called “Patxiku-Enea”, which basically means, Patxiku’s House.   A couple of kilometres outside of San Sebastián, it is a small, unassuming house on a grassy knoll.

 

But once inside, you get the feeling of the place.  More winter hunting lodge than anything, this is what I come to know as  “we are going to have a really amazing meal” place.

We were told to order the Chuleton, aka, the bone in rib eye.  And we did.  But first we had the guindillas, which are small green chili peppers that are flash-fried to perfection.

And another starter of scrambled eggs with porcini mushrooms.  I don’t think I need to reiterate my love affair with both.

Then, on to our main course, the stellar, and unbelievably delicious Chuleton.  With a side of roasted red peppers sautéed with garlic please.

If I could have sucked on the bone, like a good cave woman….I would have.  But, we were in a public place.  At home….no holds barred!

After this belly filling lunch, we went out on to their terrace, and I indulged in a very large glass of Pacharan.  My sweetie had the little one.

This lunch was amazing.  Simple, rustic, mouth-watering.  If anyone gets to come here, this is a must do.

After that, we checked into the hotel, and took a nap.  We really couldn’t move after, so best to digest whilst you’re sleeping.

Then, we took a stroll into town to, you guessed it, eat some more.  Here are some highlights of the night.

Crowded Pintxos Bar in the old town

 

Piquillo pepper stuffed with goat stew and idiazabal cream

 

Another Pintxos Bar

 

Peek-a-Boo!

 

“La Concha” Beach

 

Old bullfighting square, now Pintxos galore!

 

Crowded street with pintxo seeking tourists!

 

Eduardo Chillida’s Peine del Viento – The Wind’s Comb

 

If you ever come to Spain, try to make it to San Sebastián.  Not only is it a beautiful, charming city, it is probably the best food vacation you’ll ever have.

 

PATXIKU-ENEA ERRETEGIA
| TEL :  943 527 545 | MAIL : INFO@PATXIKU-ENEA.COM 
CAMINO DE GAINTXURIZKETA, HERRIKOETXEA KALEA, 20100 LEZO, SPAIN

http://www.patxiku-enea.es

 

Carla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basque Country

Needless to say, the Basque Country is Food Country.  We planned this trip around a Basque/Russian wedding, and ate our way through these spectacular Spanish regions.

Our first stop was Santes Creus, which is actually in Catalonia.  But we were hungry.  So, it was naturally a good stopover for us, since it was only about an hour and a half from Barcelona, and it had a very famous monastery.

We didn’t plan where we were going to eat, but let me tell you, what a wonderful surprise it was.  We happened to just plop ourselves down in the first restaurant we saw, which was right outside the monastery.  And it was amazing.  And cheap.  I was so happy and surprised to be able to enjoy such wonderful simple fare at real prices.

Melon with Iberian Ham

 

 

Gazpacho with all the trimmings

 

Toast with a mix of sautéed veggies, tuna and cheese

Grilled Chicken with Potatoes

All for 22 euros.  It was amazing.  I was so pleased, that once you get out of the city, you can eat like a king and not have to pay their ransome.

So after that, we were merrily on our way to Pamplona.  Pamplona is obviously known for the Running of the Bulls, which happens in the beginning of July.  It is a beautiful city, small and recently restored.  But HOT.  Oh, my God.  HOT HOT HOT.  The heat was unbearable.  So, we just went in search for the most air-conditioned places (few) and lots of good food and wine (many).  See , Pamplona is right near the Lodosa area, where the most delectable vegetables in Spain are grown.  And we’re talking about white asparagus and piquillo peppers my friends.  And that’s talking business.  But, since it is also very close to the Basque Country, almost like a sister province, they have amazing Pintxos.  Pintxos are tapas on a piece of bread with a toothpick stuck in it.  Darn good.  No, Amazing.

Pintxo bar in Pamplona

Blood Sausage Pintxo with Caramelized Onions, and Chistorra Sausage Pintxo with Padron Pepper

Idiazabal cheese covered in walnuts in a tomato jam

Micuit Foie Gras, Apple Chutney and Gold Leaf Powder

Toast with Tuna Belly, Anchovies and Piquillo Peppers

Seared Foie Gras with Caramelized Pineapple

I guess you can see, that the night’s theme was foie gras.  It was sublime.  An absolute treat for the both of us.

The next day, we drove to San Sebastián, and it deserves a post all on its own.  So I am going to skip to the real highlight of the trip, the reason we did it, our friends’ Russian/Basque Wedding!

Our friend Patrik is from Bilbao, and had been working in Moscow for about 4 years.  That is where he met Galiya.  Then, cut to the 3rd of August, 2012.  Their wedding.  It was beautiful and bountiful.  Definitely one to look up to food wise!

Traditional Basque Dance done for the Bride and Groom after they are married.

Jamon de Guijelo….need I say more?

Smoked Salmon, Pistachios and Dates

1st course, foie gras with pedro ximenez sherry reduction with summer berries

2nd course, tuna belly, tomato and caramelized onion salad

3rd course, gambas a la plancha….aka….pan fried prawns

My favourite by far, sautéed porcini mushrooms with truffle cream sauce

1st main course, Grilled monkish. Heaven.

Ok, after this, there was prime rib served, with piquillo peppers, and then a strawberry sorbet with cream cheese, and then the cake.  But I couldn’t eat anymore.  I know right?  What is wrong with me.  I’ll tell you.  I ate like a total pig the whole 5 days.  I cannot eat another thing until tomorrow, when I go to Naples, Italy!

If I don’t post anymore, you will know that I have exploded.

See you in a few!

Carla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Shaved Artichoke, Celery and Mahon Cheese Salad

I know that most of us in the northern hemisphere are suffering in this heat.  I am too.  I cannot believe how hot it is.  The last few days in Barcelona have been scorchers, with a hot wind slicing through the city.  I personally would like to live in my fridge.  It has made me lethargic, cranky, and well….not so enthusiastic to cook.

Then I thought of this salad.  It is so refreshing, and light, and honestly, probably one of my absolute favorites!  I love artichokes.  I could eat them every day.  And any way.  But, the beauty of this, is that there is absolutely NO COOKING INVOLVED.

These are the ingredients you’re going to need, along with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, some salt and pepper.  In this recipe I used Mahon cheese, which is a mature cheese from Menorca, similar in taste to a very sharp cheddar.  But you can swap it with Parmesan, or cheddar, any mature cheese you have on hand will do.

It’s as easy as that, and I promise you, incredible.  And a heat buster.  The lemon juice refreshes, and the celery is basically just water, so it is thirst quenching!

So, for two people, here’s what you’re going to need:

3 medium artichokes

1 large stalk of celery

1 lemon, juiced

1/8-1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Shaved Mahon cheese

In a large bowl, place the lemon juice.  Now, peel all the tough outer leaves of the artichoke until you get to the tender heart.

Then trim the stem, like this:

Then trim the tops off, like this:

Then thinly slice the hearts, and toss it in the lemon, to prevent them from browning.  Do this with all the artichokes.

Thinly slice the celery, and shave off some of the Mahon cheese, and toss in with the artichoke.  Add the extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

Let stand about 15 minutes before serving, so that the lemon juice softens the artichoke hearts out.

So that’s all folks!  Easy, refreshing and healthy!  Great for this summer heat we’re having.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla