I gained 3 lbs in Barcelona (WORTH IT). Here’s how:

Plate of Calamaritti (ittuh bittuh squids) and bottle of Cava at La Mar Salada.

Paella at La Mar Salada (which we went to because of this NY Times article). Awkward photo courtesy of said bottle of Cava.

Jamon y queso bocadillo (Spanish ham and cheese sandwich). This was from a little shop in the Born neighborhood in Spain. Also, I want to give a shout-out to Pans&Company. It’s the Spanish version of Subway, but even their version of Jambon Y Queso brought me to my knees. WHY IS SPAIN SO MUCH BETTER THAN US AT HAM?

A pitcher of Sangria and tapas at Bilbao Berria. Each tapas is 1.65 Euros. You go up to the counter, help yourself to whatever looks good, pop the skewers that stick out of each tapas into the metal cup in the middle of your table. At the end of the night, the waiter counts your skewers and charges your accordingly.


My favorite tapas at Bilbao Berria. Iberian ham, roasted chile pepper, and a quail egg on toast. YOU MUST GO HERE.

Pig jowl. So sweet, so tender, so rich. From some tiny restaurant in rural Spain where no one spoke any English. I wish I remembered the name. Not that I could ever remember how to get there again or anything…

Wine and Cava tasting at this beautiful vineyard. Wine and cava tasting where there is no spit bucket… that was also an interesting afternoon. Why does Spain drink SO MUCH?

Cannelloni stuffed with roast beef, covered in cheese, spritzed with truffle oil from Restaurant L’Etapes. This is a traditional Catalan Christmas dish, as well as the signature dish of this restaurant. Will and I decided that this was our very favorite restaurant of our entire trip. It was small and quaint, with a waitstaff who truly cared that you enjoyed each and every dish they brought out. Every one of the tapas was superbly executed, using very fresh ingredients.

Mussels with tomatoes, garlic scapes, and crispy onions at Ohla Gastronomic Bar. Basically every traditional restaurant in Barcelona is closed on Sunday nights, except for ones that are located in hotels. We came across this one by sheer dumb luck our first night, and decided to eat there the last night as well as it was a) wonderful and b) everything else was closed. Other highlights of this meal included gazpacho with sardines and spelt bread crumbs, dried tuna with shaved macadamia nuts. Again, highly recommended, particularly on Sunday night.

So as you can see, we ate our weight in cured meat and cheese. We were desperately craving something like this as soon as we got home:

Lots and lots of arugula, tossed with chickpeas, pasta, and goat cheese. Full of vitamins and fiber (things we seemed to have missed ordering off tapas menus in Spain). I added a hard boiled egg to the leftovers the next day, for a little extra protein. It was lovely. It’s all about balance, I suppose.

Salut!

ARUGULA, CHICKPEA, AND GOAT CHEESE PASTA SALAD (by me)

Serves 8 as a main course

It took us a few days to eat this. I normally wait until the last minute to dress my salads, but the dressing was light enough that the greens never got soggy. You can dress it ahead of time and help yourself as you please, if you like.

Ingredients

8 cups arugula

1 can chickpeas

4 oz goat cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup good olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 lb cooked, cooled pasta

Salt & Pepper to taste

Recipe

Put arugula, chickpeas, and goat cheese into an enormous bowl. Whisk together garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes, then pour the dressing over the beans and greens. Mix together with your hands or salad tongs. Add pasta and mix again until well combined. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Bolognese Sauce

April 27, 2011

The night before my half marathon, Will and I had a pasta party. I wanted some protein on the menu, but didn’t think I wanted to spend a warm and sunny Saturday making meatballs for eleven people. I decided on a Bolognese sauce from Tony Casillo’s Family Cookbook. Bolognese sauce is a meaty, slightly creamy pasta sauce made wih pancetta, pork, and beef.

Tony is actually a friend of my dad’s. His cookbook is filled with stories about his family and memories of his childhood in Italy. It is a very sweet cookbook. This is the first recipe of his that I’ve made. The sauce was rich (but not too rich), and was a great hit among our friends. I’d anticipated having to freeze the leftovers from my huge batch of sauce, but the pot was licked clean!

This is my third half marathon, and it’s definitely my favorite! There were few spectators, but everyone who cheered was so enthusiastic. Most of the spectators were the families who lived on the farms we ran past. The first few very hilly miles took us over a reservoir and past a few mountains. We spent a good 7 miles in farm country which was gorgeous, and ended the race on a bike path. The race was small but very sweet.

As usual, my favorite part of the race was the after party. The finish line was at the New Belgium Brewery. They had really good bands playing, unlimited New Belgium (including 1554!) on tap, and Texas Roadhouse.

I have never in my life been to Texas Roadhouse, but that pulled pork, salad, and rolls with cinnamon butter were SO GOOD. I could not stop talking to Will about it. “We can go if you want, I guess,” Will said. “There’s one like an hour away.” Now I fully recognize that under circumstances that did not involve 2 hours of running, I probably would not have attacked my meal with such gusto. But that day, it was PERFECT.

Each night this week after Will or I make dinner, we say, “Wow, that was great. But it was no Texas Roadhouse…”

BOLOGNESE SAUCE

I doubled this recipe and found it made the perfect amount of sauce for 11 people. I changed this recipe by cutting down on the butter and omitting the olive oil, since I didn’t want the runners to feel too weighted down by the end of the night. Instead of stirring the cream into the sauce at the very end, I let each person put a splash of cream on their sauce after plating since two of our diners were lactose-intolerant. This is also a good idea if you plan on having leftovers, since you shouldn’t freeze cream.

Serves 6

Ingredients

3 tablespoons butter

5 oz pancetta, minced

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 medium carrot, finely chopped

1 medium celery stalk, finely chopped

6 oz ground pork (about 3/4 cup)

6 oz ground beef (about 3/4 cup)

2 oz italian sausage meat, removed from casing if necessary

2/3 cup dry white wine

1.5 cups chicken stock

1/4 cup tomato puree

Salt & pepper

1/4 cup half and half

Recipe

Melt butter in a large pot with a heavy bottom over medium head. Add pancetta, onions, carrot, and celery. Stir occasionally and cook until vegetables are soft and onions are translucent (about 5 minutes). Stir in pork, beef, and sausage meat, and cook until meat is browned and crumbles into pieces (about 15 minutes).

Reduce heat to low, add wine, 1/4 cup of stock, and tomato paste, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover with lid. Simmer on low heat about about 1.5 hours, stirring and adding 1/4 cup stock at a time about every 10 or 15 minutes. The finished sauce should be very thick and, as Tony says, gruel-like.

Plate your bolognese sauce on some pasta (I like rigatoni, Tony likes tagliatelle), and stir in a little cream to taste. Enjoy.

Linguine with Clams

March 7, 2011

My friend Reed and I decided to run a half marathon together. I must admit that a large part of the lure of this half marathon is the fact that I will receive unlimited New Belgium Brewing Co. beer after I finish, but also because I would like to have goals.

And as a result of increasing the frequency and distance at which I run, I have been craving pasta more often than usual (see: Pasta Puttanesca). We ran a 6 miler on Tuesday and I found myself with an insatiable and inexplicable craving for Linguine with Clams. Inexplicable, because I’ve had this dish once in my whole life and though I enjoyed it thoroughly, I have not craved it since.

So I strolled on over to Whole Foods (I refuse to drive there, as the bursting-at-the-seams parking lot too closely resembles Grand Theft Auto) and picked up some clams and decided to have a go at it. I selected a recipe with a white-wine sauce rather than a cream or tomato because I wanted it as simple and clammy as possible.

This dish was good, but it was not what I wanted. I was hoping for the ocean-in-a-bowl effect I got the previous (and only) time I ever had linguine with clams. I was hoping it would be brinier and, well, clammier. Can you achieve that without adding canned clam juice? I don’t know. Maybe I should have used the 3lbs of clams recommended by the recipe instead of the 2lbs recommended by my fish monger? Probably. My craving is still there so if you’ve got a good, sea-salty recipe, please share with me and I will be eternally grateful.

As you can tell by this post and the last, I have not been batting 100 in the kitchen this week. I’ve been doing good, but I haven’t been doing great. So the next thing I make had better be eyes-rolling-back-in-the-head good, or I’ll consider myself in a slump. But fear not, I’ve got a pretty exciting something up my sleeve to try. Tune in next post where I heroically retrieve my domestic goddess crown. Or at least make a valiant effort.

LINGUINE WITH CLAMS (adapted from Spaghetti with Fresh Clams, Parsley, and Lemon)

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 pounds fresh Manila clams or small littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 pound spaghetti

Recipe

First, place a large pot of salted water on the burner and begin to heat it to a boil.

While the salted water boils, place a second large pot over medium heat. When it gets hot, add garlic. Saute until garlic lightly brown (a couple minutes), then add the red pepper flakes and saute 30 more seconds. Add the clams and 1/4 cup of the parsley. Stir 2 minutes longer. Add wine and simmer 2 minutes. Add 1/3 cup lemon juice and simmer 2 more minutes. Cover with a lid and simmer until most of your clams are open (the recipe said that would be 6 minutes, mine took about 8). Discard any clams that did not open (they are dead). Remove from heat.

Add spaghetti to salted water. Cook until al dente. Drain, then add to pot with clams and toss together. Season with salt and pepper. Divide among four bowls. Drizzle remaining 1/4 cup lemon juice over spaghetti in each bowl. Enjoy.

Pasta Puttanesca

February 20, 2011

We celebrated my good friend Kristina’s birthday this weekend. We had a blast out on the town and started our evening right: in a stylish bar, with our very first real martinis.

I ordered mine Extra Dirty because I love olive juice and also because it sounds cool. After I ordered it, my friend David said, “Oh, aren’t you fancy?” And I said, “Well David, it takes a certain kind of person to order an extra dirty martini at a classy bar.” To which David responded, “What kind of person? Oh, right, an extra dirty one.” Here are David and Will at a burrito place much later that evening.

Midnights spent at late night burrito places sometimes lead to very difficult mornings. But I regret nothing. On top of the hours of fun we had around town, the extra dirty martini I had reminded me of a wonderful recipe I found for Pasta Puttanesca.

Pasta Puttanesca is a sauce made from tomatoes, black olives, capers, anchovies, garlic, and herbs. It cooks quickly (less than 30 minutes, actually) and is extremely fragrant and delciious.

Puttanesca literally translates to “in the style of the whore” in Italian. There are various explanations for this name. Some say that Italian prostitutes made this aromatic sauce to lure men into their houses of ill repute. Others claim this sauce was made by Italian housewives who wanted to finish making dinner quickly to attend to other nighttime activities. Either way, this is one of my new favorite winter time dishes. Particularly if you must attend to other nighttime activities.

PASTA PUTTANESCA (adapted from Mark Bittman’s Pasta Puttanesca)

I doubled the sauce in this recipe so we’d have extra to take for lunch and to spread over chicken later in the week. I like a lot of sauce on my pasta, so this made about 5 servings of sauce.

Ingredients

  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 or more cloves garlic, lightly smashed and peeled
  • 6 or more anchovy fillets
  • Two 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup pitted black olives, preferably oil-cured
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 pound linguine or other long pasta
  • Chopped fresh parsley, oregano, marjoram or basil leaves for garnish, optional

Recipe

Salt a pot of boiling water and bring it to a boil. Heat a large saucepan on medium low heat (Don’t try to heat it any higher of the anchovies will explode when you add them. Trust me). Add your olive oil, then add garlic and anchovies. Saute a few minutes until garlic is lightly browned.

Drain your tomatoes and tear them into smaller pieces with your hands (be careful not to squirt tomato juice everywhere). Add to the saucepan with a little salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium high, cooking and stirring occasionally until the tomatoes break down (about 10 minutes). Reduce heat to a simmer and add capers, olives, and red pepper flakes.

Cook your pasta to al dente. Toss pasta with sauce. Garnish with fresh herbs, if you like. Enjoy.

Make this. Seriously. Make it right now. Even if you are not a zucchini-lover (Will and I are not), you need to make this. It is amazing. Healthier and more delicious (the latter much more important than the former) than its ¬†straight-up spaghetti counterpart. Even if you think, “Ugh, a dietetic version of spaghetti.” you should still make it. Because it is one of the greatest things I have ever made. No lie.

I had some goat cheese in my fridge so I substituted it for the parmesan called for in Michael Chiarello and smittenkitchen’s recipes. It worked beautifully, and I have difficulty believing that parmesan could be any better. The goat cheese is subtle enough to be balance the delicate zucchini instead of overpowering it. Plus, the creaminess from melted goat cheese is an added bonus.

Well, what more is there to say? Oh, I know. If you look closely in the first picture you can see the worst sunburn of my life. To the armpit. Ouch.

ZUCCHINI SPAGHETTI WITH GOAT CHEESE (adapted from Michael Chiarello’s Spaghetti Squared: Pasta with Garlic, Olive Oil, and Zucchini and smittenkitchen.com’s Zucchini Strand Spaghetti)

Ingredients

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 lb whole-wheat spaghetti

3/4 lb zucchini

1/4 cup EVOO

2 tablespoon minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves

6 oz goat cheese, plus a bit more for sprinkling

Recipe

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt.

Cut zucchini with the fine french fry cutter on a mandoline or (if you don’t have a mandoline like me) peel into long, thin strips with a vegetable peeler. Season with salt and pepper. Add spaghetti to boiling water.

While you wait for the spaghetti to cook, heat 1/4 cup EVOO in a small skillet over medium high heat until hot. Add garlic and saute briefly until light brown. Add the red pepper flakes. Quickly mix in the basil and remove from the heat. When the spaghetti is al dente, drain through a colander.

Pour pasta into a warm serving bowl. Add the zucchini, garlic/basil mixture, and the goat cheese. Toss well. Serve with a few crumbles of goat cheese on top.

Fresh Pasta

February 25, 2010

I believe there is one and only one problem with getting better at cooking: you start wanting more and more gadgets. At first these gadgets are simple and multi-purpose: a food processor, a rolling pin, a dutch oven. But suddenly, the things you want become more obscure and single-purpose: a candy thermometer, a pastry cutter, a dough crimper.¬† And the more time you spend in specialty cookware stores, the more obscure, single-purpose items you want. Like, oh, I don’t know… a $15 milk frother. To make your own lattes. It’s sitting in my silverware drawer. It’s cheaper than Starbucks?

After the milk frother, I decided I was cutting myself off. NO MORE GADGETS. Immediately after I promised myself this, however, I remembered how much I’ve wanted to make my own pasta. My mom did this a few times while I was growing up, and those times made for some truly awesome dinners. Despite these fresh pasta memories, I decided not to give in to yet another gadget.

But then today, I was reading a few chapters in The Art of Simple Food. The ever-encouraging Alice Waters said this about making pasta using a rolling pin instead of a pasta machine. “The rollers of the machine create perfectly smooth noodles, while hand-rolling results in interesting surface irregularities for the sauce to cling to, adding nuance and flavor. It’s worth rolling the dough by hand once to taste and feel the difference.” And just like that I was sold.

Well, it was hard to get the dough to the right consistency. I actually threw out my first batch of dough that was far too dry. I started over with 1/4 cup less flour than the recipe called for. I rolled out the pasta thin, then cut it into strips. Not very uniform in shape, but they got the job done. The pasta only took me about 4 minutes to cook. And I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

I wasn’t really sure what kind of sauce to make, but when I tasted how delicious the first lone “test piece” I made was all on its own, I decided to keep it simple. After I cooked the pasta, I sauteed some garlic in butter, then tossed the pasta with it, and put a whole bunch of parmesan cheese and black pepper on the finished product. I roasted a bunch of vegetables and put out some olives. And it was delicious.

In summary–hard to get the dough to the right consistency, then multiple steps of moderate difficulty, but so worth it.

FRESH PASTA (adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters)

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups flour

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

Recipe

Dump flour on a dry surface and make a pile. Create a little well in the middle. Place the eggs and egg yolks in the well. Begin to gently scramble the eggs with a fork, mixing in a little more flour from the sides of the well with each circle of the fork. When the dough gets too hard to mix with a fork, use your hands. Gently knead the dough. It should be a little sticky. Add a little flour at a time if it’s too sticky. Add a little water if its not sticky enough. Wrap in Saran Wrap and let sit at room temperature for an hour.

Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough on a well-floured surface. Roll it out as thin as you’d like. Cut into pasta strips. Place pasta strips in heavily-salted, vigorously boiling water. Stir occasionally. Pasta will be done in 2-6 minutes, depending on the thinness of the strips. Keep taking pieces out, running them under cold water, then testing them for doneness.

RIDICULOUSLY SIMPLE BUTTER AND GARLIC SAUCE

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter

4 cloves chopped garlic

Black pepper

Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese

Recipe

Melt butter in a saucepan on medium heat. Add chopped garlic. Lightly brown garlic. Add pasta. Add black pepper. Saute for 1-2 minutes. Serve on a plate. Garnish with more black pepper and cheese.