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.

Yes, grapefruit and avocados. Unlikely lovers. I too was skeptical, until I saw that it was Alice Waters who paired them together in this recipe. Another genius move. I am impressed without being surprised.

Just for kicks, I perused the avocado section  The Flavor Bible at my local cooking supply store a few hours before I made this which confirmed that grapefruit and avocado are very much complimentary flavors. It is true that sometimes when I am bored, I venture to the cooking store store to peruse cookbooks. It’s a good life.

The creaminess of the avocado cuts the sourness of the grapefruit. Even Will, who doesn’t like grapefruit, enjoyed a few bites of this salad. I highly recommend it as a pairing with fish.

ALICE WATERS’ GRAPEFRUIT AND AVOCADO SALAD (adapted in the vaguest way from Alice Waters’ Grapefruit and Avocado Salad)

My only adaptations were to substitute sherry vinegar for white wine vinegar, and to leave out the chervil which all supermarkets within walking distance from my apaartment did not supply.

Serves 2

1 medium ruby grapefruit
1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
Salt & Pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium Hass avocados, cut in half and pits removed

1. Use a sharp knife to peel your grapefruit. Remove rind and pith. Separate into sections and remove the membrane. (I couldn’t keep a single grapefruit slice in tact. Don’t worry if you can’t either, we can still make it look pretty at the end). Squeeze the juice from the membranes into a little bowl. Measure 2 tablespoons of the juice into a small bowl.

2. Add vinegar, salt, and pepper to the bowl with grapefruit juice. Beat in oil with a whisk.

3. Peel avocados and cut into slices. Sprinkle lightly with salt. If you had the knife skills of Alice Waters and managed to keep your de-membraned grapefruit slices in tact, arrange your grapefruit and avocado on a plate in alterating slices. If your knife skills were similar to mine, put your grapefruit gobs on the bottom of the plate, and arrange your avocado slices in a flower patten on top. Drizzle with dressing and enjoy.

Mexican Chopped Salad

January 25, 2011

Our friends Reed and David had us over for fried cod tacos (yum!) and asked us to bring over a salad or vegetable. Using the power of the internet, I found this delicious Mexican Chopped Salad. It’s very simple to make, it just requires you to chop, chop, chop vegetables. It’s really just a bunch of corn, black beans, avocado, radishes, red peppers, jalapenos, jicama, lettuce, pickled onions, tomatoes, and cheese all jumbled together in a big old pile. It is delicious, and when mixed with some chicken, it makes a complete and healthy meal.

I can picture making this often during the summer. When it’s sweltering and the last thing I could possibly want to do is use an oven. Yet dinner, somehow, will have to get made. I’ll just chop, chop, chop my way to dinner then, I suppose. And will be aided by a cold margarita. Though I always endorse making things as much from scratch as possible, I would like to give Simply Limeaid a shout out as my favorite, shortcut margarita base. Just mix a cup with a shot of tequila and a 1/2 shot of Cointreau, and you’re well on your way to summertime happiness in the middle of winter.

Finally, I’m going to post this video because Reed and David would want me to.

I hope you enjoy this healthy salad! Let’s just say I needed to eat something nutritious like this for dinner before I ate my next very decadent post for dessert. Stay tuned!

MEXICAN CHOPPED SALAD (adapted from Mexican Chopped Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing from SELF)

Serves 8-10 as a side, 6-8 as a main with chicken

I did try the Honey-Lime Dressing from the original recipe, but it was a real disappointment. It wasn’t very flavorful, and the olive oil was completely out of place with the honey and jalapeno.  I decided that a good alternative would be to mash up some avocado with lime juice and salt and pepper, and toss the salad with the mash. It’s delicious.

If you’re going to make this ahead of time, chop and mix all ingredients except the lime juice, avocado, and cheese. Right before serving, toss your avocado/lime mixture and cheese with the salad.

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups chopped romaine lettuce leaves

1 can (15.5 oz) black beans, rinsed and well drained

4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 small jicama, peeled and chopped

Kernels from 2 ears corn or 1 can (15.5 oz) corn kernels, uncooked

1 small bunch radishes, thinly sliced

1 red peper, chopped

2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped

1 cup pickled onions (click here for recipe) or 1/2 a fresh red onion, diced

2 ripe avocadoes, peeled

Juice of 4 limes (about 1/2 cup)

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Salt and Pepper

2 chicken breasts

Tortilla chips (optional)

Recipe

Bring a few cups water to a boil. Place your chicken breasts in the water and boil for about 40-50 minutes until meat in the center is white, turning breasts in the pot halway through cooking. Once cooled, shred the chicken with forks or your hands.

In a large bowl, toss together lettuce, black beans, tomatoes, jicama, corn, radishes, red pepper, jalapenos, onion, and chicken.

Mash the avocados with a fork and squirt lime juice over them. Add salt and pepper to taste, then mash the whole mixture up. Toss salad with the avocado mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve with tortilla chips and enjoy.

I think last Sunday and Monday at work, someone must have put a sign on my back saying, “Please! Make sexual jokes that will make me extremely uncomfortable!”

On Monday, I asked my patient if I could replace a few of her telemetry leads that were starting to unstick. These leads are placed in areas around the chest. She said ok, and then her 50 year old husband, (wearing hunting camo, I might add) said “Hey, remember yesterday when that young guy grabbed your boob to do that? I bet YOU felt young again!” I told them I could not guarantee a similar experience.

On Sunday, I walked in on my patient’s husband applying her hemorrhoid cream. I said, “Oh, sorry, I’ll come back in ten.” When I came back, I attempted to break the awkwardness by making a joke. I said, “Hoo boy, I’ve got some timing, huh?” The wife said, “Oh don’t worry, he likes it,” and the husband said, “I think I’ve got some Greek in me.”

I needed something wholesome after those experiences. Namely, my at-home interpretation of my favorite restaurant salad of all time. The beets are caramelized, the goat cheese is soft, the hazelnuts are toasted.

This salad is fantastic. I make it (and margherita pizza, and red wine that I have clearly started drinking far before dinner as you can tell by my near empty glass) when I want to be awesome.

If you make it, let me know how it goes! But please, don’t elaborate on too much else…

GREENS WITH BEETS, GOAT CHEESE, AND TOASTED HAZELNUTS

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 bunch beets (smallest you can find)

EVOO

1/3 cup raw hazelnuts

4 cups mixed greens

4 oz goat cheese

sherry vinegar, to taste

Salt & cracked black pepper

Recipe

Wash and dry salad greens. Set them in a bowl.

Take your goat cheese out of the fridge to let it get to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 400. Cut stems off beets. Cut off the little beet tail. Cut a large rectangle of aluminum foil. Line up beets in center of foil, then bring the long side and short sides together, creating a pouch. Put two or three tablespoons water in pouch, then crimp pouch shut.Cook beets 30-40 minutes, until just tender. Allow to cool.

Decrease oven temperature to 325. While beets cool, toast your hazelnuts. Spread hazelnuts onto a baking sheet. Bake 10-15 minutes, until toasted. Halve them and rub the skins off them with your fingers, if you like (a nice touch, but not necessary by any means).

Peel your beets with a vegetable peeler. Cut beets into quarters. Heat 2 tablespoons EVOO in a skillet on medium-high heat. Once hot, add beet quarters. Allow beets to cook in hot EVOO for 5-10 minutes, flipping them halfway. Remove when they are hot and arrange over the salad greens.

Toss the salad greens and beets with EVOO and sherry vinegar, to taste (I like about 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar and 1/2 tablespoon EVOO). Sprinkle the hazelnuts and goat cheese over the salad. Sprinkle black pepper over the salad. Enjoy!

Yesterday was day 2 out of day 4 off from work, and I was pretty much a slug on the couch all day. I made plans to prepare this make ahead dinner, but peeling my rump from the cushions seemed next to impossible for most of the afternoon. Eventually, I had to get up to answer the door for the delivery man, so I figured I would go with my momentum while I had it and buckled down to make this. I’m glad I did.

This salad is great. I mean, really great. It’s the perfect way to say goodbye to summer while the farmers market still has delicious corn and cherry tomatoes. The only thing that makes this meal better is eating it with a nice, cold beer after an early evening soccer game. That’s my kind of night!

The dressing on this salad is my new favorite dressing. It contains marjoram, which I’d never used before. Marjoram tastes like a sweeter, more mild version of oregano. Next time, I’m making extra of this dressing for a salad later in the week.

I’ve added two steps to this recipe. I’d like to explain why, so you know I’m not running you around the kitchen without good reason. First, I brined my chicken. Brining chicken prevents the chicken from losing a lot of moisture to the surrounding environment. It is about 2 minutes active time and 30 minutes of waiting that will make a dry chicken breast much juicier. The ratio for brine is 1 tablespoon table salt to 1 cup water. I use one cup brine per chicken breast. This is not a necessary step, but I think it is a worthwhile one. 

And lastly, the quinoa. You may be asking yourself, “Why in the world am I rinsing my quinoa 3 times?” Quinoa is a delicious, hearty, slightly sweet grain which is naturally surrounded by a bitter coating called saponin. The saponin is washed off during the multiple rinses. If you don’t want to bother with the rinses, I’d suggest substituting farro or couscous for the quinoa in this recipe.

Alright, sorry if I told you more than you ever wanted to know about brining chicken and rinsing quinoa. But I am lazy unless someone gives me a good reason not to be. I wanted to let you know how the extra steps will yield a better, final result. 

Recent articles on food and drink that caught my attention:

CHICKEN, GREEN BEAN, CORN, CHERRY TOMATO, and QUINOA SALAD (adapted from Chicken, Green Bean, Corn, and Farro Salad. Bon Appetit, August 2009. Quinoa cooking instructions from Quinoa Salad with Fresh Hearts of Palm. Gourmet, May 2009)

I altered this recipe quite a bit. I had difficulty finding farro, so I substituted quinoa. Others who commented on the recipe said couscous also works well. I added cherry tomatoes. And I brined my chicken, which is not necessary, but will make for a more juicy chicken. I substituted sherry vinegar for white wine vinegar because I like the flavor better, but according to other comments, rice wine vinegar works well too. I think balsamic would overpower the flavor a bit. 

This salad can be made up to one day ahead

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 8 ounces skinless boneless chicken breast halves
  • 2 tablespoons table salt
  • 12 ounces green beans, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups fresh yellow corn kernels (cut from 2 to 3 ears of corn)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • Recipe

    Brine chicken. Pour 2 tablespoons table salt and 2 cups cold water into a Ziploc bag or sealed container. Add chicken breasts. Refrigerate 30-60 minutes. 

    Wash quinoa in 3 changes of cold water in a bowl, draining in a fine-mesh sieve. Cook quinoa in a medium pot of well-salted boiling water, uncovered, until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Drain in sieve, then set sieve over same pot above 1 inch of simmering water (water should not touch bottom of sieve). Cover quinoa with a folded kitchen towel (not terry cloth), then cover with a lid (don’t worry if lid doesn’t fit tightly) and steam until tender, fluffy, and dry, about 15 minutes. Let stand off heat, without lid but still covered with towel, 5 minutes. Let cool in a closed container, in the fridge if you’re in a rush. 

    Your chicken breasts should be brined now. Take chicken breasts out of bag, rinse under cold water, pat dry with paper towels. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to skillet; cook until golden brown and cooked through, about 8 minutes per side. Cool, then cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes.

    Cook green beans in large saucepan of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain. Rinse under cold water to cool; drain. Transfer beans to kitchen towel; pat dry.

    Halve cherry tomatoes.

    Mix quinoa, chicken, and green beans in large bowl; add corn, green onions, and cherry tomatoes.

    Combine remaining 2 tablespoons oil, marjoram, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt in small bowl. Press with back of spoon to release flavor. Whisk in vinegar, shallot, and mustard. Pour over salad in bowl; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

    Divide chilled or room-temperature salad among plates. Sprinkle with goat cheese.

    Will and I planned to hike a 14er today with two of my friends, but weather destroyed our outdoorsy plans. As a substitue we went out to lunch, went on a brewery tour, and then spent a luxurious 4 hours at my most favorite restaurant during their all-night happy hour. It was a great day. Perhaps the greatest moment is when the waiter mistakenly thought we ordered another round of beets. He said, “Oh, you guys didn’t order these? Well, would anyone like them?” And, though I was full of wine and tapas, my hand shot up like a rocket and I consumed my SECOND order of beets for the night.

    In case you couldn’t tell by my story, or by simply knowing me and my accompanying oddities, I am, unabashedly, a beet freak. If you are jealous of my Beet Love and would like to like beets, this would be a good gateway salad to get you on the beet train. In the difficult-to-find but absolutely-wonderful Chez Panisse Vegetables, Alice Waters recommends creating a salad with beets, orange zest, sherry vinegar, and thyme. I thought a bit of goat cheese couldn’t hurt that lovely equation one bit, and I must say that was right. The only problem with beets is the stains they leave. Check me out.

    HAWT. Out, damn’d spot! I always forget that even after I wash my hands I the beet stain still spreads to my dishtowels, silverware, arms. So how much do you think I liked this salad?

    This is me licking the bowl. I am a classy broad. As Will said, “You know, Elizabeth, most people don’t just drink the leftover beet juice…” I am not most people. Clearly.

    More on beets: Beets and Beet Greens

    BEET SALAD WITH ORANGE ZEST AND GOAT CHEESE (adapted from Beet Salad from Chez Panisse Vegetables)

    Serves 4 as a side

    Ingredients

    6 small beets (scrubbed, tails cut off, greens cut off, about 1/2 inch stem left on beet)

    3 splashes sherry vinegar

    Zest of 1 orange

    2 oz goat cheese

    Salt and pepper to taste

    Recipe

    Preheat oven to 375. Place beets in center of a large, long piece of aluminum foil. Fold the edges over the beets and crimp them, creating a foil pocket. Open a small corner of the pocked and dump in a 1/2 tablespoon water for every two beets. Place beets-in-foil on a baking sheet. Bake beets in oven for 40-50 minutes, until fork tender. Allow beets to cool.

    Peel with vegetable peeler when cool. Cut beets into quarters or eights, depending on size of the beets. Pop them in the fridge or freeze to get slightly cold, if you like. Add zest, goat cheese, sherry vinegar, and salt & pepper to beets. Toss beet salad. Enjoy.

    Asian Slaw

    May 3, 2010

    Today, I saw a tiny little girl, about 3 or 4, going to town on a giant muffin with a huge smile on her face. I said to her, “That’s a pretty big muffin you got there.” She smiled and said, “I’m gonna eat the whole thing!” Then she looked at my box. She asked, “What are you gonna eat?” I told her I had a ham and cheese sandwich. She looked from her muffin to my box and scrunched up her face, then said, “Why?” I cracked up.

    When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait until the day when I was a grownup with my own car and my own money and could just eat candy and cupcakes all day long. Now that I am a grownup, I do boring things like file income taxes and select color palettes and eat ham and cheese sandwiches. Sometimes. But I’ve still got the infinite bliss of a toddler chomping on a giant chocolate chip muffin whenever I eat something really delicious.

    Speaking of grown-up tastes, cabbage is one thing I fantasized outlawing from my grown-up kitchen when I was a kid. I am still not a fan of the cooked stuff, but I LOVE raw cabbage salad. It is a great counter to spicy food like the aforementioned Beef Satay with Peanut Sauce. The only thing about buying cabbage is that it yields a STUNNING amount of cabbage. Particularly if you want to be all cool and have purple AND green cabbage. I don’t know what we are going to do with that…

    I altered the recipe a bit. I didn’t have a food processor so I just chopped everything finely as possible. The serrano peppers I bought were very spicy, so I only used one. I left out the green onions for my resident onion-hater, and I left out the peppers since Will isn’t such a fan of those either. And I halved the amount of Napa cabbage so I could add purple cabbage for an awesomely colored purple and green slaw.

    ASIAN SLAW (adapted from Alton Brown’s Asian Slaw)

    Serves a small army (8-10, realistically)

    Ingredients

    1 (3 inch) piece ginger, grated fine

    1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

    1 lime, juiced

    2 tablespoons sesame oil

    1/2 cup smooth peanut butter

    1/2 head Napa cabbage, sliced thin

    1 head small purple cabbage, sliced thin

    1 serrano chile, minced fine

    2 tablespoons chiffonade cilantro

    2 tablespoons chiffonade mint

    1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

    Recipe

    In a small bowl or food processor combine ginger, vinegar soy sauce, lime juice, oil, and peanut butter. In a large bowl, combine other ingredients and then toss with dressing.