Breakfast cheese plate

  
It happened again. After a hectic week we woke up with no yogurt, oatmeal, eggs, cereal or other breakfast items in the house. So we improvised with a cheese plate with nuts and fruit. Since it is fall, we no longer have peaches, berries, cherries and plums, our favorites, so we used mandarin oranges and pears. We also had leftover sheep’s cheese from a dish we made last week and a soft, mild cheese from Galicia. 

  • 1 mandarin orange, peeled
  • 1 pear, peeled
  • 1 handful assorted nuts (walnuts, almonds)
  • A few slices of different cheeses (Parmesan, Manchego, goat cheese, cheddar etc. )

Arrange fruits, nuts and cheeses on a plate. Serves 1.

Sauteed wild mushrooms with garlic and parsley

Tags

  

Hunting for wild mushrooms is a popular activity in Catalonia, so much so that there is a mad rush to the mountains every fall and fierce competition. You have to get up early and get to the mountains before everyone else. Given these conditions, it is highly unlikely that our family would be successful at this activity. Actually I am notoriously bad at it, it is the kind of thing that can drive you to obsession, like sodoku. So we always go with friends who are experienced, otherwise we might find two or three mushrooms!

   
 Last weekend we went with our expert friends, near Sant Llorenç de Morunys. The kids found camagrocs (chanterelles) and I found rovellons, with help. Luckily our friends filled up a basket, so we later had a wonderful plate of sautéed mushrooms with garlic and parsley. 

Recipe: 

  • 1/2 lb mixed wild mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Pinch of salt
  • Olive oil

Wash or clean and dry the mushrooms well. In a wide frying pan or paella spread the mushrooms, whole. Cook them over  medium heat on the stove top, until they release their water. This could take a while, 20 minutes or so. Sprinkle them with salt. Cook, stirring every now and then until the water cooks off, then add olive oil so they can keep cooking without burning. They will have reduced in size dramatically. Stir fry them in the olive oil for about 10 minutes more until they reach your desired fried-ness, then add the garlic and parsley. Cook a couple of minutes more and serve. 

Vichyssoise soup with carrots

Tags

,

thumb_IMG_6410_1024

The picture didn’t come out great, but my kids loved this vichyssoise soup sprinkled with finely grated carrots. This is a very simple soup that we had for a weeknight dinner and then ate as leftovers for lunch. It is a great recipe because it is all vegetables, fast and easy to make and it can be prepared in advance. We had it cold but it can also be eaten hot. Although I didn’t try it this time, this soup would be great topped with toasted sesame seeds.

Ingredients:

  • 5 chopped leeks (white part only)
  • 1/4 white onion
  • 4 medium red potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 cup cream or whole milk
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 carrot, finely grated

In a heavy bottomed pot or saucepan, combine leeks and onion with butter and olive oil and cook over a medium flame for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add the salt, water, and potatoes and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover and boil lightly for about 30 minutes, until the potatoes are soft. Remove from the heat and let cool. Puree the soup with an immersion blender. Once cool, add milk or cream and refrigerate. When ready to serve, sprinkle with the carrots.

Provence with Kids (Nectarine preserves)

  
This year’s summer vacation was one of our best ever; we slow travelled via a home exchange in Haute Provence, France. 

The markets were lovely, large outdoor affairs that covered four blocks of the village we stayed in. Everywhere there were fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and charcuterie, cheeses, wonderful rosé wines, I could go on and on. 

As it turns out, Provence is also a great place to go with kids. We drove the four of us in a four door sedan so we had to pack really light, but there were many activities for kids, lakes, pools, mountains, fishing, stand-up paddling, and even just exploring the corridors of the ages old villages we explored was fun for them. 

While in Provence, I had some of the best fruits ever, the nectarines were particularly good. We returned to the market for more several times, and we made nectarine preserves with the ones that were almost too ripe to eat. We served with preserves with yogurt and used as a desert with goat cheese and toast.

  • 2 kilos (4.5 lbs) ripe nectarines, cut into chunks with skins intact. 
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Combine all ingredients in a heavy bottomed pan and let sit until the nectarines start to release their juices. Cook over low heat for about 45 minutes, stir to make sure the fruit doesn’t stick to the pan. Remove from the heat, the fruit should look less liquid-y and still be chunky. Let cool and keep in refrigerator. For me, this recipe made about 1 quart jar of preserves. 

Kid’s Favorite Plum Jam

  
After many years of frustration with Spanish jam and jelly offerings, I finally decided to make my own. It was really simple and so good that we went through two and a half jars in just a few days. 

  • 1.5 kilos/ 3.25 lb ripe plumbs
  • 1.5 c sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Pinch of salt

Halve prunes and remove seeds. Combine with the other ingredients in a large heavy pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce and leave to simmer for 1.5 – 2 hours. When the jam has thickened considerably and the fruit has broken down (with just a few chunks left) remove from the heat, let cool and serve. The jam will last a couple weeks in the fridge or you can can it using a boiling water bath.  We put this jam on bread, over yogurt and with cheese, and combined well with all three.

Tomato season – chunky gazpacho soup

IMG_2265

It is starting to be the time of year when I just can’t get enough tomatos. Whether they come from the market, the grocery store or the organic delivery box, they are fresh, ripe, sweet and juicy! To celebrate the deliciousness of these tomatos I thought I would make a homemade gazpacho soup. This is one product that you can buy prepared in Spain, and it is actually quite good, but so is the homemade stuff, even if it takes longer and costs a bit more.

  
I like to make my gazpacho chunky, because you can see the beautiful array of colors: green parsley and bell pepper, red tomatos, purple onions. Of course the children will only eat it in the pureed form, otherwise it looks too much like raw vegetables, which of course it is:)

  

    Combine the following ingredients:

  • 1 kilo ripe tomoatos, peeled
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 purple onion, chopped into tiny pieces
  • 1/2 leek, white part cut thin
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh parsley chopped
  • 1 tbsp good quality olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp red wine vinegar, to taste
  • juice of 1/2 lemon, fresh squeezed
  • salt to taste  
  • croutons, and extra veggies, to top the soup. 

Purée part or all of it, if you want, with an immersion blender. Cover and chill the soup until very cold before serving.

3 for the price of 1!

  

Is it possible to eat well on a budget? Of course, anything is possible. Friday was grocery day. I went to the market and spent 75 € for ingredients to prepare three fresh, homemade dinners for our family of four, roughly the price of one dinner for two at a favorite tapas bar.

Grocery list:

Meats & Seafood (38 €)

  • 1 kilo beef (rump), tied for a roast
  • 3 large bone-in chicken thighs (6 pieces) & 8 chicken sausage links
  • 350 g. salmon filets
  • 1 kilo rock muscles

Legumes (5 €)

  • 500 g. cooked garbanzo beans
  • 500 g. cooked potato salad mix: potato, carrots and peas

Fruits, veggies and herbs (17 €)

  • 500 g. cherries
  • 1.5 kilo peaches
  • 1 head of lettuce
  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 kilo tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 bunch of purple onions
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 bunch of mint
  • 1 bunch of parsley

1 bottle of Otazu 2013 Rosé (9 €)

Items already at home: salt, pepper, olive oil, vinegar, yogurt, eggs, baguette (6 €).

Meal plan:

  • Dinner 1: Roast beef, bean salad & greens; desert: desert: cherries or peaches, yogurt.
  • Dinner 2: Muscles, salmon filets, gazpacho soup; desert: desert: cherries or peaches, yogurt.
  • Dinner 3: Roast chicken thighs with sausage pieces, green vegetable salad, sautéed garbanzos with eggplant; desert: cherries or peaches, yogurt.

All fresh, nothing processed, delicious, and healthy.

Muscles and Baked Sea Bream with Potatos and Eggplant

  
  
 For dinner we had my son’s famous seafood. We call it this because he loves seafood more than chicken and meat, and he always helps. This time we had rock muscles and baked sea bream with a green salad, bread and a Rosé I picked up during my weekend in Côte d’Azur. Yes, the kids love the muscles!
My son washed the muscles, and the muscles were so delicious. I attribute this to me spending more than my normal 30 minutes in the kitchen. sea bream is an easy fish to bake, but I put in effort for our special dinner by pre-sautéing the potatos and eggplant before putting the fish in the oven. This time consuming extra step makes a huge difference. 

  
My son also washed the muscles very systematically and remarked on the little creatures living on the outside of the shells

  
Muscles:

  • 2 lb rock muscles debarred and washed.
  • 1/2 onion slices thin
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 leek sliced thin
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Chopped parsley 
  • A splash of your bottle of rosé

Sautée onion, leek, garlic in olive oil and butter until very soft and a bit crispy around the edges. Add the muscles and wine and wait 5 minutes until the muscles open and release their juice. Add parsley and remove from heat. Serve in the broth with bread for soaking up the juices.

Sea bream, potatos and eggplants:

  • 2 medium sea bream or other white fish, about 2 lb.
  • 3 white potatos
  • 1/2 eggplant
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt

Slice the potatos and eggplant very thin. Sauté the potatos in olive oil until almost done and a bit golden. (Easy version: boil the potatosunt half done and don’t pre-fry the eggplants).

Remove from heat, set aside and do the same thing with the eggplant. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place the whole cleaned sea bream in a pan atop the eggplant and potatos in an 190 degree C oven, sprinkled with sea salt and drizzled with olive oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes, and serve. Eat the muscles while the fish bakes:)

Green Salad 

 
Central Europe is experiencing  a heat wave. While in Sweden they are celebrating, in Barcelona the fans have sold out at the Chinese bazaars. We do not have air conditioning, and I briefly considered asking the tenants at our old apartment if we could stop by and turn on theirs. The discomfort of heat and humidity was topped only by one miserable night in 2005 in a hotel in Cuba when the electricity went out.
It is so hot that we have been eating things like gazpacho soup and lots of salads. In this salad I combined lots of different kinds of greens with other green things like cucumbers and green olives. Green beans would also be a good addition, with a tomato or two for color.

  • Baby spinach leaves
  • Lettuce leaves, torn
  • Whole basil leaves
  • Half a peeled cucumber
  • Green olives
  • One peeled, chopped ripe tomato
  • Vinaigrette of ground basil, lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt and vinegar 

Voilà! Combine and serve.

Image

Salad of Baby Spinach, Avocados, Pears and Crispy Onions

IMG_5838

This salad was inspired by day at the beach in Aiguablava, and a meal with my two children at Toc al Mar (http://www.tocalmar.cat/).  It was a perfect Mediterranean summer day, with a white sand beach dotted with kids and families, a glassy sea and gentle breeze, sun glinting off of the rafters of the restaurant’s open patio and tables with colorful striped tablecloths and informal, earthenware place settings. I wanted to take the kids to have lunch so we made a reservation and left our towels, sand toys and umbrella’s at the beach while while we ate overlooking the sea.

I do what I often do with my kids, order two sides and a main dish and split them all between the three of us; we got grilled fresh muscles, skin-on baked potatoes with romesco sauce and a spinach salad with pears, avocados, onions, parmesan cheese and crispy fried onions. (I also ordered a glass of Albariño, not shared) The kids love muscles and have fun opening the shells, and are generally not fans of salad, but they really liked this one, probably because of the sweetness of the pears and the parmesan, which- since it is cheese- pleases them. The salad was dressed with a light citrus vinagrette.

I loved the salad so much I wanted to make it at home. I adapted a little bit by adding croutons and I used fried shallots instead of onions. I also used goat cheese instead of parmesan but decided later I prefer the texture of parmesan, which is combines well with the crispy onions. Fry them in advance, by slicing the two or three shallots very thin.

The salad was simple to prepare: Slice two shallots very thin and fry in olive oil until golden. Also fry a couple of day old bread slices, cut into chunks, until crispy. Toss the baby spinach leaves with olive oil, salt and pepper, then sprinkle with a little red wine vinegar (2 tsp). Add 1/2 thinly sliced pear, 1 avocado cut into chunks, and 2 or 3 oz. parmesan or goat cheese. Top the salad with the onions and croutons.