Thursday, November 29, 2018

Ode to Barcelona: Escalivada, Gambas al Ajillo, Sangria Roja


The following recipes are a lot less complicated and less time consuming than the bombas I shared in my previous post, so I decided to share them all in a single post. They make up the bulk of my Ode to Barcelona tapas menu.

Escalivada, sometimes called escalibada, is a Catalan roasted vegetable dish featuring eggplant and red bell peppers, and sometimes onions and/or tomatoes. One of our surprise dishes off the confusing menu at Vinitus was escalivada with goat cheese. It was delicious and unexpected.

This version is more of the traditional approach, and less refined and structured than the goat cheese-topped version at Vinitus. It's so very lightly dressed, and I used some cava vinegar I purchased in Barcelona as the acidic element. Although it appears to be incredibly simple (and it is), the flavors are great. This is a very nice vegetable dish to add to a tapas menu.

I also included gambas al ajillo, or garlic shrimp. I've made a different recipe in the past, but this one is more garlicky and the winner of the two versions in my opinion. It reminds me a bit of a Spanish shrimp scampi.

Finally, I'll share a recipe for my beloved sangria. You hardly need a recipe for this crowd-pleasing drink, as there are so many different ways to make it truly unique. In this particular case I was inspired by some of the fruits that were featured in various sangrias we drank in Barcelona (mainly citrus fruits and some green apples), and in particular the usage of cinnamon. One evening our sangria was topped with ground cinnamon, and yet another day it was garnished with an entire cinnamon stick in the glass.

I infused the sangria with a couple broken cinnamon sticks. The flavor really comes through, especially since I chilled my sangria for a full 8 hours before serving. The cinnamon along with the apples and citrus really shine with the flavors of fall and winter. Berries are another traditional element in sangria, but use whatever fruits you like.

Escalivada (Catalan Roasted Vegetables)
Serves 6 to 8

2 eggplants
2 red bell peppers
3 small onions, unpeeled
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for coating vegetables
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or cava vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Lightly rub the eggplants, bell peppers, and onions with olive oil and set them on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast until the skin is blistered and blackened and flesh is tender when pierced with a knife, rotating the vegetables once or twice partway through cooking.

Remove vegetables from the pan as they are done, the eggplants and peppers will roast for about 30 to 40 minutes, and the onions will likely take an additional 10 minutes or so depending on their size.

Put the eggplants and red peppers into a plastic bag, seal and let them rest for about 10 minutes. This will loosen the skins. Carefully peel the skins off the vegetables and remove the stems. Gently scoop out the seeds from within the eggplant and peppers, and tear or cut the flesh into strips. Slice the peeled onions with a knife.

Whisk together the 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper, and dress the vegetables, lightly tossing to help incorporate the flavors. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Arrange the vegetables in a serving dish and top with chopped parsley. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to develop. Serve cold or at room temperature, preferably with crusty bread.

Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp)
Serves 6

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I used garlic oil leftover from making allioli)
1/4 cup thinly sliced garlic
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons dry sherry
Zest of 1 lemon
Chili flakes, to taste
Kosher salt

Heat the oil over medium-low heat in a large non-stick or cast iron pan, and add the garlic. Gently cook the garlic, stirring regularly to allow it to infuse the oil and become fragrant and golden. About 5 to 8 minutes.

Add the shrimp and continue to cook, stirring to ensure it cooks evenly, until shrimp is mostly pink throughout, another 5 minutes or so. Add the parsley, sherry, lemon zest, chili flakes, and salt to taste. Cook another few minutes to absorb flavors and finish cooking the shrimp. Serve immediately with crusty bread.

Sangria Roja
Serves 6 to 8 (but really in my family only about 4!)

2 (750 ml) bottles Spanish red wine
6 ounces (3/4 cup) brandy (I used apricot brandy)
6 ounces berries (I used blackberries)
1 orange, thinly sliced into rounds
1 lemon, thinly sliced into rounds
1 granny smith apple, cored and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half

Combine all the ingredients in a pitcher. Refrigerate for at least an hour, but preferably longer to really infuse the flavors. Aim for 8 hours or overnight.

*Note* Many sangria recipes use some sweetener, such as simple syrup or even fruit juice. This is a matter of personal preference. You can sweeten this sangria more if you'd like, although my family enjoyed it just as is.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Ode to Barcelona: Barceloneta Potato Bombas


I returned from my recent trip to Barcelona incredibly inspired by the food I had enjoyed there. There were many dishes I wanted to recreate, and decided to plan an ode to Barcelona in the form of a tapas party for my family.

There are many dishes from our trip that didn't make it onto the menu simply because I had to limit the number of dishes, but I hope to try some of the others in the very near future. This is the menu I came up with for the occasion.
Spanish cheeses
Serrano ham
Olives stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes
Pan con tomate
Garlicky fried mushrooms
Escalivada (Catalan roasted vegetables)
Gambas al Ajillo
I purchased a variety of Spanish cheeses from Whole Foods including 6 month aged Manchego (sheep's milk cheese), Capricho de Cabra (soft goat's cheese), and Drunken Goat (aged goat's cheese with edible red wine rind)--the latter two are from the same cheese maker.

I also was able to procure Serrano ham there as well (I later found some at Aldi as well). Although it's from a different breed of pig, and not nearly as amazing as jamón ibérico, it's the best I could do with my resources stateside. It reminds me a bit of prosciutto. The jumbo green olives were pre-stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, and were purchased from the World Market section at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

The pan con tomate doesn't really require a recipe, although I shared one years ago in another post. When we were in Barcelona, we ate this tapas dish more than any other, and everywhere it was made with different types of bread. On this occasion I used ciabatta bread, split and light toasted, rubbed with fresh whole garlic cloves, halved tomatoes and a light drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. So simple and so incredibly good! I also made some gluten-free pan con tomate on gluten-free baguettes for my nephews!

I'll share a few of the other recipes for the sangria, escalivada, and gambas al ajillo in another blog post but today I will focus solely on the bombas.

Bombas were actually invented at La Cova Fumada in the Barceloneta neighborhood of Barcelona. You may recall from my Barcelona blog posts that I had planned lunch one day in Barceloneta but had to change my plans last minute. Well, my plan was to eat at La Cova Fumada, the birthplace of these famous potato bombs, but that unfortunately didn't happen on this trip. I still managed to eat bombas on two other occasions in Barcelona, and it was so memorable that I absolutely had to try making them myself at home.

Our favorite bombas from the trip were filled with stewed beef, but the more traditional version uses ground meat as the filling. I compared a lot of recipes to figure out the best way to approach this dish, and I actually ended up making twice as much filling and twice as much bravas sauce than I needed, so I scaled those portions down for the recipe below. I actually froze my remaining bomba filling so I can easily make another batch of bombas in the future.

I yielded 21 bombas, but small discrepancies in measurements, or depending on how much you peel your potatoes may fluctuate that number a tad. You'll just want to aim for about 1/4 cup potato and 1 tablespoon filling per bomba. Using a measuring cup and spoon will save the day and yield more accurate and evenly sized bombas.

Before breading and frying

Although there are a number of steps, the recipe is actually not very difficult. It just requires a bit of planning and patience, but the different components are quite easy to make and the bombas themselves are pretty easy to assemble as well. I was worried shaping them would be messy, but it wasn't too bad at all.

I used a deep fryer to cook these, which I highly recommend since it keeps the oil temperature steady, and doesn't make a huge mess on my stovetop. They fry very quickly, at only about 2 minutes each.

My next post will feature more recipes from this tapas feast but first here's a bonus! I used some of my leftover bravas sauce and allioli from the bombas recipe to make what I'm calling "trashy" huevos cabreados, or angry eggs.

Huevos cabreados were one of my favorite discoveries in Barcelona. We really didn't know what to expect, but were floored by how much we loved this dish of french fries, bravas sauce, and allioli topped with a fried egg which was sliced table side and tossed together.

I recreated it in the trashiest, most American way possible: with frozen tator tots baked until crisp in my toaster oven. This was a super easy rendition of the original, and I didn't even need to heat up my deep fryer or slice a single potato into matchsticks. I just drizzled the two sauces over the top of my tator tots, finished with the egg, and viola!

Barceloneta Potato Bombas
Makes about 21 bombas

6 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup mayonnaise
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Kosher salt

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion or 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
4 ounces (113 g) ground beef
4 ounces (113 g) ground pork
1/2 tomato, flesh grated on a box grater, skin discarded
1 teaspoon sweet (regular) paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Chili flakes or cayenne pepper, to taste

2 1/2 pounds (1134 g) Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
Kosher salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large egg

Bravas sauce:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sweet (regular) paprika
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons chicken broth
Kosher salt
Pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste

To finish:
Vegetable oil, for frying
All purpose flour, as needed
2 to 3 large eggs, beaten
Dried breadcrumbs, as needed

To make the allioli: In a small saucepan combine the garlic cloves and olive oil and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the garlic is tender and honey gold (occasionally tilt the pan as needed to keep the garlic submerged--even off the heat the olive oil should be hot enough to keep cooking it). Watch the garlic carefully so that it does not overcook. Life the garlic cloves from the oil with a slotted spoon and set aside on paper towels to cool. Reserve the garlic oil for another use (1 tablespoon will be used later for the allioli).

In a small food processor fitted with the metal blade, puree the garlic cloves, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of the garlic oil. Taste, season with salt, and pulse to mix. Scrape the allioli into a lidded storage container and chill for up to 3 days. You should have about 1 cup allioli.

To make the filling: In a large non-stick skillet heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and pork, and cook, breaking the meat up into small pieces with the edge of a wooden spoon, until no longer pink and most of its natural liquid has evaporated. Add the grated tomato, paprika, garlic, salt, and cayenne and continue cooking until the remaining liquid has absorbed/evaporated. Set aside to cool completely.

To make the potatoes: Add the cubed potatoes to a pot and cover with cold water by at least an inch. Salt generously and bring to a boil over high heat, being careful it doesn't boil over (lower the heat as needed). Boil the potatoes until they are easily pierced with a fork, drain and then return to the pot off the heat. Add the olive oil and mash the potatoes with a potato masher until smooth. Adjust seasoning if needed. Let the potatoes cool slightly and then mash in the egg (you don't want the potatoes super hot or else the egg will cook). Set aside to cool to room temperature.

To assemble the bombas: Scoop 1/4 cup of the potato mixture at a time into the palm of your hand. You can slightly wet your hands as needed if the potato starts to stick to your hands during this process. Carefully pat the scooped potato into a disc about 1/2-inch thick in the palm of your hand. Add 1 tablespoon of the cooled meat filling into the center, then carefully cup your hand to start bringing the edges of the potato together and use your other hand to pinch it closed. Smooth into a round ball and set aside as you continue shaping the remaining bombas. The bombas can be refrigerated at this point until you are ready to bread and fry them.

To make the bravas sauce: Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the flour and paprikas and whisk for a couple minutes to ensure the flour starts to cook. Slowly add the chicken broth while continuing to whisk into a smooth sauce. It will thicken more once the mixture comes up to a boil. Season with salt and cayenne pepper. This sauce can be served hot, warm, or room temperature.

To finish the bombas: To each of 3 wide bowls add flour, beaten eggs, and dried breadcrumbs to set up a dredging station. Dredge each bomba one at a time in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs, and set aside on a clean tray or work surface until remaining bombas are breaded. You can also bread them in batches as you fry them, but this can get messy.

Heat the vegetable oil in a deep fryer or Dutch oven to 350 degrees F. You'll want the oil to be deep enough so the bombas will be fully submerged once you add them to the oil. Fry the breaded bombas in batches for about 2 minutes each or until they are golden brown. If you fry them much longer the balls may start to crack open. Set finished bombas aside on a paper towel-lined tray or sheet pan to drain. Serve bombas immediately with the allioli and bravas sauce.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Roza's Tas Kebab


I'm a nostalgic person. I take a lot of pictures so I'll always remember happy memories. I've kept several of my favorite childhood toys. There are a lot of ways to remember important moments and people, whether it's with things, photographs, or in today's case with food.

My aunt Roza passed away in September. Like any good Armenian woman, she loved to cook and feed people. She was famous for her rice pilaf, her poohree macaron, her baklava, and her tas kebab. She was also an avid fan of this blog, and loved to call me up to ask me about recipes I had tried out and shared, or to ask my advice on dishes she wanted to try making herself.

We would always task my aunt with making her tas kebab for family gatherings and special occasions. She made the best tas kebab, and we left it to her knowing it would never disappoint. Sadly I was not able to make it with her to see her methods or learn her secrets. I knew the list of ingredients she used and the general method of prep, and decided to recreate her tas kebab in her honor and write down the recipe so we will always be able to make it.

It took a couple attempts to get it just right. The recipe is incredibly simple, but the broth is very flavorful, and the beef is so tender it falls apart. This tas kebab is hearty, comforting, and deliciously spiced with whole peppercorns, allspice berries, and ground cinnamon. It's best served over a mound of rice pilaf so the broth can soak into the rice.

Tasting this tas kebab brings back so many memories of my aunt. It tastes just like hers, and I'm sure she would be so proud that I was able to recreate this beloved dish.

I've said it before and I will say it again, please do yourselves a favor and write down any family recipes shared by parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, whoever in your family is responsible for your favorite flavors of nostalgia. Take the time to measure the ingredients, write them down, retest them, and save them. I'm glad I was able to recreate this tas kebab, but if the dish had been more complicated I doubt I would have ever gotten it to match hers, and that would have been a travesty.

Although this is my comfort dish and not necessarily yours, I encourage you to try your hand at making this tas kebab in honor of my aunt. She lived her life for those she loved, and feeding them around the clock was always part of the deal. Even though she's gone, I'm happy I can now feed my stomach AND my soul with this tas kebab recipe.

Roza's Tas Kebab
Serves 6 to 8

3 pounds beef chuck, cubed into 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon allspice berries
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Rice pilaf, for serving

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Set aside.

Rinse the beef with cold water. Drain and add to a large pot. Cover with cold water by about 2 inches. Heat over medium-high heat, skimming impurities off the surface. When the water starts to boil, remove from the heat, drain into a colander and rinse the beef with cold water.

Wipe the pot clean, add the beef back along with 6 cups of boiled water, the butter, tomato paste, and all of the seasonings. Return to high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer covered for about 2 1/2 hours or until the beef is easily cut with the side of a spoon (my aunt would cook it until the meat was actually falling apart so aim for significantly longer than fork tender).

Tas kebab is best when made a day or more ahead of time and reheated prior to serving, as this allows the flavors to develop. Serve the tas kebab spooned over rice pilaf in wide serving bowls or plates.

*Note* You will have to pick out the peppercorns and allspice berries as you eat. This is the way my aunt always made this dish so that is how I wrote the recipe, however it wouldn't be a bad idea to perhaps tie those spices into a cheesecloth and cook the tas kebab with the spice bundle for easy removal later instead of loose spices.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Guinness Bread


Earlier this summer, I had the privilege of visiting Ireland, truly one of the most beautiful countries I've ever seen. At breakfast one morning in Derry, Northern Ireland I lightly toasted a slice of Guinness bread, slathered it in Irish butter and strawberry jam, and my life changed forever.

I was so impressed by this delicious and simple morning treat, with its hearty texture and complex flavors, that I vowed I would recreate it upon my return to the states.

Fast forward 150 days, and I FINALLY followed through on my plans to bring my newly beloved Guinness bread into my kitchen and home.

Before baking

After baking

The recipe is incredibly simple and is mostly comprised of oats and whole wheat flour for the dry mixture, and Guinness and buttermilk for the wet mixture.

My Guinness bread turned out fantastic! It was crumbly and crusty on the outside, tender, slightly sweet and malty on the inside.

Although you can slice and eat this bread as is, I like to slice and toast it in the toaster oven. Let it cool completely before buttering it because the butter will melt right into the bread if you're impatient like I tend to be :)

Irish butter is arguably the best butter in the world, so definitely splurge both in cost and calories to get the good stuff. I topped my toasted slices with a generous smear of Kerrygold and a couple spoonfuls of my homemade plum jam (omg it's amazing!).

Guinness Bread
Makes one loaf
(Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa)

1 cup quick-cooking oats (not instant), plus extra for sprinkling (I used old-fashioned rolled oats)
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 (11- to 12-ounce) bottle Guinness extra stout beer, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for brushing the pan
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Salted butter, such as Irish Kerrygold

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the beer, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well. With your fingers, stir the batter from the middle of the bowl to the outside, until it’s well mixed. It will look more like cake batter than bread dough.

Brush a 9×5×2 1/2-inch loaf pan with melted butter. Pour the batter into the pan and sprinkle the top with oats. Put the bread in the oven, immediately turn the temperature down to 400 degrees F, and bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn the bread out onto a baking rack and allow to cool completely. Slice and serve with salted butter, toasting slices in a toaster oven if desired.


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