Asparagus with Taleggio and Avocado Pasta

More asparagus! I have a general preference for green asparagus than white. I enjoy the flavor more and not having to peel them is a bonus. Also it is green asparagus season so why not.

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I wasn’t quite sure where I was going with buying asparagus and taleggio cheese on the Saturday market but that is how most of my meal planning develops.

Taleggio is an Italian semi-soft cheese made from cows milk. It has a stinkier smell than the fairly mild flavor. It also melts nicely which worked well for my pasta dish.

Aside from the pasta and simply steaming the asparagus I used half an avocado (finely smashed), 50 grams of taleggio and a drizzle of olive oil to give a more creaminess to the whole thing. A bit of salt and pepper and quite a bit of stirring to melt the taleggio, dinner was served!

Asparagus pizza

I love spending lazy (Sunday) afternoons on the internet looking at food. I crossed paths with the Kitchn grilled pizza post which looked delicious and told me I could make the dough to eat within 2 hours! The only thing I was lacking was the traditional  pizza toppings like tomatoe sauce and an outside grill. 

   
 So it is not really a pizza but dough grilled on a cast iron pan with asparagus and mozzarella. It was tasty none the less. Especially I the one I put bacon on. But again I love just about all things with bacon. 

On a side note, I really need to work on my pizza dough shaping technique. We will call this a rustic look. 

Barcelona – La Boqueria

Living in Europe has its perks with many amazing destinations within a small continent. Mini- vacations are relaxing and hectic all wrapped into an amazing 3 or 4 days over a long weekend. I always want to get the most out of a weekend getaway, as many cultural and touristy sights as I can while still taking it easy enough to enjoy the days off from work and natural rhythm of the destination. I am not usually a fan of the major tourist sights but, more often than not, they are historically and culturally significant and warrant a visit.

Recently I took one of these mini-vacations in Barcelona. It has so much to offer! Beach, shopping, arts, tourism and of course FOOD.

I could spend days in La Boqueria. This market is impressive, also probably one of the most accessible and famous as it is right on La Rambla and very hard to miss.

Chilishellfish

Stall after stall of fresh produce, dried chilies, fresh sea food, cured meats and the list goes on.  Finding food that I had never seen before is such a treat. For example, I had never encountered green almonds or almond fruit before. I snapped this picture and promptly googled this once I could find some free wi-fi.

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If you are looking for some brain or pig feet this is the place to go. (Some of the other items in the picture are unidentifiable to me. I am not brushed up enough pig anatomy).

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So many intriguing products. A bit of a downside is that I could not take a single thing with me to try at home. Maybe next time I can go for longer and rent an apartment with a kitchen to have a bit of fun!

Reykjavik Iceland

Iceland was never really high on my list of places to visit. It always seemed interesting to me but I am not normally a fan of cold so the name (very bad reason for not wanting to visit somewhere, I know) and the fact that I knew next to nothing of Iceland, just that I fly over it and Greenland each time I travel to and from the US, stopped me from making it a top place to visit on my list. Part of my sisters vacation in Holland last summer was a planned stop over in Reykjavik on her return to the USA. So the chance was also there for me to visit Iceland with her and I took it! Iceland does live up to its name. Summer weather is a cool 15 Celsius degrees with a bitting northern wind which means the extra sweater, light summer jacket and the shawl just wasn’t quite enough to be comfortable. It was still pretty cool to see the geothermal pools, volcanic landscape and beautiful waterfalls! Since Iceland is a volcanic island they do not have the same agricultural opportunities as most countries. They either have to import or grow food in green houses. Meaning food and anything ‘fresh’ is hard to come by or really expensive. They do have an abundance of fish (obviously). Whales used to be on the list of delicacies of Iceland but since tourism has boomed in Iceland the tourist are endangering the whale population and they have some activist groups working with the whale watching tours discouraging tourists from trying whale. There are still plenty of Icelandic foods to try. Fermented shark (Hákarl) and dried haddock on the top of the unique foods to attempt try.

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The died and salted haddock was not bad, required a big gulp of water afterwards but not at all bad. It was just a very salty fish.

The shark on the other hand was more of a dare with myself and believing that you should always try something once, so I managed to eat two very very small pieces. I did not at all taste shark or have the slightest fish flavor but ammonia. An incredibly overpowering ammonia taste. BUT I did it and I now know to never to do it again. Thanks to my wonderful sister as she captured the moment.

Iceland foodblog - LL eating shark

Chile & Easter Island

Deciding and booking only two weeks in advance for a 10 day trip to Chile and Easter Island is not how I usually plan a vacation. However, if the opportunity is there might as well take it (thanks to my neighbor for the opportunity)!

The first stop of the trip was Santiago, spending 2 days wandering around and taking in as much of Santiago by foot as we could before heading off to Easter Island for 4 days. On our return from Easter Island we took a night bus to the coastal and world heritage site, Valparaiso. We spent a day climbing the hills and riding the pull lifts. From here we took a bus south to the San Antonio valley to enjoy some Chilean wines.

Santiago

The fist afternoon of Santiago was probably the best food day there, beautiful ceviche and beef and cheese empendadas!

These were actually more Peruvian influenced than original to Chile, which is what I found a lot in the first days of Chile. It took quite a bit of effort to find something typically Chilean. We ate our way through quite a few Peruvian inspired dishes, only after consulting with a local did we have any idea of what to look for. Like this humita which is typically Chilean and rather tasty even if the picture doesn’t do it justice. It is basically an unfilled tamale.

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While in Santiago I was introduced to the famous Pisco Sour! Oh My, are these good! Pisco is a brandy, matured in either copper, steel, glass, or wooden vats. To make a Pisco Sour, like many sours, is really quite simple. Add lime juice, simple syrup and ice, don’t forget the Pisco, to a cocktail shaker and shake well. Strain into a champagne glass and you have the typical Chilean Pisco. If you want to mix things up a bit and make a Peruvian Pisco Sour you still need Pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, and ice but now you add an egg white to the shaker and shake away. You get a nice froth to the top of the Pisco Sour,  add a few drops of Angustine bitters to the top and it’s ready to drink! Pisco Sours  quickly became a favorite drink during the drip.

One final tip for Santiago, (and yes go to the big market, wander around all the interesting and beautiful food, smell the delicious soups, and find somewhere to sit down for some lovely seafood) whatever you do, do not order the cocktail de mariscos. While I think this is a joke on the tourists it was truly on the menu and, in the spirit of adventure, a fish cocktail sounded intriguing. It is a cocktail… of salty water and some unidentifiable fish bits. Yes, it tastes as bad as it looks, the camera didn’t even like the cocktail.

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Easter Island

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So incredibly beautiful, Easter Island is one of the most remote inhabited islands of the world. It is a volcanic island with three dormant volcanos. Spending 4 days here was amazing. The only way to get around easily is by car. I saw some tours advertising bike transportation but, after driving around for a while with a car, I was very happy not to have done this with a bike. Easter Island is a surfer’s paradise,  apparent to me by the large number of surfers riding the waves each day. I didn’t try this one myself but did enjoy a dip in the Pacific ocean on the one little beach of Easter Island.

Easter Island is most famous for the Moai, the stone statues. Since Easter Island is considered part of Chile it is no wonder that there are quite a few food and drink influences. Remember those Pisco Sours? I certainly do.

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San Antonio Valley

Ending the trip we headed a bit south to the San Antonio Valley. Chile is very well known for their wines, but San Antonio Valley is relatively young with its wine production. Being a bit cooler and closer to the sea these vineyards are faced with more freezing and molding problems that other well known Chilean wine areas. Despite the extra challenges, the wine from this area is delicious. The first wine tour and tasting at Matetic vineyards focused greatly on the biodynamic methods in their wine production. Biodynamic methods are quite interesting, not only do they adhere to organic farming standard but they also incorporate nature and cosmos and holistic farming, like adhering to moon patterns to dictate the planting and harvesting of the grapes. Matetic was a bit of an expensive tourist trap. Beautiful grounds and delicious wine but I felt very out of place as we came by bus and cab and, while never mentioned on their site, from the reception it was still a 40 km drive out to the tasting room and cellars and it was expected that you came by car, oops. Lucky for us the tour for the hotel was not happening yet so their driver was kind enough to act as a guide and take us the extra distance. Since we had not planned ahead we did not have reservations at their restaurant, meaning we picnicked at their wine bodega with meats and cheese and wine bought from their store.

A day before arriving in the San Antonio Valley we booked our accommodation at the Casa Marin Villa. This was the best way to end my Chilean trip. Casa Marin is a boutique winery. Not only were the views and villa beautiful, but the wine was absolutely delicious. The owners, both mother and son are wine makers,  have created their own signature Pinot Noir wines, hers is deep, with mushroom and earthy flavors while his is fruitier and a bit more acidic. Both fantastic!

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Located just outside of a very small little town Lo Abarca, we ordered our food at the nearby rib house and it was brought up to the villa by the farmhand.  The whole staff was incredibly gracious and welcoming.

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I don’t know if I will ever be able to outdo the experience of Casa Marin, the kind and down to earth employees, beautiful grounds, and wonderful wine. Not to mention the home made Chilean dinner prepared by sweetest cook.

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Here is our desert, apricots being the theme with a pana crook type desert accompanies by an apricot mousse and a very sweet apricot liquid with pearl barley.

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Taste of Amsterdam 2014

I have incredibly kind friends when they found out I wanted to go to taste of Amsterdam even if it meant going it alone he arranged tickets for all of us from his work and they joined me! Thank you so much Sander and Roelien!
Cheers
I have a food festival strategy which involves first a thorough review of the booklet containing the dishes served then narrowing this down to the ones I think sounds really interesting or special and then just leaving a few options open for ‘maybe’ since I will never be able to try all of them. Unfortunatly there was no booklet at all! Even worse there was also no app! I think I missed some really good opportunities without having a route or game plan.
I had fonder memories of this food festival from 3 years ago, some of my expectations of the big name ‘famous’ Dutch chefs were too high and I was happily surprised by the new or unknown to me restaurants. The Dutch also have a Masterchef television program where amateur chefs compete. Two of the three jury members had their restaurants presented at the Taste of Amsterdam and these were really quite disappointing. I also found the new trend to finish off a dish, throw some puffed quinoa on top.
Here are some tasted good but not the best of the day
Grilled King crab “Yakatori style” With Dutch sour, cream of kaffir lime and summer herbs from Luté

Grilled King crab “Yakatori style”  with a cream of kaffir lime and summer herbs

 

Black Angus beef with hazelnuts and celery root

Black Angus beef with hazelnuts and celery root

 

Duck served with a pea cream, chioggia biet, truffle potatoes and a conac jus

Duck served with a pea cream, chioggia biet, truffle potatoes and a conac jus

 

Canelé with pineapple

Canelé with pineapple

And the ones below were the best. The restaurant Screaming Beans was awesome! so delicious and beautifully prepared plates. This is what I wanted from the whole event.

 

North Sea crab salad with green apple, lime, cucumber avocado cream and toast

North Sea crab salad with green apple, lime, cucumber avocado cream and toast

Tartaar of shoulder tender  accompanied with parmesan cheese, bacon vinaigrette, lettuce, cocktail onions, toast and egg yolk

Tartaar of shoulder tender accompanied with parmesan cheese, bacon vinaigrette, lettuce, cocktail onions, toast and egg yolk

So good!

Disastrous dessert

I felt like baking and normally I keep my baking when I need to for a dinner or something to take as a ‘gift’. I usually don’t bake for no reason since it means I will have to eat it all myself which is not the wisest course of action. Since few of my neighbors are really nice people and they have had a bit of drama lately I thought that I could bake them something just to be nice and maybe brighten their day. Well that was a disaster, my neighbors don’t even know about this attempt and I am having to eat it on my own anyway.

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Simple nectarine torte can’t go wrong… First I wanted to use a small spring form to make a smaller torte but I realized that my small spring form doesn’t spring anymore and the clap is broken. So I thought individual cakes would be just as tasty and cute to use, well they overflowed while baking then they stuck to the sides. I had to scrape them out making a huge crumbling mess.

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While I am ok with failed attempts I am not ok with giving it away so I quickly hung up some yogurt in a cheese cloth to drain for a few hours before making the crumbs with a dollop thickened yogurt as my dessert. Still yum and sorry neighbors I’ll try again soon.

Redwine beef and shaved asparagus pitas

In the middle of some DIY projects and some lovely Dutch weather I stumbled upon an easy summer dinner. I already have an avocado addiction but I also love the classic combination of red wine and beef. I frequently make red wine burgers but sometimes I don’t feel like the whole tah-dah of the burger (or I am missing the buns) so I get creative. This time I ended up having red wine ground beef with avocado and asparagus stuffed pitas. So fresh and easy and summery and delicious. Below is a very very short (more like guidelines instead of recipe) explanation of these pitas

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Red-wine Beef:

Beef fried off in a skillet with some salt and pepper, I added some garlic and shallots at the end. Once browned a spoon full of flour and let that one brown too before adding some (a glass) of wine and a hand full of thyme sprigs. Then I let it cook out on low heat to reduce so that I didn’t actually have a juicy gravy like sauce but that the ground beef was ” fluffy”.

Avocado and asparagus

Shaved with a vegetable peeler raw asparagus (the first one is a bit of a pain but once I got the hang of focused and deliberate shavings it works well). An avocado chopped into cubish looking pieces a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and some parmesan cheese shavings give it a quick toss. You can also squeeze some lemon juice or you can replace the parmesan with pecorino or some yummy hard goats cheese.

Stuff all of this into a (store-bought) pita. You can find home made pita recipes but since this is a an easy and quick dinner I don’t really think the home made pita process of minimum hour and half timing falls into my definition of quick today…maybe tomorrow.

 

 

 

Red Wine Sea Salt

I don’t remember how I came across red wine salt, all I know is that I pinned it to my Pinterest board and it had been staring at me for months. I had to find a way to get my hands on red wine salt while trying to avoid international shipping and bulk buying. Then Christmas rolled around and I needed a present for my mother. Usually I have lots of ideas for her but this past year I just had no clue. So I decided that a homemade gift would do great this year and why not say Merry Christmas with wine salt. A bit of searching and I found some recipes to use as inspiration. Some recipes used lemon zest, others sugar. I decided to go with the most simple version, red wine and coarse sea salt.

Red wine sea salt

Half a bottle of wine, brought to a boil then simmered until reduced to 2 tablespoons.

One cup of coarse sea salt, keep an extra half cup on hand incase necessary

Once the wine has cooled mix in the sea salt, if the mixture is still very noticeably wet keep adding in the sea salt until most of the wine has been absorbed, avoid adding too much salt since you want all of the salt to be this beautiful ruby-purpleish color without lots of white specks. Spread the salt onto a baking sheet to dry, the more room it has the faster it will dry. Mine took about 2 weeks in a large baking dish. After letting it dry, pour it all into a blender or food processor and grind until it becomes a bit finer.

The basic recipe is delicious and beautiful but the possibilities are endless, pick different types of wines, use the lemon or perhaps an orange zest, or go for herbs to diffuse in the wine or in the salt mixture.

You can use the salt in any way you want, my favorite is on a piece of pita bread with mashed avocado and a sprinkling of red wine salt, mmmm. I have also used in a coq-au-vin to give it just to give the dish another wine flavor boost.

The funny part about christmas is that not only did I give my mother the red wine salt present but I also got salt as a present for Christmas. A mini tin of take-along salt flakes for when I am in a salt emergency and only delicious salt will do.

Takealongsalt

Malaga, Spain

Vacations are always fantastic and mine was no exception. I took a 2 week break with a good friend to the south of Spain. The first week we spent sightseeing and culture sniffing in Malaga. The second week we spent Glamping in Alhaurín el Grande at the lovely Casa de Leila, more on this later.

We had beautiful weather and plenty of sights to see, Malaga has a rich history. The city facade shows the Roman and Moorish influences and history, To name a few of the sights: the Picasso museum including a visit to the house Picasso was born in. We hiked up the hill to Alczaba and the Castillo de Gilbrafaro which was so worth it not just because of the cultural significance but also for the beautiful view of Malaga and sparkling blue sea. We also spent a day or two just relaxing and hanging out on the beach.  In general I drink only one beer year and the hot sunny beach of Malaga was where I choose to do this.

More importantly we also ate so much wonderful food. Sea food grilled right on the beach, glasses of Cava and of course many many pinchos and tapas.

Malaga foodbog

Malaga also has a wonderful indoor fresh food market. These kind of markets are actually my favorite places to visit while on vacation. I always get to see so many unknown (to me) products. Mostly it is the bustle of a market and ogling the interesting products.

 

market

 

That was week one of the vacation and it was delicious!