viernes, 7 de diciembre de 2007


I want to take this opportunity to expand on earlier themes of carnivorousness. This lovely porcine display was kitty corner to a serious butcher counter filled with whole baby pigs for roasting, giant sides of beef ready to be cut into serving sized fillets and all the meaty delights you could possibly imagine.  As I waited in line for some freshly ground beef (I had a serious meatball craving all week) I watched the other patrons take home parcels steaks stuffed with sausages and tied up in string, long strands of pokey lamb ribs and chunks for braising, roasting, frying and boiling! 

The little pigs are particularly rough.  Cochinillo
 or those little guys roasted, is a much storied delacacy.  For this rabbi's daughter, cochinillo is still on the no-fly list. I'll stick to giant fillets and the occasional baby lamb chops.  

miércoles, 28 de noviembre de 2007

Six Steps to Pisto Bliss

Pisto is a vegetable melange suitable for all kinds of bread-dipping, fork-licking and lycopene-induced, tomato-tinted day dreams. It is simple enough, sauteed onions, peppers, zucchini and a little tomato sauce. Top with an egg or two and you've got something special.

It is also one of the few honestly vegetarian Spanish dishes. Spain i
s in general, a seriously carnivorous country. A passionate connection/devotion to all things piggy, fishy, meaty, rabbity, sea-buggy and birdy crosses all lines of class, region, and age in the Iberian peninsula. Order a salad and it will most often come covered in tuna and ham bits. But pisto is vegetable revelation. The vegetables cook down together and the eating is good! A perfect dish for cold winter nights or late Sunday lunches.

Pisto is also one of those dishes that everyone says their mom makes best. Recipe and technique consensuses are difficult to come by. There is a bit of contention about whether each ingredient should cook down separately or if they can all be cooked together. After consulting several recipes and several mothers, I have arrived at a recipe that hues close to the pop
ular dictum. I added a little wine which strays a bit from the original, but I think it gives the dish a little more depth. Feel free to omit it for the sake of tradition. The eggs are also optional but give the pisto a little more substance. My dining companion insisted on the eggs because he claimed that without the eggs "you are just dipping bread in sauce." But I say, "what's wrong with that?" You decide.

Serves 3-4

2 onions finely chopped (divided)
3 large cloves garlic finely chopped (divided)
1 small green bell
pepper finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper finely chopped
2 medium zucchini
s cut into thick chunks
4 large tomatoe
s roughly chopped (or one large can canned tomatoes)
***(Don't worry about peeling them, but please don't tell any of the Spanish mothers that I gave you that advice! If you must peel the tomatoes, cut an x in the bottom and pop them in boiling water for about 20 seconds. Then, fish them out and carefully
remove the skin. You can peel them if you really want to, but the skins are not a big deal and who wants to clean another pan?!)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup white wine
3 eggs (optional)
salt and pepper

In a large pan heat a generous glug of olive oil and add half of the onions and a teaspoon of salt. Saute until translucent then add peppers and half of the garlic and cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Pour in wine and let bubble for a few minutes.

In a separate sauce pan, heat some olive oil and saute the onions until translucent and soft, then add garlic and cook a few more minutes. Add tomatoes and 1 teaspoon sugar and let cook until they are thick and saucy, about 15 minutes over medium-high heat.

Add the zucchini to the onion and pepper mixture and give it a good stir. Let cook a few minutes and then add the tomato sauce. Cover and simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Poke around the pan with a fork. If everything is tender and melty, you are ready to add the eggs or eat up, if not, check back in a few minutes and then proceed.

If you would like to make this egg-tastic, crack three eggs into the pan over the pisto (still on the flame). If you like sunny side up, cover the pan and let the whites set to your liking. If you like a more scrambley kind of egg (as I do) just mix the eggs into the pisto pretty vigorously, breaking up the yolks and essentially scrambling them into the veggies. They will cook through quickly, but you want to make sure they stay creamy, so don't don't overdo it (2-3 minutes of egg cooking, max)

With or without the eggs, eat the pisto with plenty of crusty bread maybe a little wine. Be sure to imagine that you are seated at a wooden picnic table in a sun-dappled olive grove, that should chase away any winter blues!

martes, 27 de noviembre de 2007


So, remember how I wrote about being a recovering picky eater? Well, last night I made some serious headway. What I am about to tell you may not seem like much, but for me, it was a major leap forward. Last night, sitting around a small wooden table, drinking deliciously tart white wine from a small ceramic bowl/cup, I ate two pieces of purple-tinged octopus. The felled beast arrived at our table sliced into bite sized chunks, the little suction cup bits and tentacle points dusted with smokey paprika. The meat was ocean-y and chewy and not totally unpleasant. My dining companions were all over it. I demurred after my two bites and moved onto the other dishes that completed the Galician spread.

Galicia is the northwestern province of Spain directly above Portugal, and these Gallegos know how a thing or two about a thing or two. When the bread basket arrived (with a little screen at the bottom to catch the crumbs or
migas) I bit into a dense, chewy slice and sighed a brief sigh before the crust's gentle crunch took over. Then there were these croquetas. Fried bits of almost feathery, bacalao tinged bechamel with a perfectly golden crust. For a little Spanish surf and turf, we then used our tiny forks to inhale a plate of juicy, salty, ethereal steak bits and fried potatoes.  Dessert was thick slices of tetilla cheese, a creamy, rich showstopper topped with an equally thick slice of slightly grainy, sweet but not cloying, preserved quince (dulce de membrillo.) Perfect!

I wish that there could be an accompanying recipe for Pulpo a la Gallega, but I can't quite bring myslef to wrestle one of these sea monsters.  Maybe you should just come to Spain to visit me and you can try for yourself!

viernes, 9 de noviembre de 2007

The Freudians Live

Last Monday a new student told me that the reason why I couldn't remember the Spanish word for band-aid was because I didn't want to acknowledge my wound. She is a psychoanalyst and apparently thought that I was asking her opinion when I was really just trying to tell her that we all struggle with learning a new language and we have to be patient and thoughtful about the process.

If only the analysis had stopped there. Very much in keeping with the tone set by the giant Freud calendar adorning the office wall, she proceeded to tell me that my inability to acknowledge my wound stemmed from (I think you
know where this is going) my deeply held penis envy. YUCK! And she used a dirty word in Spanish to tell me this (she would not speak in English.) When I told the story to the language academy director he said "that is something out of a Woody Allen movie." Only it was worse because I couldn't just start to laugh as she made lewd gestures and explained to me that Freud really got it right about women, that we never take responsibility for our short comings. This unsolicited journey into my soul came after the reading of her new poem about the solitude of death and just before she looked at her watch and said "time's up!" Things can be rough for an itinerant English teacher.

So, food. Well, I ate a lot of tuna sandwiches this week. And some sub par pizza and some dreadful Mexican food (if you are in Granada, do not, I repeat, do not eat the tacos.) The week's highlights included some really g
reat pears and many, many clementines. Pears are one of the new foods I have discovered. I say new because I am a recovering picky eater. Pears along with pretty much everything green including avocados (and the vast majority of foods of almost all colors) were once on the no-fly list. I once accidentally ate a pear in a fruit salad at a potluck and became moderately famous in certain circles as the girl who shouted "what the hell is wrong with this apple?"

As a recovering picky eater, certain foods provoke a kind of "where have you been all my life" epiphany. The sweet, earthy and slightly grainy texture of a Comice or Bartlett very much fit into that category. While foods like pears, squash, mayonnaise and beets are recent additions, there are other foods like anchovies, anchovy stuffed olives and blue cheese that are still touch and go. Since I first realized about 10 years ago that being a dry hamburger eater was really quite boring, I have been steadily adding new foods arsenal. The process is pretty strait forward. I pick a food I "don't like" and decide to like it. It mo
stly works. Except int he case of blue cheese. I still think it is one of the grottiest things I can possibly imagine ingesting. Hopefully though in a few years' time, that designation will go the way of the "funny tasting apple."


These little bad boys are anchovy explosions on a stick. Made by Alvaro, the much beloved photographer of, they are sure to cure anyone of an aversion to anchovies or further cement one's fears about their salty, fishy dubiousness. The technique is simple. You get a bunch of olives (preferably stuffed with anchovies) a jar of brined green chilies, a nice container of anchovy fillets and you push one of each onto a toothpick. Yum! Or, Yuck! Who says women don't acknowledge their own weaknesses?

miércoles, 31 de octubre de 2007

Let's do the numbers

Last night the stars aligned and the music of the spheres played just for me. Sort of. It went a little something like this. I came home from a lovely and unexpected walk along the river (who knew Madrid had a river?) made some glorious cheesey pasta and then decided to listen to a little NPR streaming live. Low and behold, my good friend Kai Ryssdal was just about to do the numbers. I am still pissed about the Euro/Dollar situation (down to $1.44 to the Euro, just so you know) and it seems like the country's financial woes are just gaining momentum. The slowing housing market aside, I got to hear Mr. Ryssdal say "let's do the numbers." I love that. It is a perfect expression. Like "library stacks" "fiscal nightmare" and "rapier-like wit" they are words that come together to evoke more than the sum of their parts. Kind of like pasta, broccoli, cheese and butter, each ingredient is pretty nice on its own, but together they are simply divine!!

Cheese-y Broccoli-y Pasta

1/2 lb pasta
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup milk
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 medium head broccoli cut in small florets
splash of white wine (optional)
salt and pepper

extra cheese for serving (optional, but barely)

Boil pasta in a large pot of boiling water. As the great Mark Bittman tells us, unless you have direct doctor's orders to limit your sodium intake, salt the crap out of the water. Go crazy, more than you think is necessary. This will make it great! When pasta is done, drain it and toss it with a little olive oil.

In a medium skillet heat a little olive oil and saute garlic until nice and fragrant. Add broccoli, a splash of white wine or water and a little salt. Cook until crisp tender and brilliant, Irish countryside in spring green. Put broccoli on a plate and tell it to "sit tight" for a few minutes (I strongly recommend talking to your food, seriously).

In the same skillet (you don't even have to clean it, just make sure it is empty,) heat butter until it bubbles. Sprinkle in flour and mix it up with a wooden spoon or whisk until lumps disappear. Start adding milk while stirring and then let the gooey, bubbly deliciousness do its thing on low heat for about 5 minutes, giving it pretty constant stirs. If the sauce is too thick, add a little milk, or better yet, few splashes of the pasta cooking water. As any Italian grandmother will tell you, the pasta water can do wonders for a sauce.

Just before serving, add cheese and broccoli to sauce and taste for salt. You will probably need a pinch or two. Toss sauce with pasta and a little extra cheese. Try not to eat so much you have to unbutton your pants...

martes, 30 de octubre de 2007

Do you love pancakes?

I love making pancakes. I love eating pancakes. I love thinking about pancakes. I love them with jam or syrup or fruit or with a fork or even with a spork... This weekend I decided to make pancakes Spanish style, which esentially meant guessing at the measurements (no cup measures in the metric union/European Union) and calling them tortitas. Further concession had to made in terms of toppings. While most anything will do, I have a particular love for maple syrup (as I guess most of us do). After scoping out Canada's chief export only to discover wickedly expensive bottles of the stuff at a local "health food store," (these places really peddle massive amounts of diet pills, Aruyvedic shampoo and sea kelp cellulite reducer) I decided to make some apple sauce to sweeten the pancake deal. YUM! Pancakes really heal all wounds. As I was feeling a little homesick, the whole-wheat cinammonyness was the perfect taste of home. The apple sauce (just cooked apples, really) came together while the pancakes cooked and was a great use for a slightly mushy apple I had forgotten about in the fridge.

Makes 8 biggies

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 apple finely chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients. In a separate vessel, mix wet ingredients. Combine. When mixture comes together (do not over-mix...we want light, wheaty morsels) add apples and walnuts and give a quick mix-up.

Heat a skillet with a little butter and cook pancakes until bubbley, then flip. As they come out of the pan, keep them in a warmed oven (preferably directly on the rack so they don't go mushy. The out of sight, out of mind, oven storage method also makes it harder to eat them all before they make it to the table. A good solution to this craving is to make a small one in the first batch. Think of this as the "taster." We musn't poison our loved ones).

Apple Sauce

1-2 medium apples thinly sliced
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup raisins
pinch of salt

In a small pan heat all ingredients to a slow simmer. Let cook for 10-20 minutes until soft and saucey. Great with pancakes, served over ice cream or eaten with a spoon!

viernes, 26 de octubre de 2007

Good Sandwich, Bad Sandwich

The kitchen still smells like burnt toast. Not just kinda burnt. Not the sort of burnt you can scrape off with a butter knife. We are talking charcoal burnt. Note: Do not check your email while making a grilled cheese sandwich at 1:00am. You probably already know this (I know this too) but I just wanted to share a little hard won wisdom. The idea of the grilled cheese itself was good enough, but the execution was definetly lacking.

I decided on a grilled cheese while doing a little bit of stumbling home last night. What I really wanted was a giant slice of pizza from the giant slice of pizza purveyors who normally cater to people who are stumbling out for the night. But I thought to myself "No, I have cheese and bread at home" (one chunk of semi-soft goat with a squishy mold rind and a gorgeously burnt orange on the outside, bone-white on the inside wedge of paprika rubbed goat-y deliciousness). I am trying to avoid late-night impulse purchases and practice general thriftiness, especially since the dollar has plummeted to $1.42 to the Euro!!!! Can anyone do something about this? A lunch date with Greenspan, anything?!?!

There have been some recent sandwich successes however. The most successful being an autumnal feast for the sandwich senses, (good adjective, huh?) a pear and brie baguette. I
was invited to a new friend's baby shower and wanted to bring something extra yummy for the afternoon tea-party. Very civilized. I cooked down some pears in white wine, butter and cinnamon and sprinkled some chopped walnuts into the gooey mixture. Then I spread a thick layer of brie on the bottom half a baguette and layered the cooled pear mixture on top. Cut into little slices, secured with a toothpick, they were a big hit.

The baby shower was very much a cross cultural event. The shower-ee is Australian and her husband is Spanish. Both parents were there causing much UN style translating. The food was a special blend of High Tea and tapas, crustless cucumber sandwiches next to plates of jamon and queso. The baby names conversation was particularly lively, focusing on how people in Australia would pronounce the uber-Basque top name contender, Aitor. I guess we will know soon enough (our new little friend was born a few days after the shower and was crowned Aitor!)

sábado, 20 de octubre de 2007

Fish Delish

A few weeks ago, a new friend gave me a beautiful edition of the seminal work on Spanish cuisine, 1080 Recetas de Cocina. For several generations of Spanish housewives, recent college graduates and pretty much everyone who eats food in Spain, Simone Ortega's book has been the essential road map and culinary companion. It is pretty much the Joy of Cooking with 30 recipes for salt cod. I have been reading it page by page. Yesterday I made it to the fish and seafood section. I had to grab a dictionary as I could'nt tell the difference between merluza (hake) and lenguada (still not sure). All this fish talk got me pretty hungry.

I set out midday to try out my new fish vocab at the local pescaderia. Great chunks of tuna, brilliant orange center-cut salmon fillets and millions of tiny, scrubbed clams glistened on trays of shaved ice. This was a little overwhelming.
The one-eyed fish monger was hacking away at a massive hunk of bacalao (salt cod) and I wasn't sure how to get his attention. A minute latter a woman in bright blue e
ye-shadow and long white smock asked me what I wanted. I wasn't sure, I panicked a little, my voice cracked, and I just pointed at whatever was closest and asked for half a kilo. The next thing I knew, I was the proud owner of a white parcel with some very heavy cod fillets. Even fresh cod is a little on the fishy side, so I decided to wander through the market and wait for inspiration.

My first stop was the watermelon lady. She sells a lot of stuff other than water melon, but I always wind up leaving her stand with a giant hunk of melon (and singing to myself... hunka, hunka, hunka burnin' melon, or something). We have our routine worked out. I get a little of this and a little of that and ask about where this or that comes from and then she says "y sandia..." (and water melon.) I am so predictable. She told me this would be it for the season, so I picked a hulking 2 kilo piece and stuffed everything in my shopping bag. I now had 4 pounds of water melon, some clementines, a few onions, a huge head of broccoli and a bunch o' cod. Turning the corner, I spotted some beautiful green frying peppers and had a small, lunch epiphany. Fish soup! Fry up the peppers with some onions and garlic, and make a rich tomato broth studded with potatoes, carrots and my cod fillets! All I needed was some bread to soak up the yumminess. My contacts in the Ecuadorian bakery business came through with a perfectly crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside loaf of bread, still warm from the oven.

Friday Afternoon Fish Stew

1 large onion finely chopped
1 large green bell pepper finely chopped
3 cloves garlic roughly chopped
2 medium carrots roughly chopped
1 large potato cut in small chunks (the smaller the piece, the faster it cooks)
3 large tomatoes roughly chopped
2 teaspoons smoked paprika (or regular)
1 cup white wine
2 cups water
3 tablespoons capers
3/4 firm white fleshed fish fillets (skin and bones removed, preferably by one-eyed fish monger)
juice of half a lemon
large handful chopped fresh parsley
small handful chopped fresh basil (optional)
salt and pepper

1. In a large pot, heat olive oil and saute onions with a little salt until soft and translucent. Add garlic, peppers, carrots and 1 teaspoon salt and cook until beginning to soften (about 5 minutes). Splash in 1/2 cup of wine and let bubble and reduce for a few minutes. Sprinkle in paprika and 1/4 of parsley. Add tomatoes and bring mixture to a simmer. Pour in water and remaining wine and let simmer for about 20 minutes (until veggies are fork tender, may take longer)

2. In a wide skillet heat a little olive oil. Carefully add fish and sprinkle with salt. Let cook about 3 minutes on high heat until starting to brown. Flip fish and add capers. Let cook a few more minutes until mostly cooked (Fish will finish cooking in soup, don't worry, no sushi!)

3. When veggies are mostly cooked, flake fish with a fork and add to soup (including any juices and capers). Stir in remaining herbs, lemon juice and taste for salt and pepper, l
et cook about 10 more minutes until everything in spoon-worthy and groovy. Serve with plenty of crusty bread and white wine (or not).

sábado, 13 de octubre de 2007

Pass the chicken

One of the most fun and most stomach churning parts of food shopping in Spain are the chicken butchers. Great expanses of chicken await the poultry patron; whole birds with feet and heads included, viscera, eggs, chicken parts and everything in between. As a conscientious carnivore (an expression I just made up,) I like to think of myself as person who engages with the reality of meat eating (it comes from an animal) and embraces the fullness of the meat-eating experience. This is of course a lie I tell myself. I am out of my mind at these places, I just try and keep an ever mounting sense of panic and distress at bay. But I really love the chicken breast fillets. I suffer minor carnage-induced panic attacks to watch a
bloody-fingered carnicero fillet a chicken breast into super-thin morsels of delciousness. I take them home and make everything from Thai basil stir fry to mustard breaded cutlets. Yum. A little nausea is a small price to pay for something great, plus a reminder of where food really comes from.

Mustard Breaded Chicken With Pesto and Vegetable Pasta
Serves 4

4 super thin chicken fillets (cut thin or pounded flat)
1 egg

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
a little ground pepper

Beat egg and mustard in a wide bowl

Mix flour, oregano, cheese, salt and pepper in another wide bowl.

Heat a large skillet and a generous glug of olive oil (enough to cover bottom of pan). Dip fillet in egg mixture and then pass through flour mixture, shaking off excess. Cook 2 minutes on each side. Serve with fettuccine tossed with pesto and sauteed green beans and tomatoes.

For pesto recipe, please email my mom!

domingo, 7 de octubre de 2007

Mercado Motenses Part II

Ok so I
am obsessed with this market. Completely smitten. There is even a bathroom with toilet paper AND soap in the basement. And a Norwegian fish stand (no wood, but much lutefisk!). And more deliciousness than you can shake the proverbial leg of jamon at.

This weekend I spent a dizzy hour wandering through corridors of plump veggies, shiny fruit and meat parts galore. I put together a fun meal of Vietnamese summer rolls and rice noodles with chicken and vegetable. The basil, rice noodles, fish sauce were easy enough to
come by, but the rice paper wrappers were a bit of a challenge. After talking to several proprietors of various food stands, I got a couple of good leads on rice paper wrappers. We wound up in a funky smelling Chinese grocery store underneath Plaza de Espana. You read right, there is a Chinese grocery store, a travel agency and noodle counter in the corridor between a giant underground parking lot and a meandering stairway to the fairly majestic, Cervantes sculpture laden Plaza extraordinaire.

Rollitos Vietnamitas
(Vietnamese Summer Rolls)
makes 12

2 small cucumbers, peeled and sliced into long strips
2 large carrots shredded or shaved with a vegetable peeler
big handful basil roughly chopped
big handful cilantro roughly chopped
small bag baby lettuce
1 package firm tofu
1 lime
1 package rice paper wrappers (you will use 12, or more if you like. The don't keep super well for more than a few hours, so keep that in mind)

In a large skillet, heat a nice glug of oil and saute tofu until brown and crispy, about five minutes per side. This will take a few batches, you don't want to crowd the pan. Drain tofu on a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt. When cool enough to handle, cut each slice in half lengthwise

2. arrange all veggies and herbs on a large platter so they are all easy to access and sprinkle with lime juice and salt. Fill a large bowl with warm water and soak a few papers until softened, about 30 seconds (make sure rice paper wrappers can lay flat in the water). On a cutting board or counter covered with a clean, damp kitchen towel, lay one wrapper. About a 1/2 inch from the bottom of the wrapper, mound a few carrot, cucumber and lettuce leaves and cover with a nice sprinkling a herbs and one tofu slice. Tightly wrap ingredients in paper, burrito style, closing the side around the filling and rolling strait to the top. Place seem side down on a large tray. Try not to eat them all before your friends come over (i mean you can if you want to, but then you'll have to make something else...)

Serve with peanut sauce or jarred sweet chili sauce.

easy peanut sauce:
in a small sauce pan heat about 4 Tablespoons water to a simmer. Stir in 1/2 cup peanut butter, 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar, juice of 1/2 a lime, 2 tablespoons soy sauce and a shot of fish sauce (optional). Wish gently until creamy and delicious. Taste for sugar and lime juice. If too think, add a little more water.

jueves, 4 de octubre de 2007

cutting edge and confusion

Two things having little to do with deliciousness:
This morning I was reading the New York Times online, the style section, and there was a little article and sideshow about a certain fashion forward subway stop. The author was talking about the eye candy and promenading prowess of the underground fashionistas.
This got me thinking about my fellow commuters on the Madrid metro. Some examples you might like... This afternoon on the platform across from me, I noticed a young woman in black patent leather wedges, hot pink floral and black lace edged knee highs, a black mini skirt and a hot pink sweater. Written out, the outfit doesn't sound like much, I think it was the way the knee socks said "trashy school girl chic" that really made the
whole thing pretty amazing. Transferring metro lines, a woman pushed past me and I was momentarily blinded by her neon green poncho. The poncho was sensibly paired with purple old-school Keds, neon green ankle socks, purple leggings and a green and red tartan skirt. The icing on the cake (as it were) was the hair. A reddish dyed mop of recently shaved curls with one lone dreadlock falling just below her shoulder. I love the dreadlock mullet, the people of Spain take this look to it's obvious apex and beyond! This is really just the tip of the iceberg...

If hot pink knee socks and eye curdling ponchos weren't enough, I had one of those cross cultural moments that lays open the assumptions and nuances of our divided world. Leaving my job at the aforementioned monogrammed china filled apartment, I started talking to the other woman working in the apartment this afternoon. I teach the little ones English and she does the ironing. In the elevator, we compared notes on our hours with the family and other jobs throughout the day. O
nce on the street she asked me if I was Spanish. I said "No, American" and then she literally stopped in the street and looked at me and said "But isn't there lots of work in the United States?!?" I wasn't quite sure where to go with that. So I just said "si." And then she told me about how she left 4 kids in Panama and is working for three different families to make money to send home. So there you have it.

So what's for dinner after a day like today? Tortilla, of course. This is really just a souped up, skillet-siz
ed omlete. The beauty is in the flip. The technique is simple, invert the mostly cooked omlette onto a plate and slide the uncooked side back into the pan and cook a few more minutes. Delicioso!

**A little Spanish lesson to go along with the recipe. The tortilla was so delicious that my dining companion declared it "una tortilla como dios manda" or "a tortilla as god intended it to be." Insert anything made just as it should be into the space tortilla currently occupies, and you have a lovely little idiom to bust out as you see fit!

Tortilla Como Dios Manda

2-3 dinner sized servings

5 eggs
splash of milk
4 slices smoked salmon roughly chopped or a small piece broken up into bits
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 bunch spinach finely chopped or half bunch of swiss chard finely chopped
salt and pepper
lots of crunchy bread

Beat eggs, milk and salt and pepper to taste. In a medium non-stick skillet, heat a nice glug of olive oil and saute garlic until soft and fragrant. Add greens and cook until just wilted and bright green. Pour in egg mixture and cook over medium-low heat until eggs are set. You can move the mixture around a bit to get everybody cooking. Once eggs look pretty done (3-5 minutes), loosen the edges with a small knife. Put a plate on top of the pan and flip the omelet onto the plate. Slide the eggs back into the pan and cook a few more minutes until firm to the touch. Serve in wedges with plenty of yummy bread.

This is great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner (or all three...)

miércoles, 3 de octubre de 2007

Soup and rain

Yesterday it rained a lot. A lot. I spent the day dodging umbrella spokes and discussing the troubling nature of English phonetics. My job as an English teacher means spending lots of time on the metro commuting between the offices and homes where my students not so eagerly await my arrival. It is pretty brutal. Many of the students have been told by their bosses to learn English or else... This leads to a certain anger/fear/hatred of the imperial language of international business.

Then there are the stories of my young charges whose parents want to get a leg up on this process by turning their little ones into lean, mean, bilingual machines, seemingly at any cost. There is something truly unnerving about sitting in a formal dining room, replete with gold edged, monogrammed china with an eight year old and her mother. Especially
when the woman looks as though she has eaten little apart from Lucky Strikes, strong coffee and the occasional bite of romaine. Even more so when this stiletto and sweater-set clad woman is shouting about how her daughter is so lazy that she can't remember her spelling words then turns around and flounces out of the room, slamming the mahogany and bronze sliding doors behind her. It's a good thing I can say "please don't cry" in several languages...

All this rain and linguistic angst made me think of soup. When I finally made it back to my neighborhood at 8:30/20.30 (military time still eludes me), the regular market and grocery stores were closed. I stopped into a little fruteria (a fruit store) to by soup ingredients. With a large bag filled with tomatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbage, lemons, carrots and parsley, I made one final stop at the Ecuadorian run bakery. I am working on a little project with this bakery in which I am systematically tasting everything they make. These woman know how to rumble carbohydrates, jeez! I decided on one sunflower seed studded baguette and a piece of something tha
t looked a little like bread pudding. There is very little a big pot of soup and some yummy bread can't fix. Especially when something that looks like bread pudding is for dessert!

Everything's Better with Soup

Makes enough for dinner or lunch for a few days...

1 large onion finely chopped
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
splash of nice vinegar, wine, or beer
3 small to medium s
ized carrots roughly chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into small pieces
1 medium zucchini roughly chopped
4 small tomatoes roughly chopped or one small can of chopped tomatoes
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
half a medium sized savoy or other fun cabbage or green thing cut into fine ribbons
parsley/oregano/rosemary, whatever you've got
salt and pepper

In a large pot, heat a nice glug of olive oil. Saute onions with about a teaspoon of salt until transparent and starting to brown. Add garlic and cook a few minutes more until fragrant and smooshy. Throw in carrots and sweet potatoes and cook for a few minutes. Add chopped tomatoes and let cook until tomatoes break down, about 5 minutes at high heat. Splash in vinegar and cover veggie mixture with water. Bring to a low boil, then turn heat down and cover and simmer until mostly softened, About 15-20 minutes.

Add garbanzos, some kind of fun herb (a few teaspoons), cabbage and zucchini another teaspoon of salt and cook for another 10 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper and veggie squishiness. You might need to let it cook a few more minutes. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve drizzled with a little olive oil and some nice bread. A little goat cheese wouldn't hurt either.

martes, 25 de septiembre de 2007


Quite by accident we stumbled across an fantastic market with all kinds of Asian and Latin American items. I stocked up on baby bok choi, tofu, rice noodles, fish sauce, limes, plantains and this ultra fragrant, purple-flecked ginger. It was an amazing place, stall after stall of knobby yuca, tiny dried shrimp, slightly tired looking Chinese long beans and pig parts galore. Much stir fry and fried rice ensued. Madrid has become such an international city and the foods of the South American, Chinese, African and other immigrants are slowly making their way to Spanish tables. Lucky for the intrepid culinary adventurer, there are more and more places to find these and other delicious ingredients! This is particularly exciting because as we all know, a girl cannot live on Spanish tortilla and Manchego alone (as much as she may want to).

Mercado de Mostenses Stir Fry

1 package extra firm tofu cut in thin rectangles
1/2 package thin rice noodles
3 carrots finely chopped
4 baby bok choi, leaves separated
3 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
5 scallions finely chopped (white and half of green parts)

1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbl sugar
juice of 1 lime
1 tbl fish sauce

handful chopped peanuts
little lime slices

1. In a large skillet, heat a nice glug of oil and saute tofu until brown and crispy, about five minutes per side. This will take a few batches, you don't want to crowd the pan. Drain tofu on a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt. When cool enough to handle, chop or tear into nice, toothsome chunks.

2. Combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add noodles and let cook according to package instructions. Cook them to slightly underdone so they can absorb the stir fry sauce without falling apart! Drain and rinse with cold water to keep the stickies away.

4. In a clean skillet, heat a little more oil and add garlic, half of the scallions and ginger. Saute until fragrant and garlic is starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add carrots and a little sauce and let cook until starting to soften, about 4 minutes. Next, throw in baby bok choi leaves and give it a good stir. Add tofu, the remaining sauce and give it another nice stir. Throw in noodles and mix it all up. Let the mixture sit for a minute or two to heat up. Serve sprinkled with peanuts, remaining scallions and with little lime wedges!

lunes, 24 de septiembre de 2007


Welcome to a fun project called "let's see what Margit eats/cooks/finds in Spain." My plan is to write about all of the delicious items I encounter (with fun visual aids as well provided by Alvaro, the super photographer!) You can look forward to recipes, an American in Madrid anecdotes and general hilarity.


I'll keep you posted! (Little blog humor, ha!)