Month: January 2012

Culture & Cuisine

Week two in Sevilla has lead me to more touring, eating and loving life.

I had no idea there was so much history in this city, or such good food and beautiful views that you can experience at the same time!

This week we toured El Catedral, the world’s third largest church, and largest Gothic church. It was simply beautiful. In the center you will find La Giralda, a belltower that overlooks the entire city of Sevilla. Interestingly enough, in order to climb the bell tower, you will embark on a winding ramp, rather than a staircase, because horses used to be brought to the top, and goodness knows how well horses can climb stairs.

After I finally caught my breath, it was taken away again by the magnificent view of Sevilla. You can literally see everything, at an amazing angle. And when the clock strikes on the hour, you will be the first to hear the bells go off… right above your head. Here are some pictures from my tour:

inside the cathedral

view from the top of La Giralda

view of La Plaza de Toros (bull ring) from La Giralda

In between all my touring, I’ve eaten some incredible meals worth photographing. I’ve fallen in love with revueltas, or scrambled eggs with vegetables and serrano ham, but more ham and veggies than eggs. My drink of choice (other than café con leche) has become tinto de verano, a red wine spritzer with either orange or lemon juice (orange, please!). And my friends and I have began the battle of the frozen yogurt shops, Llao Llao vs. Yogurtlandia. Llao Llao is more of a traditional frozen yogurt shop, with tart yogurt and plenty of fruit and granola-like toppings. Yogurtlandia, however, brings the creaminess of soft serve together with liquid toppings such as Nutella, Pistachio or my personal favorite, Turrón. It really depends what you’re looking for, but I could settle for either just about any day of the week.

Pan Mediteraneo. Toasted bread with smooth aioli, juicy pork, salty cured Serrano ham and a fried egg. One word: NOM

We needed a break from Spanish Tapas and found an amazing Italian restaurant, Casa Nostra. My Pizza Vegetal had tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, olives, artichoke hearts and some of the best mozzarella cheese I have ever tasted!

The Battle of the Froyo Shops Part I: Llao Llao's Sanum (parfait) with yogurt, three types of fruit, two crunches, honey and one salsa

Battle of the Froyo Shops Part II: Yogurtlandia's yogurt with pistachio (not pictured but it's there!) and turrón toppings, and crumbled amaretti cookies

Me enjoying a delicious lunch of revueltas with asparagus and ham, and a beautiful salad with shrimp, hearts of palm, avocado, artichoke hearts and more!

So I’d say I’m having a pretty amazing cultural and gastronomic experience abroad. But I’ll wait for you to be the judge, when your mouth finally stops watering!

La Semana Primera en Sevilla

I have officially been in Spain for one week now but it feels like years. Having to adjust to a 6-hour different time zone, eating meals 3 hours later than usual, and walking around a foreign city until you physically can’t bend your legs is a lot to ask out of one girl! However, I’ve been loving every minute of it.

So I know this is a food blog and most of the posts are restaurant reviews or recipes, but my time in Spain is worthy of documentation, and without any sort of kitchen other than a microwave and minifridge, my cooking endeavors will be limited. I can, however, rave about the food I’ve been eating for the past week at tapas restaurants.

Tapas, or small plates, are the way people eat in Spain. You start off your day with a piece of toast and some café con leche- my new drink of choice. You will then eat a hefty lunch of vegetables, potatoes, meats, cheeses- whatever you please at a restaurant- around 2 pm. Some of the most common tapas include tortilla española- a quiche-like egg dish filled with onions and potatoes, croquetas- fried balls of potato with either ham, fish or chicken, patatas bravas- fried potatoes covered in a creamy aioli and spicy red sauce, paella- a tradional rice dish with seafood and saffron, and montaditos- small sandwiches usually with ham and cheese. Lunch is always followed by dessert and a siesta, or nap time. Like little children!

Dinner is usually a smaller portion of tapas not eaten until 9:30 or 10. But after such a large lunch, you won’t be hungry until around then and won’t want anything big anyway. And that is how the Spaniards stay so thin; tapas and walking and LOTS of coffee.

Anyway, I haven’t really had a chance to photograph any of the food I’ve eaten and to be honest, tapas in America are much more flavorful, but hey, when in Sevilla, right? I’ve been seeing and photographing some other beautiful sights though. Here is a little taste:

Las Cetas, or the mushrooms

Bridge over the river

El Catedral

La Plaza de España

Gardens inside Alcazar

One Last Baking Endeavor Before I Set Sail for Spain…

Yep, you read correctly. I’m going to Spain on Sunday for four months!! While most students these days seem to feel as though studying abroad is a right of passage, I look at it more as a great privilege. I will have the privilege to travel across Europe, experience culture, art, language and, oh yeah, FOOD, of so many different countries I expect to be begging to come back to America for a nice hearty hamburger by the time I’m through. Thanks to José Andrés, I’ve fallen in love with Spanish food, and I can’t wait to get my hands on some authentic comida. I will hopefully blog about my travels as much as possible, but I couldn’t leave without sharing one last all-American recipe: red velvet cupcakes.

This first time I had Magnolia Bakery’s red velvet cupcakes I was in heaven. The first time I baked Magnolia Bakery’s red velvet cupcakes I was stunned that I could recreate something so perfect, and so true to the original. I want to share that experience with you.

After weeks of pretty decent weather considering both the month and my place of residence (Cleveland, Ohio), it finally decided to snow today. As I am doing my last minute shopping, running around and saying bye to friends and family, I decided to wind down tonight, stay in and take the last opportunity I’ll have to bake for four months. I’m not expecting to find cupcakery’s every five miles in Europe like you do in America these days, and I’m definitely not expecting to find any red velvet cupcakes, at least not the ones as good as Magnolia’s (or Sprinkle’s or Baked & Wired, or White Flower Cake Shoppe for that matter).

What I like about my version of these cupcakes is they stick to the more classic combo: red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. Magnolia frosts theirs with vanilla buttercream, but for me, the cream cheese frosting is, well, the icing on the cake! For anyone who loves a good cupcake, is a fan of Magnolia Bakery, or just has an aching sweet tooth, this one’s for you. Adios for now!

INGREDIENTS (makes 24 cupcakes)

for the cupcakes

3 ½ cups cake flour

¾ cup softened unsalted butter

2 ¼ cups sugar

3 large eggs

6 tablespoons red food coloring (roughly 3 bottles)

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1 ½ teaspoons salt

1 ½ cups buttermilk

1 ½ teaspoons cider vinegar

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

 

for the frosting

½ lb (1 8-oz package) cream cheese, softened and cut into small pieces

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces

¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

2 ½ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

 

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Grease and line cupcake sheets with cupcake tins. In a small bowl, sift the cake flour and set aside.

Spraying the pan- even if you use cupcake liners- is VERY important. I learned the hard way.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, on medium speed, about five minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a small bowl, whisk together the red food coloring, cocoa and vanilla. Add to the batter and beat well.

In another small bowl, stir the salt into the buttermilk. Add to the batter in three parts, alternating with the flour. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat. In another small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula. Using an ice cream scoop, spoon out batter into cupcake trays. Bake for 20 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool before frosting.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth, on medium speed, for about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat well. Gradually add the sugar, one cup at a time, beating continuously until smooth and creamy. Cover and refrigerate icing for up to 3 hours before using.

beauties

brings me right back to NYC...

Triple Chocolate Biscotti

Like I said, I’ve been baking, baking, baking to my heart’s desire. I love biscotti because they serve as the perfect breakfast, dessert and dunking utensil into coffee or tea. This biscotti recipe comes from Loretta Paganinni, a well known chef and culinary school instructor in Cleveland. Biscotti are traditionally cooked two times, but the first time around they are perfect too. The hazelnuts are a perfect toasty, crunchy surprise and the espresso brings out the chocolate flavor wonderfully.

INGREDIENTS (makes 4 dozen)

1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tbs cooled espresso

1/3 cup chocolate chips

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

12 oz. white chocolate, for dipping

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

Mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt sugar and espresso in a large bowl. Once combined, add the hazelnuts and chocolate chips.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla. Slowly add the egg mixture to the other ingredients and mix jsut until the dough comes together. Mix any remaining dry ingredients from the bottom by hand.

Form four logs and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the sides are firm and the tops are cracked. Remove from the baking sheet and reduce the temperature to 325 degrees. Let the logs cool on the baking sheet for at least 10 minutes before slicing into 3/4 in thick diagonal slices.

Place the biscotti flat on the baking sheet and cook in the oven for an additional 5 to 10  minutes, until they are firm. Transfer to a baking rack to cool. While the biscotti are cooling, melt the white chocolate in a microwave or double boiler. Dip the biscotti into the white chocolate and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Let white chocolate harden for about an hour. Enjoy with coffee or tea.