abroad

An Epicurious-Inspired Taste of Spain

The Epicurious app has successfully proven that the folks at Bon Appetit know what they’re doing when it comes to social media and iPhone apps. I find myself utilizing this app for recipes more than I do cookbooks, websites or- dare I say it- my own imagination. The other night I was inspired as I was browsing the “Spring Dinners” category and came across salmorejo– a cold Spanish soup made with tomatoes, almonds, garlic and breadcrumbs. I used to have this soup at least three times a week when I studied abroad, and even reading the name made my mouth begin to water. I decided to craft and entire Spanish meal around salmorejo and Epicurious. The supporting characters? “Arroz” con pollo (rice with chicken, similar in flavor to paella but way less complicated to make) and a light dessert of Valencia oranges with a spiced wine sauce. I put “arroz” in quotations because while the original recipe (and, of course, name) calls for long grain white rice, I wanted to try something healthier and heartier and substituted quinoa. I also used boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders instead of a whole chicken.

The salmorejo recipe was perfect. It took me right back to sitting outside at a Spanish cafe, sipping soup from a mug on a sunny Sevillano day. The recipe is so simple and satisfying, if you’re a fan of gazpacho I highly suggest you try this next time. The arroz con pollo made way more food than I expected, but I was perfectly okay with that, as it was so flavorful, healthful and authentic, I’m happy to have leftovers. I really enjoyed the quinoa substitute. The dessert was a great way to round off a healthy Spanish meal. It was refreshing yet packed with flavor, and while the original recipe didn’t call for it, I added mint and whipped cream, and wouldn’t have it any other way. So thank you, Epicurious, for letting me relive my semester abroad for the night. I was truly satisfied with my meal, would give it four forks, and would definitely make it again. Here are the recipes:

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SALMOREJO

INGREDIENTS

3 pounds ripe tomatoes

3 slices white or wheat bread, cubed and toasted

1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds

4 garlic gloves, roughly chopped

1 tsp Sherry or white wine vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

Cut tomatoes in half and squeeze seeds and pulp into a strainer set over a large bowl. Press solids to release as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids, core and chop the tomatoes and add them to the liquid. Combine the toasted bread cubes, slivered almonds and garlic in a food processor. Blend until well chopped. Add tomatoes with liquid to blender in batches, pureeing until very smooth. Add Sherry vinegar and blend. With blender running, slowly add olive oil and puree until emulsified and frothy. Season with salt, pepper and more vinegar if necessary. Chill until cold and serve in mugs or tea cups. Optional: garnish with Serrano ham, a chopped hard boiled egg, slivered almonds, chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives or a drizzle of olive oil.

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“ARROZ” CON POLLO

INGREDIENTS

1 package boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders, roughly 10 pieces total

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 large red bell pepper, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp paprika

2 cups quinoa

1 1/4 cups dry white wine

1- 14 oz. can diced tomatoes including juice

1 3/4 cups low sodium chicken broth

3/4 tsp crumbled saffron threads

1 dried bay leaf

1 cup frozen peas (do not thaw)

1/2 pimiento-stuffed green olives, coarsely chopped

DIRECTIONS

Pat chicken breast tenders dry and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat oil in a large, deep skillet over moderately high heat and brown chicken, about 4 minutes per side and transfer to a plate. Don’t worry about the chicken being done, it will finish cooking later.

Add onion, bell pepper and salt to the pan. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, paprika and quinoa and stir for one minute. Add wine and boil about 2 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Stir in tomatoes with juice, chicken broth, saffron and bay leaf. Add the chicken back to the skillet with any juices from the plate. Cook, covered, over low heat until chicken is cooked through and quinoa is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in olives and peas (the peas will thaw the second they hit the hot pan, which is why you don’t need to thaw them ahead of time). Discard bay leaf and serve.

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ORANGES WITH SPICED WINE SAUCE

INGREDIENTS

1 750-ml bottle dry red wine

1 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar

1 cinnamon stick, broken in half

8 oranges

3 tbsp chopped fresh mint

whipped cream

DIRECTIONS

Bring wine, 1 cup sugar and cinnamon stick to a boil in a large saucepan. Boil until reduced to 1 cup, about 18 minutes. Remove sauce from pan and cool completely. Finely grate the peel of two oranges. Mix zest with 1 tablespoon sugar in a small bow and set aside. Peel all eight oranges and cut between the membranes to release the segments into a large bowl. Divide the oranges among 8 bowls. Drizzle the wine sauce and divide the mint leaves. Top with whipped cream, then sugared orange zest.

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A Culinary Guide Through Amsterdam

Last weekend I had the great pleasure of visiting what has become my favorite city while abroad thus far, Amsterdam. Now I know what you’re thinking- red light district and legal weed. But if you’ve learned one thing about me it should be that my first and foremost priority while visiting an unknown city is to scope out its food scene. And scope out I did.

The Dutch may be known for their pancakes, chips (or french fries in America), and cheese- and believe me we got our fare share of that- but Amsterdam has plenty of international cuisine to offer, too. Every meal was truly delicious, and I can only thank my lucky stars that I am not studying there for the semester, because I’m pretty sure I would be obese by now (half kidding…).

We arrived in a ravenous state and found a cute little lunch shop on one of the ‘De Negen Straatjes’ or Nine Streets, known for their shopping and restaurants. Mokka, as the sign suggests, serves coffee, lunch and lasagna. Perfect for starving tourists. Chelsea and I shared a beautiful salad of smoked chicken, tomatoes, avocado and pine nuts with a light yet savory balsamic-y citrus-y dressing.

Michelle ordered a sandwich on rich, sweet whole wheat bread with pesto, roasted red peppers, pine nuts, avocado and olives

Both dishes were delicious. Speaking of bread, Holland has this truly incredible bread called Waldkorn bread. It contains a ton of cereals and grains, and is dark in color, like pumpernickel. I had it as toast one morning and I have been obsessed ever since. You should google it and find out where you can buy it. I know I will. Moving on…

Now for some meals that are more familiar to Holland- omelets, pancakes and yes, those heavenly chips.

Amsterdam has pancake restaurants on about every street corner, but we were advised to go to Pancake Bakery by a friend who went the previous week. It is a very warm and welcoming restaurant with dim lighting and an open kitchen. The food goes along just perfectly with the atmosphere and we were definitely full until lunch. Chelsea and I shared a ham, cheese and tomato omelet (we have been craving omelets since we arrived in Spain!) which had the perfect balance of creamy, gooey cheese, sweet juicy tomato and salty ham.

We satisfied our sweet tooth with an apple and banana pancake covered in cinnamon and powdered sugar. Dutch pancakes are very, very thin- thinner than crepes! They are crispy and a little burnt on the edges (just how I like ’em) and go well with pretty much everything. The bananas gave the pancake the classic Jack-Johnson-Banana-Pancakes flavor and the apples were perfectly cooked and went perfectly with the cinnamon.

You also can’t cross many streets without encountering at least one chips stand, and we couldn’t resist the temptation (hey, when in Amsterdam, right?). These aren’t any ordinary chips, though. They are fat, juicy steak fries overflowing a paper cone, doused in whatever condiment of your choosing. From basic mayonnaise to more exotic toppings such as- well I’ll let the suspension hang for a little- anything you dip these chips in is superb, and somehow works wonderfully.  The first cone of chips we got had mayonnaise, onions and a curry ketchup. The ketchup was both sweet and savory, with a little spice from the curry and gave me a huge craving for Indian food. The mayonnaise was rich and creamy but not artificial tasting like we have in the States, and the onions- while I usually cringe at the sight of raw onions- were the perfect tangy bite.

The following day our chips craving was back. We kept passing people on the streets with purple paper cones of chips, so we sought them out, assuming they had to be the best. We assumed correctly. We chose the following condiments per the cashier’s recommendation: mayonnaise, onions and- wait for it- peanut butter! Strange, right? When the cashier first told me that this combination was their most popular, I made a face of disgust. However, after some deliberation and the reminder that You Only Live Once (my generation’s new favorite catchphrase, in other words, YOLO), we went for it. The sweet peanut butter worked so wonderfully with the creamy mayonnaise and spicy onions. It reminded me a little of a Thai or Chinese dish with peanut sauce. I know I tend to like really weird combinations of food (you’re talking to the girl who puts curry in her guacamole, scrambled eggs, chocolate!) but in all honesty, I think anyone would have liked this. I can only hope I will get another chance to eat these heavenly chips again.

So now that I was officially craving Indian food, we did some research and landed upon the most fantastic Indian restaurant in Amsterdam. Indian food in Amsterdam? I know it sounds a bit strange, but it was by far the best Chicken Tikka Masala I have ever tasted. It was nutty, but sweet, but spicy, but smooth. The chicken was tender and rich. Words do not to this meal justice. The meal was a bit pricey, but well worth it if you like Indian food. Now I would like you to take this opportunity to drool a little. (From the bottom left going clockwise: chicken tikka masala, basmati rice, naan bread, grilled vegetables, chicken curry)

By this point you’re probably thinking that I literally ate my way through Amsterdam, but we got some sight seeing in, too. Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, Vondelpark and, last but not least, the Heineken Museum! This was my favorite tourist attraction, not just because of the culinary aspect but also because it was interactive, fun and came with three free beers! From learning how the beer is made, to seeing the actual vats and horses, to playing DJ cames and taking Face in Hole photos, the museum was fun and lively. I also learned a thing or two about beer, and have a new appreciation for Heineken (being newly 21 and all, how can I resist?).

This is a mixture of malted barley liquids and water, called wort. It tastes like liquid toast!

Heineken bartender pouring up the glasses!

And finally, two of my favorite foods from my favorite food group, dairy: cheese and frozen yogurt. Amsterdam was chock full of cheese shops, offering a wide variety of herbed, smoked, and pure goat, sheep and cow’s milk cheeses, and, oh yeah, TONS of samples. There was cheese…

On cheese…

On cheese

And we basically ate our weight in it. It was heaven.

Finally, after roaming the city for a good two hours, we found our beloved frozen yogurt at a shop called Frozz. The yogurt was tart and creamy, but not watery how you find it in some shops. They also had stroopwafel and carmelized, chopped nuts as toppings. If you have never tried a stroopwafel go to your nearest Trader Joes and buy them now.

Strawberries, bananas and caramelized nuts!

Altogether, my experience in Amsterdam was superb. The culinary scene exceeded my expectations and I hope to return soon!

Restaurant References:

Wok to Walk

Chipsy King

Memories of India

Pancake Bakery

Jamin

Frozz

Les Patisseries de Paris

But you thought I was studying abroad in Spain? Have no fear, I’m still here, but I couldn’t bare the thought of spending four months in Europe without making a trip to the land of romance and butter. If you’ve learned anything about me by now its that I will try my very best to embrace the culture (aka the cuisine) of my surroundings. You may have also learned that I have an enormous sweet tooth, which is why this post is almost completely dedicated to all things sweet in Paris.

We arrived in Paris mid day Friday, stomachs growling. The hotel was situated a little further from downtown, but very close to a metro stop, the Moulin Rouge and plenty of restaurants. Our hunger was cured by a cute little cafe called Le Petit Poucet, offering the most fabulous ham and cheese omelette with a side salad. SALAD!!!! Oh how I have longed for mixed, leafy greens with fresh vegetables. Spain doesn’t really do salads… But I digress. This meal was just the beginning to a fabulous weekend

The best way to see the city of Paris, in my opinion, is by investing in a ticket to one of the many hop-on/hop-off busses. We opted for L’Open Tour, for 32 Euro for two days. We literally managed to see every big monument, museum, landmark, quarter, you name it. I also strategically planned to get off at certain stops in order to visit two patisseries I was told I absolutely needed to try. The first was Angelina’s. Known for they’re hot chocolate, Angelina’s is a cafe and bakery offering a wide selection of sandwiches, salads, egg dishes and desserts galore. One serving of hot chocolate will run you 8 Euro, but between that and endless macarons, we decided to make that our lunch on Saturday and it was well worth it. Prepare to drool.

chocolate perfection and homemade whipped cream. this, by the way, is one serving.

the whipped cream artfully melted into the hot chocolate

only a portion of the pastry counter

After a day full of sweets we were in need of something savory for dinner. We ended up at the Eiffel Tower around 6:30 where we witnessed the structure in all its glory. The tower is magnificent during the day but at night, when it is lit up, its breathtaking (see below: photo taken from my iPhone, NO EDITING!)

and here, during the day, Michelle and I pull a Mary Kate and Ashely as we sword fight with French baguettes

The streets surrounding the Eiffel tower are lined with eateries, and we were very happy to come across and Italian restaurant where I had pizza with one of the flakiest, crunchiest crusts ever. The mozzarella cheese was creamy and rich, and the arugula added a perfect bite in both texture and flavor to to counter the cheese. Thick tomato slices burst as I bit into them, and the sweet flavor of basil lingered as I happily swallowed, bite after bite.

Sunday led us to a typical Parisian breakfast (or so I’d like to think) of crepes:

filled with strawberry jam and sliced banana, the perfect way to start a Parisian morning

Between Versailles, the Catacombes and Notre Dame, I made sure to save time to visit the Latin Quarter, a trendy area with plenty of shops and cafes, and home to the most incredible macarons I have ever tasted (and this is coming from someone who makes them from scratch, remember?). I was told to visit Une Dimanche a Paris by a friend who studied abroad here last year. Its a little off the beaten path- you have to keep your eyes out for a rotunda hidden in one of the side streets and walk down a narrow and uneven cobblestone sidewalk before you reach it- but it is a MUST GO for anyone who appreciates a good macaron. The rest of their desserts looked incredible, too. Upon entering I was beside myself. The beautiful cakes and tarts looked like mini works of art, and the entire shop had an aroma of sugar and all things sinful. Before nearly drooling over the macarons I decided to wander around the shop. Here is what I found

like an edible museum!

chocolate covered herbs and spices- peppercorns, coriander and rosemary yum!

Alas! I reached the macaron counter. A full array of colors and flavors, the perfectly rounded, cloud-like meringues were filled with cream or jam, and artfully placed so close together, reminiscent of quarters in a coin roll. I was torn by all the flavors. Do I go classic with chocolate and vanilla? Or risky and unique with lavender and salted caramel? I couldn’t have just two- this was the place for macarons after all. So I caved and ordered three, each one more different, flavorful and purely magical than the next.

pistachio, coffee and passion fruit

Okay, I have to admit I was slightly disappointed by the pistachio. I am a pistachio fanatic and this one was lacking in true nutty flavor. There was a strong taste of almond and the texture was perfect, but the pistachio flavor was no where to be found! The others however…. The coffee macaron tasted like I was biting into an espresso bean. It was so flavorful I began to crave the drink itself! I was bewildered. The passion fruit macaron was exactly as you would imagine passion fruit tasting, but surrounded by a crunchy almond flavored cookie, it was incredible. It was sweet and luscious and mouth watering with a kiss of spice. I savored those like I was never going to eat again.

Finally, our trip came to an end with one last visit to the crepe stand. I was sad to leave such a beautiful and delicious city but made sure to bring back macarons to savour throughout the week. I loved Paris, but Sevilla is my home and I’m happy to be back 🙂