Tapas: the Mezze of Spain

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So, let me tell you the story behind tapas. In Spain, (Note: I know very little about Spain and tend to mix dream with reality) people have a solid life ethic, and leave work in the middle of the day to drink wine. Glasses already filled with wine awaited the said solid life ethic people of Spain in wine bars across the country. And in this imaginary time long enough ago, during the hot and sticky summer months, waiters needed to cover those glasses of wine from the abundance of flies. First they put a slice of bread over the glass. Then maybe they’d put a little cheese. Perhaps an additional garlic stuffed olive. Eventually bars would compete by making fancy little treats to cover these glasses of wine. And thus “tapas,” meaning “to cover,” were born. 

Boy, am I glad they were.

This brings me to the night of December 27, 2011, when a friend of mine came into town. If you remember, my friend Arianna moved to Chicago about 3 years ago. And during my visit to see her there two years ago she made me a delicious meal of vegan jumbalaya and beer. All this after being trapped with her in a seriously scary thunderstorm in the empty but covered patio of The Chicago Diner eating a glorious feast and laughing in the face of mortality. For her I threw a tapas party to end all tapas parties (that I’ve ever thrown before -- this happened to be the first one). How did I manage to have 11 people in my rather small living room, crowded around a coffee table no less? I’m still not sure how it happened. I believe that the room grew three sizes that night to make it work out for us. 

The food was served in phases, drinks were poured constantly, and a good time was had by all. 

Cheers! and Happy (belated) New Year, dear readers! 

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Menu

wine

Sangria 

marinated garlic stuffed olives

candied rosemary nuts

Manchego with quince paste

baguettes, fancy cheeses, sun dried tomato pesto, artichoke spread

white bean hummus & orange bell pepper

artichoke salad

baked and seasoned cauliflower

cumin paprika roasted pumpkin

tortilla espanola

shrimp in garlic tomato sauce

cardamom flan

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some of the recipes

all inspired by Hipcooks

Candied Rosemary Nuts

ingredients: 

  • butter
  • brown sugar
  • rosemary chopped
  • nuts (any)
  • Tabasco sauce 

1. In a pan, melt as much butter as you like, at least 2 Tbsp. 2. Add around 1/3 cup of brown sugar, some rosemary, and about 1 cup of nuts. 3. Flip ingredients around in the pan until covered and the sugar caramelizes a bit. 4. Spread out the candied nuts on a cookie sheet, add the Tobasco & mix around. 5. Freeze the nuts until solid. 

Tortilla Espanola

ingredients:

  • butter
  • evoo
  • salt/pepper
  • a few potatoes, sliced into rounds
  • 1 med onion
  • dill 
  • 6 eggs
  • heavy cream
  • feta
  • creme fraiche
  • chopped chives

1. Flash boil the sliced potatoes. 2. Sautee onions in salt and pepper and lots of oil. 3. Butter an iron skillet or cake pan. 4. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, dill, cream, feta, salt, pepper. 5. Line the skillet or pan with potatoes. Then spread the onions evenly over the potatoes. Then pour the egg mixture. 6. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. 7. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche and chopped chives et voila! 

Shrimp in Garlic Tomato Sauce

ingredients:

  • shrimp
  • butter
  • evoo
  • salt/pepper/oregano
  • onion, sliced
  • garlic, mined
  • canned diced tomatoes
  • parmesan

1. Oil a skillet. 2. Sautee the garlic and onions for a few minutes. 3. Add the salt/pepper/oregano and cook a few minute more. 4. Add some butter. Be generous. 5. Add the diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil then simmer. 6. Add the parmesan. 7. Let the sauce sit about ten minutes. 8. Add the thawed shrimp to soak in the sauce for about 20 minutes. 

I'll do a special post on the cardamom flan when I have perfected it! 

 

Farmers Market Frittata / and these beautiful coreopsis flowers wrapped in brown paper

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Met up with Agatha at the farmers market last Saturday to prepare a lovely brunch for ourselves. We purchased these beautiful coreopsis flowers and eucalyptus leaves wrapped in brown paper just like Paris. And stood in a very long line for farm fresh eggs. My herb mix this week was excellent: dill, parsley, mint, and basil. We picked up a readymade seasoned tempeh and carrot dish from the vegan friendly vendor. I love the farmers market.

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Roasted Eggplant Salata

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Roasted Eggplant Salata

ingredients

mixed greens | Trader Joe's organics
sugar plum tomatoes, halved | Trader Joe's organics
scallions, diced | Barnsdale Park Farmers Market
cucumbers, diced | Atwater Farmers Market
eggplant Atwater Farmers Market
garlic, minced | Barnsdale Park Farmers Market
extra virgin olive oil | Cadia Organics
red wine vinegar | Trader Joe's
sea salt/ground black pepper/oregano | various locations
Bulgarian feta | independent neighborhood grocery

directions:

Play some music. PS THIS IS A LINK.

The reason I am not including measurements is because it depends on how much you want to make; I ended up only making one serving for lunch today, so there will be leftover eggplant for another day. This is super easy.

Set the oven to 450 degrees.

Take an eggplant (or two) and chop it up into cubes. Put in a baking dish and mix in olive oil, salt, pepper, and diced garlic until eggplant chunks are covered. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, making sure to toss half way. Set aside, let cool. I would transfer it to a room temp bowl and put in the fridge, but that's just me.  

  

 

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Take a bowl. Add as much of the mixed greens as you want, taking into account that the greens will shrink when the dressing is added. Then add chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions. Crumble the feta with your fingers over the salad.

While the eggplant is cooling, make the dressing. My usual ratio for oil to vinegar is about 1:2. In a small bowl, mix olive oil/red wine vinegar/dash salt/dash pepper/dash oregano. If I had a lemon today I would add the juice to the dressing! Maybe you will!

When the eggplant is cool, add it to the salad bowl. Add the dressing, toss, and enjoy!

 

Regroup & Reflection: My Healthy Lifestyle Goals

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Remember way back when I started this blog, my goal was to eat healthier, non-processed, organic, local, pesticide-free foods. Not that I have abandoned that completely, but I haven't been as focused as I had initially sought out. So, I have decided to really get serious about that, once again; as with any relationship, including food, it is important to reflect, maintain, appreciate. 

A few of the more important aspects of My Lifestyle Goals are as follows:

  • Obviously, eating more fruits and vegetables -- more specifically, pesticide-free, local, organic, in-season...
  • Including a variety of intact grains. I tend to stick to brown rice, quinoa, couscous, oats; but, I'd like to mix it up more, using amaranth, farro, millet, buckwheat, etc. 
  • Including a variety of legumes. I tend to stick to red/green lentils, chickpeas, black beans, adzuki -- time to mix it up and try something new. 
  • Drinking far more water than I have been recently. It is summer in Southern California, and I have not only not upped my intake of water, I have somehow managed to cut it down. Clearly, this is unwise.
  • About meat. I'm no longer a vegetarian, but I choose to eat meat very rarely and only under very specific circumstances pertaining to the way the animal is fed, caught, etc. So, I have been incorporating meat about 3-4 times a month, specifically fish, and am happy to continue doing so for now. A great place to shop for humanely and naturally raised meat in the Los Angeles area is McCall's in Los Feliz.
  • About protein. Eggs, legumes, certain vegetables, tofu provide enough protein without meat, and that has never been a concern of mine.
  • Reduce my intake of flour products, like bread and pasta, as well as other refined, processed foods and sugars to only a very few times a month. I'm sure I will survive, and doing so will allow these types of foods to be special and enjoyed more thoroughly than they have been.
  • And, of course, the other important habits: sleeping enough, exercising regularly, and relaxing/slowing down/reducing anxiety.

With all this said, what I have always been aiming at is a healthier lifestyle in order to smile more. I'm not interested in dieting. I am interested in changing my habits. These are the kinds of habits that take years to form for life, and I have really been able to make some of these a natural habit over the past two years. It is important to me to feel more energetic, and having been in and out of these habits for a few years now, I can say with absolute certainty that when I am following these guidelines more rigorously, I am much more optimistic and enthusiastic about my life.