July 31, 2007
Beef jerky finally gets what it deserves!
Actually, the article points out that beef jerky (as I've long suspected) is actually the perfect meat, it has zero fat, lots of protein, and low cholesterol. It dates back to at least the Incas, and the name "jerky" comes not from the cowboys of the Old West, but from the Quechua word “charqui.”
In Spain, the land of ham and all cured pork products, I have been getting my beef jerky fix for years with something called "cecina". Typically from the region of Leon, cecina is essentially fresh beef that for hundreds of years has been smoked and naturally dried. The inside is deep red with very little fat, and it goes splendidly thinly sliced on salads or alone and drizzled with olive oil.
To check out the Times article.
July 22, 2007
Aquodka, Avodka, Tomato, Tomahto
I feel like I owe it to everyone to give an update on the Aquodka - probably because over a week ago I said that I was going to post the recipe for this new dreamed up cocktail sensation on the web, and shucks, I didn't.
I'd be lying if I told you that the aquodka hasn't been on my mind however. Sloshing around in my big fishbowl glass of a noggin, stirring up memories, ingredients and even color combinations from cocktails past. But alas, true inspiration came in the form of a pastry bag styled mound of avocado mousse perched jauntily on the edge of a plate of sashimi a la Karen. The AVODKA not the AQUODKA, a frothy moussey, avocadoey, limey, vodka-y, refresher served in a martini glass maybe with jalapeno rock salt neatly arrayed around the rim. After all, avocado is my favorite fruit and vodka is my favorite Russian distilled potato beverage (although actually can now be made from many other sources such as corn).
Finally sure that this is the way to go, I thought I should do some research into the cocktail just in case I am serving it or drinking it some day at Memento and a stranger at the bar tries to outshine my avocado knowledge. Thanks to the FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION, I learned the following tidbit, making me think that this will not be a problem:
"The fruit's name comes from abuacatl, the Nahuatl word for testicle, which is assumed to be reference to the avocado's shape." You don't say....
Avodka recipe and photos to follow, this time I promise....
UPDATE: WON'T LIST RECIPE, WAS FAIRLY DISGUSTING, BUT LOVE THE PHOTOS JOSH!!!
July 13, 2007
Anyway, maybe due to the heat or just to my own inherent laziness, when I got back to Madrid (neatly deposited on my doorstep by a car, not the somewhat outdated bus service that I had used to get there in the first place), I had the feeling that I had traveled those 75 kilometers on horseback wearing an excess of petticoats - sidesaddle - so I allowed myself to nap the afternoon away in preparation for this evening when I am going to pick up a shift at my friend Karen's wonderful restaurant, Memento. Her trusty main waitress is out of town so I have been reliving my glory days and forcing everyone to call me the Sommelier, regardless of what I am actually doing. I go up to each table to take their order or to run their food with my whole background story prepared just in case the customers decide to ask me questions such as "so, how long have you been a waitress here?" or "Wow, you seem like more of a sommelier than just a waitress, how come?". I would then explain to them that "actually, I am a sommelier, I am just clearing your plates because our waitress just choked on her tongue and had to go to the hospital." I think I might say it in a British accent, I mean, in the event that someone ever does ask.
The point of this whole thing, (and trust me, I think there is one), is that I took a siesta and had a dream that I invented a new and insanely refreshing cocktail called the AQUODKA. Much like Santa Teresa must have felt after communing with God, I woke up in a haze of Aquodka excitement, repeating the ingredients to myself and most importantly the name, over and over again. So I'm thanking my lucky stars that I am the sommelier at Memento tonight (my temporary laboratory of cocktail research) and the soon to be mother of the Aquodka, (which the only thing that I have clear about so far is that it contains ice and vodka, and I think is meant to be rather lemony), the most refreshing drink of all time. I will post the recipe tomorrow, when I have one that is. Bet you can hardly wait.
July 10, 2007
Hedgehogs, not just for breakfast anymore
Ok, so maybe titillating isn't exactly the right word, but isn't it fascinating that in an ocean of vocabulary so big that you could spend a lifetime swimming to the other shore, someone, somewhere and for who knows what reason, decided that these two creatures should in fact share the same name.
To be fair, I should start this loquacious bit of prattle with an apology to my friend Valen who, as we were walking along the road in Germany the other night and came upon a pair of hedgehogs, actually informed me that they were called erizos in Spanish, just like sea urchins. Considering that my complex animal terminology in Spanish is limited to things that can be served on a plate, I must confess that I scoffed at him for suggesting that this was their name. However, when I started doing research in order to prove that Valen had in fact no idea what he was talking about, I learned that, not only was he dead correct, but that hedgehogs were actually known as urchins in English as well (and still are in some places) until the term hedgehog was coined in the 15th century.
Ok, fine, both hedgehogs and sea urchins do share certain physical characteristics - and I was also surprised to find that both types of erizos are in fact eaten - and apparently on purpose. The consumption of sea urchins is quite common along the coast of Northern Spain. I tried them once in Asturias, still in their spiny homes and piled high on platters. To prepare the urchins, (or whore's eggs as they were called in 19th century Newfoundland), scissors are used to cut around the urchin's mouth on its flat side and the connective tissue inside the spiny shell is punctured and then the orange colored coral, or reproductive organs, are scooped out. I ate them raw, which is the most common way that they are eaten, and while the flavor was delicate, it was also overwhelmingly iodiney on the other. Despite the fact that I loved dipping my spoon ino the squishy center of the urchin, feeling both macho and cool, the flavor wasn't what I was looking for, although it seems that the extremely high iodine content in the sea urchins can be an effective cure for a neck ache.
While I have never eaten a hedgehog, I was able to find out (dear, beloved Wikipedia) that Hedgehogs were eaten in both Ancient Egypt and during the Middle ages. The most accepted method of preparation is to cover the hedgehog with clay and then bake it. When the clay is cracked open, its spikes are removed and voila, hedgehog a la pharaoh.
It is also interesting to note that neither one of these creatures is related to the porcupine or the sea cucumber, and that hedgehogs are naturally lactose intolerant.
July 9, 2007
For Whom my Burger Tolls
Four years before that, during the first summer that my restaurant was open, a lot of expectations were placed on the United States World Cup soccer team. They were good, they were playing well, and they were actually holding their own in the incredibly talented and competitive World Cup tournament that was taking place that year in
Although fervent soccer fans might think that the world came to a halt for those four years, in truth, a great many things happened in the years that fell between those two tournaments. Enrique and I fell in love and eventually moved in together, he came to the States with me a few times and (a lover of spicy foods) tried his very first Jalapeño burger in a bistro type tavern in
Last summer was full of lazy – albeit economically challenged – days. I had just finished sommelier school and was delighted to pour my efforts into enjoying the World Cup for a week or so. I may lack the fervor that Europeans like Enrique feel for the event, it is their super bowl, their end all – be all, their moment to slip out of the European Union and return to the old “us against them” rivalry; but I did play soccer for almost 15 years and don’t mind getting catching a good game and getting caught up in the rivalry myself. With time and unemployment on our side we decided to watch as much as possible. When
With Enrique’s American burger road trip and several calls to my father as my inspiration, I began to create not only the best tasting ground beef patty imaginable – a mixture of four different fresh herbs, garlic, chipotle flakes, different spices, special bread crumbs, organic Galician eggs – but also the most colorful and elaborate mélange of toppings to lay out on the table in the oh-so-American make it yourself tradition. A relatively new mother and independent businesswoman, my Italian friend had found the time to throw together a Napolitano style lasagna and for a second, glancing at my colorful table, I almost felt sorry for the Ital-Portuguese couple, unaware that their dismissive comments about American cuisine had released the beast within me. Sorry, that is, until I saw their new baby flaunting an Italian team uniform, and until they mentioned that they were so sure of victory both on the field and the dinner table that they hadn’t made much of an effort with the food at all.
Much to my dismay and their gloating delight, the
While we may have to wait another four years to show our soccer savvy, the recipe for “
finely diced fresh herbs: cilantro, basil, mint, thyme, parsley
crushed garlic cloves
garlic salt or Jane’s Krazy mixed-up salt
finely diced shallots (optional as I’m allergic)
whole wheat homemade dried and rough smashed bread crumbs
Mix ingredients together, form patties, fry or preferably grill, and enjoy, all the while doing your little superior dance.
ich bin 5 pounds heavier
I realize that this is supposedly about Madrid, gastronomican in madrid yes, yes, but I just got back from a long weekend at the Dokumenta contemporary art bonanza in Kassel, Germany, and I just can't stop thinking about those darn good German breakfasts.
I have always loved German breakfasts, to the point that I will do anything in my power when taking a morning flight (including pay extra) to book my ticket on Lufthansa, the German national airline and one of the only ones that still serves a hot breakfast.....no, a hot GERMAN breakfast.
It seems absurd I'm sure to the casual observer. Why can't she just make a German breakfast at home? Black forest ham, salami, smoked herring and whitefish, assorted soft cheeses (some with herbs), muesli, hard boiled egg, brown bread, rye bread, those soft white rolls, honey. The obvious two-part answer is that it can be hard to come by the raw product here in Spain and even more importantly, that it is extremely hard to justify eating that much for breakfast when you are not on holiday.
I'm going to go snack on a slim jim.
(photo by Carlos Nogueira)