kitchen disasters, or: why i’m glad i didn’t wait for asa to get home before i tried out the kitchen

pretty ingredients all lined up in the smallest kitchen known to man!

So today I learned three things:

1. If you hunt through a Spanish kitchen, you can find ingredients fit for the best of light meals, no shopping required.
2.  Spanish homes are not required (or at least not inclined) to have smoke alarms.
3. If forgotten under a broiler long enough, bread WILL catch fire.

Needless to say, it’s been an interesting evening.

the oven that nearly ended it all. and no, you're not crazy, it really is super tiny.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up for a second. Today was one of those days where I really was not interested in doing much after siesta time. Usually I’ll go for a coffee, wander the shopping district, or at least go for a run, but for whatever reason I just felt like chilling with Elisabeth, my host mom’s friend who lives with us. But around 7:30 I started feeling a little antsy. Elisabeth was out doing some grocery shopping and I’d browsed through one too many pages of Tastespotting, and something needed to be done.

the red peppers here are so delicious! this one's on its way to the oven for some roasting.

Originally, I’d planned to make my first meal after Asa got back tomorrow from her long birthday weekend in Madrid. I wanted to show off my skills, after all. But today it occurred to me that maybe I ought to familiarize myself with the kitchen first. And since I was bored, I decided to give dinner a go. I knew there was the better half of a bell pepper lurking around, as well as bread and copious amounts of olive oil. Obviously I thought of roasted red pepper bruschetta and scuttled off to see what else could be thrown into the mix.

garlic is by far the best thing in the world.

What I came up with was a mix of the peppers, capers, rounds of goat cheese, and – most surprisingly to me – anchovy fillets. Anchovies tend to get a bad rap in the US for being salty and smelly, but here they’re a staple. And having never tried an anchovy (I know, I know, and I call myself a foodie) I thought it’d be a great experiment. But of course, in my life something always goes wrong.

chopped anchovies, minced garlic, and capers, waiting for their red pepper buddies.

Roasting the peppers went fine. So did mincing the garlic (wielding very large knives have never been my strong point, so I consider this an accomplishment) and dealing with the oily, fishy fillets. But as I was slicing the peppers after I’d peeled them, I noticed a very strong burning smell. My heart sank – there was no way I’d put the bread in already…right?

WRONG. I guess I must have thrown the slices under the broiler after I took out the peppers, so they’d been in there for nearly FIFTEEN MINUTES.

I whirled around to open the oven door and smoke was pouring out. I probably already knew at that point what I was going to find, but it still surprised me – the bread was actually on fire. I had to pull out the pan and pour the water in the glass I was drinking from in order to put it out. Yikes.

the ruined bread. sorry about the ugly photo, i was too stunned to deal with lighting.

Crazily enough, the underside was still raw, but there was no saving the slices. I threw them out just as Elisabeth came in from talking on the phone. She started laughing when she saw all the smoke, which I was frantically trying to wave out the open window. All in all, not my most impressive moment. I can at least be relieved Asa wasn’t around to see me nearly decimate her gorgeous kitchen.

But all’s well that ends well, as we had some more bread squirreled away and I had plenty of time to toast some new pieces – slowly this time. And the moral of the story goes like this: even when things go really really wrong, they can usually be fixed.

the finished product! once again poorly lit...i'll have to start cooking at lunch instead.

Bruschetta with Roasted Red Peppers, Anchovies, and Goat Cheese
simplified and adapted version of Mario Batali’s Anchovy and Roasted Red Pepper Salad.
Makes 8 bruschetta, enough for 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side

Ingredients

  •  1 medium-sized red pepper, or ready-made roasted red pepper slices
  • 6 anchovy fillets in oil, finely chopped (or to taste)
  • 3ish tbsp capers, drained (I just eyeballed it)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • dribble of balsamic vinegar
  • 8 sliced rounds goat cheese (about 1/4 to 1/2 a log)
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 8 slices crunchy baguette (day old is best)
Directions
Roasting the pepper
Turn your oven on the broiler setting (new cooks: make sure you leave the door slightly open while the broiler is in use). Cut your pepper into fourths and remove seeds. Place quarters on a baking sheet lined with tin foil, and slide onto top shelf of oven (a few inches below the broiler). Broil until skin is black and crispy, around 10 minutes. Let cool for 15-20 minutes, then peel away burned skin. Slice thinly.
The bread
While peppers are in the oven, place bread slices on another baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil on both sides. When peppers are done, place bread sheet on the same rack. Learn from my mistakes: USE CAUTION. Keep an eye on the slices to ensure they toast up nice and golden, then flip as necessary. It should only take 7-10 minutes TOTAL, depending on your oven.
The topping
Mix chopped anchovies and capers with oil and vinegar in a small bowl until coated. Fold in red pepper slices. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place one round of goat cheese on each toast slice, then top with red pepper mix. Serve.
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