Category Archives: food

thankful

the feast!

So Thanksgiving happened, and it was a grand success – or at least good enough to eat the leftovers in two days. It was quiet and cozy, just like it always is at home. We had just four people around the little dining room table – Asa, Elisabeth, my friend Michelle, and myself of course – which is just how I like it. I didn’t even mess up the turkey roulades, though there was a brief panic moment when I opened the package from the butcher to find an in-tact chest cavity (complete with aorta!) instead of the neat, boneless breasts I’d been expecting. Luckily, Fali (what a name for a butcher!) is a lovely man and was perfectly willing to chop it up for me when I went back to see what could be done. And even though I accidentally got fava beans instead of green beans, and I ran out of time before I could do the gravy, and a million other little things, by the time we were all sitting together it just didn’t matter.

I have to say, I was initially expecting some serious homesickness on the day. In the week leading up to our Friday night feast, I was aching to get back to Portland, if just for the holiday meal. I went through most of last week in a bit of a daze. See, I may joke a lot about my love of Thanksgiving stemming from my inner fat kid, but if I’m honest (and a little sappy) it’s more the family time I’m in to. The dinner is great, sure, but I wouldn’t mind giving all the food away in exchange for wine-soaked bickering with my mom over dirty dishes, a knowing smile and roll of the eyes from my dad when I ask him to run to the store for the fifth time, and my sister sneaking a taste of the desserts when she thinks I’m not looking. That’s Thanksgiving to me – loud, bustling, dirty, imperfect Thanksgiving, and I didn’t think any imitation I could slap together here would stand up to the real thing.

Of course, my holiday wasn’t anything like my family’s version. That experience is unique to that specific group of people. I couldn’t recreate it in any other setting. But what I got was just as good. I don’t think I realized before we all sat down to the huge meal I’d made on my own, in my host mother’s kitchen, just how much this place feels like home. Asa and Elisabeth are my family now. This third-floor walk-up apartment on the river is where I live. I haven’t lost my roots back in Oregon, but after almost three months in Sevilla I feel like I belong here. And that’s never been clearer to me than when I was shoveling my second helping of stuffing into my mouth. It was the most American meal I’ve had in months, but it was my meal, made in my adopted home in my adopted city. I’ll never be all Spanish – you can’t change where you’re from – but this place is part of my DNA now.

A while ago, Asa, Elisabeth, and I were browsing the fish selection at a market on Calle Feria. Asa asked one of the vendors about his salmon, and the woman behind her in line began giving her all sorts of suggestions. “In Spain, we traditionally like to grill them a la plancha,” the woman said, somewhat bossily. “If you want to experience real Spanish culture, that’s how you should cook  them.” Of course, Asa didn’t need this woman to tell her that – she’s lived in Spain since she was nine years old. But later, as we sat down to salmoneta filets for lunch, Asa just shrugged it off, smiling.

“You can’t get rid of who you are,” she said. “I’m Swedish. I was raised in a Swedish household. No matter how long I live here, people will be able to look at me and know I’m not Spanish. But who says that’s a bad thing? We all have our roots.”

That’s how I feel about my life here in Sevilla. I will never fool these people into thinking I’m a native. Even if I live here for forty more years, I’ll still have a faint accent. I’ll still love stuffing and pumpkin pie and wearing hoodies when it’s cold out. But I can make myself a part of the landscape here. And on this Monday evening, just a few days after Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for the opportunity.

Tagged , , ,

tradition eats turkey on thanksgiving

bon appetit 1999, from tomfolio.com

My family is definitely non-traditional. In my lifetime, we have lived in four houses in three states, all in completely different areas of the country. My father has been a doctor, a lawyer, and some sort of business consultant (sorry Dad, I really have no idea what you call it) – and that’s just in my lifetime. My mom is a lady badass in the traditionally male-dominated field of medicine. My 13-year-old sister is into photography and writing fan fiction about talking cats (or something). We’re just too busy for big holiday traditions. To be honest, we sort of just shrug off Christmas most of the time. We don’t have a secret fruitcake recipe, passed down from generation to generation. We don’t do big family holiday get-togethers with kids’ tables and white elephant gifts. We don’t do blazing fires and chestnuts and caroling and hot cocoa. Sometimes Addie and I make weird gingerbread houses – Christmas in the Ninth Ward is a memorable example – but usually we just hang up a couple of dusty stockings and wrap presents in Wheat Thins boxes.

But what we lack in Christmas spirit, we make up for in Thanksgiving obsession.

I don’t think anybody in the world loves Thanksgiving as much as I do. I’m not sure how we as a family got so into it, but I know it has something to do with my mom, a Bon Appetit subscription, and her college roommates. Still, it’s grown to epic proportions in recent years as my interest in cooking has taken hold. This is a take-no-prisoners, no-dish-left-behind sort of deal. One year, when the last Thursday in November turned out to be the coldest, rainiest, windiest day yet, my mom spent 10 hours on our deck, smoking the turkey on a charcoal grill. We ate around 11 that year, but it was the best turkey EVER.

So this is serious. Planning begins the moment we wake up from our Halloween candy-induced sugar comas. We pull out every November issue of Bon Appetit since 1987 and lay them out on the floor, flipping through page after page of potatoes, stuffings, and pies until a menu takes form. We don’t mess around either – there might only be five of us around the table come dinner time, but there’s at least ten dishes in front of us. And an extra batch of stuffing in the freezer for later. It’s one of my favorite nights of the year.

And as that night is rapidly approaching, I’m finding myself a smidge homesick. I’ve been abroad for Thanksgiving before, but last time I was on a beach in Uruguay, eating barbecue with no idea what day it was. South American summer tends to make you forget it’s late fall back home. But here, the weather won’t let me forget that I ought to be thinking about whether to brine or dry rub my bird this year.

Luckily, my host family is as interested in having a taste (or twelve) of this amazing American feast as I am in cooking it. This Friday night, I’ll be serving up Thanksgiving Lite for a group of Swedes and Spaniards. It’ll be my first time cooking Thanksgiving alone, but I’m confident I can do it. To see my menu, read on!

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , ,

cookbook review: 1080 recetas de cocina by simone ortega

soooo preeeettyyyy

I don’t remember the first time I saw this cookbook. The illustrated version only came out in 2003, but in my memory, it’s been in our armoire of awesomeness (the hideaway for every cookbook and Bon Appetit published since 1985) since before I was born. The original edition, much less pretty than this one, was published just a few years before my mother spent her year in Madrid, and it instantly became a classic in Spanish cooking. If you are at all interested in Spanish culture and cuisine, or even if you just like cooking, this book is a must-have in your arsenal.

Hence, why I just dropped an obscene amount of cash on this baby. “Ediciones de lujo,” as they call this monstrosity, don’t come cheap. But I figure I’ll be able to keep this book around for a long time. After all, it’s practically fine art.

one of the many full-page illustrations in the book.

1080 Recetas de cocina is exactly what it sounds like – over one thousand delicious recipes, mostly from the Spanish tradition, but including many French, Italian, and other continental influences as well. Simone Ortega, the original author, remains one of the most well-respected cooking authorities in Spain; countless Spanish cooks count her among their influences. I mean, seriously, Ferran Adria wrote the foreword for this cookbook. And if you don’t know who that is, fire up your Google – he is THE biggest name in celebrity chefs in the entire world. But seriously though, look him up. I’ll wait.

This cookbook inspired a generation of young Spanish chefs, who are now regarded as the cutting edge of haute cuisine. That whole molecular gastronomy movement? Adria’s. And if another restaurant exists that manages to meld centuries of tradition with the avant-guarde as successfully as Arzak, I want to hear about it. This country is legit. And even with all that forward-thinking attitude, the chefs here haven’t lost their roots. They’re Spanish, and their food is inherently Spanish too. 1080 Recetas offers the most comprehensive look at those influences that I’ve ever found.

Also, there are cute drawings of fishies.

see? a fish.

The book is organized by type of dish, including appetizers, sauces, eggs, poultry, and wild game, to name a few, and also includes a section on complementary information – how to liquify caramel, for example, and tricks on preventing onion-related tears. I wish I could tell you the trick for the latter, but unfortunately I can’t understand what it says. That’s what I get for being cocky and buying the Spanish version – my reading comprehension in this language makes me want to cry. But there you go.

The recipes are also all indexed by dish name and ingredient in the back, for your searching pleasure.

the index, very comprehensive and indexy.

All in all, I’m beyond stoked to put this bad boy to use. My biggest problem at the moment, however, is choosing a recipe to start with. 1080 is a lot, in case you were wondering; the book weighs seriously 50 pounds. (Well, maybe not actually. But it is really heavy.) For the moment I’m just admiring it. I take it out every once in a while just to browse the gorgeous illustrations. Looking at them, you’d think someone just sketched straight on the pages with pastels (or is it chalk? I really don’t know.) I’m kind of obsessed.

the title page...so cute!

Tagged , , , , , ,

post-siesta paseos

I seem to have a bit of ‘splainin to do. I’ve been really busy the past two weeks, so posts to this blog have been thin on the ground. Reasons:

1. Lagos, a.k.a. Lag Vegas, where I went on a weekend trip with mah CNMJ ladies (minus Yvonne, but we’re Photoshopping her into the photos so it’s LIKE she was there). I didn’t bring my camera for fear of ruination via sand, sun, and surf, and also sangria. In retrospect, this was an EXCELLENT decision. Seriously, Portugal is not the best place for something as adored as my brand-new Canon Rebel.

2. OTHER BLOGS! I know, such a betrayal. But I’m now doing biweekly cooking blogs for Ethos Magazine, which just happens to be my favorite mag EVER. And then in addition I’m writing a few entries for CIEE’s Sevilla blog. Like this one. Read it. You (might) like it.

3. I’m sick as snot. No, really, I just sneezed and got mucus all over the screen. It’s really attractive.

Hence, no posts of real value for Sol y Sombra. But I will tell you a little about my afternoon paseo routine.

this balcony in barrio santa cruz is exactly what i used to picture when i daydreamed about my life in spain.

First off, in Sevilla the siesta is not a myth. Every day, from around 2:30 or 3 until 5:30 or so, the world pretty much shuts down. It’s pretty much the only quiet time in the city. Example: I left my window open last night in an attempt to coax in a little breeze, and a troupe of hooligans (“cannis,” though I wouldn’t call them that to their face) woke me up at around 4 AM. And it was a Monday. But right now, the only sounds outside are the occasional passing car and the horrible, yappy little rat of a dog in the flat below me.

But I digress.

You see, after the lovely little afternoon nap, I start feeling a little restless. I have class in the mornings, but my afternoons are my own. So I’ve been taking walks. I leave around 6 or so and wander the streets with my camera, trying to get lost. It doesn’t usually work – the center of Sevilla runs in something of a circle, so I usually end up right where I started. But it’s still fun.

helado "crema sevillana" from la fiorentina, one of the two best heladerias in town.

The idea of a paseo is definitely very Latin. I remember doing essentially the same thing in Argentina, usually accompanied by a big scoop of helado from the little shop down the road. As it turns out, the Spaniards are just as stoked on ice cream as the Argentines. And who am I to ignore customs with such cross-cultural significance? So I often stop at one of two heladerias in my neighborhood – Rayas and La Fiorentina. There’s a bit of competition between the two over which is better, and both have their firm supporters. I won’t say it’s as fierce as Sevilla and Betis (the two soccer teams in town), but it’s pretty damn close.

Personally, I like the flavors at Rayas better – fig is a personal favorite – but the service at La Fiorentina can’t be beat. When I took these photos last week, the guy serving me insisted on setting up a beautiful shot of my cone, complete with styling. I was pretty impressed.

the employee's photographic masterpiece. much better than my shot.

Of course, being the studious little lady that I am, I can’t justify wandering around eating ice cream all afternoon without fitting in a little work, too. That’s where bars come in.

Yes, that sounds ridiculous. But really though. I love plopping down in a square somewhere with a book for my literature class. One of my favorites is la Alicantina, a top-rated tapas bar in la Plaza del Salvador. The service is fast and the people watching is top-notch – apparently a lot of locally famous folks stop in from time to time, including bullfighters and soccer stars. La Alicantina is also top rated for their ensaladilla rusa, a potato and tuna salad that’s pretty delicious. But I usually just order a beer and some olives, which I’m pretty sure is the ideal study combo. The whole thing costs me a little under 3 euros, and nobody seems to care if I linger at the table for an hour or two.

'san manuel bueno, martir' and a cruzcampo. my life is so difficult.

I think the best part about the paseo for me is the opportunity to be by myself. I’m the type of person that recharges through time away from people. Not that I’m anti-social – I just need to have quiet time in order to relax. So between a luxurious mid-day nap and my two hours or so of walking, I’m ready to interact with my host family, my friends, and anyone else I run into before I turn in for the night. All in all, the paseo is the perfect way for me to take in this city I’m beginning to think of as home.

Tagged , , , ,

american as apple galette

the masterpiece.

Most of the time, I hate getting advice. Maybe I’m a know-it-all, but I like to think I can at the very least figure things out myself. Generally that means I make a lot of very avoidable mistakes (ice-related car crash over the Santiam Pass ten minutes after Mom tells you to drive SLOW and avoid sharp turns = embarrassing), but I guess that’s life.

Anyway, even though I’m not into taking suggestions, allow me to impart on you all a little wisdom I learned the hard way: don’t, as in DO NOT, try to make a pie crust with all the blinds up in the middle of siesta time in southern Spain. I know it’s hard to take, but trust me, it will save you a lot of heartache. Why shouldn’t I? you may ask. To which I answer, just trust me. But just to hammer the lesson home, here are a few reasons.

1. Your host family will think you are crazy for bumbling around in the kitchen right after lunch.
2. You will absolutely miss your nap and then you will be cranky.
3. All the butter in your dough will melt in .25 seconds and you will have to constantly throw everything in the freezer to keep your crust from being ruined.

i always write out the recipe i'm using by hand so i don't have to keep checking back with the computer, book, magazine, etc.

For those of you with no pastry experience, that last reason might be a little weird. After all, you might say, doesn’t it all go in the oven anyway? And isn’t butter supposed to melt during baking?

Well, yes. But the key phrase there is during baking. Allow me to go all Bakewise on you for a second: the most important part of making awesome pastry is keeping the fat COLD and therefore separate from the dry ingredients. What makes a crust flaky is the pockets of butter that melt in the oven, leaving little holes all over the pastry. When I first started making pies, I had no idea how important this was, so I was always disappointed in the slightly soggy crusts I ended up with. But once you get the technique of “cutting in” the fat (butter, shortening, or lard) while it’s still cold, you’re almost guaranteed a successful pie crust.

Hence, the issue of the burning hot Spanish sun.

cold butter, ready for cutting.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , ,

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.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.