Saturday, December 26, 2009

Calamares a la Romana (Calamari rings)

A delicious dish that brings me many memories of Sunday mornings in Barcelona, eating what we call "vermut". Usually we have lunch there around 2:00 pm and on Sundays, at noon, people go to bars to have some "tapas" and a beer, to fuel the appetite. One of our favorite tapas is calamares a la romana or calamari rings. 

* 1 pound of squid rings, cleaned
* 1 cup of whole milk 
* 1 egg
* 1 cup of all purpose white flour
* 1 tablespoon cold carbonated water
* 1 lemon
* 1 teaspoon of baking powder
* Pinch of salt
* Olive oil

One hour before cooking the squids, soak the rings in the milk and let them in the fridge. Mix the flour, carbonated water and salt, add the beaten egg and finally mix the baking powder. Dry the squids with a paper towel and dip them in the batter. In a big pan heat the oil and when it is very hot, fry the squids over medium-high heat, just a few minutes to get a nice gold color and for the batter to rise. Place them on a paper towel to drain the excess of oil. Serve them with lemon wedges and a cold beer or soda to go along with them :) 

Preparation: 30 minutes (plus 1 hour of soaking in milk)

Stuffed squids (Calamares rellenos)

In Spain we love squids and cuttlefish and we have many recipes with those funny looking cephalopodi. If you want to save time, try to buy the squids already clean, if not here is how you clean them. Not for weak souls, this is going to sound like Serial Killing 101. First, grasp the head of the squid and firmly but gently, pull it. Don't pull too hard or you may break the ink sac. In your hand you will have the head of the squid with the tentacles and the ink sac. Cut the tentacles from the head and in the center you will see and feel the beak of the squid; just squeeze it and it will pop out. Rinse the tentacles and set them aside. Set the ink aside too, you can freeze it in a small Ziploc bag to use with other dishes, like Black Rice. Peel the outer skin with your hand, just pull it down like a sock. Feel inside the top of the squid and you will find a hard piece of cartilage, just pull it out. Then, rinse the body with cold water, especially inside, making sure it is clean. I will give two versions of the recipe, one with tuna and one with ground beef.  

        To stuff with tuna
* 6 tiny squids or 4 medium ones
* 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
* 1 cup crushed tomato
* 1 can of tuna in water or in olive oil
* 1/2 cup of popcorn shrimps
* 1 boiled egg, minced
* 1 egg 
* 1/2 cup all purpose white flour
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* Pinch of salt
* Pinch of black pepper
* Olive oil
        To stuff with beef
* 6 tiny squids or 4 medium ones
* 1/2 medium onion, minced
* 1 cup crushed tomato
* 1/4 pound ground beef
* 1/4 pound ground pork
* 1 boiled egg, minced
* 1 egg 
* 1/2 cup all purpose white flour
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* Pinch of salt
* Pinch of black pepper
* Olive oil

Clean the squids. Heat the oil in a frying pan and once hot, over medium heat, sautee the onion. Once it gets color, add the tomato, sautee 3 minutes and add the tuna and shrimps (or the beef and the pork, depending on what version you are cooking) Cook the tuna and shrimps for 5 minutes (or if it is the ground beef and pork until they get color) and set aside. Add the boiled egg to the mixture and stuff the squids. Secure the opening with a toothpick. Beat the egg and in a separate dish mix the flour, baking powder, salt and black pepper. Dip the squids in egg, roll them in the flour mix and fry them in hot oil over medium heat, until the batter looks gold and crunchy. 

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Pumpkin Spice Flan

Flan is a custard dessert very popular in Spain. I added a little bit of pumpkin spice to the mix for a holiday twist. The secret is what we call "baño de María" or bain-marie . Basically you fill a container with boiling water and you immerse halfway in it another container with the food you are going to cook. It works wonders melting chocolate or like in this case with custard, to prevent curdling. Some recipes call for evaporated or condensed milk but I went with a very simple (yet tasty) recipe.

Ingredients: (makes 4 flans)
* 2 eggs
* 4 egg yolks
* 2 cups of whole milk
* 1 lemon rind
* 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
* 1 teaspoon of pumpkin spice
* 6 tablespoons of white sugar
* 8 tablespoons of white sugar (to make the caramel)

Heat the oven to 350 F. Burn the sugar in a metallic flan mold. Once liquified, move the mold around, to deposit some caramel on the sides of the same. 
In a saucepan pour half of the milk with 3 tablespoons of sugar and the lemon rind. Bring it to a boil over  low heat, 25-30 minutes, stirring from time to time. In the meantime, beat the eggs and the yolks, add the other 3 tablespoons of sugar, the pumpkin spice, vanilla extract and the rest of the milk. Take the milk off the heat, remove the rind and slowly add the beaten mixture, stirring. Pour the mixture in the molds with the caramel.
Fill a deep pan with hot water, immerse the molds halfway in it and put it in the oven. Cook until the flan has set. You can check if it is cooked inside with a toothpick, it needs to come out dry. Take the flans out of the oven, cover them and let them cool off out of the fridge. Once cold, keep them in the fridge until ready to serve. Loosen the flans from the molds by running a knife around the edges and invert onto a serving plate. It can be served topped with whipped cream. 

Preparation time: about 1 hour


I felt like to have an Argentinean Christmas Eve and you cannot have great meat without the chimichurri sauce. Here is the recipe I tried.

* 1 cup of mixed oil (half olive and half sunflower, for instance)
* 1 cup of red wine vinegar
* 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped oregano
* 1 tablespoon paprika
* 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
* 1/2  tablespoon of cumin
* 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
* 1 medium ripe tomato, finely chopped
* 2 teaspoons salt
* 1/2 cup of finely chopped fresh parsley
* 1 teaspoon of thyme
* Pinch of black pepper

Mix well all the ingredients together and let it rest in the fridge for a few hours. When the steaks are ready, pour a little bit of the mixture on the meat. 

Preparation: 10 minutes

Merry X-mas!

We wish you a merry X-mas, we wish you a merry X-mas and a happy new year too! . Now back to the kitchen to keep on cooking my Christmas even dinner (more details later)

Mi's Italian Bistro - Kona, HI

With my husband, we had the luck to stumble upon Mi's during our trip to Kona in May 2009. From the moment we went through the door, we were impressed with the comfortable atmosphere and the friendliness of the owners. The menu made our mouths water. We had as appetizer fresh focaccia with Mi's signature dipping (fresh diced tomato, basil, garlic, sweet onion, Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar and extra virgin oil). They bake their own bread and made their own pasta. It was simply delicious. My husband chose the pizza and I went for the Macadamia Nut Crusted chicken breast, stuffed with Port Salut, Maytag Blue and fresh basil and served with oven roasted potatoes (to perfection, I have to say), green beans and a creamy tomato pesto sauce. It was simply amazing. The chef and co-owner, Morgan Starr, has been trained in New York. The wine selection was very nice and the desserts sinful. Prices were reasonable, the food and service were worth it. We wanted to come back, but it was closed on Monday and Tuesday and were flying back on Wednesday. I cannot wait to come back to Kealakekua and eat there, I highly recommend this restaurant to everybody for any occasion!

Mi's Italian Bistro
103 Mamalahoa Hwy., Kealakekua, Island of Hawaii, HI 96750
Phone: 808-323-3880

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Libritos (boneless porkchops with cheese and ham)

A winner with kids and very easy to prepare. I am using Swiss cheese in my recipe, but you can switch it by Provolone, American, Gruyere or any other type of cheese you like. Even when we call it "libritos" (little books) it is a type of pork cordon bleu. It can be served with a side of crunchy french fries or glazed little carrots.

* 2 boneless pork chops
* 4 thin slices of Swiss cheese
* 2 thin slices of any type of ham you like
* 1/2 cup of bread crumbs
* 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
* 1 egg
* Salt
* Black pepper
* Olive oil
* 4 toothpicks

Butterfly the pork chops with a sharp knife (slit the meat halfway through the thickness, almost cutting it through but don't cut it completely, stop when you can "open" the meat like a book). Inside the pork chop, lay one piece of cheese, one piece of ham, another piece of cheese, close the meat and secure it with a pair of toothpicks. Beat the egg in a shallow plate and in another plate mix the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Season the pork with salt and pepper, dip it in egg and roll it in crumbs, covering it well. Heat the oil in a pan and when it is very hot, put the pork chops in the pan and lower the heat to medium low. Fry the pork until it looks golden and crunchy. Remember to remove the toothpicks before eating! :o)

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Fish in Philadelphia: Samuels & Son

In my quest for sardines and langostinos, the owner of one of my favorite restaurants here in Voorhees, Pasta Pommodoro sent me to Samuels & Son Seafood Co., Inc in Philadelphia. Samuels is one of the best known fish dealers in the area, serving several states and some of the best restaurants in Philadelphia. Their warehouse is on Lawrence Street and off we went a rainy Saturday morning. They are wholesalers so the minimum purchase was 5 pounds.
The quality of their fish is amazing and they have so many different varieties and hard to find. The attention was great also. We bought Chilean sea bass, langostinos (prawns) and sardines imported from Portugal. Sadly they were out of ono (wahoo). If you have a freezer and you live in the area, I really recommend this place if you like quality for your fish and seafood. 3400 S. Lawrence Street, Philadelphia, PA, phone: 800 580 5810

Escalopa Milanesa

A simple yet very tasty dish to prepare, loved by grown ups and children alike. It can paired with some veggies or some mash potatoes and fries, it goes well with everything. For me, what it makes the difference and it is important is to marinate the meat with lemon juice and use fresh parsley with the bread crumbs. I do not know what the heck do they pass as crushed dry parsley in a bottle (dry crushed parsley, probably) but the flavor is not even a shadow of what the original gives you.

* 4 thin sliced beef steaks (top sirloin, sliced 1/4" approx.)
* 1 cup plain bread crumbs
* 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
* 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
* 2 eggs
* 1 lemon
* Pinch of salt
* pinch of black pepper
* Olive oil

Season the meat with salt and pepper and marinade it in the juice of the lemon one hour before you cook the dish. Beat the eggs in a shallow container, to dip the meat more easily. In a separate dish combine the bread crumbs, parsley and Parmesan cheese. Some people add garlic but personally I do not like it with the Milanesas, I think they overpower a little bit the nice balance of lemon, Parmesan and parsley. Make a couple of teeny tiny horizontal cuts on each side of the steak; this will prevent the meat from curling when frying. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. The oil needs to be very hot.  Dip the meat in egg, roll it in in bread crumbs. Repeat the operation. This double coating is a technique I learned from a dear lady, Conxita, who sadly left us this year. It works wonders, the breading does not fall apart so easily. Put the breaded steaks in the pan and lower the heat to medium-low: you want to cook the escalopa but not to burn the exterior. When it looks nice, crunchy and golden, drain them on a paper towel, to remove the excess of oil and plate them with you side of choice. Try not to overcook them, or they will get tough and chewy. 

Preparation time: about 30 minutes (and 45 minutes-1 hour to marinate)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Creamy Guacamole

I have been preparing this guacamole with a twist for 20 years and I still love it. It is mild and creamy, really refreshing in summer. It can be used as a companion for fajitas or quesadillas or as a dip.

* 1 ripe avocado
* 1/2 medium size onion
* 1 plain non fat yogurt
* Juice of 1/2 lemon
* 1 teaspoon of yellow mustard
* Pinch of salt

Peel the avocado, retire the seed and chop it in pieces. Peel the onion and cut it in 2 or 3 pieces, to crush it more easily. Put all the ingredients in a food processor, crush them and then puree them, until smooth.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Turkey pot pie

I cooked a huge turkey a couple of days ago and of course my fridge was taken over with a carcass and leftovers. I've never tried to make a pot pie before but  I found a great recipe and off I went. I was concerned with the crust but it came beautiful, looking and feeling almost like puff pastry, but way easier to make. The author of the book explains that the combination of butter and white vegetable fat is what makes the difference with shortcrust pastry, giving it a nice crumbly texture and indeed, the texture was fantastic. The original recipe called for porcini mushrooms and chicken, but my problem was turkey and I did not have any porcini mushrooms; in the middle of a blizzard, I was not about to drive to the store, so I altered the original recipe from "Greatest-ever pastry cookbook" by Catherine Atkinson .

Ingredients: (serves 6)
* 1 cup of mushrooms cut in slices (or 1/4 cup of porcini mushrooms and 3/4 cup of white button mushrooms cut into quarters)
* 1/4 cup of butter
* 2 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
* 1 1/2 cup hot chicken stock
* 4 tablespoons light cream
* 1 onion finely chopped
* 2 carrots, sliced
* 2 celery sticks, chopped
* 1 pound of cooked turkey, cubed (or chicken)
* 1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas
* 1 teaspoon rosemary
* 1/2 teaspoon thyme
* 1/2 tablespoon of Porcini mushrooms and truffle infused oil
* Salt
* Ground black pepper
* Beaten egg (to glaze)
For the pastry
* 2 cups all purpose flour
* 1/4 tablespoon salt
* 1/2 cup cold butter, diced
* 1/3 cup white vegetable fat, diced
* 4-8 tablespoons chilled water

To make the pastry, sift the flour and the salt into a bowl. Add the diced butter and vegetable fat and rub it in with your fingers until the mixture looks like bread crumbs. I have tried to mix the butter with a mixer and other tools, and the best way is with your hands. Wash them good, brush those nails, roll your sleeves and feel the dough in your hands, get to know it. It feels like a friend after a while :) . Then, add 6 tablespoons of chilled water (it really needs to be chilled to hold the dough) and keep on working the mix until the dough holds together. If it does, add a little bit more of chilled water, one tablespoon at a time and no more than 8. I had more than enough with 6. Make a ball with the dough, then flatten it round, wrap it and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, do not hurry, you work better the dough when it is cold. 
If you were to use porcini mushrooms cover them with hot water in a bowl and let them soak for 30 minutes. Drain in a cheesecloth lined strainer and dry well on kitchen paper. 
Start heating the oven at 375° F. Melt half of the butter in a heavy pan; whisk the flour and cook until bubbling, whisking constantly. Add the chicken stock and whisk over medium heat until the mixture boils. Cook for 2-3 minutes, whisk in the cream, add salt and pepper and set aside for the moment.
Heat the remaining butter in a deep frying pan, cook the onions and carrots over  a low heat for 5 minutes. Then it is the turn for the celery,  and mushrooms, cook 5 minutes more (if you are using porcini and button mushrooms you will only add the button mushrooms at this point). Then we add the rest: turkey, peas, rosemary, thyme, porcini and truffle oil (and if you were using the porcini mushrooms, you would add those now). Add the creamy sauce we prepared before and stir all together. Check for salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture into a 2 1/2 quart oval baking dish (2.5 liter). 
Roll out the pastry to about 1/8 inch. Cut an oval 1 inch larger all around than the dish. Lay the pastry over the filling. Press around the edges to seal, trim the excess. Seal the edges pushing your forefinger into the pastry edge and pinching the pastry with the other hand. If you have the time and inclination, you can cut decorations with the leftover pastry trimmings (mushrooms, leaves...) and stick them to the pastry lid with beaten egg. Glaze the lid and decorations with beaten egg, cut some slits in the pastry to allow the steam to escape and bake the pie for about 30 minutes, until it looks nice and brown. 

Preparation time: 2 hours with prep

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Paella - The Queen of the Spanish cuisine

There are as many paella recipes as people and tastes. None is right, none is wrong. It is subjective. There isn't a manual in Spain issued by the government telling us how to cook. Everybody spins the recipes with what they learn from their families, from others and from their mistakes. This is the paella my family cooked and it suits me well. It has been cooked like this for 4 generations. And it is tasty!

Ingredients (for 4 people):
* 3/4 cup of rice
* 12 shrimps
* 12 prawns (langostinos) -optional-
* 2 medium squids (calamari) cut in rings
* 12 mussels
* 12 clams
* 2 small boneless chicken breasts (or 1 big), diced
* 1/4 cup peas
* 1/4 cup roasted peppers, Goya has them available and probably the Italian section of your grocery store too
* 2 cubes of fish bouillon dissolved in 4 cups of water
* Pinch of saffron
* 1/4 cup tomato puree (crushed tomatoes or from a can, without additives)
* 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
* 1 medium onion, finely chopped
* Pinch of pepper
* Pinch of salt
* If available, a special non stick paella pan; if not, a shallow pan.
In a saucepan, heat about 4 cups of water and dissolve the fish bouillons cube. Keep the bouillon warm. 
Clean the mussels and the clams, and boil them together in a another pot with salt and pepper, and reserve them for later.
In the paella pan, pour a little bit of olive oil, heat it, and then brown the garlic. When the garlic starts getting color, add the onion. Once again, when the onion starts getting soft and acquiring color, throw the tomato in the mix. This is called sofrito, the base of many Spanish dishes. Saute everything together for a few minutes and then add the squids, chicken, shrimps and prawns. Over medium heat, stir all together for about 5 minutes, until the shrimps are getting color. Then add the rice and stir 5 minutes more. Now it is the time to start adding the fish bouillon, starting with 1 1/2 cups. Bring it to a boil and after 10-15 minutes add the peas, the clams and mussels and the saffron. Keep adding fish bouillon as necessary until the rice is tender, rectifying the salt. Do not stir the rice if you want to achieve the typical crusty bottom of a paella.  5 minutes before taking the paella off the fire, add the red peppers on top. You need to cook the rice until is tender and the bouillon evaporates. Serve it with half lemon to squeeze over the rice.  

Preparation time: about 2 hours (prep and cook)


And that's how my prep counter looks, a little bit like an universe and my baguettes are going to be the ships. Just a little bit of yeast, water, flour, salt, sugar and voila.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Since forever, I wanted to learn to make bread, but with my poor relation with the flour, it wasn't working very well. After a few experiments and after I managed not to get completely covered in flour and spend two hours cleaning afterwards, I felt I was ready to start my bread journey. Anybody can mix the ingredients, but I heard that knead the dough was not that easy. I decided to use common sense for once and take a class. I found classes at a store called Sur La Table and off I went.  It was a great experience and I had a lot of fun. Brad, the chef and teacher explained us how to go about the process in

a clear and fun way. I learned how to make sourdough bread, French baguettes and pumpernickel bread, as well as some delicious dips. I did not waste time and I started my bread experiments during the weekend. Here you have my first sourdough rolls and my first baguettes. Woooohooo! :D

Black rice (Arroz con calamares en su tinta, Arros negre)

As nasty as it may sound, a typical dish in Catalonia is Black Rice (rice with black ink). It does not taste like a chewed pen, the ink gives a wonderful color and flavor. The ideal thing would be to use real ink, but I am going to give here a more pedestrian version of the recipe, for low budgets and not a lot of shopping time. 

* 2 cans of cuttle fish in their own ink Goya
* 1 cup of  rice
* 1/2 onion peeled and finely chopped
* 1/4 cup tomato puree (crushed tomatoes or from a can, without additives)
* 3 garlic gloves, peeled and finely chopped
* 2 boiled eggs
* 1 fish bouillon cube
* 2 Tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
* Splash olive oil
* Pinch of salt
* Pinch of black pepper

In a saucepan, heat about 2 cups of water and dissolve the fish bouillon cube. Keep the bouillon warm. 
Pour a little bit of olive oil in a pot, heat it, and then brown the garlic. When the garlic starts getting color, add the onion. Once again, when the onion starts getting soft and acquiring color, throw the tomato in the mix. This is called sofrito, the base of many Spanish dishes. Fry everything together for a few minutes and then add the two cans of cuttle fish (squids). Stir everything together about 5 minutes and add the rice. Again, stir for 5 minutes and then add about half of the fish bouillon. Sprinkle the salt and pepper and add the parsley. Over low heat, keep stirring the rice, making sure it does not stick to the bottom. The goal is to cook it until it gets soft. Keep on adding more bouillon as needed to achieve this goal. The rice needs to absorb all the liquid and the mix needs to thicken.  Before the liquid is all gone, add a grated egg. 
Serving suggestion: topped with a grated boiled egg.

Preparation time: about 1 hour

Monday, December 14, 2009

Breaded chicken breasts with Parmesan cheese

Easy as pie, quick, tasty and loved by grown ups and kids alike! Piece of warning; take my measurements with a grain of salt, I am not much of a measuring person. I tried to translate my recipes in numbers to the best of my ability, but the fun part is to try a pinch here and two there and see what works. If you do not like an ingredient, add less, if you like it add more. When it is essential to stick to an specific quantity of an ingredient, usually I mention it on the recipe.

* 2 boneless chicken breasts
* 1 cup of bread crumbs
* 1 egg
* 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley
* 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
* 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder if you have a   
  vampire gen)
* Pinch of salt
* Pinch of black pepper
* Olive oil

Sharpen that knife; remove the skin and fat of the chicken breasts and filet them, 1/4" more of less, thin, you do not want to cut bricks if you are going to bread them. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. In a flat plate, mix the bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan cheese and really finely chopped garlic. Beat the egg in a separate bowl. Soak the pieces of chicken in the beaten egg, and then roll them in the bread crumbs mix, one coat only. In a pan, heat a generous quantity of olive oil; don't go crazy since you are not deep frying but bear in mind that the bread crumbs absorb a lot of oil. Sometimes, between batches of chicken I need to replenish the oil. The oil needs to be really hot; once is hot, set the heat to low and fry the chicken until the crust is gold and crunchy. The idea is to have enough heat to cook the inside but without burning the outside. By the way, people, use regular olive oil, not extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is used in Spain for bread and salads, not to burn the heck out of it. Do not believe all what TV hosts said, some of them cannot cook. Incidentally, neither do I, but I do not have a TV show, so there. 

Preparation time: about 30 minutes

Florida calling - Key lime pie

To fight the winter blues, here is one of my baking experiments, key lime pie. I got the recipe from the book  "Greatest-ever pastry cookbook" by Catherine Atkinson . I was very pleased with the results. It looks like something regurgitated by a dragon, but my focus was on the taste of the crust and the quality of the filling. It worked well! Eventually I will get to decorations, but for now I am still working on my crusts :D

Bechamel sauce

We use Bechamel sauce to top lasagna and cannelloni instead of tomato sauce. It is a wonderful sauce to use in the oven, not only with pasta but also with vegetables. Although popular in Spain, bechamel comes from France. It was named after the Marquis de Béchamel, Louis de Béchameil, marquis de Nointel (1630–1703), chief steward of Louis XIV. 

* Half onion, finely chopped
* 2 cups of milk
* 1/2 cup white flour
* 3 tablespoons butter

* Pinch of salt
* Pinch of black pepper
* Pinch of nutmeg

In a saucepan, melt the butter with low heat and once it is bubbling, add the finely chopped onion. Cook the onion until it gets color. Then add the flour and stir it, until its color is sandy. If you are familiar with Cajun cooking, think roux. Then, slowly, start adding milk, stirring non stop. Keep that low heat. You do not want clumps. Clumps of flour are evil. Use a whisker if you feel it does not get smooth enough with a wood spoon. Keep on adding milk until the sauce starts forming. It is going to be thick, but it needs to be manageable: if you grab the saucepan by the handle, turn it upside down and the sauce does not move, something is not right (don't try it, it is only an example!). If it gets too liquid, add a pinch of flour. Too thick, a little bit of milk. Play with flour and milk until it gets the right consistency. Then season with a pinch of salt, black pepper and nutmeg (don't overdo the nutmeg!) and take it off the heat. Ready to go!

Preparation time: about 10 minutes

Flour is evil

I had a lifelong fear of flour. I loved to eat it, not so much to handle it. My experiences with flour ended with a winter wonderland kitchen, globs of flour stuck to the wall and countertops and me looking a drug deal going horribly wrong. Even the cats were looking like tiny ghosts, leaving ghostly white paw prints all over the house.
Recently, I decided that this had to come to an end. I love carbs too much. I started buying a book I found on sale, "Greatest-ever pastry cookbook" by Catherine Atkinson and rolling my sleeves, determined to tame the white beast and its evil minions, the dough risers. I started with shortcrust pastry, to avoid hurting myself. My first ambitious baking was a bit of a disaster, with me using eggs in the mix (what the heck was I thinking?) and mistaking Celsius degrees by Fahrenheit (I do not have an excuse for this one, only that my IQ is way cooler than the oven). Nevertheless, I did not give up and eventually I got the knack of it (sort of ). I am still wrestling the dough instead of kneading it, but Rome wasn't build in one day. A nice bourbon pecan pie on the photo, made for my husband.

"Macarrones" (Penne) with meat sauce

With this recipe we are lost in translation. What we call "macarrones" in Spain are not your "macaroni" here. More like penne or ziti, take your pick.


* 2 cups of penne or ziti

* 1/3 pound ground pork
* 1/3 pound ground beef
* 1/3 pound ground veal
   (you can leave the veal out if you want to, but it is important to mix pork and beef, beef alone 
     would be very dry)
* 2 Tablespoons butter
* 1 cube or 1 teaspoon of beef bouillon
* 1 finely chopped onion
* 1 can of crushed tomatoes, without additives or 3 medium fresh tomatoes to crush in the food              
* Pinch of salt
* Pinch of black pepper
* Olive oil
* Parmesan cheese

Fill a pot with cold water. Let it boil. Add 2 tablespoons of butter, salt and a cube of beef bouillon to the boiling water, then add the pasta; keep on boiling like crazy, stirring the pasta to avoid clumps.  Do not cover. Pasta usually is ready between 8-12 minutes, keep on checking until you achieve the right consistency. Some people like it "al dente", (firm but not hard), I like it overcooked (so sue me).  
In the meantime, heat olive oil in a saucepan and once hot, stir the finely chopped onion until it changes color. Then add the meat and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir for a few minutes and add the tomato. Cook until the meat looks well done. Drain the pasta, and top them with the meat sauce (don't drown it in sauce! pasta cannot swim well!). Serving suggestion: sprinkle some freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Preparation time: 30-45 minutes

Allioli sauce

The allioli sauce is excellent to go along with grilled lamb, baked potatoes, rabbit, fish, muscles, plain bread... just get your mints for that pesky garlic breath. The real allioli is only garlic and oil, but it is extremely difficult to make. This sauce has its origins in the old Egypt and Rome. In Catalonia, the version that is widely spread is a garlic flavored mayonnaise and this is the recipe that follows. 

*1 egg
*2-3 cloves of garlic
*Extra virgin olive oil

To prepare the sauce, I use a hand blender. My grandmother used a morter and pestle, but I am not that skilled and probably I will hurt myself, that's how I roll. Throw in the container you are going to use the peeled cloves of garlic ( the number of cloves depends on how much you like garlic, but I would not do less than cloves ), 1 egg, olive oil (about 1 inch deep) and a pinch of salt. Blend all together, adding more oil little by little as necessary, until the sauce thickens. It can take a lot of oil to get the right thickness, the best method is to add about 1/2 inch of oil every time and blend for a couple of minutes, then check the consistency of the sauce. The sauce should look like mayonnaise when it is ready. If you want to go for the pure allioli, get your morter and pestle, wait until you are having a bad hair day, then mash the heck out of the garlic (anger management) and start adding oil almost drop by drop, slowly, until the paste thickens. Good luck with it :o)

Preparation time:  10 minutes