Tomato and Chorizo Salad and 11 Things I Learned in Sevilla

Mr. F and I spent the beginning of 2011 fulfilling our dream of travelling around Europe. We spent a lot of our time in different parts of Spain – hitting the major cities like Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia and spending a larger chunk of time in Sevilla and San Sebastian.

This time last year we had just arrived for a month-long stay in the Southern city of Sevilla in Andalucía. Not knowing much about the city or the region, our 5 weeks there were full of new discoveries.

11 (mostly food-and-drink-related) Things I Learned in Sevilla:

  1. Sevilla is the hottest city in Europe. Don’t go there in summer, the Old City is essentially an oven and will cook you.
  2. You will never regret spending money on jamón.
  3. Siestas are totally necessary. By 3pm, the sun is at its hottest and the only thing you will want to do is nap. Plus, everyone else is doing it.
  4. Sangria is for tourists. Don’t order it unless you want to drink straight sugar with a hint of cheap wine.
  5. Don Simon pre-made sangria is one of cheapest alcoholic beverages you can buy in a Spanish supermarket.
  6. Shop for food at the mercado not the supermercado.
  7. The tapas crawl is a spectacular invention.
  8. Do not buy Spanish wine that is not D.O. or D.O.C. certified. If it doesn’t have the Denominación de Origen Calificada stamp on it, it is very possible that you are drinking vinegar that may or may not get you drunk.
  9. City-wide bike hire systems are awesome when properly executed. (Sevilla 1, Brisbane 0.)
  10. I can pack a mean picnic.
  11. Chorizo should be involved in most things. (Technically not learned in Sevilla, but reinforced.)

Jamie Oliver, bless him, prepared this salad in an Andalucian field. I made it in my kitchen and it still turned out pretty well.

For some bonus authenticity: pronounce it choreetho like the Spaniards and Jamie do!

Tomato and Chorizo Salad
adapted just slightly from Jamie Oliver’s recipe.

– 3 cups chopped tomatoes (I used cherry)
– 1 small red onion, finely chopped
– 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
– 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, divided
– 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
– 1/4 cup basil, chopped
– salt and pepper
– 1 chorizo sausage, sliced into rounds
– 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

Combine chopped tomatoes, onion, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar, parsley, half of the basil and a bit of salt and pepper in a large bowl. Set aside.

Heat remaining olive oil in a large pan over a high heat. Add chorizo and cook, tossing occasionally until the chorizo it deeply browned and the natural, orange oils have been released. Add the garlic to the pan and toss quickly. Turn off the heat and let the garlic sizzle for about 20-30 seconds. Finish off the pan with the last tablespoon of white wine vinegar and let simmer in the pan for another minute.

With a slotted spoon, remove the chorizo and garlic from the oil and pour over the salad. Reserve oil for later use (Jamie suggests using it with some chicken.) Scatter salad with remaining basil and serve with crusty bread.

Jamie also suggests serving this with a small glass of sherry, I say a large glass of Rioja, D.O.C. of course.

Vegetable Ricotta Schmear

I’ve had many amazing summers in my life, but the summer I turned 17 was a stand-out. Post-SATs and pre-college applications, it’s a time when teenagers really begin to experience freedom. It’s a kind of freedom unique to this period of life, bringing constant excitement without the tethers of real responsibility. I loved every minute of it.

My job that summer, while it didn’t bolster the vibrancy and zest for life I felt, didn’t detract from it either. I worked at a bagel shop. A Long Island bagel shop – the real deal. I learned how to cook a perfect bacon, egg and cheese sandwich (BEC) and slather on just the right amount of cream cheese. I burned myself on many a baking tray and reeked of garlic and onion bagel by the time I left each day. It was the opposite of glamorous, but it left my afternoons and nights free for shenanigans.

The two most valuable and lasting things this job bestowed upon me were 1.) a deep, deep love of coffee and 2.) the self-given right to call myself a bagel connoisseur.

Travelling only reinforces the established fact that good bagels are only found in New York and New Jersey. Of course there are exceptions, but by and large – this is truth.

I selfishly rate a bagel establishment by its ability to produce a perfect everything bagel and a flavorful vegetable cream cheese. That’s my bagel jam.

While I have been able to find good bagels here in Oz (wut up Iggy’s) I have been hard-pressed to find a decent schmear (schmear = cream cheese spread, for those of you not down with Yiddish.)

Good veggie cream cheese can be hard to come by in New York, let alone Australia. Matters, as usual with this sort of thing, have to be taken into my own hands.

This recipe was a ricotta experiment. Hypothesis: I can capture that favorite vegetable cream cheese flavor using ricotta in the place of cream cheese.

Why ricotta? Well, I love the mellow creamy flavor and whipped-like texture AND I bought a big tub that goes off on Sunday…

To call this a schmear, I realize, is all kinds of sacrilege (ricotta! baguettes!) – but probably no more so than some shiksa using the word schmear repeatedly.

And from a connoisseur, it hits all the right spots.

Vegetable Ricotta Schmear
– 1 cup ricotta, strained
– 1/3 cup grated carrot
– 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
– 2 tablespoons roasted red peppers, finely chopped
– 2 medium scallions/spring onions, white and light green parts finely sliced
– 2 teaspoons fresh lemon thyme
– salt and pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix with a fork until everything is well combined.

Serve with bagels, baguette, whole wheat toast, or crudites.

Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Lunch Today: Chard, Quinoa, Chickpeas and Pomegranate

This was what was in my lunch box today.

It’s another travel-friendly salad that keeps well when made and dressed a few hours in advance – the chard, in particular, really benefits from some marinating.

It’s kind of a bastardized version of tabbouleh – with refreshing parsley and cucumber, and the quinoa standing in for bulgur. I have dreams of topping this salad with crispy, spicy falafel – but alas, it was not in the cards for today. Instead, we have chickpeas and some feta for a salty flourish.

I added toasted coconut flakes because I’m addicted to them. True Life: I’m a toasted coconut flake fiend.  Yup. But here they add a nutty sweetness and a little crispy-crunch factor that works surprisingly well.

And the pomegranate. The pomegranate brings that tart crunch and a sassy pop of pink – it totally makes this salad a babe.

It’s all topped off with a honey lemon dressing that highlights the zesty parsley and salty feta.

Chard, Quinoa, Chickpeas and Pomegranate
(Serves 2)
– 3 cups Swiss chard, cut into thin ribbons
– 1/2 cup chickpeas
– 1/2 cup cooked quinoa*
– 1 small cucumber, pealed and diced
– 1/4 cup chopped parsley
– 1/4 cup crumbled feta
– 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds, divided
– 1-2 tablespoons toasted coconut flakes, for garnish (optional)

Honey Lemon Dressing
– juice from 1 lemon
– 1 tablespoon honey
– 3 tablespoons oil of your choice
– pinch of salt

Whisk together ingredients in a small bowl or combine ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake well.

Combine the first 6 ingredients and 1 tablespoon of the pomegranate seeds in a bowl. Pour dressing over this and mix well to combine.

Let sit covered in the fridge  for at least 1 hour. Top with remaining pomegranate seeds and toasted coconut to serve.

*Notes:
To cook quinoa: Place 1/2 cup dry, rinsed quinoa in a medium saucepan with 1 cup water or vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook covered for 10-15 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and quinoa is puffed. Let stand covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve. Makes 1 cup.

Carrots and Peppers Roasted with Harissa and Lentils

Every now and then, I have ice cream and popcorn for lunch.

I know from where you’re sitting it probably looks all like salads, roasted vegetables and legumes over here. And I love all that stuff…that’s why I write this blog. I make them taste good and they make me feel good. It’s a love-love relationship.

But sometimes (usually on a Saturday) a late lunch ends up being two scoops of the silliest flavors you can think of (No joke, I had a gingerbread flavor called Hansel He’s So Hot Right Now this weekend. It was marvelous.) and some salty popcorn to balance it all out.

Ain’t no thing.

Part of me likes to think I’m doing 7-year-old me justice and living the dream of ice cream whenever I want. I kind of am.

My goal when I make a salad is to make it as alluring as ice cream for lunch can sometimes be. I like to give it an edge, (read: cheese) a little extra flair (harissa) and implement some lazy, but effective technique (roasting) – together those things make a lunch that I would pick over ice cream 6 days out of 7.

Carrots, Peppers and Lentils
– 4 large carrots, cut into rounds
– 1 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
– 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 tablespoon harissa
– 1 cup cooked French lentils*
– 1/4 cup goat or feta cheese for serving
– salt, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 220 C/430 F.

Combine carrots, peppers olive oil and harissa in a large bowl. Mix well until the vegetables are well coated with oil and harissa.

Spread vegetables out on a baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, tossing half-way through, until golden brown.

Combine lentils and vegetables in a bowl. Add a touch more olive oil if the vegetables are a little dry. Sprinkle with salt and cheese and serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes:
For cooking lentils: Place 1/2 cup dry lentils in a medium saucepan with 1 1/2 – 2 cups water and a whole garlic clove. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook covered for 25-30 minutes until tender. Drain well to serve.

Good Things in March

Every day I try to reflect on what I am grateful for.

What topped my list this week:
having things to look forward to
pasta
friendly people
date nights
buying a treat for someone else
feeling momentum
picnics
rainy Sunday mornings with nowhere to be
warm evenings

Nesting dolls, Fitzroy Melbourne

Stellar croissant at Monsieur Truffe, Collingwood, Melbourne. The raspberry jam was awesome too!

Street view St. Kilda, Melbourne

Savory oatmeal (with avo and mushrooms) and Gourmet Traveller. A cure-all.

Some new additions to our record collection. We scored some deals!

Passion fruit! Be still, my heart.

Dinosaur cutting board, piadina crumbs and two glasses of red. At La Piadina, Bondi

Impromptu Saturday night picnic featuring aged Gouda and my favorite guy.