Tag Archives: Spanish Foods

{ Chicken and Lime Tortilla Soup }

As I walked downstairs to get breakfast this morning, my olfactory was assaulted by the pungent aroma of vinegar. I can’t say that I altogether hated it, because I love vinegar…but why did my home suddenly smell like a bag of Herr’s salt & vinegar chips? I headed towards the kitchen and as I rounded the corner, I was greeted by both of my parents who were standing at the center island, casually canning tomatoes and pickling cucumbers… at 8 am in the morning! And let me tell you, this was no little home-ec “project”—this was a miniature factory. There were at least 75 ripened tomatoes on the windowsill, along with dozens of cucumbers and jalapenos peppers, not to mention the several cases of Mason jars that were being sterilized in cauldron-like pots on the stove. I felt like I had stepped into one of Professor Snape’s potion classes from Harry Potter.

By 10 O’Clock they had canned about 15 jars of tomatoes, pickled 9 jars of cucumbers, and made 10 or so jars of fresh salsa. Needless to say, if you’re coming to our house this month, you’re leaving with a Mason jar in hand…but don’t even think about keeping it and using it as a vase if you want salsa next summer! Anyways, when all was said and done, there were still a decent number of tomatoes and hot peppers left and I decided to look for a recipe that would put them to good use. I took out the Soup for Supper cookbook by William Sonoma and resolved to make this spicy chicken and lime tortilla soup, which turned out fabulous!

I like this recipe because the tortilla strips are used as a garnish rather than an ingredient cooked in with the broth, which keeps the soup a lot lighter and healthier. I absolutely hate when I get tortilla soup at a restaurant, and the consistency is so thickened that it resembles porridge more than broth. I also like that the chicken is cooked in advance and separate from the stock because it keeps the broth clear without all of the necessary straining (for those of you who make homemade chicken noodle soup and stock, you know what I am talking about!). Overall, there are very few ingredients required to make this soup and it doesn’t take a whole lot of time to cook—so it’s cheap and fast!

It provides the comfort of traditional chicken noodle soup, but the jalapeno pepper adds a nice unique twist. If you don’t feel like making the homemade tortilla strips (which are a little messy with the frying oil), then serve this soup over rice…or do both, as I did! When serving, I like to garnish my soup with the tortilla crisps, cubed avocado, and chopped cilantro.

Ingredients }

  • 9 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 1/4 lb boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • 5 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 large spanish onion., chopped
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 2-3 jalapenos, sliced (remove and discard the seeds to make soup less spicy)
  • 1 1/2 cups seeded and diced tomatoes (I use fresh, you can use canned)
  • 6 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 6 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (do according to taste though, because amount varies if you use low-sodium chicken broth)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 12 very thin slices of lime, cut into quarters
**If you are making the tortilla crisps then you will also need vegetable oil for frying and 3 corn tortillas cut into 2″ strips!

 

Directions for Soup } In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring 2 cups of chicken broth and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a low simmer. Add the chicken breast and allow to cook through (about 8 minutes), doing so in batches if needed. Note: I like to add a little salt and pepper to my chicken for additional flavor (see photo), but the recipe does not call for this and you don’t have to.

Once the chicken has cooked through, transfer to a cutting board and once cool enough to handle, cut the chicken breasts into bite sized pieces (I cube my chicken, but you can also shred it!). Set aside and discard the stock.

In a large stock pot over medium-high heat, warm 3 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the chopped onion and sauté until tender and translucent. Add the garlic and jalapeno pepper and cook for another 1-2 minutes to soften. Add the chicken stock, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Once the stock boils, reduce the heat and add the chicken, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Simmer until the chicken is heated through, about 10 minutes. Adjust the seasoning to taste and serve in warmed bowls with garnishes.

To Make the Tortilla Strips } Cut the flour tortillas into 2″ strips, using a pizza cutter. Heat vegetable oil (2″ deep) in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, until it reaches about 375 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, then test the oil by throwing bread crumbs into the oil….if it doesn’t begin to fry immediately, then the oil isn’t yet hot enough!Once the oil is hot and ready, add the tortilla strips, working in small batches. Fry them for about 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and allow them to dry on paper towels to absorb the oil!

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Flip the tortilla strips with slotted spoon, if they begin to cook too much on one side

Let the paper towel absorb the grease, and sprinkle with Kosher salt

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{ Food from Barcelona, Spain Pt. II }

Milk Bar

Gignas 21,
Barcelona, Spain 
{Metro strop: Jaume I}

(www.milkbarcelona.com)

By the time we got to Barcelona, Ariana and I were already two weeks into our trip and we were craving some sort of an American breakfast (especially after coming from Morocco where we had been on the Quaker granola bar diet for five days—the consequences of unsanitary water are far from desirable). We hadn’t seen eggs, bagels, or pancakes in forever, and we wanted to taste a little piece of home. I honestly can’t tell you what I would have done for a Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee, a veggie omelet, and a WWET bagel (whole wheat everything) toasted with cream cheese. But we were in Spain, and there are no Jewish deli’s or Jersey diners there, so we did the usual and turned to Google for help! The search returned: “MilkBar: Best recovery brunch in Barcelona.” Sounded American enough to me!

When we arrived at the café/bar, we were pleasantly surprised by the eclectic and vintage décor but disappointed to find out that they only served brunch Thurs-Sun from 10 am till 4 pm. It was Wednesday….sad face. Of course, we made the trek the following morning though.

I ordered the French Toast topped with Greek Yogurt and Fresh Berries and Ariana got the Ranchero Omelet with Spicy Chorizo, Chili, Mixed Peppers, Scallions, and Crème Fraiche. Certainly not the ideal “American breakfast” we had been yearning for, but we figured it was as close as we were going to get. The quality of the ingredients was excellent (one of the best Greek yogurts that I have ever tasted, and incredible chorizo in the eggs), but for some reason both dishes were slightly off and unsatisfying. It was odd that they smothered the warm French toast in chilled Greek yogurt because it made both elements of the dish room temperature. I like my food like my coffee…hot or cold, not lukewarm. And Ariana’s omelet had a nice spicy flavor, but it was drowning in crème fraiche. Too much crème fraiche is just never a good thing.

Although I wouldn’t recommend MilkBar for their recovery brunch, their lunch menu looked very appetizing and their nighttime bar scene looked very trendy and hip. I would go back to cozy up on the cool upholstered sofas and have a drink, but I would skip breakfast there.

Lesson learned: When in Spain, just stick to eating a traditional Spanish breakfast, which is a pastry or piece of bread with jam.

 La Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boquiera

Rambla, 91
Barcelona, Spain
{Metro Stop: Liceu}

(http://www.boqueria.info/)

Mercat de la Boqueria is  foodies Mecca. It is the end all, be all of gourmet food markets. In fact, it gives new meaning to the word food market. Upon entering, I experienced same overwhelming emotional feeling that I did when I first saw the Roman Coliseum—it was complete sensory overload. But after a few short minutes, I regained my sense of purpose and devised a plan of attack; heading first for the fresh squeezed fruit juices, and ending at the nuts and candy. I cannot really even put the experience into words, so just enjoy the photos!

Ohh, and just outside the mercat is a little pastry/chocolate shop called Escriba and they have incredible truffles, quiches, and coffee (photos are included at the end):

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{ Tapas y Patatas – Barcelona, Spain Pt. I }

Wandering the streets of Barcelona is absolutely amazing. You can stroll up and down the ever-crowded Las Ramblas (guarding your side bag for dear life, of course), or you can people watch in the artsy Barri Gotic, as you hop from café to café. Ariana and I enjoyed the street life so much that we ended up postponing the bulk of our “touristy” sightseeing for the last day. This became a problem when we realized that there were only 30 days in June though. You see, we had planned our time in Barcelona with the assumption that there were 31 days in the month. Needless to say, we never saw Parc Guell, or the magic fountain, or Casa Mila. We did, however, get to try some absolutely amazing restaurants:

Taller de Tapas (http://www.tallerdetapas.com/)

Placa de Sant Josep Oriol, 9 
08002 Barcelona
{In Barri Gotic} 
 

Grilled Prawns on Skewer with Garlic Mayonnaise

Assorted Tapas on the Bar

Chorizos

Red Sangria

Slow Roasted Pryenees Lamb with Rosemary and Thyme

Pan con Tomate

Taller de Tapas is a small plate restaurant with a pronounced Argentinian influence, and after trying just a few of their dishes I have concluded that although the Spanish may have invented the tapas concept, the Argentinians have perfected it! Ariana and I got started with a pitcher of Red Sangria, which was undeniably the best that I have ever tried. Finally, a sangria that tasted like alcohol and not straight fruit juice! We had a buzz after just one glass. Next they brought out the signature Spanish tapa, Pan con Tomate. This is made by rubbing a ripened tomato on baguette and then drizzling a little but of olive oil and kosher salt. The Chorizos were nice and spicy, and the left over oil was great for dipping our bread in. But the highlight of the meal was really the Pyrenees Lamb with Rosemary and Thyme. The meat was fall off the bone and melt in your mouth tender, and the seasoning was spot on. Ariana orders lamb just about everywhere we go, and even she said this was the best lamb that she has ever had. It was served with a couple of crunchy roasted potatoes and some green chilies…perfection, a must try!

Siete Portes (http://www.7portes.com/)

Passeig d’Isabel II, 14
o8003 Barcelona, Spain
{Subway: Barceloneta Stop}
 

"Rich Man's Paella"

Mussels Marinera

Red Sangria

"Rich Man's Paella"

When I googled the “best Paella in Barcelona,” Siete Portes returned the most hits. I was still a little leery after the whole Les Coloniales incident in Seville though, so I stopped to poll a few people on the streets (I take my food seriously). Everyone agreed that Siete Portes’ Rich Man’s Paella was in fact the best–one man even said that the President frequents the restaurant for it–and so Ariana and I headed there for a seafood feast. It’s a good thing that we got there early because we didn’t have a reservation and we got the last table (the only table) without a reserved sign on it. We got our usual pitcher of Sangria, which was good (but not nearly as delicious or strong as Taller de Tapas) and I had an order of Mussels Marinera as an appetizer. The mussels were very fresh and meaty and the sauce had great flavor, although it was a little sweet. Then the paella came out. The server presents the dish to the table in the large cast iron pan and then he serves each individual person their plate. Ariana and I got the Rich Man’s Paella, which means that everything is cleaned and de-boned so you don’t have to get messy while you eat. It’s so nice to have someone do all the work for you! The paella had just about everything but the kitchen sink in it. There was chicken, pork, chorizo, prawns, calamari, mussels, cuttlefish, and small shrimp all mixed into a tomato and saffron flavored rice. We cleaned every scrap of food off of our plates, and then walked back home in the silence of our food-coma.

Bo de B

At the Corner of Fusteria 14 and Merce 35
{right by the post office, Subway: Barceloneta Stop}

 My friends Sam and Carly both studied abroad in Barcelona and told us that we had to check out the Bo de B Sandwich shop while we were there. We had a hard time finding the little place, until we noticed a long line of people wrapped around a building corner. Sure enough, they were waiting for their custom crafted sandwiches at Bo de B. The sandwiches take quite some time to make because the meat (choice of chicken, steak, or seasoned tofu) is cooked to order. Once the meat is ready, you then choose from an exhaustive selection of sauces and toppings to create your own unique sandwich, which will only set you back about 3 euro (a steal as far as Europe is concerned!). I made a Greek styled sandwich (first one pictured) with chicken, feta cheese, cucumber, tomato, red onion, hot sauce, and tzatziki. Ariana’s sandwich (second one pictured) had chicken, avocado, tomato, mayo, and italian dressing. The best part of the sandwich was definitely the crusty bread though. I normally eat my sandwiches open-face to save myself the carbs, but I made an exception for this delicious roll. Just make sure that you have a good supply of napkins on hand because they are not shy with the sauces! I thought this was a fabulous and filling lunch at a budget price point. Thanks Carly and Sam!

Rosa Negra (http://www.rosanegrabcn.com/rn/es/index.html)

Via Laietana, 46
Barcelona, Spain
 
 
 
Rosa Negra is a very modern and trendy Mexican restaurant located on one of the side streets off of Las Ramblas. Ariana and I ate here for our very first meal in Barcelona, again by the suggestion of Carly and Sam. We didn’t feel like playing the restaurant game so we just played it safe and stuck to the list of recommendations. Our flight got in at a weird time and happened to be adjusting to a time change still, so we were eating at the early hour 5 O’Clock, but the place was packed because it was Happy Hour for everyone else! Rosa Negra is definitely a popular happy hour spot with 3.50 euro margaritas and mojitos. The only thing that I didn’t like was that the margaritas had to be the frozen kind in order to be sold at the happy hour price, and so it was a lot more sugar than alcohol. I bit the bullet and paid the price to have my margarita on the rocks, and it was good and strong. For dinner we ordered the Chicken Flautas with sour cream, guacamole, lettuce, and salsa verde. They were pretty average, but the salsa had a nice flavor. We also split an order of the Chicken Nachos with refried beans, jalapenos, sour cream, and guacamole. The cheese was a weird white pump cheese that I have never seen before and it freaked me out a little, but we was starving and so we ate them all. The best thing we had was the Chicken Fajita Salad with sliced avocado, tomato, and balsamic dressing. The salad was really beautiful with all the fresh produce and the dressing was a nice dijon balsamic with lots of garlic flavor. I probably wouldn’t recommend Rosa Negra for food, but the place has a very cool interior design and the scene at Happy Hour is a good time, if frozen margaritas are your thing!
 

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“No Garnish Left Behind” – Seville, Spain

Roasted Vegetable Salad, Fresh Tomato Salad, Chicken with Penne all Homemade

Of all the cities that I visited on my trip, Seville had by far the worst food. It was actually so bad, that we resorted to eating the plate garnishes—hence the title of this post, “No Garnish Left Behind.” As a result of our negative food experiences, I can’t really make a recommendation as to where you should go, but I CAN tell you one place NOT to go. I repeat, NOT to go. It is called Les Coloniales and if you Google search restaurants in Madrid, it will appear near the top of almost every list. It was featured on Hostel World, Trip Advisor, Lonely Planet, and even recommended in the corner of our city map. The food was horrendous though (save the warm goat cheese toasts with honey, which are impossible to screw up!) Everything else was a culinary disaster though. I ordered a greek salad and it was served with gobs of mayo that made it inedible. The fried zucchini bites were so flavorless and unrecognizable that we had to ask the waiter to remind us what the order was. The spinach croquettes were cold in the center and the filling was entirely too thin and runny in texture. Even the bread basket wasn’t tempting, with a few slices of crusty and hardened baguette peaking out from a folded napkin. The only saving grace at Les Coloniales was the cheap house white wine, and there wasn’t even enough of that to go around to help excuse the abominable food.

I can say with confidence that we gave this place a fair try too, because we ruled out the possibility of having ordered the wrong thing. After receiving our first plates, we thought that this may have been the case and so we ordered up a new round of food, hoping that it would be better. It was NOT. Everything just got worse and the bill got more expensive….a horrible inverse relationship. Ariana and I concluded at the end of the meal that this place must survive strictly on an ever-changing clientele of tourists that resort to Google as a means of finding good food. We ruled out locals and repeat customers as a potential source of income…simply because who would WANT to go back?

But the next morning when we asked our local hostel receptionist for a good restaurant recommendation, she told us none other than Les Colonials. Ariana and I gave each other a puzzled look and decided to play it safe and cook that night. We made a large green salad topped with oven-roasted vegetables, chicken and penne pasta in a lemon white-wine sauce, and a fresh tomato salad with onions and garlic.

Tomato salad is huge in Spain, and I decided to imitate a recipe that I had tried while in Madrid. I sliced down 4 vine-ripened tomatoes, and tossed it with half of a chopped Spanish onion, two cloves of minced garlic, some kosher salt, and red wine vinegar and olive oil. It sounds really simple (and it is) but it tastes delicious….just make sure you don’t have a date after eating it because the garlic lingers.

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“Death By Prosciutto” – Madrid, Spain

Iberico Ham from Spain

Before my trip to Spain, mention of the word ham conjured up strong images of Christmas dinner—a honey-glazed, suckling pig in the center of a large table, surrounded by side dishes piled high with mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, and rye bread. However. I must admit that this traditional Christmas feast never tickled my fancy because I don’t like the actual taste (or texture) of cooked ham. And judging by the number of condiments that people use in combination with their boiled and broiled pig, I don’t think that I am the only person sharing in this sentiment. I mean you rarely see someone just nibbling on a piece of ham…unless of course, it’s slathered in mayo between two slices of Wonderbread, or served next to a heap of cheesy scrambled eggs, or covered in gobs of mustard. But in Spain, ham is like a second religion (soccer being the first), and it is delicious because it is NOT cooked. Instead, it undergoes a delicate process of curing and drying, which can take up to 48 months! After the ham has aged to perfection, it is dubbed “Jamon Iberico,” which is then sliced down into thin cuts of meat that sell at a very lofty price point. I once heard a comedian say, “I wouldn’t mind being treated like a piece of meat, as long as it was Serrano ham…because that means you think I’m fancy and thin!” I would have to agree with this statement after spending time in Spain.

Serrano ham is truly incredible—an explosion of flavor in your mouth. Unfortunately, it is also an explosion of sodium. Your fingers and feet will attest to that after just 2 short days in Catalan country. You will struggle to take off your rings and your ankles will transform into cankles as they rapidly loose bone definition from all of the salt-swelling. However, you will accept these side effects as minor troubles, and continue to eat Serrano ham, as you begin to realize that it is one of the best foods available in Spain. And unlike ham in the US, it doesn’t require a slew of condiments to taste good. It is perfection when eaten alone, but also delicious when paired with melon, Manchego cheese (a real sodium-assault), or sliced baguette for a simple sandwich. It is an ingredient so delicious, that you honestly can’t ruin it if you try, which brings me to my next point: do yourself a favor, and order simple in Spain. They have a lot of high quality produce and ingredients available, but they struggle developing the right flavors in complex dishes at many restaurants. After several disappointing meals, I learned that the best foods in Spain are the simplest; i.e. Serrano ham platters, chorizo, stuffed olives, and patatas bravas (potatoes with hot sauce). Therefore, a good place to grab lunch is in a food market (this is NOT to be confused with a supermarket). The food markets are very gourmet and have a variety of different vendors, each with a specific and unique culinary offering. You can create yourself a fantasy meal as you go from station to station, and select the items that call out to your belly…a true tapas experience. My favorite food market in Spain was located in Madrid, and it is called the Mercado de San Miguel (situated right outside the Plaza Mayor—http://www.mercadodesanmiguel.es/).  This covered market is over 100 years old and boasts 33 different food shops; selling anything from fruit to meat, cheese, and baked goods.

Mercado de San Miguel

Me, standing in front of the Mercado….itching to get inside

I got the best Iberico ham that I have ever tasted there, in addition to olives stuffed with mussels, croquettes, a mini tuna bocadilla (sandwich), and an assortment of Spanish cheeses with sliced baguette.

Is it a fruit display or is it art?…ask for assistance getting those cherries!

Our Jamon Iberico getting sliced to order….talk about fresh

Our Jamon y Queso Platter

Assorted Croquettes Stuffed with Blue Cheese, Spinach, and Chorizo

Manchego Cheese, Sliced Baguette, and Spanish Olives Stuffed with Mussels and Chilies

Tunafish Bocadillo with Manchego Cheese

Prices at the market were very reasonable, and I enjoyed eating my lunch at a window-counter where I was able to people watch passerbys outside. Just try not to make eye contact with the bands of roaming gypsys that are begging outside the market. It is like feeding the birds at the beach…you give a crumb to one seagull and soon the whole flock is swarming.

If you manage to resist the mouth-watering desserts offered in the Mercado (a serious testament to your self-control), you can walk across the street to CH&CH Chocolate & Churros (Calle Mayor, 54 in Barrio Palacio) for a sweet bite.

CH&CH Menu

CH&CH serves up fabulous cappuccinos and Spanish fried pastries (known as churros). Personally, I prefer Mexican/Cuban churros, which are topped with cinnamon and sugar (too much time in Miami), but this place served up some delicious fried-to-order churros that came with an incredible thick and rich chocolate dipping sauce. Ohh and just a heads up, the dipping sauce comes in a mug so you might mistake it as hot drinking chocolate, but don’t drink it unless you want the belly-ache of all belly-aches (I speak from experience). You will also be all sorts of hyped up, like the episode of Friends where Ross drinks all of the maple syrup.

Frothy Cappuccino

Freshly Made Churros with Chocolate DIpping Sauce

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