It has been a few weeks since I have written anything, but I have a good excuse. I have been travelling for three weeks in Spain and France. We went to Barcelona, Mallorca, Bilboa and San Sebastian, before heading north to Bordeaux and finally, one of our favorite destinations, Paris. Here are some highlights of the trip!
Arriving a day later than planned after weather delayed us, we arrived, travel weary, but excited to be in Spain for the first time, and Barcelona, for which we had heard and read so much about. It was exciting! We were meeting our daughter and her beau, whom we had dropped off at the airport two weeks before. We were as excited to see them as the city itself. A bustling neighborhood, the Eixample has a main artery, La Rambla Catalunya with a center strip that is filled with walkers, bikers, and cafes, and where you can find tapas of all kinds. We found the food in Barcelona very good and we sampled our way through the city on a daily basis. It was great having fluent speakers with us, it made ordering and negotiating travel in Spain easy and painless. One of our favorite spots was INOPIA, a restaurant with two owner/brothers, it is hip and cool and the food was of exceptional quality. We waited 45 minutes to get in, but it was well worth the wait. We tasted delicious pimiento de pardons, and beautifully cooked prawns, olives cured to perfection, and patates bravas served with a mildly spicy tomato sauce and garlic aioli (without eggs). INOPIA does them to perfection.
The old market, La Boqueria is well know throughout Europe, a masterpiece of a market with just about everything you could hope to find in the region, fresh fish of all kinds, some that were new to me, and cuts of meats that I had never seen. I wish I had had more time to explore and purchase spices, but we were exhausted our fist day and when we returned, we were followers with a cooking class.
The cooking class at COOK & TASTE, was a delicious introduction to Catalan cooking. Tortilla (Espana), made with potatoes and onions and peppers was a much more unusual recipe than I imagined (see recipe below). A tomato soup starter topped with grated cheese and parsley pesto, and aoli, again, with no egg. Its white color is a little more mayo looking, but the garlic gives it a delicious flavor. The key to making it, our instructor told us, is to make it with a mortar and pestal, slowly grinding the garlic, and drizzling in the oil, until it starts to thicken. I kept thinking to myself that perhaps he hadn’t heard of a cuisinart?
Another dish we prepared was traditional Catalan Paella with seafood, no meat or chorizo. It was so different from how I would normally cook a rice dish. There is no stirring involved. (How I was tempted) It is simmered until the rice is cooked, seafood is added, cooking a little more and then stirred and served. One of the joys of cooking is to stir a dish and watch as it cooks away the liquid…..not the case in this classic Paella.
Pan tomate, is probably the most simple of tasty starters. Delicious toasted bread is rubbed with a garlic clove, then a tomato is scraped over the top, then a little crushed large grain salt, then topped with a drizzle of olive oil. I thought it a bit like a simpler, sparser version of the Italian bruschetta. I thought it was brilliant and light.
To top off our meal we made Creme Caramel, a flan-like dessert, Catalan, and made with cornstarch. It’s texture and thickness are creamy and delicious. I recommend taking a class from Cook & Taste. They know what they are doing with Catalan cooking! Buon Prevecho!
Tortilla de patatas (or Tortilla Espana) y Pan con Tomate
10oz Potatoes, peeled, chopped
1 onion, peeled in half rings
3 eggs, whipped
Peel and rinse the potatoes, dice them thinly
Peel the onion and cut it into rings
Toss the potatoes in salt before frying them in plenty of hot olive oil (about 2 cups) Add the onion into the frying pan when the potatoes are half done. Leave over medium heat until both the potatoes and onions are well done. (about 30 minutes). Set aside.
Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and season with salt. Pour the drained potatoes and onions in the bowl and mix.
Remove the excess oil from the pan and reserve. Using a non-stick pan, heat to medium hot and add a little oil. When hot, add the egg mixture and smooth out the mixture to even out the potatoes. Fold the sides down of the egg mixture so it doesn’t stick to the pan and is still able to slide around in the skillet and heat until lightly browned. Take a large plate and cover the pan, then turn over onto the plate. Heat the pan again and add a little oil. Slide back into the pan and finish cooking on the uncooked side for about 3-5 minutes, then slide onto a new plate and serve. Serves 4
Pan con Tomate
Using really good bread, rub a garlic clover over a slice of toasted bread. Cut the tomato in half and rub the tomatoe until there is nothing left of the tomato, but the skin. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt, then drizzle with olive oil and serve. It's delicious! Like garlic toast with a hint of tomato.
INOPIA's FOOD photos