Sunday, June 15, 2008

Flashback:: Paulino de Quevedo

In Madrid, Paulino's new restaurant (c/ Jordán, 7) serves up entirely different food than its counterpart on calle Alonso Cano. This upscale dining experience is definitely something special. His new space has an unfinished, but lived-in feeling, and his glassed-in wine cellar showcases his incredible winelist.

When I visited with my parents, we couldn't seem to order anything that wasn't melt-in-your-mouth delicious -- it may be impossible in this establishment. Everything was incredibly well-thought-out and beautifully plated.

As for entradas, try the roasted artichoke pastry with caramelized foie gras (*photo 1*). For main dishes, try the lubina (seabass *photo 2*), the tuna (*photo 3*), or the milhojas de buey (a delicious play on the classic pastry "milhojas" or thousand layers -- made with many layers of tender beef and topped with parsnip chips *photo 4*). For dessert, the leche frita cannot be passed up. It's a traditional Spanish dessert infused with citrus and spices.

Flashback:: Restaurante Paulino

When I was in Madrid, I had the fortune of spending some time in the kitchen at Restaurante Paulino (c/ Alonso Cano, 34 -- Metro Alonso Cano). It was an amazing experience, learning about Spanish cuisine through Paulino's eyes. While he keeps one eye on traditional flavors and techniques, the rest of his menu is truly imaginative.

As for entradas, try the
foie gras with vinaigrette (con pan tostado *photo 1*), roasted vegetables with goat cheese *photo 2*, gelatina de tomates con anchoas (tomato gelatin served with anchovies), or pastelitos de langostinos y gambas en su jugo (little pastries of prawns and shrimp in their juices -- my favorite!!!).

For main dishes, I highly recommend the
lubina con salsa de puerros (seabass with leek sauce -- it literally melts in your mouth!), atún rojo (grilled red tuna that comes with a delectable tomato confit), or the secreto de cerdo (literally means "secret of pig", and just may be the best bite of pork I've ever had *photo 3*).

As far as dessert goes, you really can't go wrong. Everything that I have had has been delicious. Try the
tarta de queso con salsa de arándanos (cheesecake with blueberry sauce), tarta de chocolate (decadent chocolate cake), helado de almendras (almond ice cream), mousse de albaricoque (apricot mousse -- served with crispy pralines), or pralines con mousse de maracuya ("pralines" served with with passionfruit mousse -- very difficult to describe, but delicious -- not pictured).

My days in Paulino's kitchen (and evenings in the dining room -- I brought my parents and some friends to see how wonderful it is) were truly enjoyable. The only thing better than the food at Paulino's are the people who work there -- in the kitchen, in the dining room, and of course, Paulino himself. Gracias a todos. =)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

On being a curd nerd...

I'm back at work in the cheese plant, so naturally I've had cheese on my mind. Over the past few years, I have come to understand that there are many misconceptions about dairy and cheese out there... I've often been faced with the task of explaining that not all bloomy rind cheeses are bries, and that sheep are NOT, in fact, the same as goats.

The problem is, many of us Americans have grown up eating only cheddar, Kraft American Singles, string cheese, and Velveeta. So when coming face-to-face with a runny camembert at a Christmas party, or with a washed rind at a wine- and cheese-tasting, the whole experience can se
em a bit daunting. I have often observed that many people, no matter their age, are hesitant or may even refuse to try new foods, and cheese can be especially tough. Part of the deal is the mold...

People can get freaked out by mold! We have been taught that everything in the fridge that is moldy is bad! This is just not true. In fact, a lot of the cheese that we eat had mold in/on it, and on purpose! Some mold cultures can affect the taste of cheeses and the way they age. On the other hand, some are just "cosmetic", meaning they affect the appearance only and not the taste. So, sometimes, a cheese may not look "pretty" but it could be the tastiest morsel you've ever eaten.

I strongly urge you to sample new cheeses whenever you have the chance; at wine or beer pairings, holiday parties, or at restaurants (check out their cheese plate, especially if it showcases local cheeses). Also, don't shy away from the cheese section of your local healthfood store (I recommend Healthy Living -- new location and great cheese area!!) or gourmet market. Many times, you can find small cuts of cheeses for reasonable prices, so don't be afraid to test the waters (or the whey, if you will). =)

I absolutely love cheese. It's great for adding to salads or sandwiches or wraps, or for just plain snacking. If you have a favorite wine or beer, do some research onli
ne to see what cheeses pair with it best (or vice versa). I love testing out new flavor combinations. In addition to eating cheese as-is, it can also be a great ingredient. Cooking cheese can intensify the flavor or even change it. Try grating a tomme into a fondue or stuffing chicken breasts with soft sheep cheese or chevre. Feta is great on pizza, smooth ripe buttery bloomy rinds are great for making mac & cheese, and the list goes on and on...

Bottom line-- the world of cheese is filled with endless possibilities. Just get out there and explore it! And to all of you cheese-haters out there--"Quit yer uncurdly ways!"

Some cheeses I've been obsessing about lately:

  • Willow Hill Farm's Butternut -- a cousin of the late Mountain Tomme, Butternut is made only with cow's milk (the MT was made with sheep-cow mix).
  • Boucher Blue from Green Mountain Blue Cheese (Boucher Family Farm) is tasty and makes a great cobb salad...
  • Doe's Leap goat feta is zesty, citrusy, and satisfies my feta addiction
  • Grafton's Maple Smoked Cheddar is creamy and delicately smokey -- delicious when paired with Miguel's Reserva "Everything" chips

  • Manchego -- Pasamontes or Ojos de Guadiana -- nutty and delicious, as always
  • Tetilla -- smooth, buttery, creamy paste
  • Prebat de Ossera -- utterly delicious soft goat cheese

  • Halloumi -- very versatile... Great in salads, grilled and served in a pita, or even lightly smoked

Chick Peace

For those of you who have not yet visited the Burlington Farmers' Market, you are missing out. I have written before about the cheeses and produce you can find there, but I have not yet written about Chick Peace. They are most famous (at least at the market) for their tasty hummus creations.

I stopped by their booth last weekend in the stifling 90-something degree weather... In that kind of heat, it even seems like a chore to eat. Let me tell you, though, I had absolutely no trouble finishing off a small container of their tabouli (their chalkboard says "Armenian Tabouli" but the label says "Mock-Kreyma"). The tabouli is zesty, perfectly spiced, tomato-y and slightly sweet from the onions. It is truly a great summer dish.

Check it out next time you're at the market!

red pepper and sheep cheese stuffed chicken

I was looking for inspiration in my newest Spanish cookbook... Not necessarily Spanish-style cuisine, but cuisine written in Spanish. =) Anyway, I came across this recipe that called for slitting a chicken breast and stuffing in rounds of goat cheese and red pepper. I did not have goat cheese, but I have never really been one to follow recipes to the T, so here I am with a photo of my own creation... Chicken breast stuffed in three places with Willow Hill Farm's Alderbrook cheese (sheep bloomy rind -- pyramid shape) and sauteed red peppers. Test it out--seriously.

fruit-roasted chicken

I started out searing off some chicken thighs, then sautéing some onions, garlic, and apples. I then added some chicken and vegetable stock, stirred in some dried currants, then poured the whole sauce over the chicken thighs. I roasted the chicken in the oven until tender. The result? Sweet roasted garlic, slight tartness from the apples, and moist and tender chicken. Delicious!

tilapia with couscous

My dad brought home some tilapia and some scrod cod the other day, and I whipped up this couscous dish-- Mediterranian flavors of pinenuts, sundried tomatoes, Spanish smoked paprika and Catalán garlicky marinated green olives... all combined with sautéed green peppers, seared tilapia and scrod cod bites, parsley, some tasty stock (heated), and raw couscous. Let it stand for only 5 minutes and it's ready!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

sesame peanut chicken over rice

I cooked up some brown rice (with chicken stock instead of water), topped it with stir-fried carrots and celery (made with peanut oil and a little sesame oil), topped that with some chicken strips (marinated in sesame and peanut oils, sweet & hot chili sauce, soy sauce, and a little rice wine vinegar-- then grilled or broiled until golden brown), then drizzled the whole thing with a sesame-peanut-chili sauce. Verrrry tasty!

fresh fruit and yogurt cup

I was loosely following Eating Well's Fresh Fruit Tart recipe the other day, and I came out with a little extra filling. I filled a ramekin with the extra yogurt mixture, and it hit me. If you are trying to cut calories, why not take out the crust (it's made with graham crackers and butter)? Don't get me wrong, Eating Well's recipes are already designed to promote healthy eating, but sometimes you just don't want the crust (ok, I admit, I've never felt that way, but some people might!). Either way, it's tasty, and you can top it with (or mix in) any summer fruits that you like. Drizzle the top with a little bit of the marmelade or jam mixture (here I used a mixture of tangerine marmelade and raspberry preserves) and let it set. Yummy!

baked egg over ranch potatoes

I layered together sautéed potato slices and sautéed green pepper strips with smoky paprika, drizzled the whole thing with ranch dressing (ok, I know it sounds weird but try it out!), sprinkled it with Mexican-style shredded cheeses, cracked an egg in the middle (make sure you season it with salt and pepper!) and popped the whole thing in the oven until the egg was cooked (I cooked it until the yolk was set). Let me tell you, it was amazing!

You could experiment with adding different vegetables and using different sauces or herbs for seasoning. Test it out!
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