My father once traveled with me to Spain for business and pleasure. It was wonderful being with him but more eventful than I had expected. We drove from Madrid to a small village south of Barcelona that a friend had recommended to us. The trip held few surprises until I discovered my dad did not feel limited by the language barrier. Upon returning from parking our car near the café where we stopped for lunch, I found my dad trying to speak in sign language with the café owner. The owner didn’t speak a spot of English but told me (in Spanish, because I speak it) that he found my father totally charming.
An hour later we arrived at our hotel south of Barcelona, where we leased an inexpensive room on the bay. Our breakfast was included and consisted of cheeses, eggs, olives, Greek yogurt and coffee. After getting settled in our room we decided to stroll down the avenue along the beach where we discovered several cafes that specialized in a dish called paella with chicken and shellfish and another called fideos with seafood. My dad loved paella and I had heard that one particular café specialized in seafood with fideos Andalucian style that I enjoyed. We took pleasure in a bottle of Rioja and our entrees while watching the local fishing boats return to their moorings with the day’s catch as the sun set over the water. Eating alfresco is sublime and enjoyable.
As the weather gets warmer, salads become even better tasting light meals to enjoy 24/7. In the afternoon or late evening, try a freshly-made salad using small bowls filled with diced melon, prosciutto, tomatoes, avocados, and a handful of sprouts or watercress with a dash of walnut oil, balsamic vinegar and rice wine vinegar. Or prepare medium diced roasted beets and red pepper strips with fresh, deseeded and diced cucumbers with a handful of cannelloni beans on a bed of bib lettuce, dressed with fruity flavored olive oil and the juice of lemon and lemon zest.
Here’s another tantalizing addition you can make by adding a few of the vegetables noted above — roasted and not — with 2-3 tablespoons of tabouli that includes one of my favorite nutty grains, bulgur wheat. Or try quinoa Mexican style with delights like avocado, tomato and roasted corn off the cob with two tablespoons chopped melon or mango. These two dishes — Tabouli and Mexican Style Quinoa — give you special leftovers that you can combine in any number of different ways when guests or family come over unannounced, or for that matter as a late evening snack for yourself and your best friend. Both recipes are elaborated below followed by adding some of the other vegetables above. And whatever combination you choose will be delicious. There is no right or wrong way of enjoying these dishes. Your taste dictates. They are all good.
Dumplings go by different names depending on their country of origin. In Japan they call them Sumai or Gyoza; in the United States we call them wontons or pot stickers; Chinese dumplings are called Jiaozis; Latins call them empanadas; pierogies are Polish; Kreplachs are Jewish; ravioli us Italian. All of these dumplings are found here in the U.S. Or you can make your own. The dough that forms the dumpling is stuffed with an assortment of delights like pureed or diced vegetables, cheese, pork, chicken, ground tofu or glutinous rice. The rules are open ended. The stuffing is dependent on one’s culture and the creativity of the chef. Eating them is extraordinary.
The trick to making dumplings is to make a wrapping that is not too chewy but not too soft either; and to create a flavorful filling that is appealing and enticing while not too dense. Wrappers purchased at the grocery are really quite good.
Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wa) is one of the most popular, healthy foods being grown today. You can pretty much find it everywhere probably because it’s one of the most nutritious plant foods now being sold. It is also one of the few dishes found to be close to a complete protein and to be gluten-free as well. Moreover, quinoa is modest in price and flexible in how you achieve delicious flavors. It seems to take on the flavors you cook it with.
Quinoa was originally grown in high altitude regions of Latin America in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. It is now grown in Colorado and parts of California. It grows naturally in brown, black and red colors. Author Deborah Madison finds the black and red versions take a bit longer to cook— only 30 minutes—while the beige or brown take half as long. But Madison tells us that the red and black varieties are found to be more robust in flavor.
Le Bernardin is the flagship restaurant of the four star chef Eric Ripert. It is considered by many to be the best seafood restaurant in New York City, although Mr. Ripert personally enjoys other dishes as well. It’s hard to imagine knowing how fresh and delicious his seafood is. Yet, a recent cookbook called Avec Eric, (also the name of his popular TV food show), clearly reveals how much he loves cooking and eating whole roasted chicken as well as seafood. For some reason, cooking whole chicken can be a daunting task for many, due to being overcooked, under appreciated, or not well done enough. This recipe works on all cylinders — moist, crispy and extraordinary. It’s better than ever because of the Za’Atar dressing that brings a special flavoring to the table. And Chef Ripert employs a unique cooking approach that roasts the bird at 450 F for 20 minutes followed by a cooler temperature for another 25–30 minutes. Voila.
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