Archive | April, 2012

Last Day at El Quim and Rafa Nadal

30 Apr

Saturday was my last day at El Quim… at least as a stage (for a while..I hope to go back). As usual, I was spoiled rotten. In the middle of the day, a woman came in carrying the most gorgeous bouquet of tropical flowers. She asked me if I was Rachel. I immediately smiled and then looked at Quim. The card was signed by all the guys.

This is a pic of the stunning flowers in my apartment:

Then, at the end of the day after I had finished a plate of pasta, wild mushrooms and seafood; and my dessert sampler Quim prepared from 3 of their desserts (creme catalana, a coconut chocolate he developed with a chocolatier-friend, and arroz con leche), Quim presented me with yet another gift – a gorgeous new Global knife. Could he be sweeter?

Below are pics of my dessert sampler (yummmm!), the flowers with the note the guys signed, and a pic of the knife and note on the knife box that reads,”The best chef of El Quim de la Boqueria. From the whole team, we will never forget you!” I love the notes, but the one on the knife box is not correct. I’m the worst chef at El Quim, but it was sooooo much fun learning from everyone.

I played with baby squid, sea snails (surprisingly, my stomach didn’t revolt after eating one of the little suckers raw, right out of the shell ) and baby fish (pictured at top). I learned that I love eggs semi-deep fried in olive oil, and that although I hate turning 100s of artichokes each day, the final product is well worth it. I learned that there’s no way in hell I could do in Hawaii what they do at El Quim, for various reasons, and that’s why El Quim’s is so special. Although I won’t be able to recreate what Quim has in his little paradise, I am so glad I was able to watch the magic that happened in that kitchen every day through the use of the freshest ingredients; by a passionate, fun and funny team of “brothers” that works extremely hard yet fluidly with one another; with an amazing leader at the helm. How lucky and honored I have been to work with you and all the guys, Quim!

There is a back story to the knife. At about 11 a.m. one morning, the large pressure cooker broke, so Quim asked if I wanted to run an errand with him to the restaurant supply store. Por supuesto (but, of course)! So, we went to the get a new gigantor pressure cooker and while we were waiting we looked at knives. I told him I liked Japanese knives and I picked up a particular Global knife. Right before we left, Quim snatched it up, along with another knife, and said, “One for me and one for Yuri.” So, naturally, I thought he was buying himself a knife and one for his son, Yuri.

As it turns out, I received the beautiful Global knife. I can’t wait to try it out at Dos Palillos tomorrow! Quim, I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂

Sunday…I woke up to another beautiful day and to Karina giddy that we were going to see her idol, Rafael Nadal, play at the Barcelona Open. We made our way over to the stadium at about 1:00 p.m. and somehow ended up going through the employee entrance, unnoticed. Our seats were in the 15th row of section A – pretty darn good seats. We watched the men’s doubles final. Unfortunately, the Spanish team lost to the Germans. Booooo!

Then, came Rafa v. David Ferrer. That was one of the best matches I’ve seen in a very long time. These guys were very evenly matched yesterday, and dare I say that I do think Ferrer was the better player all the way through except for the last 30 minutes.

Here’s David Ferrer, at the start of the match:

Here’s Rafa before the match:

Here’s the scoreboard and shot of the arena:

Rafa, serving (yes, we had very good seats and my baby Olympus camera has great zoom):

The boys with their trophies:

Rafa and Ferrer spraying cava at each other (love that!):

You can tell by the pics that it was a gorgeous day. The tournament ended at about 7 p.m. and it was still sunny and lovely all the way through the cava spraying. A thoroughly enjoyable 6 hours! My dad and Maren would have loved to have been there (big tennis folks; both former high school tennis coaches who can still kick my butt).

Okay, I’m off to get some fruit and a few veggies, as tomorrow is yet another holiday in Barcelona and I am told that most places will be closed. One parting pic of my regalos (gifts) and me. Cheers, Quim! I’ll miss you guys, but I’ll be back to eat 🙂

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Thursday and Friday at Quims

27 Apr

Thursday for lunch, Quim made us a delicious muscle and pea soup with a saffron and leek broth. The recipe is really simple:

1) Add 1 c. h2o, 1/2 c. of sweet vermouth, and 2 fresh bay leaves to a pot
3) dump in fresh muscles
4) steam muscles until all are opened (discard any still closed at the end)
5) strain muscle broth through a fine chinois and put in a small pan to simmer and reduce a bit
6) remove muscles from shells and cut in 1/2
7) In a saute pan, melt some butter and sauté some julienne leeks (white and pale green parts only)
8) add a large pinch of saffron
9) pour in reserved muscle broth and boil for 2 minutes; add in 5 or whole muscles. set aside to cool
10) Use hand blender to blend muscle broth.
11) strain through a fine chinois, to capture the muscle parts, saffron and leeks. you should now have a nice, smooth broth
12) put broth back into a pan and simmer for a few minutes. add reserved muscles and fresh peas (frozen will do if that’s all you can get) and cook for 1-2 minutes more, if using fresh peas. if using frozen peas, take off heat almost immediately, so peas still have a bit of crunch to them. serve hot with baguette.

It’s amazing how little you need when you have super fresh ingredients, especially seafood.

I met some more lovely, new friends this week. I really loved Christi and Matt from Florida:

They are total foodies, so it was very fun to talk with them. They reminded me of my good friends Shannon and Fred who live to travel and eat. Christi and Matt, if you read this, I hope you open a food truck!

I also got a kick out of the two gorgeous and very smart women from New York (hope you had nice journeys in the Pyrenees), the four Brazilians, and the two super fun women from the cruise ship.

Last night, I decided to make a green curry chicken a la “Tailandia” (Thailand, in Spanish). I brought the finished curry in for the guys today (thanks, C, for bringing to me the good paste all the way from San Fran). The chicken curry was way too picante for some, but others like Yuri, Marcos and Joan liked it. I was surprised that Joan ventured to put into his bowl a few more pieces of freshly chopped red Thai chilies. Go Joan! Most Spanish folks do not eat a lot of “heat”. But, I think it was fun for them to try it, even if most of them were sweating after a few bites. On the Rachel scale of heat, this was about a “4” out of 10. On the Carnet scale, this was about a “2”.

My lunch today: Quim’s creamy gazpacho with fresh lobster claws, and wagyu with patatas. See pics below.

This is Jordi with the dualing, live lobsters:

This is a lobster that clamped onto Antonio’s shirt:

This is the delicious, final product: gazpacho with lobster claws

And, finally, the excellent wagyu:

Yuri was impressed with the amount of food I consumed today. I had breakfast at the apartment at 6:30 a.m., then I ate second breakfast at Quim’s at around 9, then some curry, then some gazpacho, and finally some beef and potatoes. What? My stomach was feeling good today, so I went for it.

Tomorrow is my last day at Quim’s. I’m sad! It has been a blast. This is the best non-paying job I’ve ever had 😉 Incredible people, incredible food, incredible atmosphere. Wish I could take them all home with me.

Sant Jordi Day, and more delicious food in and out of El Quim

25 Apr

Monday, I made Lebanese food, and my boss, Quim, came over for dinner. I made Kibbeh, Fatyre, flatbread with zatar, a tomato and onion salad with sumac, an orange and olive salad (not sure if that’s Lebanese, but I thought we needed a 2nd salad), and an app plate of stuffed dates with goat cheese along side some pistachios and apricots. Below are pics of the kibbeh and fatyre:

I added some cayenne to the Kibbe and put caramelized onions on top (not exactly traditional or the way my Grandma Mary used to make, but I was craving some spice and I thought it needed something on top). It was delicious! I made the Fatyre with spinach, onions, and lemon, and then made a yogurt sauce to accompany it with cucumbers, mint, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. I think Quim liked the Kibbe the best. I brought the rest to the restaurant on Tuesday for the guys, who also seemed to like it. Or, they were just hungry.

Before that, I went out shopping and walked through the maze of people everywhere, because it was Sant Jordi Day (see pic above). This is the Catalan equivalent of Valentine’s Day. Both Diana and Quim explained to me what Sant Jordi Day is about, and it’s pretty much exactly how someone on wikipedia described it, so I’m going to cut and paste the history.

Here it is: “La Diada de Sant Jordi (Catalan pronunciation: [ɫə ðiˈaðə ðə ˈsaɲ ˈʒɔrði], Saint George’s Day), also known as El dia de la Rosa (The Day of the Rose) or El dia del Llibre (The Day of the Book) is a Catalan holiday held on 23 April, with similarities to Valentine’s Day and some unique twists that reflect the antiquity of the celebrations. The main event is the exchange of gifts between sweethearts, loved ones and colleagues. Historically, men gave women roses, and women gave men a book to celebrate the occasion—”a rose for love and a book forever.” In modern times, the mutual exchange of books is also customary. Roses have been associated with this day since medieval times, but the giving of books is a more recent tradition originating in 1923, when a bookseller started to promote the holiday as a way to commemorate the nearly simultaneous deaths of Miguel Cervantes and William Shakespeare on 23 April 1616. Barcelona is the publishing capital of both Catalan and Spanish languages and the combination of love and literacy was quickly adopted.
In Barcelona’s most visited street, La Rambla, and all over Catalonia, thousands of stands of roses and makeshift bookstalls are hastily set up for the occasion. By the end of the day, some four million roses and 800,000 books will have been purchased. Most women will carry a rose in hand, and half of the total yearly book sales in Catalonia take place on this occasion.”

On Tuesday, I told Quim I was going to eat simply for the next few days for health reasons. I asked for a small piece of tortilla (Spanish omelette you’ll see in the pic below) for lunch on Tuesday, and this is what I received:

Ummm, yummm! Way better than what I had asked for. The eggplant in the picture at top, right, was delicious and I’m usually not a fan of larger eggplants.

So, today I was serious and told him “fruitas y verduras solo” (Catalan) = fruits and vegetables only. I was thinking raw, like a salad. What I got was close, and much better, although Quim doesn’t listen to me. I had an heirloom tomato and artichoke salad and then blanched artichokes with caramelized foie on top in a light dressing. Seriously, foie on artichokes is an amazing combo. And, no one does artichokes like Quim. Instead of using lemon to prevent oxidation, he puts them in water with parsley stems, which also have citric acid in them (I didn’t know that). He didn’t do the usual French preparation of acidulated water, flour, and salt to blanch them, but instead he used water, flour and salt – no lemon – after they had soaked in the parsley water. He put them in an aluminum pan, which he said helped to “bleach” them, and they remained a gorgeous green and yellow – better than any artichoke I’ve seen cooked – and tasted better than any I’ve ever eaten.

Here are my plates:

And then, of course, I had to try his grandmother’s lentil stew. It had blood sausage and chorizo in it, the elbow of the pig, lentils, tomatoes, potatoes, and I’m sure lots of other things I’m forgetting. Here’s the stew:

Oh, and I had 2 glasses of Cava because we all toast at around 1-2 p.m. every day and have a glass. But, Marcos didn’t want his and I couldn’t let it go to waste. That would have been shameful in my mind. So, by 3 p.m. I was definitely buzzed. All in all, I didn’t eat very simply, but lunch was excellent, as usual.

Buen Provecho!

Sunday in Barca

22 Apr

On Sundays, many places close down. So, it’s a great time to just go walk about the city and window shop to see what new places you might like to patronize when they’re open. Just stay away from La Rambla – it’s usually a mad house, and today was no different (I crossed over to get to a street I wanted to find.) I started exploring my new neighborhood. There are lots of bakeries and confection houses that look delicious and tempting, at least from the windows. I wanted to find Banitsa, as I remembered walking past it with Karina.

As it turns out, it’s only a few blocks away and it’s open on Sundays! Banitsa is an artisan pastry shop (self-described) run by this charming woman who is eager to explain her creations. She works mostly with phyllo, which I love, and then she does an assortment of flourless cakes, as well. She prides herself on using the freshest ingredients, and I believe it after tasting one of her cheese and berry pastries today. It was very light, not very sweet, and it worked perfectly with a cup of fresh ginger tea. The pastry I bought is pictured at top, with all of the other items I bought today. Check out the shop at http://www.banitsa.es/la-pasteleria.html.

I continued my journey on a street called Career de Casanova and found a couple of cute more places to eat, one in particular specializes in cheeses. It’s a very cute “walking street” (no cars down this particular section).  Here’s a pic:

I also passed about a dozen chocolate shops I want to try. Dangerous.

I worked my way through the area where the Universitat metro is, and of course, this is a university area. I found an Asian grocer, which I’m excited about. But, I was not too excited that they wanted $9 for a bottle of Siracha. As much as I am addicted to that stuff, the price was too ridiculous. However, it’s good to know there’s a 2nd Asian grocer within walking distance (C found the first one the last time he was here).

Then, I walked down c/Tallers, crossed La Rambla and made my way to c/de la Palla (“c” here stands for “carrer” which is “street”), where there’s a cute tea and confection shop, as well as what looks like a higher-end tapas place across the street. I stopped in Caelum, which is the confection shop. Their tag line is “Delicies i alters temptations de monestirs”. This is in Catalan, so my best guess is: Delicious temptations from alters and monasteries. I could be way off on this, so don’t hold me to it.

I usually don’t like to patronize any establishment connected with “God”, but I heard the monks invented beer, so I was willing to give the believers another chance. Much of what Caelum had to offer was not to my liking in the sweets department, but I did spy some macaroons – not the hip, trendy ones that look like mini-sandwiches in various flavors that everyone is baking. These are the “old fashioned” ones that are basically egg whites, coconut, sugar and pinch of salt – period (see pic at top). These are my style of macaroons – coconuty, slightly sweet and toothsome. Yummmm.

I walked through another little courtyard where there was a small open air market in which people were selling cheese, wine, and other small production items. I visited the honey guy and bought some local flower honey. Depending upon how good it is, I might go back and try the thyme honey.

So, now I’m going to throw myself on the couch; watch the new, very bad Charlie’s Angels (that was cancelled, I think) dubbed in Spanish (my excuse to learn Spanish), and hope my laundry dries. I’m suppose to have an all-in-one washer/dryer but for the life of me I can’t understand where the drying comes in. The symbols on the dials and buttons are challenging for me to decipher, and it’s not a Spanish-language issue; it’s a symbol thing. No matter, if the machine doesn’t dry the clothes after they’re washed, I found this pre-industrial revolution looking clothes-drying rack (I think) and I’m going to use all my spatial skills to try to fold/unfold the drying contraption and throw my clothes over it. I have great heat in the apartment, so they will dry in no time 🙂

I do love Barcelona!

Day 2, Round 2, El Quim

21 Apr

Ahh, to be in a kitchen again for 10 hours. I love it! The morning started off slowly, but then the afternoon picked up. I tried to stave off eating as much as possible as I knew my stomach was going to be a grouch if Quim fed me seafood again, but then he brought in sashimi and he followed it up by making me this beautiful seafood plate after work for lunch/dinner. He cooks every piece of seafood perfectly. Of course, he has been doing it a long time, but I aspire to do that one day.

My plate is pictured above. Here’s its contents:  gambas (shrimp); a seared ahi steak topped with cuttlefish, bocarones (anchovies), and calamari – all delightful; clams and muscles; and a chipirones tortilla (baby fish in an egg soufflé/omelette).  He topped it with a light soy-balsamic reduction. Of course, it was accompanied by a nice white wine.  If you look at the picture in the picture, above the plate to the left, you can see Quim second from the left in the picture of 4 people.

Yuri, Quim’s son, had a pasta negra dish, pictured below.  Quim toasts the small, dry pasta in the oven until dark brown before he cooks and adds the ink sauce, so that it stays al dente and has a good texture to it.   I had a small bite of that, of course, and it was also delicious.  It’s a pretty cool looking dish; it reminds me of wild rice, seaweed, or small sticks upon first blush.

Quim is still spoiling me. Today, was the Barca-Madrid futbol game, so it was pretty rowdy in the kitchen, with lots of singing the Barca anthem. All the guys wore their Barca team-Quim shirts. Joan gave me his to wear, but I was swimming in it, so Quim slipped away and came back with a little boys shirt, size 8. I pulled it out of the package and everyone laughed. I think they thought it was too small. But, thanks to my boy-upper body, it was a perfect fit! And, I received lots of compliments from people in the market since I was wearing Messi’s jersey 🙂

Pictures of my first ever futbol jersey:

Front:

Back:

Secretly, Antonio and I were rooting for Real Madrid, and it just so happens they won 1-0. Poor Barca. Here’s Barca schedule of play, if you want to follow, and you can see “my” jersey in action 😉 http://www.fcbarcelona.es/ Good luck playing Chelsea on Tuesday, boys!

Tomorrow is Sunday and I’m looking forward to trying to sleep. This jet lag is goin’ down! Then, Monday at 8 a.m., I go back to Quim’s to learn to make their desserts from Ricardo. Hopefully, I’ll have time to make some Lebanese food in the afternoon, as I want to feed the guys kibbe and fatyre on Tuesday. I’m sure they’ve never had either. Then, it’s another fun week, full week, Tues-Sat. there!

Back in Barcelona

20 Apr

Ahhh, back to the hustle and bustle. Returned yesterday and got settled into my new digs.  It’s a gorgeous place with vaulted ceilings and Spanish tiles on the floor.  And, it’s loud as all get out.  It’s on a very busy street, Rambla Cataluyna. It’s very central to all 3 of my stages and it’s beautiful, so I’m planning to learn to block out the noise even through the earplugs.  I’ll just meditate on the lovely lilac bush behind my mom’s house.  Lilacs were in bloom all over her town. Here a few pictures.  Can you smell them?  Mmmmmm….

And more Lilacs, in and surrounded by her favorite Belleek (Irish ceramics):

After a 24 hour “commute” back to Barca yesterday, I needed a nap. After I got my bags from Diana’s, I mosied across the street to El Gope. Granted I was delirious from traveling but I think it was one of the best 12 Euro meals I’ve had here. I had escalivada con queso de cabra, pan con tomate, a glass of vino tinto, and a bottle of agua natural. Escalivada is a salad of roasted red peppers, roasted eggplant and roasted onions covered in olive oil and sometimes a splash of vinegar. This one was topped with grilled goat cheese. Of course I had to have it with toasted bread rubbed with fresh tomatoes and olive oil. Mmmmmmm. Perfect, light, just what I needed.

On a no meat kick after I ate steak 3 days in a row in CO (see pic below of the salad I made from left over steak – yummy), I decided to look up veggie restaurants today.

Steak salad is a great way to use up yesterday’s left over steak:

So…I went to the following site: http://www.sincarne.net. (sin carne = no meat, or without meat). I found a place close to my apartment called Habaluc. It is purportedly an “organic” restaurant with veggie options. It has pretty good decor, especially the ceiling. They did a great job with softening what could have been a very loud place due to the ceilings underneath the fun, cloth “tent” they attached to the ceiling. The service was great, so I thought this was all very promising…. until the food came. Bad ingredients, poorly executed. Disappointed. Why use organic tomatoes when they are out of season, look anemic and taste like cardboard? It was so unnecessary, especially when the salad already had sun dried tomatoes, which is the obvious choice when the fresh tomatoes suck. My second course, which I thought was going to be a terrine of shrimp and vegetables, turned out to be overcooked pasta in a light cream curry sauce topped with 1 undercooked shrimp. Really? The menu said terrina de gambas. When there is an “s” on something, I am expecting more than 1. I was so bummed I couldn’t even eat dessert. This, in retrospect, could have been the thing that saved it. As I paid and was walking out, I spied someone with the cheese and anise postre. It did look delicious. Okay, maybe I’ll stop by again but just for dessert.

Here’s a pic of Habaluc:

Onto dinner… after some good exploration of my neighborhood, I decided I’m back on the meat tonight. I went to Biospace, my fave health food store, and bought some all natural charcuterie. Here’s my perfect 2nd night dinner:

Queso fresco (fresh goat cheese), baguette, tomates, olive oil and balsamico, lomo embuchado (cured pork loin), salchichon (salami), and vino blanco:

And, here’s me, very happy with the food I’m eating:

Now, if only I had a piece of that amazing key lime pie from Merlino’s:

I’ll settle for a few figs, one episode of Downton Abbey on my kindle, and sweet dreams of going back to work at Quim’s tomorrow.

Happy Eating!

Life in small town, Colorado

16 Apr

As the subheading of my blog reads “Food, Love, and Life (Not always in that order)”, this post is mostly about love and life. At the end, I’ll post a dynamite chocolate cake recipe that is terrible for the body, but excellent for the soul. It’s my great grandmother Agnes Nolan’s chocolate cake. She was my grandmother’s mother. If you don’t care to read some of my reflections about my family and life, or to see some pictures of the scenery where I am, please feel free to scroll to the very bottom for the cake recipe I made for Easter lunch and for some quick lessons I learned about high altitude baking.

For 2 weeks, I have been in CO staying with my mom and visiting with my grandparents, one aunt and cousins. C flew in for the weekend to spend some time with my mom, and I took him back to the Springs airport this a.m. at 4:15. I saw the sunrise on the way back and decided to stop for some quick iPhone pics, one of them being the feature picture at top.

This town is so “Americana” to me. I grew up in the midwest, and this same small-town feel can be found still in so many places around the U.S. including the one in which my mom lives now. She lives at 3300 feet in the valley of some mountains. On some days here, it is gorgeous and charming, as you’ll see from the pics, below. But, the history here is scary and I can’t seem to get over it. I suppose I shouldn’t be that astonished considering the racist country we started out as, and still are, since the “discovery” of the Americas by white men seeking to bring riches back to their home countries. But, I am astonished. For instance, why were there still wooden chairs in the middle school here in the 1990s that had placards on the back of them that said they were donated by the KKK? Yep, you read it right – the 1990s. There’s a prison museum here, of course, because the town’s main industry is the State of CO’s maximum security prisons. I believe there are 7 prisons, in total here. There’s a big meth problem. And, the pace here is ultra slow and the people here are super inefficient in their daily business – because why are you in such a hurry when you can drive from one end of the town to another in 10 minutes? To some people, this all sounds very bad, and I’m not going to lie and say I disagree. But, with some bad (and very bad) often comes some good.

Here, people still wave at you on the street when you drive by even though they don’t know who you are. They smile and say, “Good morning, how are you today”, as you walk past them on the sidewalk, again even though we don’t know one another. There’s a Carnegie library in a beautiful historic building. There’s a food incubator that helps people start small, food businesses legally. The incubator was started by an amazing middle-aged woman whose politics were too progressive for this town so she stopped running for office and devoted her energies in another way to helping the community and its people make money. The server at Merlino’s (good, aged steak there and even better homemade key lime pie!) calls me “hon” even though I’m at least twice her age, and she smiles and asks questions about my life as my grandmother brags about me being a former-lawyer-turned-chef-who-now-lives-in-Barcelona, even though the server’s busy and has other tables to wait on. My mom’s here. My grandparents are here. I slow down here and have time to reflect on what’s important to me: my family.

I believe if you take time to stop and look around – no matter where you are – you can find beauty (I know I’m a romantic, very blessed, and possibly naive, but I have to believe it’s true to combat all the bad I know of in this world).

Here are some pics from yesterday and today that make me smile…

My husband and me, lying on the floor at Aunt M’s after lunch yesterday (thanks for the picture, cousin A!):

A new friend I stopped to meet this morning as I drove back to my mom’s place:

My new friend in “Americana” landscape on a crisp, gorgeous CO morning:

If you look closely at “brown beauty” (I named her in my early morning fog and haste), she is branded with a heart on her left side.

Sunrise in the mountains (spectacular!):

After relaying some wicked history to C last night (yep, every family and every town has some), I woke realizing that my family, their history – the great, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the downright horrid -, and my history with them is everything. I am who I am because of my mom and my dad. I am who I am because of my grandparents. I am who I am because of my best friends, who are also my treasured family. Life is too short to hold grudges, to be angry over things in the past you can’t change, to be wrecked over the sad and inevitable things in the future that seem to come too quickly. Live as if you’re dying and you only have a short amount of time to love, to give, to honor and to eat chocolate cake 🙂 Because, you are and you do.

So, here’s Great Grandma Nolan’s chocolate cake recipe, courtesy of my mother who grew up on a corn farm in Iowa and who made this cake for me countless times when I was growing up.

Great Grandma Nolan’s Scotch Cake

Cake:
1) Sift together in a large bowl: 2 c. AP flour, 2 c. sugar
2) Bring to rapid boil in heavy saucepan: 1 stick butter, ½ c. shortening, 4 T. cocoa powder, 1 c. water
3) Pour over flour and sugar. Mix well.
4) Add ½ c. buttermilk, 2 eggs (slightly beaten), 1 tsp. baking soda and mix well. Bake in greased 10×16 pan at 375 degrees F.

Icing:
1) Start making 5 minutes before cake is done baking.
2) Bring to rapid boil: 1 stick margarine, 4 T cocoa powder, 7 T milk.
3) Remove from heat and add roughly 3/4 box, sifted confectioner’s sugar. Add in slowly so that it doesn’t clump. Follow with 1 c. unsweetened coconut flakes and 1 c. chopped pecans. Spread over cake while still hot.

Let cake and icing cool until icing becomes a bit firm on top and cool enough to cut without melting.

Chef’s notes:

1) I know this recipe calls for margarine and that’s very bad for your health. But, it’s what they had growing up in the 50s, so, if you substitute butter, you’ll likely need to make adjustments on other ingredients as well.
2) I know this recipe will probably make some bakers cringe, as the mixing of certain ingredients and in certain orders flies in the face of conventional wisdom on how to make a proper cake, but this recipe works. I’ve made it several times. The cake batter will look weird, and the icing will too, but both the cake and the icing will have great textures in the end.
3) At 3300 feet above see level, the adjustments are: a) bake at 400 degrees F (conventional wisdom on high altitude baking says to bake at 25 degrees higher), b) use 1-2 T. more flour, c) use slightly less baking soda as you don’t want it to rise too quickly and then fall (although I used almost a full teaspoon), and d) use slightly less sugar in your cake batter (I used 1 3/4 c. sugar instead of 2 cups. The chocolate cake is so rich anyway, I think even sea level bakers might consider using less sugar – you don’t miss it!).

Happy eating!

Spain: Bubo, Takashi Ochiai, and Girona (not in that order)

3 Apr

Yes, this cake was as amazing as it looks. It was a passion fruit-banana tart. It came from a “pastiserria” (pastry shop) called “Bubo”, which is also the name of Pastry Chef Carlos Mampel’s tapas door, next door. Both are near the Basilica Santa Maria del Mar, in Barcelona’s El Born neighborhood. My friend Karina, took me on a walking tour on Sunday of some of Barcelona’s best pastry shops. I was still struggling with my stomach, but those few bites of the Bubo tart were amazing. I’ll be back to sample some of the other goodies, below:

Before Bubo, we stopped by a Japanese pastry shop, called Takashi Ochiai. I bought a few items to gift to Diana in exchange for holding my bag while I went back to the states. I bought her fresca (strawberry) and green tea macaroons (they were gigantic), as well as something called Daifuku, which looks like mochi, but it’s not exactly. It’s soy wrapped in rice paper, and it’s kind of sweet, but kind of not. Diana thought it tasted like something you get at communion. I had to agree. I also took a bite of her strawberry macaroon (I know, I ate her gifts – bad, Rachel!), but it was the best macaroon I’ve ever eaten. I will return to Takashi Ochiai for the iced green tea, which is only served on Mondays and Tuesdays (a very special treat according to Karina) and more macaroons. I’ll also try some of their other delicacies, such as Kastera de té verde which is supposedly like a piece of green tea pound cake.

Below are some pictures of Girona. Mark and I went on a day trip there a while back and I’m just getting around to posting the pictures. Girona is an interesting town. It’s about 1 1/2 hours north, by slow train. It has an old part of the city in which there is a beautiful cathedral, stone-walled buildings, cobblestone streets that meander, and ancient Arab baths. Then, they have a new section of the city in which there is some pretty decent window shopping for clothes to be had. We didn’t actually shop or check out the modern city as we had an agenda to see just the old part on that trip. I’ll be back to window shop and to buy some organic gin (for my dad) I saw in a very unique liquor store that was closed for siesta time, or maybe just closed the day we went. Below are some pics of the Arab baths (actually, a bath), the cathedral and other old buildings.

Arab bath:

Ceiling of Arab bath:

Beautiful masonry work on the walls of the bath:

Cathedral:

Cathedral from afar:

Other pics of the old town:

As you can tell from the pictures, we were lucky to visit Girona on another gorgeous day in Spain. I think it was 79 degrees F that day. When I left, it was also in the low 70s, high 60s.

Today, in Canon City, CO it’s snowing and in the 40s. Yikes! But, I kind of like it. I haven’t seen snow in a while and it’s refreshing. I’ll be here for 2 weeks, and then I’ll be back in Spain.

So, although I won’t be blogging about Spain in the next couple of weeks, I’m sure I’ll be cooking for my mom, so I’ll post any yummy recipes I make in that time. Happy Eating!