Sunday, December 11, 2011

Delicious Madrid on a Budget! Part I

I have been on hiatus for a while and really have missed checking out my favorite blogs!  I miss you all!  Since I have been gone, our house went under contract and we are scheduled to close on our next home at the end of next month.  I need to pack up the whole house - what a daunting task!  I really wish that it was in the budget to hire movers to pack for us - oh well it will get done somehow! 
 We just got back from visiting our daughter who is studying abroad in Madrid, Spain.  The timing wasn't perfect with everything going on with the house but there was no way that we weren't going to make it to Spain to visit our daughter.  We booked the flights long ago and were determined to enjoy Spain on a shoestring! 

Matt and I both worked a full day, took the train to Newark airport and boarded the plane to Madrid.  That was the very same day that we signed the contract for the new house.  Faxing of forms, juggling funds for the down payment and making sure that everything was in order at work and not missing the train or forgetting our passports - STRESSFUL.  Luckily Matt's co workers came up with Euros we could borrow so that we had a little cash in our pockets! 

We arrived in Madrid a little bedraggled and headed for the Metro - only 2,50 € to get to our hotel versus 32 € for a cab.  One problem - we had two close to 50 lb. bags, a laptop and carry ons - oh and I am terrified of escalators!  I can go down no problem but up... that's a problem.  My poor husband had to take both large bags and I ran up all the flights of stairs and grabbed my bag off when we got to the top.  We must have made quite the impression!  Pink line, blue line... we arrived at Plaza de España, our home for the next 10 days.  10 days of great food and plenty of wine! 

We settled into our hotel - Suites 33 on Calle de Leganitos.  The hotel was small but quite adequate.  The location was perfect and we had free wireless and a small kitchen.  The kitchen had a stove but no cookware - odd.  I did at least have the forethought to bring a paring knife, ziploc bags and a wine opener. 
While we were waiting for our daughter, we headed out on Calle Gran Vía to look around.  We had our first of many jamón sandwiches (amazing!) and bought some wine.  Ham is everywhere- literally hanging everywhere!- in Madrid.  Our favorite sandwich was from Don Jamón on Calle Gran Vía - made with Iberian ham, a bargain at 2,30€.    So simple but so good.  Thinly sliced Iberian ham and tomato slices on fresh bread.  We also tried Museo del Jamón's Serrano ham sandwich which was good also and cheaper at 1€.  Iberian ham comes from acorn-fed Iberian pigs and Serrano ham is from white pigs.  For 3,30€  we had a sandwich-off between the two ham sandwiches.  We returned to Don Jamón a couple more times during our trip.  Oh how I miss the ham and the inexpensive but wonderful wine of Spain!

Jamon Iberico Sandwich from Don Jamon
Ashley met us at our hotel. We were positively exhausted so we had dinner at a cervecería near our hotel.  We had fried calamari, tortilla española (Spanish omelet), croquetas and empanada gallega de atún (Galician tuna empanada). We were also served a complimentary olive plate.  After an inexpensive but tasty meal of typical Spanish tapas we headed back to the hotel. 

The next day we went to El Corte Inglés, a large supermarket below a huge department store where we bought bottled water, wine, beer, orange juice, croissants and chocolate.  Wine is super inexpensive and I really liked the Rioja and Ribera del Duero - wonderful reds.  We just loved the Valor dark chocolate bars with almonds.  We became regulars at the market.  A few notes on the supermarket:
  • You need your passport if paying with a credit card (they let us use a driver's license)
  • You cannot touch the produce (you ask for what you need and it is weighed for you or in some markets you put on plastic gloves and weigh/price yourself)
  • You can buy single beers (Mahou is the regional beer)
  • Bring your own bags (you pay for bags)

We spent the day getting familiar with the city and walked countless miles.  We visited the Prado (Madrid's famous art museum), which is free to visit on Sundays, so of course we visited on Sunday!  Our dinner pick was Casa Mingo, an Asturian cider house that was established in 1888.  Many restaurants in Madrid are closed on Sundays and Casa Mingo is open so it was a perfect day to go.  They have an amazing homemade hard cider that is an unbelievable bargain at 5,30€.  We ate delicious roasted chicken (10€), chorizo in cider (3,40€), salad and bread.  The chorizo was my favorite and the salad was the only disappointment.  It was very plain and looked pre-packaged but everything else was really good. I wanted the queso cabrales (aged blue cheese) but I couldn't have eaten it all myself... I craved it from then on...It was approximately 40€ for three of us.  Bargain!

Right next door to the restaurant there is a lovely church San Antonio de la Florida with the most beautiful frescoes painted by Francisco de Goya.  A must see!  Free admission too!

The next few days Ashley had classes so Matt and I continued to explore the city and eat well.  We visited the Mercado de San Miguel which I was extremely excited for.  We did have some amazing ham there but I found it to be very pricey.  We had a few bites to eat and moved on. 

We wandered the rest of the day and got lost!  We walked completely in the wrong direction from our hotel and it was raining, pouring actually.  We eventually found our way to familiar territory but we were quite a distance from our hotel, as we were near the Prado.  We stumbled upon the best fried calamari sandwiches with salsa bravas (mildly spicy tomato-based sauce) at a bocadillo shop on the Paseo del Prado.  So good and such a bargain at 3,30€.  Not low calorie but just delicious!  Good thing we walked so far!  We nicknamed it grumpy guy's calamari.  In Spain, takeaway doesn't seem to be popular and is kind of frowned upon.  In Madrid, meals are enjoyed for hours, not eaten on the streets.  I really like that but we were starving and wanted to get back to our hotel so we asked to take it to go and then (yikes!) asked if he could cut the sandwich in half!  Grumpy guy's reaction was too funny.  But hey, the sandwich was worth it and we walked all the way back another time and brought Ashley! 

At this point in the trip,  I started really feeling like I needed a healthy meal.  We had way too much salty and fried foods and few vegetables.  We do not eat that way at home.  I was determined to find somewhere for a healthy dinner.  I was so grateful that we brought a laptop and I could research.  I stumbled across good reviews of Al Natural, a vegetarian restaurant near the Prado.  Sold!  Ashley, Matt and I went for dinner.  We had a complimentary appetizer of the most wonderful spinach and pear croquetas.  I plan on writing in to Bon Appetit magazine in hopes of attaining the recipe.  So good!  We also had the best veggie burgers of our lives.  Who would even think that a veggie burger could be that good?!  Eggplant with a pistachio sauce and a wonderful salad were also enjoyed.  Rolls were served and put on the check even though we did not order it.  Apparently that is done in Spain.  No big deal as the rolls were excellent and they were only .70€ a piece.  Ashley enjoyed a vegan apple cake and tea for dessert.  We were also given complimentary after dinner drinks of rum with honey.  The atmosphere was very relaxing.  Fabulous meal!  We returned another day for lunch. 

To be continued... churros con chocolate, Indian food, tapas, pizza, the best croissants and more!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Great Grandma Pie in NJ - Krispy

Admittedly I am a pizza addict.  I could probably eat it ever day if I let myself!  A while back I posted about the different regional pizza styles and vowed to try them all.  Well grandma-style pizza can be best described as a thin-crust Sicilian.  It appears to have originated in Long Island and spread to the other boroughs of New York.  A friend who grew up in Brooklyn highly recommended Krispy Pizza to me.  They have their original pizza shop in Brooklyn and a newer shop in Old Bridge, NJ and they serve a fabulous grandma pie.  The crust which is cooked in an oiled pan was perfect.  The pie was topped with real fresh mozzarella - no imitation cheese here!  The sauce was light and tomatoey and the perfect amount of fresh basil was dusted across.  Oh my!  Maybe a trip to Chicago for deep dish next?! 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Grilled Coleslaw and What's Up with Nitrates?

Grilling time is here and who doesn't love a good hot dog?  Sure, I try to eat a healthy diet but every once in a while just crave a good old fashioned grilled hot dog!  Some of my very favorite hot dogs are homemade from D.A. Barsch German Butcher Shop in Toms River, NJ.  If you are ever in the area  it is a great place to check out - fabulous German sausages and cold cuts.  They make a mean potato bratwurst! 

I couldn't make it to the butcher so I picked up a pack of Trader Joe's all-natural no nitrate added hot dogs since they were giving out samples which were quite tasty.  I got a nice cabbage in my CSA box and wanted to make grilled coleslaw from a recipe I found on  The grilled coleslaw was fabulous and made for a fantastic hot dog topping along with some spicy Kosciusko mustard - my favorite! 

Did you know that all-natural and organic hot dogs still contain nitrates?  Manufacturers use celery juice and sea salt which are naturally high in nitrates to cure the hot dogs as opposed to chemically produced sodium nitrates.  There was an interesting article on the subject in The New York Times.  My takeaway is that all hot dogs are cured and contain nitrates.  Are natural nitrates found in celery healthier?  Is it worth extra to purchase no nitrate added products? Are nitrates really harmful?  Nitrates come from nitrogen found int the air and soil...  I'm not sure of the answer.  The quality and source of the meat used may be the most important aspect of a good hot dog.  I will continue to splurge on an occassional hot dog, emphasis on occasional, and will definitely make the grilled coleslaw again - anything in moderation! 

Kristin Donnelly - Food and Wine
One 3-pound head of green cabbage, cut through the core into 8 wedges Vegetable oil, for brushing
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 pickled jalapeños, seeded and minced, plus 2 teaspoons pickling liquid from the jar

1.Light a grill. Brush the cabbage wedges with vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the cabbage over high heat until charred, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a work surface. When the cabbage is cool enough to handle, finely slice it crosswise with a sharp knife.

2.In a large bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the cider vinegar, jalapeños and pickling liquid. Add the shredded cabbage and toss well. Season the grilled coleslaw with salt and pepper and toss again.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Kale Caesar Slaw

Who knew a raw kale salad could be so fantastic?!   This salad was so good that I ate the leftovers for breakfast - a little weird but since there is egg in it, I think it counts as a breakfast food!  The leftover salad may have been even better than the fresh one.  I loved the traditional Caesar dressing ingredients paired with the crisp kale.  Tasty!

A big thank you to Tami and Bill from Earthen Harvest.  The CSA season has been great!  The vegetables are all so fresh and wonderful.  I look forward to each and every box!  The kale was tender and delicious - perfect for a salad.  The recipe was a find from the July issue of Bon Appetit.  Two of my favorite things are getting new food magazines in the mail and my weekly vegetable box on the doorstep - actually the CSA newsletter that comes earlier is fun too!   The little things in life can bring so much happiness!

Tuscan Kale Caesar Slaw
Courtesy Bon Appetit, July 2011

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
8 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 hard-boiled egg, peeled
14 ounces Tuscan kale or other kale, center stalks removed, thinly sliced crosswise (about 8 cups)

Combine the first 4 ingredients in a blender; purée until smooth. With machine running, slowly add oil, drop by drop, to make a creamy dressing. Transfer dressing to a bowl and stir in 1/4 cup Parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill. DO AHEAD: Dressing can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.

Separate egg white from yolk. Place egg white in a coarse-mesh strainer set over a bowl. Press egg white through strainer with the back of a spoon; scrape egg white from bottom of strainer. Repeat with egg yolk, using a clean strainer and bowl. DO AHEAD: Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover bowls separately and chill.

Toss kale and dressing in a large bowl to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan and sieved eggs.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Kohlrabi, Fennel and Blueberry Salad

One of this week's CSA box items was kohlrabi. What to do with kohlrabi?  Well I started hunting around for some interesting use for it and turned to the ever reliable Food and Wine ingredient search.  The search brought me to Top Chef Stephanie Izard of Chicago's Girl and The Goat's Kohlrabi, Fennel and Blueberry Salad.  A quick Google search revealed just how well-liked this salad is so I became sold on making it.  I had wonderful local organic blueberries on hand - bonus!  All I needed was the fennel and some goat cheese. 

While I was making this salad, with the help of Cailyn, I really began to doubt my sanity!  So many ingredients - could this possibly work and actually taste good?  Cailyn claimed that the combination of ingredients sounded disgusting and Matt walked by and said, with a look of disgust, "there are blueberries in the salad?"  Well, once the salad was all assembled it looked pretty and fresh.  All of the components were really delicious on their own (I tasted along the way...) Crisp kohlrabi, toasty almonds, juicy blueberries... and the cheese I chose Cypress Grove Midnight Moon goat cheese - amazing!  I love, love, love this cheese. 

We all sat down and with trepidation took our first bites of the salad.  Well it was amazing!  I absolutely adored the salad and every last bite of it disappeared.  If you see kohlrabi at your local farmers market or get it from a CSA box, make this salad - you won't regret it!  Thank you Stephanie Izard!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tuscan Lemon Muffins

On Sunday afternoons, Matt and I head to Manasquan Beach.  I bring food magazines, which I resist reading earlier in the week, and Matt brings his Kindle.  I love summer!  I don't bake that often but these lovely lemon muffins from Cooking Light just called to me.  The use of olive oil really appealed to me.  I have been experimenting with replacing olive oil for vegetable oil where possible.  I made Swiss chard lasagna a few days ago and had just enough ricotta left over for the recipe (full disclosure: not part-skim as called for in the recipe).  These muffins had a wonderful texture, were moist, and lightly lemony.  The turbinado sugar (raw sugar) on top was also a nice touch.  I imagine that this recipe could be easily adapted with other citrus fruits (meyer lemons, oranges, etc.) or complemented with fresh berries. Perfect! 

Tuscan Lemon Muffins
Maurren Callahan, Cooking Light - May 2011

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour  (7 9/10 ounces)
  •  3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  •  1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese (I used whole milk ricotta)
  • 1/2 cup water
  •  1/4 cup olive oil
  •  1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
  •  2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients (through salt); make a well in center. Combine ricotta and next 5 ingredients (through egg). Add ricotta mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

3. Place 12 muffin-cup liners in muffin cups; coat with cooking spray. Divide batter among muffin cups. Sprinkle turbinado sugar over batter. Bake at 375° for 16 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in pan on a wire rack

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mustard Greens in the Box

Mustard Greens - oh how I love this cholesterol-lowering cruciferous vegetable!
Red Beet Risotto with Mustard Greens and Goat Cheese
I was lucky to get nice big bunches of mustard greens in my CSA box over the last two weeks.  Thanks to inspiration from Bon Appetit, I made these tasty mustard green creations.  If you haven't had mustard greens in a while (or ever) don't be afraid to pick some up.  They are super healthy and really delicious with a little spicy kick. 

Well aesthetically this dish is a little odd and kind of screams Christmas (not what I was going for in June!)  The taste, however, was phenomenal - sweet, creamy, salty, tangy and even a little bitter.  I added a few shrimp because; well, just because I like shrimp!  The risotto recipe is quick with little fuss.  I stirred the mustard greens in at the end just to wilt them.  I will be making this again!  Bon Appetit Recipe Link

Goat Cheese Pizzas with Indian-Spiced Tomatoes and Mustard Greens
The recipe is for topping and flatbreads.  I shortcut it by using store bought naan for the crust.  Well, I love pizza!  This Indian style pizza was no exception!  The topping is amazing and I can't wait to make this again.  Seriously good! 

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 large shallots, finely chopped
3 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
2 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes with added puree
2 cups chopped mustard greens

For topping:

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and next 5 ingredients; sauté 3 minutes. Add tomatoes; reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes to thicken slightly. Add greens; stir until wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.)

Preheat oven to 450°F. Place breads on baking sheet. Spread 1/4 of topping over each. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake until heated through, about 8 minutes.