Monthly Archives: October 2012

Tapas and Tinto: Some Words on Spanish Cuisine

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Well hello, Wright-Time-for-a-Schnackers! It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted here, I’ll admit– but worry not, I have certainly not abandoned our beloved food blog. I’ve been quite busy, living in the incredible city of Madrid for the past month and a half, sampling some of the varied, incomparably delicious cuisine that España is known for.

some Spanish olives, a typical tapa

Spain is known for its tapas: small servings of savory food, usually served with drinks at a bar. Apparently, they originated a long time ago, when a past king of Spain realized that drunken buffoonery was reduced if alcohol consumers ate with their booze, and so ordered some of the bars in Spain to begin serving a small portion of food with each drink a customer ordered.

one of the amazing restaurants I’ve visited. the bread was still warm. mmm.

Now, Madrid has a raging tapas scene, though they are not quite so commonly served free with the drinks you order (if you do, the drinks will be much more expensive, anyways.) A typical tapa would be a crusty slice of baguette topped with some ham (Spaniards LOVE their ham) and olive oil, or perhaps a small, greasily delicious empanada. Fruits and veggies are not usually served raw here (how I miss my mom’s giant salads!) but the deliciousness of the dishes they serve instead more than makes up for it.

okay, so this was technically French-style cuisine, but seeing as this crepe was consumed in Spain it counts, right?

The ever-present ham is certainly a staple for Spaniards, but I’ve sampled a variety of their other signature dishes as well. My favorite thus far has been croquettes, small fried balls of bechamel white sauce, peppered with ham and swirled with cheese. They’re basically little deep-fried bombs of creamy, tangy deliciousness. Another favorite is paella, the classic Spanish savory rice dish. And the churros con chocolate. And the coffee here is amazing. AND OKAY LET’S JUST FACE IT I’ve been spending all my money on food because I can’t stop eating everything Madrid has to offer me.

churros and chocolate- essentially the most delicious thing ever.

Spanish meals are served significantly later than American meals–lunch is typically at about 2-3pm, dinner at about 9-10pm. It took a bit to get used to, but now that I have it makes lots of sense. Everything is adjusted here to the thriving nightlife of Spain, so all events, from club openings to meals to store hours are pushed back to accommodate.

coffee and a veggie croissant at a retro café in an extremely hipster neighborhood

Some of my newly acquired friends and I have started a “Tapas Tuesday” lunch club kind of tradition every week, where we go out and dine at a reasonably-priced, highly-rated restaurant in the city. Every week I think the restaurant won’t top the food from the week before, and every week it does. Today’s was especially delightful. Good food and good company can do wonders to one’s happiness level.

the best gazpacho I’ve ever eaten

I apologize for the not-quite-as-stellar pictures, but unfortunately dimly-lit restaurants and iPhone cameras are sometimes not the most flattering for the dishes. I assure you, they lack in photographability what they make up for in deliciousness.

a giant pan of paella

I hope you enjoy hearing about/observing the photos of the international eateries I’ve experienced. One final disclaimer: All of the food in this post was eventually consumed by me, but none of it was made by me– excepting the very last photo, an extremely high-class and gastronomically advanced concoction created by my lovable 13-year-old host sister and I.

Yeah, it’s a cookie monster cupcake. And it’s fantastic. Like I said–the height of gastronomical class.

Adios, and gracias for reading!

Caramel Apple Coffee Cake

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One thing I’ve learned from living in the New York City is that it’s difficult to tell when the season changes from summer to fall. The weather likes to remain stagnant here–so far, there’s only been a couple days where I have had to bundle up with more than one sweater. The trees are hardly changing color. As I write this, I am looking at the trees in our courtyard, which are either green or a dead shade of brown. Fortunately, I was able to attend a retreat in upstate New York a couple weeks ago, where I really got to appreciate the beauty of autumn. I never thought I would take foliage for granted, but I have. Even though it was frigid at night, the fresh air and brilliantly colored trees inspired me to appreciate the gifts of the season.

This weekend, I baked a caramel apple coffee cake to celebrate the new season. I haven’t been baking as much as I would like to, due to the fact that I have limited free time and limited expenses. I’m sure I’ll have to get creative with substitutions as my college bank account dwindles later on in the year. Speaking of creative, I’m still getting used to cooking in a tiny kitchen and finding places to put my things as I cook. I’m constantly shuffling my mixing bowl and ingredients from the small counter to the top of the refrigerator, or the edge of the sink or the stovetop. Oh, how I miss cooking in my kitchen at home!

Somehow I managed to pull together a decent looking and delicious cake that made my dorm room smell fantastic. I even made my own caramel sauce, which is probably more economical than buying it in the store because I already had the simple ingredients in my cabinet and fridge. (Hint: if you make your own caramel, everyone will think you’re some sort of superhuman.) One of the most satisfying things about fall is the marriage of caramel and apples. Throw on some streusel topping, and you have yourself a festive cake to celebrate the season.

Enjoy!

Caramel Apple Coffee Cake
Adapted from Eat Good 4 Life
Serves 10-12

1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup flour (you can use all-purpose or whole wheat pastry)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 apples, sliced thin
1/4 to 1/3 cup caramel sauce (recipe follows)

1 cup flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup olive oil, melted butter or coconut oil
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a springform pan.
  2. In a large bowl, mix oil, eggs, yogurt and vanilla. Add flour, baking powder and cinnamon and stir to combine.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and arrange apple slices on top.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, pecans, oil, sugar and cinnamon. Place the topping over the apples.
  5. Bake for about 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan, then remove and pour caramel sauce over it.

Notes: I do not have, nor could I find anyone with, a springform pan, so I used an 8-inch round cake pan. The only problem with this is that you can’t neatly remove the cake from the pan without damaging the topping, so the caramel sauce sort of runs under the cake. If you’re planning on serving the cake at a gathering, I would advise using a springform pan. However, if you’re feeding hungry college kids, nobody will mind the messy caramel.

Caramel Sauce
Adapted from Barefeet in the Kitchen

1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt

  1. In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar and water over medium heat. Gently stir until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium-high and cook until the mixture is light brown, 7-8 minutes. Do not scrape the sides of the pan.
  2. Add the butter and gently stir until combined. Once the butter is melted, remove the mixture from heat and add cream, vanilla and salt. Stir vigorously until all ingredients are incorporated. Let cool before using.