"Those who forget the pasta are condemned to reheat it." ~Unknown

Sunday, March 27, 2011

An Homage To Dinner, Catalonian Food, And Catalonia

     Sorry we didn't post last week from Barcelona, we couldn't get to a computer to post there, and as it was, Cy didn't cook.  We were to busy touring the Sagrada Familia, walking around Montjuic (location of most of the 1992 Olympic Stadiums), lost in the Barrio Gottico, or eating lunch at the beach.  Our apartment in the Barrio Gottico was a short walk from the Boqueria Market (and a slightly longer walk from everywhere else, Barcelona is the ultimate walkable community).  We ate twice at Pinotxo's, a rather famous restaurant in the Boqueria, we also ate twice at a seafood tapas restaurant called Cal Pep.  One day, while working our way back from Parc Guell we stumbled upon a restaurant called Café Flanders that gave us easily one of the best meals of the trip.
Inside the Sagrada Familia
     The Sagrada Familia was amazing, from the castle at the top of Montjuic you could see all the city, and the Sagrada Familia towered hundreds of feet above the rest of the buildings. Its spires rising lightly and airily hundreds of feet into the air.  From the inside the tree-like columns rose hundreds of feet into the air towards a lofty ceiling that left the inside of the basilica cool with just a slight breeze.
     On Saturday, on our Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Vancouver, I was thinking about the number of airline meals I'd eaten.  The best by far was on Korean Airlines, were we got Be-Bim-Bop, which if I remember correctly was a bowl of rice with bean sprouts, seaweed, other greens (that I couldn't name) that were very fresh and delicious and a fiery red chili paste.  On Lufthansa we had spaghetti and meatballs, which wasn't that bad, though somewhere over Hudson Bay I suffered some sort of food poison induced vomiting.  Very fun.  On our American Airlines flight to Buenos Aires four years ago we got steak and mashed potatoes, very, very fake mashed potatoes.  The most unappetizing was our meal on United en route to Brussels.  Who wants to eat a steak shaped slab of "chicken" covered in tomato puree with side of "home-style french fries"  all in about a half inch of oh so deeply unappetizing water.  What could be so hard about serving people a meal that is at least mildly appetizing?
     Cyrus is making spaghetti and meatballs for dinner with a side of Catalan Toast.  Catalan toast is bread that's been toasted and has been rubbed with garlic, tomato and has olive oil drizzled atop it.  Cy is receiving cooking help from his friend Leo tonight, right now they are rolling the meatballs, and dad is toasting the bread for our catalan toast.  The joke about the toast is, "If this is Cattle-on-Toast, where's the Cattle?"  While writing my dissertation on Airline food, dinner's been finished and we're ready to eat.

     The spaghetti and meatballs were excellent.  Much like Lufthansa's spaghetti and meatballs they were a little under-sauced, and the catalan toast was perfect, just like every restaurant in Catalan. I think Catalan Toast is the kind of dish that is more or less foolproof.  The meatballs were high light of the meal. They were half ground beef and half ground pork, mixed with egg and panko bread crumbs, some onion and garlic and rolled in floor and then sautéed in oil. We also had a side of an excellent salad that was dressed up with segments of  blood oranges and a vinaigrette dressing made with white balsamic vinegar and a very tasty olive oil.
It was great to travel and great to get back home too!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

An Orchestrated Affair

     Last night Cy and I went to a friends house for a sleepover because Mom and Dad were at the auction for Cy's school.  Our friends' parents weren't supposed to get back until midnight and we were playing Halo Reach.  Liam, the older of our friends came upstairs and told us he had thrown the pizza from Papa Murphy's into the oven, it would be ready in a minute.  The sounds of a battlefield on another planet quieted for just a second, and we heard a door click closed barely audible.
     "Did you hear that?" I whispered.  They nodded in return.  "I think someone's in the house."
      We went into their parent's bedroom, where we closed and locked the door.  Cyrus, Liam and Logan hid on the far side of the bed, and I took refuge behind a dresser.
     Liam's first words to the 911 operator were rather memorable.
     "Excuse me, I think someone's in my house."  Downstairs we could hear footsteps, drawers were opening and closing.  It sounded as if they were wearing thick soled boots.  At some point, I thought, they would come upstairs to see if they could find something other than silverware.  Or microwaveable meals.  We heard the microwave beeping.  Looking around in the dark I saw the solid, hard plastic body of a Nerf Gun, left from a Nerf battle earlier.  "Hey," I thought, "when I hear them coming up the stairs, I'll pick this up and go stand by the door so I can whack them over the head with it when they come in.
     After about ten minutes, we heard a knock at the door.  We heard the door open, and a police officer ask a question.  I couldn't hear what the other person said, but I recognized the voice.
     " Hey guys," I said, " it's your Dad!"
     After the cops left, we ate the pizza and the carrots (which had come out of the microwave) and recounted the story a number of times over.  It made me think of two things, the other time (almost a year ago) that 911 was called.  Remember the turkey frier incident? And I realized I needed to think of a vegetable for tonight, so, in addition to fish cakes and loaded baked potatoes, I decided to create a prepared carrot dish of my own.

    The potatoes are out of the oven and are cooling off before I scoop them out.  Mimi has graciously taken charge of shredding and de-boning the fish, and the carrots are on the stove in a pot of butter, maple syrup, and cinnamon.  In the potatoes I plan to add butter, cream and cheese.

     The potatoes have been scooped, mashed, mixed with butter, cheese and cream and are back in the oven.  The fish are ready to be made into cakes, though Mimi refuses to work on that while I blog.  The carrots are nearing readiness and the sun has just peeked out from behind the clouds for the first time today.  Now if only we weren't hung up on the problems of not operating with Dad as a sous chef.

     The carrots are nearly done.  All the butter and maple syrup has caramelized and the carrots are coated in a dark sticky layer of wonderfulness.  The fishcakes and potatoes will be ready in a few minutes and I should start the tartar sauce.

     The carrots were amazing.  They were sweet, with a vague sticky syrupy-ness,  and just a hint of cinnamon on your tongue.  The potatoes were quite similar.  You could taste the butter and cream, but only because you expected them to be there, as is standard issue in baked potatoes.  In between bites though, you could just catch a whiff of the orange cheddar as it slid off your tongue and back down your throat.  The fishcakes too were excellent.  One of the biggest problems we've had with fishcakes to date is the problem of keeping them crunchy, but not dry.  These fishcakes seemed to overcome that because they had gotten cooked for a much shorter period of time and after being formed we covered both sides in panko crumbs.  This whole meal was an accidentally well orchestrated affair (much unlike last night) where nothing overpowered, but only gave a hint of itself.  If only everything could work that well!

     Next week we'll be making our first blog post from a foreign country.  Spring break for Cy and I starts Friday but instead of sleeping in, we'll be getting up to catch our flight to Chicago.  After Chicago, we fly to Brussels, after which we catch our last flight to Barcelona, Spain.  That's where we'll be on Sunday.  The other day some of my friends and I were talking about what we were doing for spring break.
     "I'm spending a couple days at the coast," says one of my friends.
     "I'm going to the coast too," I tell them, "the Mediterranean Coast."

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Diamonds Glistening And Glinting

     This morning we went to the gorge.  Up by Bonneville Dam is a little hole in the wall trail.  In the middle of the miles of basalt cliff is a narrow crag made by a raging white water river.  It's a mile to and a mile back to Wachlellah Falls, and the scenery is stunning.  Bridges sweep past some of the smaller waterfalls and even on parts of the trail when you are hundreds of feet above the river the fir and cedar covered canyon walls extend more hundreds of feet above your head.  The waterfall itself plummets fifty or sixty feet into a great bowl.  Fifty meters down the canyon the trail dips under an overhang which, after all this rain, is almost another waterfall.  Cy took off the backpack he'd brought with us and pulled out three flashlights.  He gave the backpack to Mom and Dad and I both took a flashlight.  The cave descended beyond our range of vision.  We walked into the cave, and turned on the flashlights, duck-walking, the rough craggy ceiling glistened above our heads.  The water droplets on the ceiling appeared to be diamonds glistening and glinting in the wavering beams of our lights.  Duckwalking ten meters we saw what appeared to be the end of the cave.  Instead, as we walked along we saw a bend.  We went around the bend, and the light of the outside world disappeared behind us.  Going another two or three meters deeper we stopped and flung rocks to see if we could find the back of the cave.  With no end in site we turned around, decided it was a lava tunnel, and greeted our dog, Sally.  She was quite distressed that her pack had split up.  We plan to go again after spring break and go deeper into the cave.

     Tonight Cy is making taco's.  Mimi has book club and Cy wanted to make something easy.  He browned the meat, over-browned the taco shells and sliced the lettuce.  Friend Ben is also here and brought a Tunnel of Fudge cake for dessert.

     The tacos were good as was the cake.  Sometimes a chocolate cake can taste more like just a brown cake, but this was super chocolate-y with a center that was like fudge.  The dinner was good but the hike this morning was spectacular!!