Tag Archives: tapas

Weekly Menus: It’s Finally Fall Edition, Week of 10/20/2013

Gentle Readers, wow, what a week. I managed to sit down to eat 3 or 4 actual meals in the span of a week–the rest were food grabbed on the run. Not to downplay the awesome that is Barcelona, but work travel is not the same as leisure travel. Being immersed in a different food culture always makes one think about their own.

Ham and cheese with a side of cafe con leche from Tapa Tapa in Barcelona.

Ham and cheese with a side of cafe con leche from Tapa Tapa in Barcelona.

Barcelona is driven by local, fresh, and reasonable portions. It’s a great concept, and one to which I subscribe. One of the best things I ate all week was this humble croqueta, which was akin to a mildly cheesy chicken pot pie in croquette form. We found it by turning down a side street in a non-touristy neighborhood famed for its cakes. (Guess what in that sentence prompted me to hop off the tour bus.)

My favorite from the week: a chicken, vegetable, and cheese croqueta from El Canalla.

My favorite from the week: a chicken, vegetable, and cheese croqueta from El Canalla.

In a random chance, I also had a rather interesting conversation about sustainable food with someone high up in one of the major international food corporations. We talked about Michael Pollan and the tension between profit and sustainable, especially as pertains to meat. I don’t envy him his job.

Fresh ingredients fill the markets in Barcelona.

Fresh ingredients fill the markets in Barcelona.

But I digress. Look for inspiration from Barcelona appearing in posts for the next few weeks. I respect a culture that is not fussed about diet crazes and every new trend. Barcelona has strong foodways that are built to be flexible and incorporate new traditions. I love that. Visiting always makes me want to go back again.

Eggplant fries with honey and lime from El Canalla. OMG good.

Eggplant fries with honey and lime from El Canalla. OMG good.

Which means my menus for the week are:

Sunday: Leftover surprise
I’ll be eating whatever TPC’s Mom left in my fridge. Surprise! Sometimes, even oatmeal or cereal is enough after traveling.

Monday: Tapas!
Figs and cheese? Tomato bread? Prosciutto and melon? I’m not sure what I’ll combine, but it will be small bites of whatever is in the store.

Fig filled with marscopone and jamon from Cervezeria Catalana.

Fig filled with marscopone and jamon from Cervezeria Catalana.

Tuesday: Spinach Quesadillas and Beans
Simple and direct, one of our favorite easy meals. We’ve got a lot going on this day.

Wednesday: Bratwurst and Pierogie
Just add Brussels sprouts.

Thursday: Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage in Brown Butter Sauce
One of my favorite easy meals courtesy of Trader Joe’s. Served with a green salad, and you’ve got a multi-colored delight for dinner. It’s worth browning some sage in butter–it’s just fun.

Friday: Nachos!
Using up the last of our leftover veggie chili, I’m pouring it over chips, topping it with cheese, and serving it up with a side of guacamole.

Saturday: Deep Fried Everything
This might be our N.C. State Fair Day, and we have a long list of things to eat. Apple fritters, corn, fried okra, and whatever the “it” thing is in deep-fried. We are so ready.

Ironically, I never saw this brand of water in Barcelona, but saw it promptly in NYC upon landing.

Ironically, I never saw this brand of water in Barcelona, but saw it promptly in NYC upon landing.

Have you been to your state fair already? What should we find and consume? No deep-fried goodness too strange. We’ll try it on video even. Post your challenge below!

Farewell Barcelona, see you next time.

Farewell Barcelona, see you next time.

Send your winter squashes, your mad carving skills, and your airline miles to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Weekly Menus: Birthday Week Edition, 7/28/2013

Gentle Readers, I am once more writing from the road. This week I’m continuing my birthday celebration–it’s one of those milestone ones, so I’m making it last. A candle in every cake I say! Even pancakes.

Adapatable Pumpkin Pancakes Stack, Birthday Style.

Adapatable Pumpkin Pancakes Stack, Birthday Style.

But we still have to heat amongst various travel obligations. How to meal plan for lots of dinners out and time away? Limit the fresh stuff, buy only what you can eat, and consume a lot of eggs and cereal. More on that in the next blog.

German Chocolate Cake Slice, Birthday Style

German Chocolate Cake Slice, Birthday Style

My Four Square Grocery List is therefore usually: milk, bread, salad, fruit (bananas plus a berry or stone fruit), avocados (we are addicted, so this is a weekly thing). Every other week, cheese and eggs. We can go for long stretches on just these things. Fresh produce is coming in from my family farm, so it’s eat as you go. Such as these figs with prosciutto. Dreamy.

Figs with prosciutto, crafted by The Youngest. TPCs Jr are big fans .

Figs with prosciutto, crafted by The Youngest. TPCs Jr are big fans .

So typical Weekly Menus are:

Sunday: Dine Out
I’m in NYC, so I’m doing field research. Italian? Cambodian? Brunch? Yes, yes, yes.

Malaysian dessert with a candle, complete with singing, from Laut in NYC.

Malaysian dessert with a candle, complete with singing, from Laut in NYC.

Monday: Pasta and Salad
The simplest of all meals, because you can add bacon and eggs and/or garden veggies, a squeeze of lemon and a dash of olive oil. Yes, you do have to keep your pantry and fridge stocked with a few basics, but keep supplies low.

Cheesy Rainbow Pasta Toss in the Toss Phase!

Cheesy Rainbow Pasta Toss in the Toss Phase! Use the pot’s residual heat to help blend everything.

Tuesday: Quesadillas and Ranchero Beans
Our go-to for fast food. Spinach quesadillas are a snap, and it’s not hard to fake long-cooking beans from a can.

Spinach Quesadilla and Ranchero Beans

Spinach Quesadilla and Ranchero Beans

Wednesday: Open Face Tuna Melt
This is the surprise hit of the summer. Can of tuna, drain, small amount of mayo, healthy dose of Dijon mustard, sweet relish, splash of hot sauce. Put on bread, sprinkle cheese, toast. Serve in squares with fruit.

Peanut Butter Tuna Salad on Celery: Mobile Lunch

Peanut Butter Tuna Salad on Celery: Mobile Lunch

Thursday: Sausage and Pierogie
This is one of those family favorite meals. Super-easy as well. Serve with applesauce and Brussels sprouts.

Friday: Tapas
We’ll be serving whatever is left, tomatoes and cukes from the farm, apples and cheese, on bread that’s been toasted.

Open-faced tomato sammie, or tapas!

Open-faced tomato sammie, or tapas!

Saturday: Dine Out!
More adventure eating fun. Or perhaps a nice long round of batch cooking. 🙂

What are you eating this summer? Send your ideas! We’re eating a lot of food with chopsticks: Burmese, Korean, Japanese, Chinese. Food just tastes better that way! The runner up with with our hands: Ethiopian, Indian, Pakistani. It’s been quite the world tour.

Where we eat many meals these days--in the air!

Where we eat many meals these days–in the air!

Send extra candles, good ideas, and legitimate questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up (next) Wednesday: An Ode to Eggs, Recipes for Survival **Due to the total publish fail on my part, we are going to delay this post a week. Will be back on track Sunday with menus and ideas!**

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Obika Mozzarella Bar Reviewed! (Los Angeles)

Gentle Reader, since The Practical Cook kitchen is collecting dust right now from lack of use, it seems appropriate to share a great new find from the road. Also, when you have the opportunity to eat Italian food with an Italian after driving to L.A. in a convertible on a beautiful day, you do it and say thank you. That, Gentle Readers, is good practical advice, pun intended.

It doesn't count as a power lunch unless there's something bubbly. (Champagne at Obika Mozzarella Bar)

It doesn’t count as a power lunch unless there’s something bubbly. (Champagne at Obika Mozzarella Bar)

I digress. Enter Obika Mozzarella Bar, part of a chain (not in the bad way) of independently operated restaurants worldwide. This was my first trip to Los Angeles, and Obika was the perfect introduction to a power lunch. Fueled by perfect weather, outdoor seating, a bottle of pink champagne (don’t judge, it’s L.A.), and food that was appropriate to the setting, I’m a fan.

Hello Hollywood. Thanks to my favorite Italian translator and producer, Luca @AmerigoFilm

Hello Hollywood. Thanks to my favorite Italian translator and producer, Luca @AmerigoFilm

We started with an appetizer platter that was reminiscent of Barcelona for me, featuring a plain mozzarella, a smoked one, a pesto, a smoky tomato sauce with almonds (the fact that I’m not still there swimming about in this one bears testimony to my self-discipline), and a caponata that was truly outstanding.

The appetizer platter was almost too beautiful to eat. Almost.

The appetizer platter was almost too beautiful to eat. Almost.

I have texture issues, and too often caponata is mushy. This was not at all, each ingredient stood on its own while playing well with others. Well done. Add bread crisps and a variety of cured meats, and I could have just stopped there. But I did not.

Actual pizza from a stone oven anyone?

Actual pizza from a stone oven anyone? Yes, we got that to go. Don’t ask.

Next course, pasta. Perfectly cooked, the pasta dishes were well executed. All of the food here features quality ingredients, and it shows. The simpler food is, the better the base ingredients need to be.

Pasta with red sauce FTW!

Pasta with red sauce FTW!

Ravioli, simple, classic, done right.

Ravioli, simple, classic, done right.

But let’s rush to the end, shall we? Dessert was a trio of tastes, small but intense, including a tiramisu and a dark chocolate torte. Yes I say.

A Mousse by any other name tastes delicious.

A Mousse by any other name tastes delicious.

The joy of eating outside in a great location watching people, eating great food, in a convivial atmosphere, can not be overstated. The caponata and the smoky tomato dips were standouts for me in a sea of right-sized bites. As you can see from the website, there are multiple locations–check for one near you and let me know what you think.

Tiramisu from Obika.

Tiramisu from Obika.

Until then, thanks to all for your continued support and suggestions. I continue to train for a 5k while on the road, in an attempt to balance my love for food with my whole life. I was struck again at this meal, when you have great food, you don’t have to eat tons of it. Just a little of something great lingers.

Sinfully dark chocolate torte.

Sinfully dark chocolate torte.

So today’s question, what are your favorite food cities to visit? I have the joy of taking a foodie friend through my town soon. Look for more reviews of NYC, NC, and everything chicken and waffles in between.

Send dinner invites, outdoor cooking challenges, and general mayhem to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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On Sunday, Weekly Menus, Birthday Style.

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Fast Food at Home (Lunch and Dinner Edition)

Gentle Readers, sometimes life doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for food preparation. In my job, I have the good fortune of being able to work from wherever there’s wifi. My kitchen is the corporate kitchen most days of the week. However, before you submit your resumes to me to pass along, be prepared to eat lunch on camera and to prep it in 3 to 10 minutes.

Speedy Salad: Strawberries, rotisserie chicken, almonds, goat cheese, greens.

Speedy Salad: Strawberries, rotisserie chicken, almonds, goat cheese, greens.

Yes, that’s right, there were no zeros missing from the above statement. I attend a lot of conference calls. I’m committed to being present in the meeting, so I use my webcam. The meetings run 30 minutes to an hour, and they’re often back to back. Because I work West coast hours, that spans the traditional lunch time. So I know quite a bit about fast food.

Open-faced tomato sammie, or tapas!

Open-faced tomato sammie, or tapas!

Dinner is 30 minutes or less by necessity. So fast food in the commercial sense is not really an option for me. Talking about quick meals with a chef friend, I asked what he made for himself when he was tired and wanted something easy. His answer: a roasted chicken with roasted potatoes and turnips.

Free form Mexican Meal made with The Jrs. Squash, guacomole, beans and rice, chips.

Free form Mexican Meal made with The Jrs. Squash, guacomole, beans and rice, chips.

Um, yeah, that’s not something I can prepare when I’m exhausted and it’s late! He even excused it as “rustic.” My point here, you have to work within your skill level and expertise. I can’t whip out a souffle or bi bim bap, but I can rock some pancakes, a quesadilla, or some tapas.

Spinach quesadilla with avocado slices FTW!

Spinach quesadilla with avocado slices FTW!

The Practical Cook’s 5 Tips for Making Fast Food at Home

1. Shop smart. I’ve been over this before, but stocking your pantry with Punt! meals that you can make in your sleep is key. You can’t eat the leg of your desk. Things I’m never without currently: peanut butter, bananas, bread, tortillas, spinach, cheese, yogurt, walnuts. I can make salads, sandwiches, parfaits, and more in seconds with these.

2. Plan ahead. This is a laudable goal, and I admire greatly those who succeed at it. This week, I’m happy to remember to dress in the AM. From my friend Literacy Cook, boil eggs in advance! From Complicated Veggie, pack lunch the night before! Go team! This could also include leaving leftovers in a state of near-readiness (single serving bowls, lined up in the fridge, etc.).

3. Practice. You’ll never get faster if you don’t. It may be years before I consider roasting a chicken and root veggies fast food (Chef tips: turn the oven on immediately when you get home, high heat and spatchcock the bird), but the more often I am forced to perform this dance, the faster I get.

4. Recruit help. I am fortunate in that The Practical Cooks Junior make excellent sous chefs and wait staff. They can now set the table, read labels, open jars, pour water and milk, and so on. It slows things down a bit short-term, but think of the long-term rewards!

5. Remain open. This bit of advice is as open as it sounds. You know what makes things fast? Not binding yourself to the notion of meat and three. You need nutritious food, not to win Iron Chef. Yogurt parfaits are fantastic and infinitely variable, cereal can work in a pinch, leave the top off your sandwich and eat it as tapas, throw random leftovers into a bowl of lettuce and call it salad.

The Juniors and I have embraced summer with 6 arms this year. We set aside dinner formality to work together, play together, and eat together. I’m sure the structure of a new school year will return us to more traditional meals as well, but we’ve learned a lot about being creative in the kitchen. They’ve asked that I do a breakfast edition of this post, so look for that soon. What do you eat for fast food? Share your ideas below!

Send your speedy suggestions, good ideas, and mayhem to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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On Friday, A Little Vegetarian.

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Weekly Menus: Week of 6/24/2012

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook must confess something, yet again. Please lean in close. Last week, I patently ignored my Weekly Menus. Wednesday is my CSA day, and it involves a visit to the Carrboro Farmer’s Market. At said market, there is a food cart from The Pig in Chapel Hill. The Eldest Practical Cook Junior can read. The Youngest Practical Cook Junior is not afraid to place an order. They had allowance money in their pockets and are experts at collaboration.

Hot Dog from The Pig with Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish

Hot Dog from The Pig with Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish

Two hot dogs later, we ended up having salad for supper. Thus is the rhythm of summer. A bit chaotic and vegetable fueled, with a fair bit of pig thrown in. Alas, I try, but bacon follows me.

Bacon Family Photo: We Just Can't Help Ourselves

Bacon Family Photo: We Just Can’t Help Ourselves

But I shall fight the good fight, and I’m putting out a menu again this week. However, I encourage you to fill your house with vegetables and then commit to using them. It’s summertime, and the meals should be easy.

Summertime starts with corn on the cob!

Summertime starts with corn on the cob!

So here is my weekly menu (aspirational):

Weekly Menus: 6/24/2012

Weekly Menus: 6/24/2012

And the Four-Square Grocery List to back it up:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 6/24/2012

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 6/24/2012

The CSA from Brinkley Farms includes:

1 dozen eggs
1 bundle swiss chard
1 bundle carrots
1 lb red tomatoes
2 green peppers

Which may or may not translate into:

Sunday: Cookout!
Happy birthday to The Practical Cook’s Mom. You don’t look a day over <redacted>. We’re having burgers, dogs, and watermelon, with a bunch of sides I’m not actually making. My SIL rocks, as does TPCM. I am however bringing Scotch Chocolate Cake:

Gratuitous Scotch Chocolate Cake Pecan-Side View

Gratuitous Scotch Chocolate Cake Pecan-Side View

Monday: Salmon, Green Beans, Potatoes, Fruit
The other joy of summer, guests! We are hosting almost once a week these days, and we are happy to be doing so this night. It’s a great time to cook a little bigger than usual, and break out some traditional favorites. For one of our guests, fruit is not optional, and it’s a great addition to the table in the summer.

Tuesday:  Sausage and Pierogies
I just have to keep the freezer clean! Still laden with the spoils of the winter and spring, I’m going to cook something heavier but string out the consumption of it.

Wednesday: Tapas Night!
If I get near the Farmer’s Market, I will buy something extra. I have goat cheese and bread at home, I can top it with a green and call it crostini. Mama Tapas, as we call it at Chez TPC, can be any series of small bites. Great way to use up bits and pieces of leftover food.

Crostini with Broccolini

Crostini with Broccolini

Thursday: Dine Out!
Okay, I’ve got an event. More on that, follow my Twitter stream for more details. I plan to leave the at-home team with either sammies or lasagna. Let’s see if it goes to plan.

Friday: Spinach Quesadillas
This says, Punt! I know I’ll be tired, there’s a big week ahead, and I predict feelings of laziness and exhaustion. Martha won’t mint this recipe, but the kids will eat veggies.

Saturday: Dine Out!
There is always more research to be done! Send a suggestion my way, and I’ll put it on the list!

Do you find yourself cooking more extemporaneously in the summer? Do you cook at home more or less now? Post a comment today! It’s free AND easy.

Send your birthday candles, fire extinguishers, and veggies to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Wednesday, Nuevo Southwestern Salad Recipe!

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Weekly Menus: Week of 12/18/2011

Gentle Readers, if The Practical Cook acknowledges that this is one of the last weekly menus of the year, she will pass out and hit her head, rendering her unable to finish out the year. So let’s move to other subjects, shall we? This is a busy time of year, and the menus will reflect that. If ever there was a time for Punting! and eating healthy/lightly between feasts and fests, this is it.

So here we go, the Weekly Menus for this week:

Weekly Menus: Week of 12/16/2011

Weekly Menus: Week of 12/16/2011

The accompanying Four-Square Grocery list (with last-minute Santa and baking items):

The Four-Square Grocery List: 12/18/2011

The Four-Square Grocery List: 12/18/2011

Which translates into:

Sunday: Sammies
This could be avocado and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, or quickie hummus, made from beans on hand. Point: It’s fast, because the Juniors and I have plans!

Monday: Sausage and gnocchi
We still have a load of pork to eat up in the freezer, and this is a quick and satisfying meal. Everyone likes it, can expand to feed more, etc.

Tuesday: Omelets with salad and fruit
The Eldest Practical Cook Junior asked for this one. Will keep the Youngest satisfied by including a carb: pancakes, waffles, grits.

Wednesday: Spinach Quesadillas
My go-to Punt! I like them, and we’ve started adding the avocado slices inside. Hello delicious.

Thursday: Rustic Tart
Not making promises, but I think this will be sweet potato, bacon, spinach, and goat cheese. I woke up from a sweet potato bacon dream the other day, and have been pondering how to make it a reality ever since.

Friday: Dine Out!
We interrupt our typical pattern for some holiday festivities. Including a Holiday Brunch. Oh, there will be time in the test kitchen for that one.

Saturday: Tapas!
Yes, after years of cooking everything ever, the troops voted for tapas for Christmas Eve. As in pigs in a blanket. I’ve got more tapas up my sleeve, but the pigs (beef and veggie) are the stars. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

What’s on your list this week? And from sheer self-interest, if you’ve got a rocking brunch recipe/idea, send it my way! Post in the comments below, email me, Tweet at me, etc. I’m here listening, and dreaming of sugar plums (with bacon apparently).

Send coal or presents to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up next, One Ingredient, Three Ways: Tomato Paste Edition.

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Rethinking the Brown Bag Lunch

Gentle Readers, the mind boggles that it’s time for packing lunches again. Seriously, didn’t that part of the year just conclude? The Practical Cook is packing lunch for two individuals who will be hyped up and unable to focus for long. It is not a time for extended gourmet cuisine.

PB&J Fixings, Peaches, and Cottage Cheese

PB&J Fixings, Peaches, and Cottage Cheese

Here are The Practical Cook’s Top 5 Tips for Lunch Boxes:

1. Pack a few small things. We call it Mama’s Tapas here. Don’t overwhelm, but provide options. A small thing of fruit (grapes, blueberries, apple slices, cherry tomatoes), a protein (cheese cubes, nuts, cottage cheese), and a starch (Snapea Crisps, corn chips, bread, crackers) will do the trick.

2. Think seasonally. This heat wave is not the time for hot pasta.

3. Include a fortune cookie. If you’re not saving the fortune cookies from Chinese takeout, start today. It’s a treat, a reading lesson, and a Chinese lesson all in one. My youngest is running around saying “teapot” constantly now.

4. Ask for input. This is simple but often overlooked. During the grocery run today, I let them each choose something (with some guidance) for the lunch bag.

5. Buy a cool lunch container. I’ve gone over this one before, but I’m overly fond of the Bento box containers and the Land’s End lunch sacks. Inexpensive, built for the job, and customizable for the individual. I have a dark purple lunch box for myself. It helps.

What’s in your lunch box? Post a comment below or Tweet away.

Send your brown bags to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading the Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up next, Kitchen Tool Talk: Three More of My Favorite Things, Reorg Edition.

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