Leggo Cup

14 10 2010

Ladies and gentleman, thanks to the immaculately fabulous taste of housemate Hector, my breakfasts have been upgraded.

My schedule requires me to madrugar twice a week, rising at the illustrious hour of 6 AM – during which Madrid is still fully entombed in its sheath of night. Yet the pain of rubbing the crusty remnants of sleep from my protesting eyeballs is soothed over: I am not alone. The Lego buddy is from Zaragoza, and he has 16 possible facial configurations in all. The pleasure of a slew of combinational possibilities is not to be scoffed at.

But soft! What spoon through yonder eggshell breaks?

It is the egg, and the yolk is the sun!
Arise, fair yolk, and kill the envious madrugada,
who is already sick and pale with grief
that thou her maid art far more creamy than she.





Cooking, Spanish-Style: Round 1

3 10 2010

After the exquisite lunchfeast in Toledo, I feel inspired to dabble in the realm of Spanish cuisine. My reasons for not doing so before are twofold:

1. In Thailand, it is a bit on the foolish side for a foreigner to cook any variety of Thai food at home – it’s quicker, cheaper, and likely more delicious to buy it from the street. This isn’t the case in Spain, and I’ve had to adjust my thinking.

2. I’ve never been impressed by tortilla española.

Eating with Alvaro is a beautiful reminder that there are many facets to every branch of cuisine, and that there is a whole host of very good reasons why Spanish food is currently so in vogue. Family-style dining is popular and fairly inexpensive if you manage it right, and the range of flavors is decent, especially when it comes to regional specialties.

Our unanimous favorite from Toledo is asadillo manchego, a cold tomato-based dish with hard-boiled eggs, salty fish, and piquillo peppers. It’s the natural sweetness of the peppers that catches the tongue off-guard; it pairs lovingly with the fruity overtones of olive oil.

It’s certainly not the most high-profile Spanish dish, which is perhaps what causes such difficulty in encountering a proper recipe online (the one I’ve linked insists on the use of something called a “Thermomix Varoma”…). We first find the dish lacking in acidity; a few squeezes of an unconventional lime help brighten the mix, but it’s still lacking in magic. We munch it regardless. Interestingly, after the few remaining bites have sat in their own juices for about thirty minutes, the flavors seem to have developed – most notably that of the dash of cumin. I’ll be trying this one again, next time preparing it in advance to see what happens.

I remember loving a rice dish my Valencian host made me a few years back that included the combination of garbanzo beans and raisins, which I never would have thought to put together. The internet informs me that arroz con pasas y garbanzos is well-known as a Valencian specialty. My version includes chicken, because everyone likes extra protein, and lacks colorante alimentario, because no thank you.





Breakfast/Banking/Asian Market

14 09 2010

Each morning I’ve been enjoying a bountiful breakfast to get me energized for the rigors of the day.

My medium-boiled eggs have been made even more cutesy with the discovery of our kitchen’s very own eggcup.

MASTER CRUMBLE balances out the adorable with a ferocious blend of muesli, dried fruits, and assorted seeds. I munch it with unsweetened yogurt and a daub of honey. Also pictured: my daily massive dose of caffeine, piping fresh from our cafetera.

Today I set out on the final errand of the Fulbright orientation trifecta (acquire a phone, snag a piso, apply for a bank account). Emily’s had excellent luck with the Banesto that the Fulbright office uses, which is a bit far from home but seems worth it to me for the convenience – they already know who we are and what peculiar difficulties we present. Once I begin speaking with a representative, I get to sit back and let her do all the worrying, which she does for the better part of an hour. In the end, though, I do get an official account, and further manage to deposit my very first Fulbright stipend. Yes, friends, I am flirting perilously with Adulthood.

In celebration, I decide to seek out the Asian market about which Heather, last year’s Fulbright ETA at José Luis Sampedro, has kindly tipped me off. I remember her wording it as being “underneath” Plaza España, but I don’t quite buy it, and first doy un paseo around the large square. No Asian market appears, just plenty of tourists milling conspicuously. After completing the circuit, I break down and ask a guy, who directs me to descend. Eh? Seemingly from nowhere, a flight of stairs plunges into the space beneath the fountains. I spelunk.

My pupils adjust to survey a dimly-lit corridor, lined by – sure enough – stores filled with Asian goodies. There’s a restaurant here as well, which Heather has strongly recommended as having extraordinarily superior dumplings. Undeterred by wafting scents of scallions and soy sauce, I beeline for the grocery section.

Rice noodles! Coconut milk! Sauces galore! I ought to have snapped a photo or three, but was too busy giddily filling my basket with curry paste. I am singlehandedly going to fill Arganzuela with spicy goodness.

See here a minor selection of my haul, crowned, naturally, by the essential Sriracha sauce.

After dropping off the goods, including three hefty bags of rice (jasmine, sushi, and sticky!), Em and I check out the produce housed below Mercadona. Many minor merchants have set up shop here, and you wander from jamón to huevos to melocotones, selecting what entices and paying as you go. We pick up various fruits plus eggplant, carrot, and chicken marked for immediate consumption in curry form.

Despite slight tribulations involving the insanely powerful induction stove, lunch comes out markedly riquisimo. The fresh basil adds a lovely toque of class.





Chilaquiles

13 09 2010

Emily and I lunched on chilaquiles for the second day in a row, and it was glorious.

This barely counts as a recipe; this is that delicious quick thing you throw together when you feel mega low-effort. This is why you keep your fridge stocked with eggs, salsa verde, and corn tortillas at all times. This is the powerluncher’s dream.

This is the recipe.

Chilaquiles
Isana Kobayashi style.

makes: you choose. 2 tortillas + 3 eggs makes a light lunch for two.
time: 5 minutes if you’re slow.

corn tortillas – maybe two, how hungry are you? You can get these from Corte Inglés if you must, but I spied a “Comida Latina” store somewhere near the center last night…
salsa verde – Corte Inglés also has this, but. See above.
eggs – I like 1.5 eggs per tortilla.
salt
oil – neutral is best but I have been making do with “Sabor Intenso” olive oil, so…
queso fresco – totally optional, totally delicious, totally cheap in Spain

1. Cut tortillas into bite-size strips.

2. Heat up some oil til it’s pretty hot. Toss tortillas in oil to coat and sprinkle with salt to taste; allow to brown til beautiful.

3. Beat eggs in a bowl on the side. Pour into pan when tortillas look ready. Scoot them around with a spatula, flipping as needed, until softly scrambled.

4. Turn off heat. Pour in desired amount of salsa verde. Top with queso fresco if desired and munch.