Saturday, September 29, 2012

There will be bacon

In honor of the impending bacon shortage (aka the apocalypse) and to keep a promise to blog about something even easier to cook than meatloaf, today we'll be talking about spaghetti alla carbonara, a classic Italian dish made by miner's wives that is cheap, easily made, and packed with protein.

There are two important things to understand about carbonara. The first is that less is more: don't feel the need to put in 7 slices of bacon because you'll lose all the fantastic subtlety that comes as a result of all the ingredients coming together. The second is that you can technically make carbonara with nothing more than parmesean cheese, bacon, eggs and pasta and get the general overview but putting other stuff in it makes it taste a lot better.

Regarding the baconpocalypse, you can blame the Brits and the American Midwest for shrinking herd sizes and a desire to cut production costs, respectively. So that said, eat all the bacon you can lay your hands on.

Oh also you can make carbonara with pancetta for a different, subtler flavor if the mood strikes you. I used parmesean reggiano instead of plain parmesean for a little bit of added bite but also because plain parmesean cheese doesn't seem to exist in Alicante. Criminal.

1/4 lb of spaghetti (two servings from the box)
2 eggs
1/3 c. finely grated parmesean cheese
2 slices bacon
1/4 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbs. dry white wine (optional)
1 pinch coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp. fresh parsley, minced

Respect that Oscar Meyer.

1. In a small saucepan, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove from pan and crumble into small pieces.
Set aside. Reserve the bacon grease.

2. In that same saucepan, saute the onion and garlic until translucent and fragrant. Add the white wine in the last minute or so of cooking. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. Cook pasta according to instructions on the box. While the pasta is cooking, lightly beat the eggs and grated parmesean together in a small bowl and set aside.

4. Drain the pasta and put back into the pot. Add the cracked pepper, the onion/garlic mixture and the crumbled bacon, stir well.

5.Let the pasta cool for a minute or so and then quickly add all of the egg and cheese mixture, stirring the pasta well the entire time to coat evenly. Continue to stir for 30 seconds or so to ensure that there is no liquid sticking to the sides of the pot. Serve immediately with the parsley and more grated parmesean if desired.

8:30 p.m. (approx.)
8:37 p.m. (approx.)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Let's just marinate

Beautiful, beautiful tuna steaks.
I could, and intend to, write an entire post about the glorious building that is Mercado Central: over 100 stalls selling dried fruits and nuts, eggs, bread and pastries, fresh fish and seafood, fruits, vegetables, goat heads, cheese, meats, the list goes on and on. Plus, it's supremely, superbly, gloriously inexpensive. Tommy and I bought about three pounds of produce for under 10 Euros and two hunks of tuna steak (fresh) for another 9.

The best part about the Mercado, besides the selection and the prices, is that it offers up the opportunity to practice your Spanish. This is an extra-special boon to me due to my inability to converse intelligently about anything other than edible products. The man we bought our chorizo and manchego from told me I spoke very well, the fish vendor asked where Tommy and I were from. So hmm.

Anyway, we bought these incredible tuna steaks that were from a fish that was allegedly caught that morning and probably weighed as much as I do. Really, truly, terrifyingly large.

The head was unavailable for me to see but if you are in the market to purchase seafood, check the eyes: if they're cloudy, the product is old and you should skip it. Shrimp, crayfish, prawns should all be firm to the touch and if I were you I'd ask the seller to de-vein them right then and there because it is a tricky, messy, endocrine business I'm sure you want nothing to do with. If they give you attitude, find a different seller. Same goes for buying fish you want filleted. That's typically part of a fishmonger's job so don't be shy about asking.

Anyway, back to the tuna. We cooked it later that night after marinating it at room temperature for just under an hour in an Asian-inspired marinade I made up off the top of my head. If you are in the states and can find Soy Vey Teriyaki sauce this would also work well (for beef and chicken too).

After marinating, we pan-fried the tuna for just a few minutes on each side and served it over fluffy white rice and it was so fucking good. The perfect combination of sweet, savory, tangy, salty deliciousness. If I had crushed red peppers (which I can't seem to find in this country), I would've added them too for a hint of heat and maybe some green onions.

Not to blow my own horn, but this marinade was the stuff of genius. It will certainly be made again very soon. Ditto the mojitos mixologist Tommy cooked up which were unbelievably good as well, perhaps due to the large amounts of sugar he added.

12 oz. fresh tuna, without skin
2 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. honey
1 tsp. soy sauce
Juice of 2 limes and 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
Cracked black pepper

1. Whisk all the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl and place the tuna steaks in there. Let marinate at room temperature for 45 minutes, turning the steaks once or twice.

2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook the tuna steaks for 2-3 minutes each side (depending on thickness). If you like your tuna seared (cooked on the outside and raw in the middle), cook only for a minute or two.

3. When the tuna is cooked through (it should flake into sections with your fork), remove from heat immediately and serve over rice.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

You say potato...

...I say oven fries.

My mom makes really delicious oven fries at home that are really simple: just olive oil, salt, pepper, granulated garlic and paprika. 

Those are good.

These are better.

These are a world away from any oven fries you've ever had.

Don't balk at the 8 cloves of garlic. Bask in it. Rejoice because of the beauty that is garlic.

I found the original recipe for this on which I highly recommend if you are desirous of attaining a food boner in class and moaning audibly so that everyone can hear you. It is the most sophisticated form of torture I know.

Anyway, the original recipe was a lot harder and had way too many finicky steps so I cut out a lot and changed the recipe itself pretty substantially. I made these to go with the meatloaf and they were a fantastic side dish. I fully intend to make them again, mostly because they don't sell singular potatoes at the grocery store we went to and now there are plus or minus 15 potatoes sitting in our cupboard waiting to be used. So get ready for potato (patata) palooza in the very near future.

But without further's best garlic oven fries.

3 medium sized russet potatoes, cut into quarters length-wise (so they're fry-shaped)
8 cloves of garlic, minced
5-6 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
3 tbs. bread crumbs
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the olive oil and the minced garlic and microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes, until oil is warm and garlic is fragrant.

2. Add the sliced potatoes to the bowl and toss to coat thoroughly; use your hands if you want to or a spoon if you prefer not to smell like an Italian restaurant for the next week

3. Cover the bowl tightly with saran wrap and microwave again on high for about 5 or 6 minutes to steam the potatoes until they are translucent around the edges. At 3 minutes, shake the bowl around to redistribute.

4. Get a large baking sheet with a high rim and dump the whole bowl on there. Make sure the bottom of the pan is well coated in the olive oil and arrange the potatoes so that they aren't touching each other.

5. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, kosher salt, cracked black pepper and garlic powder and whisk lightly. Sprinkle evenly over the potato wedges.

6. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 225 Celsius/440 Fahrenheit until golden brown and crunchy. Serve with ketchup, BBQ sauce, ambrosia, you name it. If you happen to be in the North Shore, these would be dank with the ranch dressing from Player's Grill in Highland Park.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


So a friend of mine from school, also studying abroad in Europe, requested that I write something about easy comfort food. If there's one thing I can call easy comfort food (besides pudding), it's meatloaf. Despite the wholly unappealing name, it is classic Americana, so easy to make, and cheap as hell too.

Meatloaf is really freaking hard to photograph in an attractive manner.
This post is entitled meathead for two reasons:

1. Meatloaf is the subject
2. I went to the gym at the University for the first time today

I'm just going to go ahead and let item number 2 speak for itself but on a very short tangent let me say this to boys:

Having a 25 inch waist and pectoral muscles substantially bigger than Kate Upton's boobs does not make you attractive. It makes you laughable. It's cool to want to be in shape, but looking like a World's Strongest Man reject will not get you any. It's fine to be skinny, it's fine to be built. It's fine to be triangular. It's fine to be oblong or spherical or whatever shape you want so long as you eat healthy and avoid HGH. A body is a gift from God but a misused body is a gift to no one. Also don't hit on girls at the gym because seriously fuck you.

Okay end of rant.

Anyway, this meatloaf took a really freaking long time to cook in my oven for whatever reason, and because I don't have a loaf pan (yet) it didn't have that yummy crust that meatloaf usually gets but it still tasted damn good. So there's that. If you don't have a loaf pan like me, you can just wrap the meatloaf in heavy foil smeared with a little bit of olive oil.

This meatloaf really was making me lose it. I double-checked a few different recipes on and THEY ALL HAD DIFFERENT COOKING TIMES. By serious lengths of time. Like 45 minutes. So we put the meatloaf in the oven expecting it to be done in under an hour and it JUST WASN'T. So frustrating. We ate dinner at a seriously Spanish hour, about 9:30 and by that time I was practically catatonic with rage and desire to eat my freakin' meatloaf.

When it was finally ready and all dunked in ketchup from (not stealthily) stolen ketchup packets, I was about ready to cry it was so tasty.

Tommy summed things up nicely with this choice quote from one of his favorite movies:

"Oh yeah, and one more thing: it's been emotional."

1-2 lbs. ground beef
1 small onion, finely chopped
3/4 c. bread crumbs
1 tsp. herbes fines, Italian herbs or herbes du Provence
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
1/4 c. BBQ sauce
1 egg, beaten
Brown sugar to taste

1. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix well using your hands.

2. Form into a large loaf (if using 2 lbs. of ground beef form 2 medium-sized loaves)
and place in the middle of the lightly greased loaf pan or olive oil.

3. Smear the top with BBQ sauce and sprinkle with brown sugar to taste.

4. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 60-90 minutes. Meatloaf is not an exact science. The meatloaf should only be just slightly pink in the center.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

We no eat Americano

Week 2 in Alicante has just ended and a fiercer craving for barbecue ribs I have never experienced. This is going to be a long couple of months. They don't even have ribs for sale here. Chicken heart, yes. Pork ribs, no. Something is wrong here.

Tommy and I discussed the idea of making dinner for his roommates -- a native Spaniard named Juanjo and his Italian girlfriend Claudia and another student, Luisa, from Germany -- and decided that we wanted to make a classic American dinner. This brainwave turned out to be more difficult than we initially expected. As I have discussed before, American food is mostly a melange of other cultures and there are very few things that are specifically ours. Meatloaf was nixed early on, as were burgers and hot dogs (both easily available throughout Alicante). Eventually we settled on oven fried chicken and potato salad.

The oven fried chicken was the same recipe I used for my friend Bernie's birthday back in April but came out even better this time because I actually crushed up the toast/cereal coating finely enough so that it stuck.

Oh by the way, the oven in Tommy's apartment where we were cooking is gas. Like you have to light it manually. And it shoots flames out in your face. And the chicken that took about 40 minutes to cook in my oven at school cooked in about 25 minutes in this apartment. Terrifying.

The potato salad we made was a slightly adapted version of pretty classic potato salad but with a little less mayo and the addition of apple cider vinegar which makes it a lot lighter and tangy in a good way. This recipe makes a ton, enough to feed about 8 people, but it will keep in the fridge, tightly covered, for a few days.

Also if you were wondering, it's very difficult to take an attractive picture of potato salad.

With that said, 'MURICA.


6 eggs, hard boiled
12-15 small yellow or red potatoes
4 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
3/4 c. Mayo
Scant 1/4 c. Dijon mustard
1 tbs. apple cider vinegar
Kosher salt, cracked black pepper to taste

1. Boil the potatoes in lightly salted water for about 12-15 minutes until soft. Remove from heat and run under cool water.
2. While the potatoes are cooling, roughly chop the hard boiled eggs and in a large bowl, combine them with the celery and onion.
3. Quarter each potato (or divide into eighths if the pieces seem too big) and add to the egg/vegetable mixture. Add the mayo and the Dijon and mix well with a large spatula until all the pieces are evenly coated.

4. Sprinkle the cider vinegar across the top and mix again. Season to taste with the kosher salt and pepper.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Let it burn

Let's talk about how I'm still learning to use my Spanish kitchen.

This includes making due without a garbage disposal or dishwasher (which is allegedly done in many places, though I refuse to believe this).

Also dealing with appliances that rely solely on hieroglyphic pictures and not words like "ON" "OFF" "DEGREES" "MINUTES" and other such useful words.

Plus the stove has two settings of flame: bigger than your fucking face and barely there. Joke's on me.

I'm not even going to delve into the issue of our oven which billowed smoke the first time Tommy and I tried to use it. European electronics are devilish and terrifying.

Anyway, I wanted to make an actual dinner for Tommy, something nicer than pasta salad, so we settled on chicken. Earlier this summer we made Greek lemon chicken with roasted vegetables together and it turned out really well so I wanted to spin off on that: herbes de Provence, paprika and lots of fresh lemon juice. I did not count on the stove trying to foil all my plans for a beautifully made romantic dinner.

Anyway, the chicken turned out a little burned on the outside but was still tasty on the inside. I think I added a little too much lemon juice and not enough of the other spices so I altered the recipe a little here. The olive oil pan-fries the chicken while the lemon juice steams it and infuses the flavor throughout the whole breast. You can probably use thighs for this recipe too but I'm a big wimp and I don't like bones or muscle or gristle in my dead animal.

2 large chicken breasts
1/3 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 c. EVOO
1/2 tsp. kosher or coarse sea salt
1/4 tsp. herbes de Provence
1/8 tsp. paprika or cayenne

1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the liquid ingredients and the spices until well combined.
2. Place the chicken breasts in a saucepan over medium heat and pour the spice mixture over the top.
3. Cover the saucepan and let steam for 8 or so minutes, flipping the breasts halfway
through, or until the juices run clear.

DO NOT TURN THE HEAT UP SUPER HIGH LIKE I DID because everything will start to burn and be all crappy tasting. Take it from me. Tommy said he liked it because he's a good boyfriend but I was less than pleased with the results of my overzealous flame usage.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The kitch is back

Where the magic will happen for the next 4 months
Hola from the beautiful coastal city of Alicante. It is currently 1:16 pm and Tommy is still passed out in my bed after a very strenuous breakfast. I'm finally over the worst of the jetlag and actually managed to throw together something decent, and worth recreating, for dinner last night. Let me say here that the produce in Alicante is truly great. And inexpensive. You could buy your weight in platanos for around 10 Euro. And don't even get me started on Kinder Eggs. I am all about those little dudes. In short, Spain is the shit.

Anyway, Tommy wanted to eat dinner at my place since the kitchen in his apartment is about the size of my bathroom at home (and it isn't a very spacious bathroom) so we hit up Corte de Ingles, one of the huge supermarkets near us, and picked up some seriously tasty produce for a kitchen sink pasta salad.

Here's the great thing about this pasta salad: it's totally malleable and there are about 100 different ways to cheat and make it easier. You can put anything you want in there and for seasoning, just use some bottled Italian dressing. Since we didn't have any of that, I just went with the random spices (tarragon, cinnamon and powdered garlic to name a few) that were in our apartment to begin with. If you're cooking for a crowd, make the entire box of penne but if not just 2 or so cups will be enough for about 3 people.

2 cups plus some penne pasta, cooked according to directions and cooled
1/4 cucumber, chopped
1/2 yellow or red pepper, chopped

1 small tomato, chopped
1 c. roasted chicken, cubed
1/2 c. cheese (manchego, mozzarella, cheddar)
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 tsp. chopped dried oregano
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder (or to taste if you don't like garlic so much)
1/8 tsp. sea salt


1. Place cooled penne in a large mixing bowl. Add cheese, chicken and vegetables and fold to combine.
2. Drizzle the olive oil over the top of the pasta mixture and stir to coat evenly. Sprinkle the spices one at a time, stirring after each addition to incorporate thoroughly. Serve at room temperature.

This will keep in the fridge, covered, for a few days before the cheese and vegetables start to go soggy.

Tommy enjoying his delicious pasta salad made by the best girlfriend of the 21st century.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Kiss me and smile for me

My knives are packed, I'm ready to go / I'm standing here outside the kitchen / Wishing I could've fit my Calphalon pans.

Seriously though. I'm all packed, finally. My checked luggage is exactly 17 pounds over the 50-pound weight limit. I'm not taking anything out.

This will be goodbye for a little while, until I figure out my internet/cooking situation in Alicante. Our apartment allegedly has internet but that remains to be seen. I also don't know what our kitchen will be like. I'll try and post updates on Twitter (@BiteMeBlog) when I can't write a full post here.

Stay hungry, keep eating, and don't think I've forgotten about you. The best is yet to come.