Sunday, February 22, 2015

Cold as Rice

I genuinely feel sorry for all of my friends and family in the States right now. I do not envy you the current, fearsome cold snap that FROZE Niagara Falls and dumped so much snow on the Northeast that Mayor Martin Walsh of Boston in a public statement legitimately encouraged people to stop jumping out of their second-story windows into the drifts.

Today in Almería it was so warm that I walked around without a coat on. Tommy currently has about 40 sprouted watercress seedlings on our front terrace. I would not trade with you guys for all the paella in Valencia (although I do envy your central heating in a fearsome way).

It's hard to want to do much more than huddle around a fireplace with a gallon of tea and a heated blanket when the weather is so nasty, but you do have to eat somehow. And since driving conditions across much of the country are incredibly dangerous, it's better to cook at home rather than order in and force some poor delivery kid to fight icy roads or go out to eat and take the risk yourself.

Thusly I present to you a 30-minute meal that will warm you up ("stick to your ribs," my mom would say), cost you very little and utilize probably what you already have in your fridge at home: brown rice primavera.

Primavera means spring in both Spanish and Italian, so while the weather outside might still be frightful, this recipe loaded with bright greens will help distract you for a short while. Typically, primavera is a pasta dish. Subbing the pasta with brown rice, however makes it much healthier and gluten free, if that's your jam (#Gluten4Life). This recipe comes together even quicker if you use a rotisserie chicken but you could also just use any chicken you have on hand; give it a quick sauté with EVOO, salt and pepper and you're good to go. Also feel free to add any other veggies you have lying around that need to be used up. I can see zucchini and carrot ribbons both being very tasty. If you want to get crazy, sub the brown rice for quinoa or another grain. It'll be good no matter what most likely

Ultimately, keep your chins up. The cold weather won't last forever, unless you are unfortunate enough to live somewhere like Saskatchewan. Just remember how miserable you are now when you're complaining about humidity in August. Really, which would you prefer?

1 c. brown rice, cooked according to directions
2 tbs. EVOO
1/2 c. finely chopped red onion
1 bunch asparagus, woody ends snapped off and chopped into 1.5" spears
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. fresh or frozen peas
1 1/2 c. shredded cooked chicken
2 c. chopped baby spinach leaves
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c. parmesan cheese to serve

1. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook until fragrant.

2. Add the asparagus and cook just until bright green and tender, about 5 or 6 minutes. Add peas and continue to cook for another few minutes.

3. Stir in chicken and rice. Add the spinach and stir until it is just wilted, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately with a sprinkle of parmesan.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

U-G-L-Y You Ain't Got No Alibi

Not all food is pretty. More specifically, not all GOOD food is pretty. Examples like three-bean chili, almost any form of stew and oysters leap to mind. Tastes good, looks like dog food. Such a pain to photograph.

To quote Jonathan Swift (who was surprisingly sassy): "He was a brave man who first eat an oyster."

But just because dinner is ugly doesn't mean you should hate. Embrace the homely. Encourage it to pluck its eyebrows and dress for its body type. Try and arrange it lovingly on a bed of rice or quinoa. Wait. I'm confused.
This is my best Catholic friend who is giving up everything for Lent. 

In honor of one of my best friends who is giving up all things delicious for Lent, (including meat, eggs, fish, cheese, refined carbs and beer) dinner tonight is a quick red-bean stew. It's super-fast, vegan, malleable and keeps well in the fridge. It's vaguely reminiscent of bean chili but with less of a Tex-Mex flavor profile.

I've served it over rice and quinoa both but feel free to experiment with other grains like farro and freekeh. Make sure to use something with good texture though because otherwise it'll be a big pile of mush. If you're feeling fancy it would also pair well with cornbread.

Feel free to adjust the spice levels to your liking. Sweet corn, jalapeños and shredded chicken are all good additions as well. The original version of this recipe started out with cubed, seasoned chicken as one of the main ingredients but in order to keep it lower-impact Tommy and I have stuck to making it vegan.


3 or 4 cans red beans (depending on how large a batch you'd like to make)
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1/2 mild green pepper, chopped
3-4 tomatoes, chopped OR 1 can diced tomatoes in juice
3 tbs. EVOO
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp. very spicy ground red pepper or crushed reds (adjust to taste -- what we've been using packs a powerful punch)
1 c. vegetable stock

1. In a large stock pot, sautee onion, green and red peppers

until the onion is starting to brown and get fragrant. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until the tomatoes begin to break down.

2. Add all seasonings and cook for another minute or two more until flavors combine.

3. Add the beans and cook, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes or until the beans start to break down. Add the stock and stir to combine. Let simmer for another 5 minutes or so. Serve over rice/quinoa/etc.

NOTE: Tommy likes to mash the beans against the side of the pot to give it a smoother texture. I personally prefer leaving the beans whole but it's up to you.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mini Me

Unless you live under a rock, you know that Valentine's day is coming up. This Saturday. Boys, that gives you three whole days to scrape together a halfway decent present.

And FYI, if you go to Jared, she's going bye now. Seriously, have some self respect.

And while I'm on the subject, every kiss might begin with "K" but every fight does too. Even if the jewelry from Kay's wasn't fugly, I don't think I could buy it because their advertisements are so damned painful to watch.

But anyway, sometimes you don't have the dinero to buy your S.O. heart-shaped bling or whatever sentimental tchotchke. That's why it's helpful to know how to cook, regardless of your gender.

I know it sounds all repressed and 1950s but ladies, knowing how to cook a nice meal says so much more than "I have my MRS. degree and I am frothing at the mouth to bear your children." It also says: "I took the time to make something nice for you that you can't buy in a store" and "I know what you like to eat besides a spicy chicken sandwich from Chik-Fil-A." It's personal and sweet and that old adage that the way to a boy's heart is through his stomach is TRUE with a bullet. How do you think I've landed all my boyfriends? Not just with my feminine wiles and biting wit. Nothing says settle down and date me like a dozen banana muffins with cinnamon pecan topping.

A nice girl knocks on a boy's front door and waits there. A smart girl goes around back with a freshly-frosted cake and climbs in through a window.

Or you know, does her own thing and doesn't wait around for some dude. Either way.

And boys, being able to cook a few nice things looks very good on your transcript too. Because a sad number of millennial males are total bozos in the kitch, if you can throw together a reasonable plate of chicken and veggies (or really anything besides boxed pasta) you are in like sin. Plus you look cute in an apron.

Therefore I present to you mini frittatas. They are easy as anything, look adorable, and take very little effort. Although I strongly discourage breakfast in bed for a number of reasons (crumbs in the sheets, everything gets cold, hard to get comfortable with a loaded tray on your knees), these are perfect for a late breakfast or brunch. Depending on when you wake up. Ahem.

All you have to do is slice up some fruit, toast some nice crusty bread or shell out for decent pastries and you have a damn fine meal on your hands. It's less stressful than having to cook a whole dinner and they keep well in the fridge too. Can you say breakfast on the go? They're also easily customizable so load them up with anything and everything you can think of. Broccoli, cheddar, peppers, sausages, ham chunks, tomatoes, spinach, feta, green onions -- the frittata is your oyster. Which is an aphrodisiac, by the way.

(Makes about 16)

8 eggs
1/4 c. skim milk
1/4 c. chopped fresh spinach
1/4 c. cubed feta
1 medium tomato, cubed
1/2 c. red pepper, cubed
1/3 c. onion, diced and divided
1 spicy sausage (andouille, chorizo) link or 2-3 small breakfast sausages
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Grease a muffin tin and preheat the oven to 350.

2. In two separate pans, gently sautée the spinach with half the onion and the red pepper and sausage with the other half until cooked through.

3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until blended but not too frothy. Add the milk, salt and pepper to taste and whisk again.

4. Divide the egg mixture among the muffin cups, filling each about one-third of the way

Add your fillings of choice, and finish with more egg.

5. Bake for about 20 minutes or until firm in the center. Run a butter knife around the frittata to loosen and serve immediately.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

First of all, let me apologize for the recent radio silence. Tommy and I moved to a new apartment and only just got our internet set up, no thanks to the perennially awful Orange.

Anyway, it is currently 55 degrees in my bedroom. It is currently 57 degrees outside. People are always telling me, "Oh Jess, you're so lucky to be living in Spain! I bet it's so nice and warm there!"

Well I'm calling bullshit. Yes, maybe we don't have to contend with a polar vortex or blizzards that would make your average midwesterner consider staying off the roads, but at least YOU ALL IN AMERICA HAVE CENTRAL HEATING.

I'm currently wearing a long sleeve thermal shirt, a wool sweater, a hoodie and a scarf. There is a blanket over my legs and one wrapped around my shoulders. I have given up on my ears and nose. They are being sacrificed to the weather gods.

Yesterday, Tommy and I were so cold that we just went and got back in bed under all 3 blankets in our fleece sheets (not flannel, FLEECE -- they are the effing greatest. It's like sleeping in a sweatshirt that's still all fuzzy) and took my travel alarm clock which has a thermometer under there with us. We huddled like two sad rabbits in a fuzzy rabbit warren and watched the numbers tick up degree by degree until it was confirmed that it was at least 20 degrees colder outside of the blankets. This depressed us somewhat.

Spain is great for a lot of reasons but apartment construction is not one of them. Stone captures all that cold and damp really effectively.

So to combat these bone-chilling temperatures, I'm giving you guys a recipe that will warm you right up...because it is spicy as all hell. Nothing like some good chili pepper sweats to make you forget that your pinky finger is starting to turn the color of a blueberry!

This recipe is incredibly easy and incredibly delicious as well. You would think that avocado and salmon don't go well together but you would also be wrong. Gotta get that good fat as TMo would say. This pairs nicely with some toasty brown rice to bring the flavors all together. Feel free to reduce the levels of heat if you're sensitive to spice but I think it's pretty damn delicious as is.

I made this in a George Foreman grill because they are the greatest invention ever but you can also grill the salmon or use your broiler. Just don't overcook it because ew.

Speaking of salmon, Tommy and I got the best piece of salmon I've ever tasted a few weeks ago. It was so mild and delicious it honestly was like eating pure butter. I love living in a coastal city. Seafood for everybody! Seafood for all! You get a fish and you get a fish and you get a fish everybody gets a fish!


For the Salmon:
2 lbs. of salmon, cut into 4 pieces
1 tbs. EVOO
1tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp. crushed reds
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

For the Avocado Salsa:
2 avocados, diced
1/2 small red onion, roughly chopped
Juice from 2 limes
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1-2 tbs. finely chopped cilantro or parsley (I use parsley because cilantro tastes like soapy dishwater to me)
Salt and more crushed reds (if desired) to taste

1. Combine spice mixture in a small bowl.

2. Rub salmon fillets with EVOO and spice mixture, coating evenly. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (but no longer).

3. While the fish is chilling, combine all ingredients for the avocado salsa and chill.

4. Grill, George Foreman (I just made that a verb), or broil the salmon until flaky and no longer translucent in the center, about 5-8 minutes depending on thickness of the fillet.

5. Serve the salmon with a hefty dollop of avocado salsa on top.