Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid

Our Madrid portion of the trip is almost coming to a close, and I must say, I am sad to leave this city. This city is vibrant day and night, and  I have met the kindest people and everyone really goes out-of-the-way to help in any way they can. The weather was just perfect and the food…. Well!!! You must come here as I cannot even begin to describe the flavors, sauces and the textures. Restaurants in every corners, a real food delight.

On our city expedition we made it a point to visit the Mercado de San Miguel. Using the word Mercado, I was expecting vegetables stands, chickens all lined up to be taken home and cooked at home, and Jamon and charcuteries. Where to begin to tell you how exciting this place is? First of all, each stand is specialized in a specific food, what I mean is that you will found a stand that only sells oysters, another one only Jamon and sausages, and another just crab meat and anything you can create with crabmeat, empanadas filled with all sorts of goodies… I can go on forever but you get my point.

The place is packed from business ladies and gentlemen, to friends meeting for a quick-lunch bite, to tourists like me that are just mesmerized and taking it all in.

We, I guess the me of we, just had to have a few snack of tapas, empanadas, and croquettes.

With a very filled and happy stomach, I share those few pictures with all of you.

Giangi

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Tapas of Goat Cheese and Red/ Black Caviar eggs

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Tostas, antipasto and pasta

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Bread and stuffed bread and more Spanish dishes

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Do you crave crab? Here is a huge selection of crab prepared in the shape of a sandwich, a salad…

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Tapas and more tapas. Love the potato wrapped around the prawn

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You select your fish and they will cook it how you like it under your eyes in minutes

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Jamon and more Jamon. Do not forget those cute little cups filled with sausages prepared with different spices and aged to different stages

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Mercado de San Miguel from the outside

Love and Romance in Barcelona

Barcelona, what a beautiful city!! I love it here. I am in complete awe about the architecture. Every building is different; every building has a story to tell. On our first day we walked alongside the port and decided to take the Funicular de Montjuic, or gondola, from the port to the Parc of Mirador. Spectacular sights of the whole city. No taxis in sight therefore we decided to brave it and walk back down to town. By doing so we stumbled upon the maritime Museum of Barcelona. Enjoyed it immensely. They are having an exhibit of oil painting under water. Truly amazing.

Christopher Columbus plaza led us into the old Town Center. Little streets, no cars and lots of architecture. Restaurants, bars, shops everywhere. Walked and walked never got tired and took in all the beauty that the town has to offer.

We made it a point to visit The Sagrada Familia, an exceptional place of worship based on the traditional Gothic and Byzantine Cathedrals . Started in 1866 and still a project in the making with ongoing construction of the west sacristy and the central towers. and with a proposed finished date of 2027. Towers, play of colored windows that portray the coolness of the morning and the warmth of the afternoon sun. If ever in Barcelona, a must see. I cannot describe the beauty and the overwhelming feeling. The internal structure will keep you peeled to the walls, staring at the ceilings and all the intricate stone work.

Walking around town we came across this tiny entry way with a board of tapas, Bodega La Puntual. Our stomachs brought us in. Small galley entry which opened on a huge room. We got seated and menu in hand placed our order for tapas.

Anchovies marinated in vinegar and served with olive oil and green olives, pickled mussels, cockles with a lemon oil sauce, cod fritters, Classic Russian salad and grilled octopus with potatoes parmentier. Yes… we eat all that. The wonderful thing about tapas you just taste, and taste we did. My favorite: the cockles, cod fritters and grilled octopus with potatoes parmentier. The parmentier is made of mashed potatoes that is passed thru a food mill to reduce to a fine cream, some olive oil and pimiento oil over it lightly, and here you have a delicious creamy parmentier . Of course all this with a great glass of sangria.

The tapas menu is mouthwatering and to satisfy all appetites. From a snack with little bites, to sharing, a palate teaser, to finish with a more copious plate of food.

The restaurant got packed and busy in no time. I had the opportunity to talk to the manager, Miriam, who, even though was busy running from table to table, took the time to talk to me.

A definite place to visit while in Barcelona and definitely will go back.

I am leaving you today with a few pictures from Barcelona and our lunch.

xoxo

Giangi

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The Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

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Morning light reflection thru the window panels, cool hues

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Afternoon light reflection thru the window panels, warm hues

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Interior pillars symbolizing elevation towards God

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External façade representing the death of Christ

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View from above of the coastline

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Columbus monument from the gondola

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Marinated anchovies, pickled mussels, cockles, Classic Russian salad and Cod fritters at the Bodega La Puntual

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Grilled Octopus with Potatoes Parmentier

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Miriam and me.

San Fermin Festival, Pamplona Spain

Our journey is taking us to Spain. We decided to start in San Fermin with the annual La Feria Del Toro, or running of the bulls, in the city of Pamplona. Festivities are held from July 7 to the 14 each year.

It is said that over a million people come down into this little town. I can believe it.

This tradition started in the 14th century when cattle merchants come into town with their animals, and that is when bullfighting came to be organized.

To facilitate things, the religious ceremonies honoring Saint Fermin was moved from October to July to take place at the same time.

Opening speech, musicians, tournaments, theater, bullfights dances and even fireworks all started during the medieval times. The bull running came along around the 17th century.

During the olden day’s young men would save all their monies throughout the year and looked forward to watch the running of the bull, having a snack and wine, and eat churros with brandy a couple of times each San Fermin day.

The festival start with the official gathering in the main plaza, where the city officials give their blessing at noon. Everyone is dressed in white pants and white shirt, with a red waist sash and a red bandana. At noon all he bandanas are held up high over everyone head and shaken. I must see sight. Red all over. Fireworks, confetti’s, loud chants and the holiday is officially on her way.

In the early part of the afternoon, the 15th century statue of Saint Fermin is accompanied through the old part of Pamplona by thousands.

The first city bull run is always on the second day, where thousand upon thousand will run in front, with, alongside, or just run to get into the arena, where six bulls and six steer are lead into. The event starts at eight in the morning sharp.

Every afternoon corridas takes place with the six bulls that have been driven to the bullring during the morning bull running.

Now, this is not for the faint of heart. There is such an art to the corridas which is hard to explain. However, what always fascinates me is how the locals celebrate the corridas by drinking champagne and eating small sandwiches.

On a side note, Ernest Hemingway’s book, The Sun Also Rises and the reports that he made as a journalist, brought worldwide attention to this place.

Here are some pictures from yesterday events.

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San Fermin, Spain

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Ernest Hemingway

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Everyone waiting for noon

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Pablo Hermoso de Mendoza

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Leonardo Hernandez

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Morning churros with chocolate, yummy!!!

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The runners all in from running

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Bulls in the arena

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The steer comes in the arena to bring the young bull in the pit.

Clafoutis and Me…

As I mentioned yesterday, today’s class was about desserts. Apricot Clafoutis and Profiteroles.

I was told to be at La Serviette Blanche, at four-thirty for the five o’clock class. When I arrived, Eliane sat me down at the dining room table to go over the recipe (Apricot Clafoutis and Profiteroles) for the class. That’s when she announced that I was to teach the class. Apparently, my face froze and I was speechless. That is something quite rare for me. Sheer panic! I have never taught a class before and never thought I would have the patience for it.

After looking over the recipe though, I knew I could do it. I have done many Clafoutis in my life, and besides, Eliane was there so I was not alone on this one. So, with all the ingredients, measuring cups, bowls…We were ready.

Right on time, a great group of young Americans came in and the fun began. Brothers, sisters, significant others, friends. It was great! In the midst of laughing, talking, measuring and baking, the Apricot Clafoutis was done and we were ready to move on to the Profiteroles. Mmm good!

I must admit, I loved every minute of teaching the class. It was thrilling and so exhilarating. The group was fantastic and that made it easy and even more fun.

Giangi

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Chef Eliane at La Serviette Blanche with her class

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Apricot Clafoutis

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Old Cannes

Bistro Cooking Class in Cannes, France… Love and Romance around the world…

The internet is a wonderful thing. Six years  ago, through a food picture I posted on this blog, a great lady, Eliane, commented. From there, a great virtual relationship began. Eliane is a professional chef, trained under a Michelin Star chef. Even more, Michelin placed her in their listing as a recommended chef, including her cooking school and restaurant, La Serviette Blanche. How cool is that?!?

Though she lives in the south of France (Cannes), and I live in Arizona, we managed to keep in contact via messenger, emails and this wonderful world of social media. Through the years we have gotten to know each other personally and she has been the inspiration of a lot of my menus. We have shared our recipes, prepared them, then shared them with you.

Fast forward six years and my travels have brought me here to Cannes, to at last meet my wonderful friend. I must say, it was quite emotional. So, here I am, sitting with her in her living room, sharing as if we have known each other all our lives. A dream for me.

As a treat, she invited me to attend two of her cooking classes. The one I am sharing today is “Bistro Cooking”. The second, “Desserts”, will be my next post.

We started with deep fried anchovies with capers, olive oil and lemon. A treat served as an “apero bite”, with a glass of cold rose. Bordelaise Hanger Steak with French Fries and Garlic Spinach followed.

The experience was out of this world for me. Seeing firsthand techniques that you will never be able to learn via books. I cannot explain the feeling I had. I came out from her class on cloud nine and with a new love for garlic, as I learned how to make it into a paste. We used it with every part of our meal. Yum! I think you will see more of it on my cooking from now on.

How to baste and let rest the meat. How to perfect French Fries. I can go on for ever and ever.

But, it gets better…. She is coming to Arizona, staying with me and giving cooking classes in the fall, right out of my kitchen. Yes!! I am still pinching myself. A treat to celebrate the launch of my new site.

So… I am leaving you with these few pictures of my experience  from the Bordelaise that Eliane prepared for us.

Giangi

Sardines deep fried

Deep Fried Sardines with Capers, Olive oil and Lemon Juice.

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Hanger Steak basted with butter

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Bordelaise Sauce

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Chef Eliane having fun with the camera

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La Serviette Blanche fun cooking group

Spaghetti alle Vongole

Our trip to Italy is coming to an end, but before moving on to our next big adventure, I have one more recipe from Chef Riccardo that he kindly prepared and shared with me, and I could not wait to pass it along to all of you.

Spaghetti alle Vongole. Easy to prepare and I know you will want to have seconds.

Enjoy and stay tuned for our next adventure to…..

Giangi

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SPAGHETTI ALLE VONGOLE

¼ cup parsley, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved

1 pound of Spaghetti

2 pounds of clams

1/3 cup of white wine

Olive oil

Grissini or day old bread, sliced to make rough bread crumbs

Put clams in water and add salt to open them and clean them. Shake them and change the water twice. Remove all broken clams and set aside.

In a large pot add water, add salt and cook over high heat.

In a large skillet Sautee garlic with olive oil, parsley. Add the clean clams and the white wine. Cover and let steam them.

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Cook the spaghetti according to package directions, they must be al dente.

When the spaghetti are ready, add them to the skillet with the clams and cook lightly. Add some spaghetti cooking water, the pasta must be wet, shake in the pan to toss all the ingredients together.

Add bread crumbs and serve hot.

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Trying to toss under the watchful eye of Chef Riccardo

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Having fun.

Love and Romance Around the World, Paella Valenciana

Our journey in Italy continues. We are having a fantastic time with my older brother and our son is beside himself spending time with his cousins and the extended family. Lunch under the terrace for twelve it’s an everyday affaire, a blessing, and we love every seconds of it.

In the mist of this big family group, there is also a chef, Riccardo. Him and I can spend hours talking food. He loves new flavors, blending spices and using new ingredients and he is always looking for a new way to create a new dish for the restaurant he owns, Dixie Duke in Alessandria.

Somehow we got to talk and Paella come up. Next thing I knew all the ingredients were on the kitchen counter in my brother kitchen and the preparation began.

Chopping, roasting, talking, steaming shellfish. The soccer game was on, it’s Italy after all, and Italy was playing. I can only let you imagine the vivid conversation that was taking place while we were in the kitchen and since my brother has an American style kitchen, I had no choice to partake in the game.

Dinner was enjoyed outside under the beautiful Italian sky. Plates being filled, glasses with wine were clinking and laughter could be heard from afar.

Enjoy this wonderful Paella Valenciana. The recipe is for twelve persons and not a kernel of rice was left behind.

Giangi

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PAELLA VALENCIANA

2 pounds or 1 kg rice Arborio or Spanish rice

4 small envelopes of saffron (50 mg)

1 red pepper

1 yellow pepper

¾ pound or 350 gr French strings beans

1 pound or 450 gr baby small peas

1 ½ pound or 700 gr or 1 large chicken breast, skinless and boneless

1 ½ pounds or 700 gr chorizo sausage – mix between hot and mild

¾ pound or 300 gr rabbit

4.5 pounds or 2 kilos mussels

2 pounds or 1 kg clams

10-12 large shrimps

400 gr prawns -scampi or langoustine

6 calamari, fresh, sliced into ½ inch disks, save the tentacles

10.5 cups (84 oz) 2.5 liters’ chicken broth

Olive oil

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 400° and place the bell peppers in a cookie sheet and roast them for around 35-40 minutes or until the skin is roasted and comes off. When ready, peel the skin off under cold water, remove the inside seeds and cut the pieces into chunks.

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Cut in small dices the chicken and rabbit – about 1 inch thick.

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Remove the casing from the chorizo sausages and slice into small pieces.

Put clams in cold water and add salt to the water. This process will open them and will clean them. Shake them and toss all the broken pieces.

Remove the brown beard or strings from the mussels and toss all the broken pieces.

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Blanch the green beans in salted water for 5 minutes. Drain and let it set in cold water with ice until ready to use to keep the green color.

De-shell the prawns and leave the tail intact.

Cut the back of the langoustine with scissors.

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Cooking:

In a large skillet add olive oil, couple of tablespoons of water, mussels and steam them covered until the mussels are open. Around 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside.

In a large Paella pan, add olive oil, chorizo pieces, chicken and rabbit. Cook over medium high heat and break down the chorizo with the back of a spoon.

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Add the peas and mix well.

Add the calamari, green beans and mix.

Add the rice by forming a cross and spread evenly around the pan by adding the chicken stock.

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Meanwhile in the hot oven, at 400°, place the langoustines in a cookie sheet and cook in the hot oven for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Add the saffron to the rice until the rice is golden yellow. You may want to add more saffron if needed. Mix well and carefully to insure that the mixture will not go overboard.

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Assemble the dish:

Open 1/3, or 20 pieces, of the mussels and split the half shell and keep the mussels in the other half shell.

Take the other shells, open them, remove the internal mussel and add it to the cooking juice. Add the juice and mussels to the rice pan.

Add he shrimps to the rice mixture.

Place the langoustines around the rice dish as well as the half open mussels.

Place in the warm oven for around 10 minutes or until the rice is dried out.