Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Easy Peasy & Asparagus Pasta

This blogger has now gone where she had never gone before - the land of meat. Well, I didn't really go there but I looked up recipes for Guille, went shopping for prosciutto, and told him how to incorporate it into the recipe. So, I didn't actually touch it but I did cook next to it. Yeah, marriage!

Spring just arrived and brought along some lovely English peas and asparagus.

While my vegetarian version of this pasta was delicious, I'm sure that the prosciutto added an extra level of flavor that many others can appreciate.

Pea & Asparagus Pasta (Prosciutto optional)
Adapted from yumsugar
  • 1 c. shelled fresh peas
  • 1 bunch of asparagus (or 3/4 pound), cut on the diagonal into 2 cm pieces
  • 2 1/2 cups dry bow-tie pasta
  • 1 T. (15 g.) butter
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • About 180 g. prosciutto, cut into ribbons (optional)
  • 1 small onion (can use green onion or shallot)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • Big pinch of salt (not much needed if using prosciutto)
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (substitute with stock if you don't have any on hand)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1-2 T. lemon juice (optional)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the chopped asparagus. After 2 minutes, add the peas. Cook another 2-4 minutes - until the veggies reach your desired texture - they should be tender but still have some pop. Remove veggies using a slotted spoon and immediately place in a bowl of ice water to shock. Return the veggie water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente, reserve pasta water.

Meanwhile, in a separate pan (or 2 pans if you're making 2 versions), melt butter and oil over medium heat. If using prosciutto, add now and cook for 2 minutes. Add onion and garlic and saute until tender (5-8 minutes), add salt and pepper. If using wine, add and turn up heat to medium-high for 3 minutes, then reduce heat back to medium. Add stock, cream, peas, asparagus, parsley, and optional lemon juice (Gui did not want lemon added to his version). Toss to coat and add additional salt and/or pepper, if needed.

Add in the pasta and toss to coat. If needed, add as much pasta water as you like. Stir in parmesan cheese. Here are both of our pots - we split the recipe to make half in each (that's about 90 g. of prosciutto in Gui's pan):

Both of us ended up with leftovers - yum! If you're making the veggie version, I would add either wine or lemon juice (along with a little lemon zest) for flavor, as using just stock and cream will leave the flavor a little flat. The butter (double the oil) and cream (replace with stock or pasta water) can be left out for a healthier dish.

Since we used the same recipe to make 2 versions, all we needed was one extra pan to each get what we wanted. It seems there's room in the kitchen for both of our styles.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sleeping in Barcelona

Room Mate Emma is a lovely, moderately priced hotel that provided the perfect refuge in Barcelona. Located in the upscale Eixample district about 3 blocks from the subway and Passeig de Gracia (Casa Mila) and 2 blocks from Las Ramblas, it's an amazing value. Plus, it's modern with fresh design and ambiance (lighting and surround-sound music channels in each room).

Even the shower has style! That said, the bathroom doors are glass so its kind of an intimate space. Being a standard room, we didn't have a view, but we also didn't mind since we nearly slept through most of our first day (jet lag, ugh) and the lighting can be adjusted to fit your mood. As is common in Europe, our double room didn't have a double bed but 2 smaller ones pushed together (which temporarily solved our nightly sheet fight). It seems that they do have rooms with a double bed and they told us to check the next day to see if one was available but the next day we heard them giving that speech to another couple - so if you really want one I suppose you'll need to request in advance. Still, we were just so glad to be able to check-in at 9am!

We didn't have breakfast here, but there are many nearby cafes. Oh, and there are free apples in the lobby! Score! (I'm talking about edible apples, not a Mac - instead there's a PC in the lobby for free internet access - but we got an excellent wifi signal in our room.) Everyone has an opinion on hotel stays so check the reviews on TripAdvisor to see if it would fit your travel style. And if you book far enough in advance, it can cost under €100 per night. No, they're not paying me to write this post - we genuinely enjoyed our stay.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Eating & Drinking in Barcelona

A few highlights of Barcelona eats...

Chorizos Artesanales with caramelized onions and fried plantains with lime and coriander mayo at El Atril in El Born.

Pimientos de Padron (salted fried green peppers) at Cervesería Catalan along with a caña (draft beer) and a rosé...yes, I know it's a beer house (and a rather fancy one) but I was saving that for Bruges.

An assortment of tapas also at Cervesería Catalan, which was easily our favorite restaurant and we weren't the only ones who thought so... 30 minute wait even though we went late (after 11pm). Totally worth it. This is only a percentage of the tapas we tried here - the best part is that fresh food just kept coming throughout the 'meal'. Below: grilled sausage with caramelized onions, jamon crudo mondadito, peanut battered cheese croquette with raspberry sauce, grilled shrimp.

Patatas with alioli (garlic sauce - yikes, that flavor will follow you around the entire day) at QuQu (a little overrated).

Obviously, we needed something to wash it all down...

Una clara (beer and fizzy lemonade) at Drac Café outside the natural science museum in Parc Ciutadella. Great for a mid-morning snack (hummus, nachos, etc) and a shady place to sit and get spritzed by hydro-fans.

Sangria from Atril...goes down easy

And we just couldn't resist the novelty of icebarcelona, which is basically just a large freezer modeled to look like an igloo night club.

For 15 euro you get coats, gloves, and a drink in ice glasses.

Of course, these are just a few tastes of the city. There are still Spanish wines and cava to try, along with the multitude of tapas this city has to offer. Plus there's paella and tortilla and gazpacho...oh my! El Born is a great neighborhood for tapas bars and restaurants...everything from € (where bars compete for offering the cheapest mojito) to €€€€ (where I haven't been because 4 euro signs are just too much). Tapas bar hopping is totally acceptable and can be easily affordable, especially since many places will give you a free tapa with your drink anyway. As I've mentioned, TimeOut is an excellent resource for finding trendy places to eat & drink. ¡Salud!