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Perfect Spanish olives make perfect Spanish olive oil

Perfect Spanish olives make perfect Spanish olive oil

 

For those that didn’t read it in the previous post, PT and I recently went to Spain for a little get-away. We each prepared for the vacation by scouting activities that we wanted to do – The Prado and olive oil tours for me, bull-fighting and Real Madrid game for him – we are nothing if not predictable.

There is a little town in northern Andalucia (the southern-most region of Spain) called Baena, and it is best known for producing tremendous olive oil. Driving out of Madrid and into Andalucia,

Those are all olive trees, extending for miles, and this was just one small snippet of a 300 mile drive.

Those are all olive trees, extending for miles, and this was just one small snippet of a 300 mile drive.

we were struck by the enormity of the olive oil tree fields – hundreds of thousands of trees for miles and miles blanketed the landscape. We arrived in the sleepy little town of Baena (and I mean that quite literally, the town was taking its siesta), and immediately found the charming, yet slightly out-of-the-way Museum of Olive Oil.

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Strange but delicious

Strange but delicious.... Blood orange gelato in a pool of extra-virgin olive oil with mint.

 

 

I am not a huge fan of fusion… or, rather, I think it has its limits. For those masochistic souls who, like me, have read the inimitable American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis, you will recall the intentional absurdities of the characters’ dinner menus. An integral attraction in the mad carnival that Ellis creates is the nightly $300 supper of increasingly absurd food pairings, culminating in my favorite, the Cilantro Cheesecake. For those of us foodies with a wicked sense of humor, the cache of these unappetizing meals lent a bit of levity to an otherwise grizzly novel.

 

But, as usual, I digress… the point is that it didn’t take the macabre humor of American Psycho to turn me off of fusion. I’m just a bit too traditional for all of the new-fangled stuff that kids these days are coming out with.

 

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It's not the prettiest dish, but it smells and tastes fantastic.

It's not the prettiest dish, but it smells and tastes fantastic.

 

I am not a fan of ‘cooking-lite.’ If I’m going to do something, I want to do it right, even if it means carrying around a little extra junk in my admittedly full trunk.

 

Now, this doesn’t mean that I have a total disregard for health or that I’m cramming slices of bacon and hunks of cheese into my mouth all day long. Quite the opposite, it’s just that I would prefer a smaller portion of something that tastes fantastic than a heaping plate of something that tastes so-so.

 

That being said, scrolling through Besotted, I did notice that there were an awful lot of bacon-y, cream-laden, cheesy, and chocolate-y recipes. At the same time, the seasonal winter-weight-gain has had my pants fitting a bit snugly, and I thought it was time to include a completely healthy, but still rock-your-world delicious Weeknight Dinner recipe.

 

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Cookies

Ever since Starbucks introduced their Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate, I have been on a frenzied, manic quest for all things salted caramel.

 

I’ve fallen madly in love with Toscanini’s Salted Caramel ice cream (made into an ethereal affogato with espresso), as well as their Burnt Caramel ice cream, so when I came across David Lebovitz’s Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe with Salted Caramel, borrowed from Cindy Mushet’s The Art and Soul of Baking, I immediately cleared my calendar and made a date with a big jar of peanut butter.

 

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A brief guide to getting a great value when dining out.

A brief guide to getting a great value when dining out.

 

 

Bostonians have an odd sense of fiscal responsibility. It’s a schizophrenic sort of frugality, where we ruthlessly seek out bargains for the mundane, but spend lavishly on those items deemed worthy.

 

For example, my dear friend LN will think nothing of topping off a delicious Sunday brunch with a new Milly dress, yet she still tries to use her student ID (from 2004) to get $1 off at her yoga studio, and is indignant if her attempts are thwarted.

 

In other words, as individuals we determine which items are a worthy luxury and spend freely on them, and everything else is subject to relentless bargain-hunting.


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Tear-free Onion Chopping

 

If you're like me, this sight will bring tears to your eyes.

If you're like me, this sight will bring tears to your eyes.

 

Have you ever had the feeling that you had a super-power and then lost it? Maybe you were a superb orator, effortless distance runner, or spectacularly limber, and suddenly – WHAM! – with no warning, what once came naturally has you grimacing in effort and frustration.

 

I am not naturally athletic or gifted in the arts, but, though obscure, my super-power was immensely useful given my passion for cooking. It was the ability to chop onions endlessly and never shed a tear. Odd? Yes. But unusually impressive as a live show. I would be in the kitchen chopping 5 cups of onions with glee while friends were seated in the living room, coughing and rubbing their eyes from the sting. Nobody could understand how I could chop them with such mirth and no aid to reduce the burn.

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It's ironic.... this may be the worst picture I've taken, yet it's of one of the most delicious desserts.

It's ironic.... this may be the worst picture I've taken, yet it's of one of the most delicious desserts.

 

Each culture has its ‘thing’ that it does far better than the rest. Jews? We save money better than most. The Swiss? Nobody dots their i’s and crosses their t’s like the fastidious Swiss. The French? They have an uncanny knack for self-preservation when it comes to international conflicts. The Italians? Nobody does simple, rustic food as spectacularly as the Italians.

 

While I would most likely tip my hat to the French for overall cuisine, Italian food wins the award for turning a handful of plain, every day ingredients into something drool-worthy. The culture that brought us thin-crust pizza, Linguine alla Carbonara & Cannolis must be applauded for its prowess in turning the simple into something sublime.

 

While Italy has many popular culinary claims to fame, one of my favorite Italian dishes is the little-known Affogato.

 

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