Reliving our honeymoon one plate at a time

Boy oh boy, have things changed in the past year. I had a great day off yesterday, and I had invited my mother and her husband over for a tapas dinner because hey, any chance for a visit right? When I woke up yesterday I realized that a year ago I woke up on a plane descending into Madrid with Mrs. Primate on the first day of our honeymoon. I figured it was a sign that I should probably make something for dinner on days that I cook that would remind us of where we were on our honeymoon at this time a year ago. Well, dinner number one was already in the bag.

Last night I finally cracked open the Spanish cookbook that Mrs. Primate gave me for my birthday and made a couple typically Iberian delights, a tortilla with potatoes and onions, and albóndigas with a tomato salsa. In addition I added in a memory of our trip to Hong Kong (where I had my first tapas dining experience) with asparagus roasted under a blanket of manchego cheese. It turned out beautifully, and we had just enough little plates to even serve it in an authentic fashion. Things weren’t 100% Spanish though.

For dessert I made gelato. Why? Well, memories of how good the gelato in Rome was as we walked through the streets on a hot spring day have been going through my head like freight trains as the weather has started to heat up. I logged onto trusty old Pinterest, searched for a lemon gelato recipe, and came up with this. It took me about an hour, and this was only my second experience with the ice cream maker my sister unloaded on gifted to us a few months ago. Well, let’s just say the second attempt went MUCH better than the first. So much better that I’m planning to make a little straciatella when we run out of this wonderful lemon batch.

Simmering up a syrup for limonata.

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I also made a syrup with lemon and basil to make homemade limonata, you know, the Italian version of lemonade? Something about the tartness of the lemon with the aroma of the basil really works together, and the basil was grown in our own garden. Talk about a fresh flavor! I found that one part Limonata mix and two parts carbonated water make for a really refreshing lemonade. If only it had a shot of limoncello…

Well, it will have a shot of limoncello, in about 30 days when this vodka I recently poured over the zest of 8 lemons is finished infusing, and simple syrup is added. But I digress.

The Spanish bit of the meal was absolutely fabulous, and it did in fact remind me of sitting at a table in Plaza Mayor in Madrid, watching street performers, hawkers, and families mill about as we enjoyed our tapas and wine. That was the point. I’d better save some Italian stuff for a week or two until I need to remind myself of Italy. 😉


Foods of Spain

Spain was one of the countries on this trip that I was most excited about, and not because of the amazing sites to see, the history of the Spaniards and the Moors and the Conquistadores, or even the Spanish inquisition. The one thing I was most enthralled by knowing that we were heading to Spain was the food. I know, what a huge surprise, this blogger was excited about food. I know.

I was completely unfamiliar with Spanish food until very recently. Although it always looked delicious on TV and all of the cheftestants on Top Chef who seemed to win had some experience working in Spanish kitchens, I never actually tried any of Spain’s delightful foods until we visited Hong Kong. Hey, after a couple of years living in Asia you’d eat at a Spanish restaurant when you visit the most western of all Asian cities too. Anyhow, the whole tapas experience excites my stomach because you can have a little bite of a bunch of different things without feeling like too much of a total pig.

In Spain, the experience was a bit different. We tried the local fare of Madrid and Barcelona, with a special lunch at a San Sebastian style Basque tapas bar for our final (and most grand) tapas meal. Everything was amazing in Spain. The ham fell apart in your mouth. The chocolate covered churros, well, I’ve already gushed on and on about those. Catalan sausage, all sorts of marinated tuna and salmon, and a wide variety of cheeses, all of it completely geared towards my palate. Spain seems to be the spot where they figured out how to use spices in a way that just screams (or sings maybe) finesse, whereas the way they’re used in Turkish or Indian cuisine screams WE’VE GOT LOTS OF SPICES AND WE AREN’T AFRAID TO USE THEM. Of course, Turkish and Indian cuisines are beautiful for that very reason.

At any rate, a picture is worth a thousand words, and I think this little gallery of images of Spanish cuisine will probably make you hungry.

Montaditos of anchovy, squid, chorizo, manchego, potato, and tortilla

Montaditos of chorizo, manchego, blood sausage, and mortadella

Cheesecake and cafe con leche

Planchado of bacon and cafe con leche

Counterclockwise from left: Croquetas, pork grilled with moorish spices, albondigas, and gazpacho

More montaditos, salads, and tinto verano.

Torrados of Catalan sausage and manchego

Pintxo of ham and vegetables with cafe con leche and a berlina.

Pizza of smoked tuna.

Empenadas of ham, cheese, and spinach.

Chocolate covered churros.

Clockwise from top: Pintxos of marinated tuna, soft cheese and pinenuts, salmon, and tortilla.

Pintxo of chorizo, served hot.

Hungry yet? Yeah. I thought so. May I suggest that you pick up some jamon Iberico and manchego cheese, and make yourself a nice sammich?