Books, Bikes, and Food

Reviews, Recipes, Rides… and some other things, too.

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Dinner for Two: Salmorejo and Blue Cheese Cream with Strawberry Purée

dinner42This is the cecina edition of Dinner for TwoCecina is basically cured or smoked meat, similar to ham, but it usually has a stronger taste, and it can be made from meats that aren’t pork. We had some that friends brought us when they came to visit, and this weekend it was time to use it. We were in the mood for something fresh and summery, since the weather has been playing along really nicely. And it’s strawberry season! So we came up with two ideas. Salmorejo is a dish from Andalucía that we became addicted to last year on our holiday in the region. It’s a cold purée made from tomatoes and bread. It’s a bit similar to gazpacho, very refreshing, but since it’s got bread in it it’s more substantial and filling. Mr BBF used this recipe and topped it with some cecina that he briefly toasted in the microwave. We also decided to make a starter (which we later decided to have as desert) of blue cheese cream with strawberry purée, also topped with cecina (no microwaving this time. For this, we were inspired loosely by this recipe, but we wanted fresh strawberries, so I just made a real purée rather than using strawberry jelly. It was simply delightful. We enjoyed our feast with some txakoli and some cecina drizzled with olive oil:   Blue cheese cream with strawberry purée (serves 2-3) Ingredients

  • 60g blue cheese
  • 120g mascarpone
  • about 40ml milk (depending on the thickness of the cheese cream, start out with 30ml then add more if needed)
  • one large handful fresh strawberries
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • cecina or ham to garnish

For the blue cheese cream, cut the blue cheese into pieces and place them in a plastic bowl. Add the mascarpone and the milk and mix a bit with a fork, further crumbling the cheese. With a hand-held blender purée the mix until thick and very creamy. Taste and potentially season with salt and pepper (we didn’t). Also if you like you can vary the blue cheese to mascarpone ratio. I liked it as it was (I like cheese a lot), but Mr BBF would have preferred it with slightly less blue cheese. For the strawberry purée, wash and dice the strawberries, mix them with the 2 tbsp sugar in another plastic bowl. Purée with your trusty hand-held blender until it’s nice and creamy. Layer the cheese cream and strawberry purée into glasses and refrigerate until just before servingNow, I learned a lesson here. Inspired by the original recipe, I put the strawberry purée at the bottom of our glasses. But since our purée didn’t have jelly, it was more fluid than the cheese cream and the layering didn’t work that well. So I would recommend to start with the cheese and then layer the strawberry purée on top. Alternatively, you could spike the strawberry purée with some gelatine to make it less liquid. Refrigerate until serving time. Just before serving, garnish with the cecina and half a strawberry per portion. Salmorejo (serves 2-3 as a main) Ingredients 

  • 800g fresh ripe tomatoes
  • 100ml olive oil
  • 150g white wheat bread, crust cut off
  • 1/2 clove of garlic (this is really enough, just trust us on this one)
  • salt to taste

Warning: this recipe makes a bit of a mess in your kitchen, but it’s absolutely worth it. Peel the tomatoes, either using a very sharp peeler or using the poaching method. Chop them and place them in a large pot, bowl, or in a blender if you have one. Purée the tomatoes, then pass them through a colander to get rid of remaining peel and seeds. Dice the bread and add it to the tomato purée; leave for about 10 minutes to help soften the bread. In the meantime, peel the garlic clove and mince half of it. Add the garlic, the olive oil and salt to the purée and blend until smooth. Season to taste and refrigerate until serving. Cut some cecina or ham into small pieces and pop them into the microwave for a few seconds to make them crunchy. Ladle salmorejo into soup plates and garnish with the cecina. ¡Qué aproveche!


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Merry Christmas, and a festive (non-)recipe

Merry Christmas, dear readers! I hope you’re all having lovely holidays, wherever you are and whether you celebrate Christmas or not! I’m spending it at home with my family, snuggled up on the sofa reading or watching TV, and spending some time with friends as well. Here’s a glimpse of our Christmas tree, all lit up.

Today, we had a big Christmas lunch, to which I made a humble contribution in the form of a starter. This is really a non-recipe as it involves very little preparation once you have the apple sauce ready, but it was delicious. It disappeared from its platter in record time and since we’ve still got another few days of festive eating ahead of us, I’m sharing it with you in case you’re still looking for a starter for New Year’s Eve – or for Christmas next year!

Pintxos de foie con compota de manzana y granada (Foie gras pintxos with apple compote and pomegranate)

Pintxos are Basque small snacks (they’re sometimes called the Basque form of tapas, but they’re not really tapas at all). They’re delicious little bites often arranged on a slice of bread and often pinned to the bread with a skewer or toothpick. But they also come in all kinds of other shapes and forms, some cold, some hot, simple or sophisticated. They’re elevated to a true art form, and they’re all over the country with bars taking real pride in making them look so pretty you almost don’t want to eat them. Especially in San Sebastián (Donostia), but also in Bilbao, you can spend the whole day just eating your way through the old town from one pintxo bar to the next. The bars are full to the brim with these little creations and I’ve often found myself, mouth agape and watering, with a tough choice to make – even though they’re small, there are only so many you can eat before you’re full.

As pintxos go, this one isn’t sophisticated at all and very quick to make, but it looks and tastes fantastic. In fact, it’s perfect for when you have a complicated menu to cook without much time to spare for the starter. Foie gras is a specialty in some regions of France and in the Basque country, which may be a bit difficult to get elsewhere or very expensive. You can replace it with other types of duck or goose pâté.

Ingredients (for about 15 pintxos)

  • 15 very thin salty crackers or 15 very thin slices of baguette, toasted
  • 180g foie gras mi-cuit
  • apple compote
  • pomegranate seeds (a tutorial on de-seeding pomegranates is here)

Cut the foie gras into 15 thin slices. It’s best to do this when the foie is quite cold, but to make the cutting easier you can warm up the blade of your knife a bit. If you’re using baguette, you may want to drizzle it very slightly with olive oil and sprinkle a bit of salt on top. Place the foie slices on top of the crackers or baguette. Top with a bit of apple compote each and sprinkle liberally with pomegranate seeds. Serve immediately.

On egin!*

* Basque for “enjoy your meal”