Jaleo inspired Spanish tapas dinner

Before I forget, have you entered my Nasoya giveaway? Go do it and then come back, ok?

So let’s talk about eating out. While I really love the whole process of preparing meals at home, from the menu planning to grocery shopping to cooking and finally eating my creation (best part when I see someone else enjoy my food as much as I do!), going out to eat is still one of my favorite ways to spend time with Adam, friends and family. Similarly to cooking at home, I love the whole process of searching for the perfect spot for the occasion, the anticipation of a great night out, then dressing up and finally experiencing the whole event. It is an event, isn’t it? From the atmosphere of the restaurant, to service to the wonderful food shared with lots of wine and laughs – there is so much to experience! There are nights and dishes I remember for years. They are special to me. Most of them I’d never dream of recreating but once in a while I eat something simple yet perfect and I vow to try creating a little restaurant meal right in my own home.

This is one of such meals.

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This dinner was inspired by our favorite dishes from a spanish tapas restaurant, Jaleo, on our trip to Washington DC over the summer. The place was recommended to me by several readers and twitter friends, so one random day, we decided to rest our feet and have a glass of sangria with a few apps at the bar. There was no planning – it was a spur of the moment decision when we stumbled upon the place. I think because we had no expectations, it was especially surprising how much we enjoyed the few bites we had that first visit. So much that we had to go back 2 days later and have a whole meal!

Although every single thing at Jaleo was fantastic, hands down are two favorites were pan de recapte con anchoa (traditional Catalan bread with peppers, tomatoes and salt-cured Spanish anchovies) and gambas al ajillo (the very famous tapa of shrimp sautéed with garlic). These are my versions of these dishes.

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For the play on pan de recapte con anchoa, I actually started with my mom’s recipes for perzzi (roasted peppers) and sinii (eggplant/tomato spread) and layered them over fresh slices of baguette, topped with garlic-marinated anchovies. I find the salt anchovies to be very pungent. They are fantastic melted into sauces or whipped into dressings, but I prefer the marinated kind when eaten “straight up.” The anchovies seem to mellow out as the vinegar breaks down some of that intense fishiness.

Aren’t these gorgeous? They were delicious Smile

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Next up, I followed America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe for Spanish-style garlic shrimp. I love how garlic is used in three different ways in this recipe (to marinate the shrimp, infuse the olive oil and finally to cook with shrimp). I used a dried habanero (much spicier than the cascabel chile that’s traditional) so my shrimp also had a bit of a kick. We like it spicy in these parts Winking smile

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This turned out fantastic! It was hard to not soak up every morsel of that garlicky spicy oil with baguette slices. So simple yet so perfect. I think it would be a fun dish to serve to company too with everyone just digging in straight into the skillet. Smile

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Simple roasted cauliflower to lighten up the fare:

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Are you a tapas fan? Do you ever recreate restaurant dishes at home?

Next up: I’m getting crafty with my super awesome food art project. Can’t wait to share it with you!!

Where did those (not) food blogging hours go?

I can’t believe it’s only been two weeks since my last post. I seriously feel like I haven’t blogged here in ages (although I did continue with regular posting on Russian Bites. Sorry, gotta self-promote. You understand, right? ;) ). Blogging has become such a large part of my life, that days after days away felt like months. I even had time to get into a short (food) rut for a week there. Maybe it was the rebel in me. Oh you don’t have to take pictures of food for the next few weeks? Fine, how about you eat crap then?! I dug myself out of that hole relatively quickly though (I mean, the whole break was 2 weeks and the last week I was a cooking and baking maniac so I’d say I got my mojo back :mrgreen: ). I’m going to go ahead and say that that’s what my body wanted and move on, because I’m back. Ooh yeah.

So let’s see, what have you missed…

Eggplant “meatball” subs (it tasted like eggplant parm in a baguette!)

Dover sole picatta (I used this recipe, originally found through Meals & Moves, but of course subbed fish for chicken).

I actually made the chicken version first and it was so amazing (quick and incredibly flavorful and healthy!) that I wanted to try it with other proteins. Fantastic recipe! It’s definitely going to make the best of 2010 list! Saucy…

 

Btw, here is the chicken version :)

Also, after over a year, I finally made the brussels sprouts recipe everyone raved about after the 2009 Foodbuzz festival. I know I’m late to the party but it was worth it! :) No leftovers here…

Thank you, Shannon, for all the weirdo ingredients! I used pancetta instead of guanciale.

There was one baking disaster – protein banana muffins, aka banana flavored rubber in muffin form ;) [I won't link to the recipe I modified... and clearly screwed up.]

There were definitely baking successes. Oooh yeah. In cupcake form. Namely oreo cupcake and margarita cupcake form. Yes, you read that right and you should really find an excuse to make them right away. Especially the margarita ones. Tiffany, you are a genius for setting up a cupcake party! :mrgreen:

I also met one of my baking idols – Joanne Chang, the owner of Flour bakery. But you probably already know this if you like me on Facebook (you do, don’t you?).

I spy someone on the right ;)

I already bought all the ingredients for the granola bars. Can’t believe I get to make them myself!!

Ok, looks like there were even more sweets. Chocolate sausage:

… and FRIED food? Say what? Hey it was for the blog! :cool: Chicken Kiev:

… and I did have salad with it!

In fact, based on what’s on my camera, there were a few salads…

Mixed greens, grapes, grape tomatoes, goat cheese, pecans and rotisserie chicken (my new favorite thing… I get 1/2 a chicken at Whole Foods for just $5 and it lasts a few days!!)

Mixed greens, strawberries, tofu, pecans and goat cheese

And here is that chicken again in a chicken salad with dried cherries, walnuts and greek yogurt

Aside from the food, there were a few workouts. But not nearly as many as I wish there were. I’ll talk more about my lifting program in a separate post. Gotta give you something to come back to. :mrgreen:

How have you been? Did you miss me? ;)

I missed you, although not blogging didn’t really free up my schedule as much as I thought it would. Watching tv is extremely time consuming. :lol:

If you have a food blog, do you think you’d eat differently if you took a break for 2 weeks?

Dinner parties are where it’s at

When we were kids, meals were always prepared by the parents (most likely by mom). They were simple and satisfying, except for maybe that occasional vegetable you really would rather leave on the plate ;) For birthday parties and other celebrations, in my house my parents always prepared a giant feast (we actually had 2 large parties – one with all the kids, and a second one with all the adults – man, that’s a lot of prep!). If you are an American, the birthday parties were likely held at somewhere fun like Chuck E. Cheese. I never experienced such a thing.

In middle school, my family moved to Israel and the idea of take-out was introduced into my life. This was further solidified when we moved to the US, and most gatherings with friends were now at the local Dunkin Donuts or at someone’s house with a giant plastic container full of Chinese food. College was pretty similar, except alcohol was introduced into the mix – in large quantities at that.

Over the past few months, Adam and I hosted and attended a few dinner parties. There was no greasy, cheap food, no binge drinking – just a home-cooked meal with nice wine and a great conversation. Last night, on the way back home from such a dinner party, it hit me – this is what you do in your late 20′s (and probably well into your 30′s or until kids start ruining all your fancy plans)! I have to say – I’m really liking this new stage of my life, and I can’t wait to host more dinner parties at our own house soon!!

Before I get into the dinner party details, let’s quickly review the rest of the day’s eats – they were really good! :)

BREAKFAST

2 Vermont spelt toasts with low fat cottage cheese, Zoe’s granola and almond slices + 1 orange

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Toast close-up – great combo!

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Juicy orange…

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MID-MORNING SNACK

1T peanut butter + 1/2 apple

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LUNCH DATE

The fun lunch date I mentioned last night was with the lovely Shannon of Tri 2 Cook. She joined me for a sweaty spin class and then we went to b.good. My salad from Friday finally convinced her to give b.good a go! I stopped myself from ordering the same thing and got the sesame ginger chicken salad this time – mesclun, carrots, jicama, edamame, sesame seeds, sesame sticks, orange-soy dressing

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The lighting there is horrible but hopefully you can see all the goodies in there… chicken + sesame sticks

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jicama, carrots, edamame…

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I really liked this salad as well. Shannon liked her b.good burger. :D

For dessert I stopped by Paradise Bakery and got myself a choc chip cookie. I <3 them!

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The salad + cookie combo held me over for 7 hours!! And now we get to the part where I tell you all about the dinner party Adam and I attended last night. :D

DINNER

So as you all know, we currently don’t have a kitchen to cook in. Somehow we were talking about that and Turkish food, and my co-worker Egemen offered to cook dinner for Adam and me one day. Hey, you don’t have to ask me twice! I’ve never had homemade Turkish food so this was quite a treat.

Egemen did a really great job setting up for dinner. There were lots of candles and some simple apps to munch on while he was finishing up dinner. Very cozy. His friends Margaret and Amanda joined us for the meal as well. We all loved the juicy strawberries and the cheese sampler.

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I had a few glasses of wine with dinner. Here is my first pour.

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And now for the real treat – slow braised lamb + hunkar begendi (eggplant cream)

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Egemen really went all out! The lamb took 2 days to marinate + 3 hours to cook. It was really melting in your mouth – so tender! The hunkar begendi was the most unique eggplant dish I’ve had. It is a combo of roasted eggplant meat, flour, butter and mozzarella. SO good. You could really taste the smokiness of the eggplant. Now I miss my mom’s.

Dessert was another traditional Turkish dish – walnut and cinnamon stuffed figs (sorry, I don’t know the exact name) with vanilla ice cream and chocolate fudge

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This was very sweet and very cinnamony – a small portion was perfect to end the meal on a sweet note. Delicious! Thanks Egemen for hosting us – we’ll need to return the favor by cooking for you and the girls next time. :D

Do you like dinner parties?

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