Catalonia, Spain

Calçots

I’ve been having the good fortune of people giving bunches of large vegetables.  Not only are the bunches large, but the vegetables themselves…they’re large! Most of those carrots from Pachamama Farm were big daddies! Then, the very next day my husband and I were coming home from a walk and I see my elderly neighbor, Kim, with a large knife cutting away at these giant green onions.  Kim sees me and holds out half of her bunch and says they’re for me! Quite exciting!  I ran to her and accepted my gift.  Kim is always giving me vegetables and I do return the favor when my garden is producing in the summer.  In fact, we had a silly thing going on last summer where I gave her a zucchini plant and she insisted on giving me half of all it’s produce.  I also had two zucchini plants so I decided I would give her zucchini too. We just kept trading zucchini like that all summer.  

img_4215 So I had all these giant green onions and I knew I had to do right by them.  I decided to throw it out on instagram (follow me @travellovecook)…give me some ideas for these onions! My sister suggested the ever popular retro midwest card club appeteaser: wrap them in cream cheese and dried beef! Ok, first of all YUM. But oh yeah, that was a joke… My mom suggested slice them in salads. Ok, but I wanted something exciting Mom! As you can see I have quite the instagram following.  Finally, someone suggested grilling. Yes! I do a little internet search and I find that there’s this thing in Barcelona called Calçotada . A type of festival every spring where they grill a type of green onion that grows in Spain called “calçot”.  Click on that link, and you’ll learn more. So, they char grill these giant green onions and peel away the tough charred outer skin and eat the tender innard.  They dip them in romesco sauce a type of sauce with a pepper and almond base.  Finally, I had found something worthy of these giant green onion gifts.

Calcots

Large Spring or Green onions- If you’re in the states, try going to a

Course Salt

Olive Oil

Romesco Sauce:

1 Tablespoon higher heat oil such as avocado

5 garlic cloves in the skin

¼ onion cut into chunks

¼ cup raw almonds

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

¼ cup panko bread crumbs

1 14 oz can tomatoes

3 dried chiles, I used guajillo, rehydrated in a bowl of hot water for about 20 minutes

1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar

¼ cup olive oil

Salt and Pepper

Make the Romesco sauce first. Heat the avocado oil in a pan over medium heat and then add the whole garlic cloves, still in their skin. I did this because I wanted them to have a roasted taste and not browned at all.

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Saute for a couple of minutes and then add the onion and some salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat stirring frequently.  You don’t want the almonds to burn at all! Next, add the breadcrumbs and the smoked paprika.  Cook for about another 1-2 minutes.  

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Take out the garlic cloves and remove the garlic from the skin. Transfer the garlic and the rest of the ingredients in the pan to a food processor.  Also add to the food processor the tomatoes, the chile peppers, red wine vinegar and about a teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper.  Blend all the ingredients.  It will take a while with those whole almonds. Then start slowly pulsing in your olive oil. The sauce should be blended but small chunks of almonds are fine and even quite pleasant. Taste the sauce and adjust the salt and pepper and even add a little more vinegar if you want.  I heard once that sometimes when you think that certain something is missing and you don’t know what it is, a splash of vinegar is what you need! You will have lots of leftover Romesco sauce.  That’s ok because you can use it for whatever! I tossed it with penne and that was good but I think some linguini would have been even better!

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Back to the calçots. Heat Your grill. You want the final temperature to be around 450-500 degrees.  Wash and dry your green onions.  Lay the on the hot grill. Leave the grill open. Just stand there now and don’t go do anything else because you may get distracted. Once one side is quite brown, use tongs to flip them over.  Don’t try to use those giant, awkward grill tongs.  Use tongs that you use inside and you’ll be much more dexterous with them. You’re going to get pretty mad if you drop one through the grates.  That’s why you want to use very large green onions.  Once, the other side is very brown too, almost black, they are done.  Put them on a platter and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with course salt. Serve the calçots with the romesco sauce.  Drizzle the romesco sauce with more olive oil and a sprinkling of course salt. Now peel away that outer layer, dip in the romesco, and enjoy all that delicious mess. 


Europe, France

pachamama farm carrots with cilantro pesto

My husband was given some carrots from Pachamama Farm, in Longmont, Colorado. These carrots had grown all winter and were delicious and sweet.  I love roasted carrots, but since these carrots were so fresh and flavorful on their own, I wanted to create a dish using them raw.  Growing up, we always had grated carrot in our salads.  I enjoyed this much more than chunks.  It was a way to give their flavor in a more delicate package. In French cuisine, shredded carrot salad is a classic and I always love to refer to it to make good use out of my carrots. For this recipe, I’m using long ribbons of carrots that are created using your vegetable peeler.  It’s like you’re peeling the skin and then you just keep on peeling! If you’re using organic carrots, just scrub them clean and use the whole carrot.  If not, then peel away the outer skin and then start saving the rest.  I mixed the carrot ribbons with cilantro pesto. Cilantro pesto is very easy to make and makes good use of the rest of your cilantro after you bought a bunch for a recipe that calls for 2 tablespoons.

carrot ribbons with cilantro pesto


serves 8 small servings

ingredients:

6-8 carrots peeled or scrubbed clean if organic

pesto:

1/2 of a bunch of cilantro- very roughly chopped

1/2 cup cashews (other nuts like almonds or walnuts would be good)

1 garlic clove

1 lemon, juiced

1 garlic clove

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Using a vegetable peeler, peel long ribbons off of the carrot into a bowl. Put the cashews in a pan over medium heat. Shake them up quite a bit in the pan and heat until they are fragrant. Put the cilantro into a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the garlic, lemon juice, red pepper flakes if using, and some salt and pepper to the food processor.  Pulse until well combined. Now, start pulsing in the olive oil very slowly until everything is mixed together. Taste it.  Probably needs more salt! Add more and pulse, pulse, pulse. Add as much of the pesto as you like to the bowl of carrot ribbons and mix together. Bon appétite!

 

Asia, Korea

japchae

Japchae with egg omelet and green onion garnish

When I was in college and visiting my parents on a break, I found a recipe in one of my Mom’s Cooking Light magazines. The feature was on a Korean American woman who I think was also a cook (the details are blurry). She recalled all of her favorite Korean dishes she had growing up.  One of the dishes was “chapchae” or “japchae”.  It sounded so good! I took the magazine to the library to make copies of it and all the other Korean recipes.  Mind you, I was 21 years old in 2003, and this was my first experience with Korean food. I had to rely on these recipes alone having zero background knowledge on the cuisine. Lucky for me, the recipe author was really good at explaining the process.   I went back to my college apartment after the break and made all these Korean dishes.  My favorite was the japchae! This recipe is super fun to eat because of the unique texture of the noodles.  The ingredients are very easy to find.  I know because I could find them all at the Hy-Vee in Iowa in 2001 so I know you can find them wherever you are too. You can find the more authentic Korean sweet potato starch noodles in Asian grocery stores or you can use bean thread noodles which are found in the Asian section of most all grocery stores.

I’m not able to give the recipe author proper credit because her (it was a she) name isn’t on the copies I made.  I’ve made just a few tweaks such as less beef because I like a heavy noodle to beef ratio.

Japchae

serves 4

ingredients:

beef:

1teaspoon cornstarch

6 ounces round steak or sirloin, trimmed and thinly sliced into matchsticks

1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger (get the fresh stuff, don’t cheat!)

2 teaspoons sambal oelek plus a teaspoon of gochujang. The original recipe recommends the red Thai chile paste.  I used this back in college and it was really, really good.

1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil

noodles:

1- 3.75 ounce package sweet poato starch noodles (aka jap chae, chap chae, Korean glass noodles) or (mung) bean threads (aka cellophane noodles)

vegetables:

1 teaspoon dark sesame oil

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

5 garlic cloves, minced

3 cups sliced shiitake mushroom caps (about 6 ounces), you can use white button mushrooms instead

1 cup (2 inch) julienne-cut carrot

1 cup (2 inch) diagonally sliced green onions

1 (10 ounce) bag fresh spinach

remaining ingredients:

1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon dark sesame oil

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted ( I really enjoyed Eden Shake instead of just sesame seeds)

  1. To prepare beef, sprinkle cornstarch over beef; sprinkle cornstarch over beef; toss to combine. Add 1 tablespoon soy sauce and next 4 ingredients (1 tablespoon soy sauce through 3 garlic cloves); toss well to coat. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet or wok with a little oil over medium-high heat. Add beef mixture; stir-fry 3 minutes or until done. Remove mixture from pan. Cover and keep warm.
  3. To prepare noodles, pour boiling water over noodles; let stand 10 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain. Snip noodles several times with kitchen shears.
  4. To prepare vegetables, wipe skillet or wok clean with paper towels. Heat 1 teaspoons sesame oil and vegetable oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add half of spinach; stir-fry 2 minutes or until spinach wilts.
  5. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add beef mixture and noodles to pan, stirring well to combine. Combine 1/3 cup soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, and 1 tablespoon sesame oil, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over noodle mixture; stir well to combine. Cook over medium-low heat 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. I also garnished mine with an egg than I beat with a little water and fried into a little omelet that I cut into slices. For the green onions you see in the picture, take a very sharp chef’s knife and cut into thin strips.  I was trying to be like Ivan Orkin.

Please, Cooking Light Magazine, since I know you’re reading this, tell us who was the recipe author! Thank you:-)