Scallops in the Shell

Does anyone have the cure for jet lag?  As we get older it seems to keep a hold on us longer and longer.  It didn’t help we came back to dreary rain.  Good for the garden, not so good at getting us going!  I do hope it means our garden will do better than it did last year.  Last year was a very dusty growing season.

Being back in the UK was wonderful, we had incredible weather and did loads of walking.  We had to walk off all the lovely meals my mother-in-law cooked up!  Of course we like giving her a break from cooking, she runs a B & B so she welcomes the break!  Last year we did a curry night as my father-in-law is a big fan but my MIL isn’t so this time round we did a tapas night.  Which I love doing!  So off we went to the shops to get ingredients.

Aside from the usual dishes that are easy to throw together I found some scallops on the shell, which is near impossible to get stateside, never mind getting scallops with the coral still attached.  So I couldn’t pass this up.

Scallop in the shell 1 2017

Heat up the broiler/griller to medium.  Season the scallops with sea salt and pepper, thyme, olive oil, and rosé wine.  I had some of the wine from our France trip and while it turns out it’s not a favourite of mine I knew it would work well with this dish.

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Broil/grill until the scallops are cooked.  Be careful not to overcook the scallops, you still want it tender.  This will only take a couple of minutes.

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Serve on the shell.  This is a fun and quick dish to make, I just wish I could get this round here! It was a great night with good food, good company, and good wine.

Red Wine Chorizo

The first flurry of the holidays, Thanksgiving, is past and we’re into the flurry of activity getting ready for Christmas.  Our son was all excited once the meal of Thanksgiving was over because that meant the Christmas songs could start playing!  I swear that kid would play those songs year round, crazy kid.  Egg nog is pretty much the only thing that we do Christmas wise before December.  Well, that and the cards.

I normally use Shutterfly for the cards and family photo books.  This is the last year I’ll do that for the cards. Couldn’t use that site for the book because they took away a lot of features I like to use.  So I am trying to learn Blurb.  A big feature I like is to use my photos as a faded background.  Blurb doesn’t do that either but I can fade them using GIMP.  Just a bit of jumping through hoops to get the book done.  So that is getting pushed out to the New Year.  But I hear Blurb is good for creating books like cookery books so I figure now is a good a time as any to learn.  I am curious which software of Blurb to use so I’d be interested in feedback.

The recipe I’m showing here was done for my husband’s birthday to go along with the jerk chicken I made.  It came from a book my family found for me at the annual library sale.  It is called Tapas by Susanna Tee.  I found an easy recipe for chorizo simmered in red wine.  Something easily eaten at a party.

I would recommend finding good quality chorizo.  We found average chorizo and it didn’t absorb the wine during the marinating stage as well as it should have.  No worries, it came out in the end.

Wine chorizo 1 2015

To start, always pick a good wine.  Never use cooking wine or plonk.  If it’s not good enough to drink, it’s not good enough to cook with!

In a saucepan, bring to a boil about a cup of the red wine.  Then cover and reduce the heat.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl big enough for the sausages.  Prick the sausages and marinate overnight.

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When you are ready to cook these, slice the chorizo into pieces.  Add them to a skillet.  Warm a couple of tablespoons of brandy then pour into the skillet.  And, this is the fun part, light it up!

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As fun as this is, be careful.  Not all flame is visible and you don’t want to get burned.  You can see in the picture the sausage didn’t really suck in the wine.  I suspect, better chorizo would do that.  Once the brandy has cooked off add the wine you used to marinate the sausages.  Simmer on medium heat until the wine has reduced quite a bit.

To serve, sprinkle freshly chopped parsley over the chorizo.

Wine chorizo 4 2015

This is a great dish for a tapas meal, party, or potluck.  And it is very easy to make which is always good.  🙂

Stuffed Cucumbers and If It Looks Like a Duck and Walks Like a Duck…

I’m not a conspiracy theorist by any stretch of the imagination but there are times when the military or government are so blatant it beggars belief.  About 2pm on Wednesday afternoon there was a massive boom that shook all the homes over several towns and it lasted just a second or so.  Because it snowed the night before a lot of us thought snow was falling off our roofs but as we only got an inch and most of it melted by then we were very quickly puzzled about what the hell just happened.  It felt like a truck hit the house.

So of course a lot of people were circling their homes and businesses looking for damage.  What was it?  A sonic boom.  Which is illegal over populated areas.  So the MA National Guard are saying it was just normal jet noise.  The only ones that seem to believe that are the people at the MA National Guard.  It isn’t the fact it was a sonic boom that bothers me, though given how it freaked out our dogs I’m ok without the booms, it’s the fact they are lying about it.  I mean, give over people.  Guinness was very needy for about 24 hours.  Murphy was just fine in his armchair of choice.

Fortunately this past Sunday was much quieter.  We got the family together to celebrate a few birthdays and we did a sort of tapas lunch.  Loads of flavours but not a ton of cooking required.  My mum loves peaches so we did up some peach bellinis which was fun and went down very easily!

I came across a recipe for cucumber feta rolls that looked interesting and I did a variation of those for Sunday.

I decided not to make them into rolls as it would be less messy and I wouldn’t have to worry about toothpicks making their way to the floor then into the dogs.  So I sliced the cucumber into 3/4″ or so slices then hollowed out the top.

Stuffed cucumber 4 2014

My husband found some locally made feta cheese that was quite nice.  Crumble about 4oz and add a few dollops of plain greek yoghurt.

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Slice up a few pieces of sun dried tomatoes.  It’s on my list this summer to try to make some with the tomatoes from our garden.  Should be an interesting experiment!

Stuffed cucumber 3 2014

Mix with the cheese and yoghurt, add some chopped oregano and salt and pepper.  Squeeze a splash or so of lemon juice and stir it together.  My husband and son don’t like olives so instead of chopping the kalamata olives and mixing them in I just topped most of these with a slice of olive.

Stuffed cucumber 5 2014

Very easy to make for a dinner party or for a healthy snack.  And I do love the pairing of sun dried tomatoes and olives.

 

Almost Didn’t See You Cartagena

As we glided into the port of Cartagena we were still in dreamland and were gradually brought to the surface by the fog horns.  My husband peeked out the curtains and saw nothing.  Literally nothing.  The fog was thick as can be, we couldn’t even see the water below.  As I mentioned in the post about the ship the port had been closed but the captain convinced the port to reopen for the ship.  Occasionally there were pockets of cleared air and we got glimpses of the port.  At one point a Navy ship headed out with the crew lined up and it was blasting rock music.  Because of the thick fog no one rushed off the ship.

To give you an idea of the skill needed to dock the ship in zero visibility here is a picture of the ship in bright sun.  Notice how small the port opening is and that you kind of have to do an S shape line before turning round and sidling into the dock.

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Needless to say, once we finally saw the full port we were impressed.  When we got off the ship it was still very foggy so we decided to kill some time at the underwater archaeology museum right on the water.  Archaeology fascinates me and to be able to do it underwater is something else.  So many more variables!  So I found this very interesting looking at the tools, finds, etc.

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Once the sun came out completely we started wandering around the old city which fortunately was right at the port.  We decided to stop and get a snack at one of the cafes.  It was here that I started to realise that Cartagena is a city of big food.  I asked for the calamari as a small snack and a large sandwich came out!  Maybe it would be a one off.  Not really.  First on our list to see was the Roman Theatre.  It was discovered about 120 years ago but wasn’t excavated until the late 80’s.  There was a church and several buildings on top of the theatre.  All that had to be removed or partially removed in order for that to go forward.  The museum was great as it had examples of the various occupiers and their building techniques.

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We wandered up to the castle to take in the views.  It was getting quite warm so it was nice to be up high enough to catch a breeze.  We also saw this guy wandering around the grounds.

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Then it was time for more tapas!  We found a place on a square that had great people watching.  One street performer would pretend to do the running of the bulls.  He had tiny bulls on the ground then he would take off with a great yelp and run round the square.  Some people would race with him.  I was waiting for someone in a mobility scooter to run over the bulls.  We ordered several dishes as tapas is small.  Not in Cartagena!  The toast plate was enough for 4 people!  It was very tasty though.

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After that we decided to wander back to the ship as there wasn’t a lot of time in Cartagena.  We had a lovely day just puttering about.

Best in the Country, Best in Europe, No! It’s the Best in the World! – Valencia

Valencia was an interesting city.  In part because of our tour guide.  We decided to do a tour at this port as the ship was, seemingly, miles from the city, nevermind, the old city.  I think it would have taken us over an hour just to get anywhere and then we’d have all the walking to sight see.  Our tour guide was very nice and reminded me of a young Liberace, without the furs and jewels.  He seemed very knowledgeable but I believe he thinks Valencia is the centre of the universe.

As we began our tour and were driving through the port he was describing how the port throughout history was the most important port on the Mediterranean.  And then we drove by the warehouses and he described how they were the nicest warehouses in Europe.  I was beginning to see a pattern.  They were good looking buildings and all but it seemed a bit much! And he was only getting started.  🙂  The blue in front of the buildings outlines the pit stops for the F1 race.

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Valencia is a city that is not afraid to keep improving and be creative with their architecture.  The river that ran through the centre of the city kept flooding so they redirected it but kept the river bed.  They then built large gardens, museums, and the opera house.  They still have the bridges going over the river bed as well.  It really is quite well done.  He stopped short of saying the opera house was the best in the world.  Instead he said the opera house was second only to the Sydney Opera House.  It looked to me like a war helmet.

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I did find the new science museum very interesting, reminded me of fossils but with a lot of light.

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We worked our way through the city and arrived at the indoor market.  Again the best in Europe.  I was wondering how they could beat the La Boqueria and was prepared to be amazed.  It was a neat, clean market.  No vibrancy and everything was sealed in cling film or containers.  I’m sure the FDA would approve.  In fact I was able to get one picture of food free from any clutches.

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I did find the roof of the building to be very pretty.

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Next was the silk market.  Now this was on my list of things we had to visit.  I love silk, the vibrant colours, the feel.  I was ready to shop.  So imagine my disappointment to find there is no longer a silk market, just the building!  I do not like shopping so for me to be ready to shop is a big thing.  However, the history of the building was fascinating.  Valencia was the end of the silk road and there was a lot of trading that went on.  Fortunes made and lost.  They painted the spiraling columns green and they painted the ceiling bright blue with the medallions yellow to imitate the sky.  That must have been something.

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On the way to the cathedral we came across this funny doorway.  Never underestimate humans doing their best to stick it to the big man.  Apparently there was a rule that you were taxed based on the width of the front of the building.  So this gentleman created building with a front only 105 cm wide then it opened wide towards the back like a triangle.  So it’s a full sized building.  Have to hand it to him!

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The cathedral took about 500 years to make as they kept having trouble with funds so it shows many different styles.  What took the cake though is the guide said the frescos were the best in Europe!  Ahem, Sistine Chapel anyone?  Credibility was completely lost at this point.  Ah well, we were having fun.

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The city used to be surrounded by a massive city wall with great big gates.  Because the city likes to continually improve they knocked down all of the walls except two gates.  Not sure how much that is an improvement as I like the history of those sort of things but thank goodness they kept some gates.  These date I believe back to the 1300’s.  They are massive!

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After the tour was over they brought us back to the ship but as we had several hours to kill we headed back in on the shuttle bus.  Back in the square where the cathedral was we found a shady spot to have tapas.  Again it was delicious.  I really miss the food!

Valencia 5 2013

I’d like to explore Valencia a bit more.  There were interesting areas of history.  And I’d like to explore all the gardens in the old riverbed.

 

Buttery Mushrooms and Other Yummy Tapas

It will come as no surprise when I say I love food.  It’s part of our life experience.  Something to be enjoyed and to add to our memories.  I could not wait to try all the amazing food I was sure we’d come across on our holiday.  Equally I could not wait to share it with our kids.  I think tapas is an amazing way of eating.  You can order many different flavours and be able to walk away from the table at the end of the meal as opposed to rolling away.  Only once did we get too much food because while they called it tapas it wasn’t.  The portions were too big.  Delicious but huge.

So this past Saturday we decided to share with the kids our version of a tapas night.  It was fun and we got to talk about some of the food we sampled as we traveled.

Our favourite tapas dish was a mushroom dish we had in Barcelona.  It was fabulous and the start of my planning of the meal.  Super easy to do which is good as we’ll be having this again.

Chop up regular mushrooms, some fresh thyme, and a few cloves of garlic.

Tapas 1 2013

Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter.   They aren’t buttery for nothing!  Perhaps this isn’t the healthiest but I threw caution to the wind!  Saute the ingredients together in the melted butter.  After a couple of minutes add a couple of tablespoons of chicken stock.  Salt and pepper to taste.   Saute until the mushrooms are cooked through and they are ready to serve.

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My son also requested I make up some zucchini flan.  I did as what we didn’t eat we saved for their school lunches.

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I bought some Manchego cheese, prosciutto, salami, and olives for one of the tapas.  Aside from the mushrooms on our trip this type of platter was up there in terms of favourites.  Add fresh baguettes to the mix and we were very happy.

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I also thought it would be fun to introduce caviar to my daughter.  At the Champagne Bar on the ship they would often serve some smoked salmon with a bit of caviar on top.  I loved it.  Unfortunately the caviar I found at the store tasted a bit muddled.  So it didn’t wow her like I’d hoped.  I’ll have to try another brand.

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Overall though it was a delicious meal to share with the kids.  I think we’ll be doing this again with different dishes.  After all if you can’t have fun with the flavours why bother!  🙂