Apricot Cherry Galette

Today was my first-ever attempt at a galette. I've decided that galettes are perfect for my level of crust making ability (which, admittedly, is quite low). They are supposed to look "rustic," which, in my house, is just a Martha Stewart word for "half-assed." The dough can be rolled out in a lopsided oblong and not a circle? It doesn't need to have pretty, smooth edges? Perfect! I love doing things half-assed--I mean, rustic...ly!

I was jazzed about the apricot-cherry combination. Turns out, I'd never purchased an apricot in my life, and had no clue as to what a ripe apricot felt like. Sadly, mine were very underripe and extremely tart. I added the orange juice as a means of sweetening the overall product (originally it was going to be lemon juice....thank god I taste-test everything), which worked fairly well, but it still could've used more sugar. As tasty as the end product was (OMG, the crust!), I now know to pick only the ripest apricots, whatever they may look like.

Apricot Cherry Galette (adapted from Food Mayhem and Dorie Greenspan)
-3 tablespoons sour cream
-1/2 cup ice water
-1 cup flour
-1/4 cup cornmeal
-1 teaspoon sugar
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-7 tablespoons cold, salted butter, cut into pieces
-Small amount of milk, for brushing
-1/2 tablespoon turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

-Approximately 3 cups peeled, pitted, and sliced apricots and pitted cherries, sliced in half
-1 tablespoon cornstarch
-1 tablespoon (or more, depending on your lust for sweetness) turbinado sugar
-1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
-1/2 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces

1. Mix sour cream with ice water. Set aside.

2. Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt. Cut in butter until it looks like coarse sand.

3. Add the water-sour cream mix to the dry mix 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with a fork. Only add enough water to make the dough come together in large clumps. You will probably not need all of the water, or even anything resembling all of it.

4. Bring dough together into 2 separate balls. Flatten into discs with the palm of your hand and wrap up with plastic wrap. Chill for at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

5. Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or your handy dandy silpat mat.

6. Using a liberal amount of flour to prevent sticking, roll out each disc of dough to approximately 11". The dough will be thin, so you may want to hang it on your rolling pin to transfer to the baking sheet. I found that it helped to roll it out some on the counter, transfer it to the silpat mat, and then roll it out the rest of the way.

7. In a mixing bowl, combine all of the filling ingredients, stirring to dissolve the cornstarch. Arrange the fruit in the center of each circle of dough, leaving a 3" border on all sides. Place half the chopped butter across the top of each galette. To fold, just pick up one edge and bring it near the middle (not covering the center). Bring the low side next to the fold up and slightly over the last fold, and so on until all sides are brought up.

8. Lightly brush the dough with milk and sprinkle liberally with turbinado sugar (sprinkle some on the fruit, while you're at it).

-Makes two 8" galettes; approximately 4 healthy servings.

9. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until the crust is golden-brown and the fruit is bubbling. Let cool on a wire rack at least 10 minutes before serving.

Culinary Adventures in Spain: Alicante

Ahhh, Alicante. You're so pretty.

After Barcelona, we took a train to the southeastern coastal town of Alicante. Alicante is a town of approximately 335,000, with an additional density of European tourists. Is it hard to see why people want to visit here from the picture above? Situated on the Mediterranean, the sea shines like a turquoise gem, the sand is warm and pale, the atmosphere genuinely relaxed, and the food high quality. After being in the thick of Spain's major metropolises for several days, Alicante was a welcome change of pace.

If none of that makes you want to come to Alicante, consider Castillo de Santa Barbara. There is a giant hill (Mount Benacantil)--technically a hill, I would say 'mountain'--with a castle on top situated directly in the middle of everything. It is the craziest thing you'll ever see. You'll be walking down some random street and look down an alley to your left--BAM! Castle on a mountain! The first picture on this post was taken from atop Castillo de Santa Barbara. The views are flawless, breathtaking, and utterly addictive. I have lots of pictures I could post of the views, but I won't. I will say that being in a castle whose origins date to the 9th century while looking out upon the glorious white and red expanse of Alicante and the sparkling Mediterranean is one of the coolest things I've done so far.

Of course, after traveling, walking a 3/4 of a mile with baggage, and settling into our super sexy hotel (Hotel Eurostars Mediterránea Plaza--big rooms, GIANT marble bathrooms, french door balconies, worthwhile breakfast buffet, friendly service, cheap rates, all on a beautiful plaza), we were starving. Fortunately, the hotel has a cafe that runs pretty much all day long and offered cheap breakfast, tapas, bocadillos, pizza, desserts, and alcohol while you got to sit out on the plaza looking at a great view of Castillo de Santa Barbara. Definitely not a bad deal. Greg had some sort of sandwich that turned out to be enormous, and I had a Tortilla Espanola--a thick potato-and-cheese 'omelet.'

I asked for an entire tapa instead of the smaller racion. It was only 5 or 6 euros and I was flippin' hungry. Our waiter made me feel very self-conscious about this decision, even going so far as to bring one out after I'd ordered and say, "You want THIS SIZE?" As I've mentioned before, my public speaking anxiety/spanish speaking anxiety kicked in and I got quite flustered. I stuck to my guns and got the whole thing. Even though it was not that big in theory, I'm thinking it probably was over 2 pounds of sheer potatoes and eggs. While it was very tasty, I needed Greg to pitch in and help me out to save face in front of the waiter. We got close, anyway. I won't lie to you...I avoided eye contact with the waiter the rest of the time we were there--which was often, since he worked right next to the entrance of the hotel, and always seemed to be there.

Can you guess what happened next? I bet you can. We went out for beer on a nearby plaza! Surprising, I know. But, we wanted to try Cruzcampo beer, and even though there were signs for it all around Madrid and Barcelona, we never had the opportunity to order it until Alicante.

Naturally, we were given some olives. I, of course, was taken with this adorable star-bellied olive.

In our wanderings around town, we found the most fabulous Gelato place--Livanti. So fabulous, in fact, that we returned there the next night.

Later on, we headed out to La Taberna Del Gourmet, which I'd read about in advance (and I read somewhere that it had won the distinction of "Best Tapas in Spain"--who knows how true that is), and was conveniently located around the corner from our hotel. What I did know is that you could purchase a variety of tapas menus (I'm talking like 10 fancy-ass tapas) for 50 euros per person. Not wanting to spend 100 euros on a dinner, we opted for less "fancy schmancy" and more "cheap, but still delicious."

Both salted nuts AND olives. This is how you know it's upscale.

I ordered a salad with rocket and parmesan. It was enormous. Big enough for Greg to eat some, too...which was good, because his 'entree' was not very filling on its own. Fortunately, in addition to the nuts/olives plate, they brought the obligatory bread basket AND the most amazing little oily, spicy sausages. The 'free' stuff was almost a meal on its own. ;)

Greg ordered yellowfin tuna in a citrus-soy sauce. The English menu gave no indication that it was sashimi. It's a good thing that Greg likes sashimi.....this would not have made me happy in the slightest. On a funny side note, I just checked their Spanish menu...it definitely notes "crudo"--or, raw. Funny trick to play on the English speakers. ;)

I was told by my friend Carol that I *had* to try Jamon Iberico. I believe it went along the lines of "PROMISE ME! PROMISE YOU WILL TRY JAMON IBERICO!!" So, I ordered a Pan de Cristal - Jamon Iberico con Tomate. It's an open-faced toasted sandwich with the most amazingly light, crisp bread. The name "Crystal Bread" is really fitting...it seems like the bread crumbs explode in your mouth like champagne bubbles. The Jamon Iberico was, of course, delicious...especially when paired with this bread, olive oil, and warm tomato.

The next day, prior to our epic travel up and around Castillo de Santa Barbara, we stopped by Alicante's absolutely amazing, two-story covered market. If you read my post about Barcelona, you'll know that I was disappointed about not finding animal heads as promised by others. WELL. Alicante did not disappoint in this regard. Their entire top floor is dedicated to meat, and the bulk of the lower level to seafood. Unlike Barcelona's market, they had all sorts of undesirables just hanging out for everyone to see. It was awesome and horrifying. One of the things that I did NOT take pictures of (luckily for you, and for my friends and family) were the many skinned rabbits. Some were whole and skinned, some were mostly skinned but with fuzzy feet still left on, and some were skinned and halved horizontally like a science project (and for what purpose, really??).
If you are squeamish about gross animal heads,

Barracudas were pretty much exactly like the Heart song. At least, I think they're barracudas.

I walked around a corner and ran into this enormous swordfish head sitting next to its giant body. I may have yelled, "HOLY SHIT!" and grabbed my camera, attracting the attention of many a Spanish shopper.

This is the worst one, I promise. I took it solely because my brother-in-law told me to eat "Cap Xai" while in Spain--which are these lamb heads. Very ghoulish with the eyes and teeth still in there and all.

I don't know what kind of fish this is, but how gross is that eyeball?!

This has nothing to do with heads. It just made my little Wisconsin meat & cheese-heart go pitter-pat.

Thoroughly sated with our fill of market heads, we headed off for a tiring and sunburning climb up to Castillo de Santa Barbara. Because I already posted pictures above from that, let's take a brief break and see another pretty picture of the ocean. Ahhhh.....yeah....that's the stuff.

Upon our return from Mount Awesomeness, we had the Menu del Dia at an Italian restaurant, Sale y Pepe. We really shot ourselves in the foot during our trip by not eating the Menu del Dia at places more often. It was 10 euros for a pizza (and I'm not talking "individual sized" here, but a big pizza), salad, beverage, and coffee. It was soooo satisfying to pay so little and eat so much. The food was delicious--especially the pizza. We had the same meal... pizza bianca with roasted squash and onions. Oh, my god.

The sugar packet was punny....Espress Yourself. Hahaha!

Despite eating entire pizzas (albeit ones with very, very thin crusts), we ended up waddling out later for pre-dinner gelato again. Amaretto and Gianduja. Amazing. And so pretty!

Amaretto gelato.

Gianduja chocolate gelato.

Our dinner that night was not noteworthy, so no photos there. When we arrived in Madrid the first day, we had to buy train tickets from Alicante to Madrid while at the airport. The train ticket guy did not speak English, and Greg did an admirable job getting that taken care of despite the language barrier. One thing that was difficult to get across to us was that there was a sale on tickets the day we were returning to Madrid, and first class tickets cost the same as second class. SO, long story short, we got the fancy treatment on our 3 hour train ride back to Madrid. They give you so many beverages and snacks that 3 hours seemed like 1. It was great. Case in point, my own little bottle of 2007 Rioja that filled an airplane-sized glass twice. Spain likes you to get drunk, and I am okay with that.

She's my kind of town, Alicante is.

Culinary Adventures in Spain: Barcelona

After a few days in Madrid, we headed off to Barcelona. I was looking forward to what I'd heard was a "all around better" city from multiple sources. Barcelona is smaller (a measly 1.5 million to Madrid's 3.6 million), and from what others said, prettier, more hip, cosmopolitan, and the streets on a grid system. I'd never really thought about Barcelona as a city to visit before (odd, I know), so it was good that Greg was really keen to visit and had figured out great places to see.

We took the high speed train to Barcelona. Outside of the El or subways, I'd never taken trains any appreciable distance before. While riding the train is fine in and of itself, I was disappointed to find that my ears blocked up like I was on an airplane. Except worse. I can always unblock my ears on a plane, but I could not do it on the train--or afterward. I think my troubles were compounded by the fact that I caught a cold from someone on my flight to Spain....it was a bad one, and it hit right about the time we were getting into Barcelona. I don't mind telling you that between one aching ear that I could barely hear out of, unstoppable amounts of nose goo, and the exhaustion that comes with a cold and traveling, I was not in great shape during my stay there. And nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the city. THAT should tell you something about Barcelona.

By the time we got in and checked into our hotel, we were starving. Very nearby was a restaurant called Organic. Organic can only be described as a warehouse of a restaurant. It is enormous. There are several options for meals, such as soup & salad, salad & entree, salad/entree/dessert, etc. All options are unbelievably cheap--I think our trip to the salad bar, entree and beverage cost us under 10 euros each. I believe that Organic changes its menu on a daily basis and purchases most of its ingredients from Mercat de la Boqueria. We made a trip to a highly stocked salad bar--whole hard-boiled eggs, sunflower seeds, fruit, cottage cheese....everything you could want, and however much you could pile on. Greg opted for a delicious looking pizza as his main course, and I got tubular pasta with what seemed like a creamy pesto and a vodka sauce on top, finished off with copious amounts of parmesan. P.S. I'll tell you right now that between the fog of my cold and perceived technical difficulties, I didn't get pictures of a lot of the food we ate here. Very sad.

Our meal at Organic was so large (and was eaten so late) that we didn't feel the need for dinner later. Instead, we made the healthy choice of going out for a beer. We headed to Manchester Bar in el Barri Gotic. This is one of the most fantastic bars I've ever been to. They played nothing but British rock, punk, and new wave music. It was like an all-Brit version of my iPod. The whole place was outfitted in a way that I might've decorated my parent's rec room at the age of 16. Broken-in red velvet arm chairs, caution tape on the walls, nail polish on television sets, Robert Smith's face on the coffee tables. Two pints cost 3 euros and came with free crunchy snack mix. I would live at Manchester if I could.

The next day was a day of standing in lines for cool tourist attractions. We went to La Sagrada Familia (awesome on a grand scale) and Meseu Picasso de Barcelona (also awesome, but much smaller). We also walked all the way to La Sagrada Familia from our hotel (2.1 miles), then to the Picasso museum from there (another 1.5 miles). Needless to say, after we got done with the museum, we were too pooped to think about eating anywhere except the museum cafe. Luckily, Cafe Museo had a great assortment of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, desserts, and even fancy coffee drinks. We shared a big salad that I don't remember too well, except that it had pineapple on it, and "nachos," which were really just tortilla chips accompanied by warm guacamole topped with salsa. It was delicious.

Greg with his BFF, Pablo the Bread-Fingered Man.

On our walk back to the hotel for a much needed-rest, we went to make reservations at Cafe L'Academia for that evening. L'Academia was recommended to us by a few friends, and was lauded highly online. Since they only have 28 small tables, reservations are a necessity. The good thing about having a tourist's tummy is that you can get reservations for 8:30pm at any restaurant with absolutely no problem. It's worth mentioning that we also got gelato on our way back to the hotel. There are no calories on vacation. Anyone who tells you differently is a damn liar.

Being that there is infinite amounts of time between all the day's activities and an 8:30 dinner time, we went to take a closer look at Mercat de la Boqueria. Only La Sagrada Familia trumped the market in terms of amount of photos taken. I am intensely jealous of the residents of Barcelona for having access to this spectacular local food source. You can get pretty much anything you need here. It's amazing. I can only do it justice with pictures, so here you go:

The nice thing is that you don't need to speak Spanish or Catalan to know what kind of animal is in that package.

Estació de Formatge. Now that's my kind of Estació.

Bountiful, colorful vegetables.

Couldn't you just bite into this photo? Num.

"It's like Willy Wonka threw up on the Mercat." - Greg

More candy and candied nuts. Mmm...candied...

Nuts of the un-candied variety.

I won't lie....I might've found the grand amounts of colorful, exotic spices the most alluring.

I didn't realize they were moving until I was too close. Scary. Also, duh.

Percebes (Goose Barnacles) are a Galician delight that are very expensive and hard to come by, thanks to the difficulty in harvesting them. I was tickled to see such a large mound of them, since I never expected to see them in person.

Yeah, I think I prefer them without eyes.

I just looked up "Escurpinas" yesterday and could find exactly nothing about them, except that they are a mollusk. Anybody else know about them?

Take a breather and enjoy one of many varieties of pure, blended fruit drinks for 1 euro or so. These were absolutely wonderful--very refreshing. And, frankly, we were sorely lacking in the fruit department during the trip, and these saved us.

Great gams. I thought the hooves at the top were a nice touch.

So many sausages.

This guy cracks me up. "Oooh, I wonder what I taste like? I think I'd be delicious!"

My brother-in-law insinuated that I would find many animal heads in this market. Sadly, I did not. Just this pig head, who, frankly, looks delighted to be there.

Cafe L'Academia was a delight. True to the "reservations required" bit we'd heard, we showed up to find a line of people waiting at the door. We'd requested an outside table (it had been lovely that day), but it was raining fairly heavily by the time we arrived that night. I was worried that we would be out of luck, but they let us right in and sat us down regardless. Hooray!

I had "Creamy Rice with Prawns, Squid, and Mushrooms." It was very much like a creamy paella--slightly tomato-y with tender chunks of seafood and mushrooms. Greg had a filet of salmon stuffed with mozzarella and tomatoes. What Cafe L'Academia drove home (but it was evident elsewhere) is that Barcelona's cuisine is more worldly--influenced not just by traditional Spanish fare, but by the flavors of Italy and nations around the Mediterranean. Like the little piggies we were turning out to be, we each ordered a dessert. I was dying to try Tarte Tatin, since I'd seen so much about it on various food blogs. It looks vaguely like a slab of raw meat in my photo (darn dim lighting), but it was glorious. Warm, spiced apples swimming in cream with a thin layer of light, flaky crust.

Greg had what amounted to cheesecake (but was not called that) with a ganache topping and an orange sauce. Both desserts were totally and utterly divine.

Our last day found us climbing to the tippy top of
Parc Guell. We somehow managed to avoid all knowledge that this park was on top of a hill that puts hills in San Francisco to shame. Since we didn't know any better, it required us climbing a positively obscene number of stairs. The park, of course, is also filled with stairs to climb. It was exhausting, but it had great views. My first photo on this post is from there.

Given that we probably burned off all of our naughty foods with the unexpected hike, we rewarded ourselves with sangria and chocolate croissants at Cafe de L'Opera on La Rambla. It's a bustling cafe with pretty much any liquor, dessert, or tapas your little heart could desire. It's ALSO one of the only places that gave us our bill immediately. That reminds me of another traveling tip in Spain: Eating and drinking are done at a very leisurely pace. The wait staff does not rush you. In fact, they kind of abandon you. When you want to get your check, odds are you'll have to flag the waiter down and ask for it.

Anyway, back to L'Opera: I had Sangria Cava--sangria with champagne. It gave me quite the little buzz, so I "had" to wash it down with a chocolate croissant. The croissants I'd had in Spain to that point were okay, but nothing special. This croissant was a thing of beauty. As you can see, I was (somewhat frighteningly) excited.

The sad news is this is when I had my 'technical difficulties.' I put that in quotation marks, because I thought it was my batteries failing, but really, I think I hit a button that made it switch to the viewfinder mode instead of the LCD. VERY sad because we later had a totally incredible dinner at El Cafeti. This is when we really got our "straight up Spanish cuisine" fix. In a restaurant that was completely without any other people (save one guy who came and left before we were done), with white table cloths and white linen-covered chairs, candlelight, and romantic classical music, we had Paella Mixta and white wine, followed by Crema Catalana. The Paella was fabulous and unlike any paella I've ever had (perhaps it was of the Valencian variety, because the rice was not yellowed with saffron). There were succulent chicken thighs, tender pieces of squid, and mussels that were not brackish like the ones in America, but delicate and sweet. I feel deeply, madly in love with El Cafeti. Even if we were wildly under-dressed for the restaurant's unexpectedly fancy atmosphere.

Barcelona: I give you two thumbs up.