Check out reprint of our Family Food Fight and very nice back story of FOODalogue (and me!) Warm thanks to editor Claudia for her generous coverage. I’m delighted to be featured.
My focus on food has been intense the past couple of months and while it’s been a very fulfilling experience (literally and figuratively), I’ve been feeling that something was missing. This morning I realized what. Travel. I’m a travel-a-holic and since July I’ve been posting here with not a word about travel. So I decided to revisit my very first internet post from April 2006, which melded my passion for food and travel in a Meandering Meal narrative. It took a while to track down because I had lost it somewhere in the blogosphere.
In the 3 years since I wrote the piece that follows I’ve had the good fortune to travel to Thailand, Italy, Spain, Greece, Toronto, New Orleans, Albuquerque, and Puerto Rico and NY (several times each)…so you don’t have to throw a ‘pity party’ for me. But, boo-hoo, like many others, I’m running scared about finances and the only traveling I’m projecting for the near term is between my computer and the kitchen! Did I say boo-hoo?
[Reprint: April 2006]
My fingers quake as I lay them on the keyboard to begin this new journey, perhaps the strangest trip I’ve ever taken…entering Blogville. For almost 25 years, I’ve been fortunate to have 3 passions crisscross my life, both personally and professionally: food, travel, and publishing. Another pursuit I’ve enjoyed is photography (let’s call this passion #4). My photography is not the kind with F stops, tripods and special wide-angle lens but, rather, an amateur ‘point & shoot’ method which has yielded some surprisingly good results; a few even hang on my walls. While food and travel still occupy the lion’s share of my recreational thought process, the publishing aspect had begun to slip away. Enter BLOGVILLE, a cyberspace destination I’d yet to explore. Why not create an online food and travel journal? It seemed like the ideal pursuit to meld my 4 passions into a new vehicle for my enjoyment … and maybe yours. Perhaps you’ll continue on this journey with me?
A Gastronomic Stroll Down Memory Lane
Many memorable meals were tasted along the way but, unfortunately, not recorded.
• I’m thinking about Risotto Nero in a little restaurant in Venice with my sister and mom where the chef was literally dragged out of the kitchen when Mary told the waiter in a very offhanded manner ‘my compliments to the chef’. (Apparently, that’s something you get to do personally.)
• With a heavy heart, I remember the dichotomy of food supply I experienced in Cuba from the predominantly rationed portions in government restaurants (the only place tourists were supposed to eat and where you were lucky to get a spoonful of frijoles to accompany the rice) to the high cuisine and Nuevo Latino dishes of a paladar (private residence) where we secretly dined one night.
• I don’t need a photo to remember downing tequila the real way (lime and salt off my thumb and pointer finger) with grilled meats wrapped in tortilla at a plaza in Mexico City while Mariachis played in the foreground.
• The fabulous barbecue meats of Brazil and Argentina and my first experience at a rodizio (all-U-can-eat BBQ with a football field of ‘salad bar’ offerings) are definite standouts in my memory food bank … as is the looming and impressive Christ figure on the top of the mountain as you fly into Rio by night.
• Lubino al Sal (a whole fish heavily encrusted in salt and baked) was a wonderful, juicy, non-salty surprise when first tasted at an outdoor restaurant in Malaga, Spain many years go.
• I’ve spent a lot of time in Puerto Rico and certainly found many meals ‘muy bueno’, high among them the rich asopaos made with shrimp or chicken that I remember from my early visits to the Island. A squeeze of lime and sliced fresh avocado takes it right over the top. Anyone who knows the real PR has visited at least one of the roadside foodstands in Piñones where you are greeted by wafts of alcapurria (mashed, stuffed and fried plantains) and bacalitos (cod fish fritters). You wash these down with an iced cold beer or coconut water sipped right from the shell. More recently, I was treated to the sights, smells and sounds of La Ruta de Los Lechones, a colorful stretch of mountain road in Guavate. Here one can spend a wonderful afternoon feasting on roast pig right off the spit with all its typical accompaniments and dance away the calories to the undeniably happy sounds of live salsa bands.
• In Tuscany, a farmhouse in the rolling hills of San Gmignano was the setting for a wine-tasting and a wonderful home-cooked meal; at the main hall of a castle in Chianti, we tasted wine and ate crusts of just baked Italian bread served with salamis, olives and artisanal cheeses.
• We seemed to have mouled (ate mussels) our way through France. They were so good and so hard to resist. At La Pied Cochon I had the best onion soup, escargots and cod over a potato puree in a very Parisian atmosphere…and then took a night boat ride on the River Seine. Ooh la la.
• A must stop in downtown Santiago, Chile is lunch at Donde Agosto in the bustling and colorful Mercado Central. On the road to the wineries, I loved our stop at the wisteria-laden “Los Hornitos” where we were greeted with a welcome drink and empanadas made from meats cooked in the outdoor ovens.
• And, of course, who has ever gone to the beautiful and fragrant valleys of Napa and Sonoma and not enjoyed themselves? Tasting, tasting, and more tasting!
• Lastly, I’ve been presented with a few strange dishes in my travels…an appetizer of lamb testicles in the House of Morande in the Casablanca Valley outside of Santiago (but with a glass of wine and that beautiful setting overlooking the vineyards, who cared?); a Valentine’s Day aphrodisiac of bull’s balls served at Cafe San Martin in NYC. (I know it’s suspiciously starting to look like a theme here, but that’s the end of that category, promise).
• Grasshoppers are a delicacy in Oaxaca, MX and I’ve conveniently blocked my memory as to whether or not I tried them when they were presented at a folkloric buffet I attended. I’m thinking I did…and I’m thinking salty.
Postscript: I don’t know about you, but I really enjoyed this trip down memory lane and while there are only a few photos and most were taken way back before digital cameras, they’re authentic. This post has left me wanting…wanting to make a project of finding old photos and travel journals, wanting to update it with memories from the great trips I took over the past 3 years…and, more importantly, wanting to go out and create new ones!
Herb-Crusted Pork Roast, Dried Fruit and Vegetable Compote,
with a Bean Puree
Behold the main entree I prepared for a family dinner. I think the only reason I didn’t get a standing ovation was they were too busy eating, reaching for seconds and loudly ooh-aahing. It was that good!
A Little About My Family
When you move from one state to another as I did (NYC to South FL), you are truly blessed to find everyone you thought you were leaving sitting at the dining table with you. This is what happened with us. First my mother and grandmother left NY 30 years ago; the next generation (me, my sister, her husband) left 14 years ago; and, little by little, our children and their children set roots in South Florida. We now number 16 around the dinner table and range in age from 86 to 2 years old. (Wish I could say I was dead middle.) When the last branch of the family tree moved down several years ago, we started a new tradition…instead of the conventional offering of grace or toast and clinking glasses, we start every family dinner with a bellowing rendition of Hail, Hail…the gang’s all here. Family dinners are frequent, celebratory, raucously loud and over-abundant with food!
So, without too much further ado, this is the main course I prepared for my sister’s birthday. My niece did appys and a first course — dare I tell you it was pasta? We’re mostly Italian. It’s a hard thing to give up on Sunday (and other days) for some family members.
The Undeniably Colorful Fruit & Veggie Compote
The meat and beans presentation.
The Artistic View
For Roast Pork:
boneless pork loin, garlic, rosemary, crushed walnuts, thyme, fennel seed, oregano, cinnamon, nutmeg, bread crumbs, mustard, honey, tablespoon orange marmalade, OO, S&P.
• Spray pan and pork roast with olive oil.
• S&P meat and strategically add some garlic studs.
• Prepare dry rub of herbs and crushed walnuts, mix with a little honey and a tablespoon or two of orange marmalade and pat onto roast.
• At this point, I decided to add some breadcrumbs to the top to create a crust and stop marmalade glaze from burning. It worked well.
• Bake at 325 (170 internal) for about 20 minutes per pound.
For Dried Fruit & Vegetable Compote (gorgeous, isn’t it?):
dried dates, dried plums, carrots, baby pearl onions, green olives, mini sweet peppers, capers, chicken broth, Sweet Vermouth.
The technique is to basically throw everything into a pot with some chicken broth until fruit gets all soft and deliciously gooey, the vegetables are tender, and the saltiness and sweetness have melded. I added the Sweet Vermouth towards the end.
For Bean Puree:
beans, toasted walnuts, OO, S&P, chopped parsley
I use canned beans (white, black or, in this case, chick peas) and it couldn’t be simpler. Heat, pulse lightly so that it still has some texture, add a little S&P, a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of parsley and decorate with toasted walnuts.
[See my favorite pulsing kitchen item in right column. I use it for the bean puree, making pesto, scrambling eggs...etc.]