My Favorite Souvenir from Barcelona

Anyone who watched my Instagram Stories while I was on vacation in Barcelona might have noticed the meal at Bodega 1900, where I waxed rhapsodic about pretty much all of the food. But I think my favorite part of that meal was the part that I could actually kind of take home with me: their tomato salad. Now, their tomato salad were special, locally-grown tomatoes that were served with their house-made feta cheese. But the most striking thing about them was their simplicity. The tomatoes were simply peeled, cut into chunks, and served with a pinch of salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Upon returning home, I decided I needed to keep this marvelous salad in my life. So for the past few weeks, we’ve been eating tomato salad at least once a week. I’m fortunate to have access to a plethora of farmers markets that still have abundant tomatoes, as well as a local grocery store that sells local heirloom tomatoes. So I thought I’d share my “recipe.”

The thing about this recipe is that it’s not really a recipe. It’s all about the individual ingredients. It’s pretty common culinary wisdom that the fewer ingredients a recipe has, the more important it is to get the best of those ingredients. Now, I only use freshly-ground peppercorns and mineral-rich sea salt in my kitchen, so those are pantry staples for me. But if you don’t, this is where you’re going to want to break out that fancy box of flaky sea salt your mom gave you for Christmas when fancy sea salts were the in gift (just me? okay). And get the best olive oil you can find. Again, I have a great local grocery store that recently put in a bulk olive oil bar, so I can get very fresh olive oil every couple of weeks for a very reasonable price, so that’s what I use. It’s a Napa Valley olive oil with a fresh, buttery flavor and none of the acidic bite that can indicate the olive is starting to turn.

And then there is the tomato. I have made this salad with Roma tomatoes, standard slicing tomatoes, and a few heirloom varieties, and I have to say, I vastly prefer the heirloom varieties. I will say that, despite the giant honking tomato in the picture above, it does best with a medium-sized tomato. Basically, you want to be able to cut the tomato into pointed chunks. If I use an heirloom tomato, I will usually skip peeling it, as the skins are so thin, but a regular slicing or Roma tomato will get a little X cut in the non-stem end, a quick dip in boiling water, and a quick peel. It’s not as fussy as it sounds, I promise. Then, you dress it simply, right before serving, and marvel at the masterpiece.

Simple Tomato Salad

Ingredients:

1-2 medium-sized heirloom tomatoes
good sea salt
freshly-ground pepper
extra virgin olive oil

Wash your tomatoes (and peel, if desired). Remove the stem and white core around the stem, and cut into 6-8 wedges. Cut each wedge into 2-4 chunks. Arrange, skin side down, on a large flat plate or bowl, in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Consume immediately. Serves 2-3 people.

A Simple, Healthy Meal

This is not perhaps a summery post. This is perhaps a recipe I will revisit when the weather chills a bit and a drizzle of rain greys the sky, rather than the sudden, violent storms of late spring and summer. But for now, it served well as a light supper on a day with a late, hearty lunch. I based it on a cleansing recipe from the blog Deliciously Ella, but made it my own with some simple tweaks.
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Rather than focusing on detox or cleansing, I focused on the vibrant flavors in the fresh veggies. I added a leek to enrich the flavor, as I love the taste of leeks, and I augmented the water with some rich beef broth, despite the fact that this would no longer be considered vegetarian. But you are certainly welcome to keep this soup vegetarian. I imagine it would be delicious if you used the rich leftover liquid from soaking dried wild mushrooms.
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Green Leek Soup
(adapted from here)

1 bunch of broccoli, washed and broken into florets
1 leek, sliced and washed
1/2 bunch of kale, washed and torn
1 can of canellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 handful of parsley, washed
2-1/2 cups of liquid (water, broth, etc.)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for sauteing
2-3 tsp. lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Heat some olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the leek and saute until it starts to soften, add the broccoli and a splash of water. Cover and steam for a few minutes, until the broccoli turns bright green and begins to become tender. Add the kale and wilt. Turn off the heat. In a blender, puree the beans, parsley, and 1/3 of the broth. Pour out into a large pot. Then, puree, half the vegetables with 1/3 of the liquid and add to the pot. Finally, puree the remaining vegetables with the remaining liquid, plus the garlic, 1/4 cup olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Add to the pot. Bring to a simmer, taste and adjust seasoning. Turn off the heat and add lemon juice to brighten the flavor. Serves three, with crackers or bread for dipping.

Adventures in Banting

I used to be that kid who ate anything and everything and never gained an ounce. Then, in college and grad school, I discovered long-distance running. So I’ve always been skinny. But since turning 30 and moving away from as much running and spending more time sitting at work, I’ve found that I’m starting to round out a bit. So lately, I’ve been trying to eat a bit healthier to lose some weight.

I discovered William Banting’s “Letter on Corpulence” through a low-carb blog I used to read. I have since determined that low-carb is not the diet for me, but actually reading Banting’s writing, I realized that his diet is not really low-carb, as it is lower-carb. He doesn’t eliminate carbohydrate-rich foods from his diet, but instead tries to de-emphasize them and eat more protein and vegetables. And eat less sugar. That’s something I can get behind.

So I’ve been “banting” the last couple of weeks, focusing on lean proteins, healthy fats, vegetables, some fruit, and some whole grains. Then, this weekend, for Memorial Day, I visited a friend of mine whose lost a truly stunning amount of weight recently, through exercise, calorie-counting, and just general commitment to healthier eating. We had a most un-traditional meal of fresh vegetable salads and a couple white wine spritzers, followed by a vigorous 45-minute walk outside in the sunshine. We returned to a lovely dessert of vanilla ice cream, strawberry compote made with strawberries from her garden, and a little crumbled up cookie on top. It was a fantastic and light meal that left me feeling good.

So this week, I’m re-invigorating my efforts to focus my diet on healthy foods, whole grains, enough protein, and plenty of vegetables and fresh-raw fruits. It’s certainly the season for it, with impulse-bought produce. Not to say that I’ve been perfect. Like Banting, I have a certain weakness for bread and butter, but I’ve only indulged once or twice. And I’ve tried to add some more activity to my day, mostly walking. I’m already starting to notice a difference in how I feel.