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.

Drink Your Valentine’s Flowers

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, which means roses, lots of roses. While I love the look and scent of roses, I’ve never been one to insist on a bouquet for any occasion. In fact, the impact on the Earth from the conventional growing of flowers has always mildly horrified me, so I’m content to have rose-scented beauty and rose-printed fabrics, and even rose-shaped earrings, but I don’t generally get a Valentine’s bouquet. We shall see if Boyfriend makes me a liar tomorrow.

But because I love roses, I thought it would be appropriate to offer a rose-themed post today. At the store last weekend, I eyed a bottle of elderflower-rose sparkling lemonade. It was lightly pink, with an elegant handmade label, and a decadent price tag, for a non-alcoholic beverage. It was just so lovely and tempting and I almost bought it. Until I thought better and decided there was no reason to buy rose soda when I had sugar and rosewater and lemon juice at home. I needed only a bottle of sparkling water, which was much more reasonably priced.

I chilled my bottle of sparkling water and then set about making my soda syrup. I decided on lime and rosewater. I mixed sugar and water to make a rich simple syrup, and then added rosewater and lime juice to taste. Be cautious, however, as tasting hot sugar syrup is a tricky and dangerous business! When I was finished, I had just over a half a cup of delicately scented syrup that I drizzled into a tall glass of iced sparkling water. While it lacked the rose hue, it was fragrant, sweet, and the perfect end to my day. And it would be a perfect accompaniment to a romantic brunch or picnic, should your weather be nicer than mine promises to be.

I can forsee this syrup having future iterations. I would like to make it again without the lime juice in order to sweeten lemonade, perhaps made with syrup, lemon juice, and sparkling water. And a sprig of lavender or thyme would go nicely with all the other flavors.

Rose-Lime Syrup

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
2-4 Tbsp. rose water (food-grade, please!)
2 Tbsp. lime juice

Mix the sugar and water and heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the rosewater, starting with 2 tablespoons and continuing to your taste, and add the lime juice. Stir. Add by the tablespoon to a tall glass of sparkling water to your desired sweetness. Makes 4-6 fluid ounces of syrup. Store in a jar or bottle in the refrigerator for a couple weeks.