Sunday, August 22, 2010

memories from españa


Bread rubbed with fresh tomato, topped with jamon serrano, drizzled with olive oil, grilled, and folded. The #1 most amazing food we ate. 2 euros each.

I went to Greece to see ancient ruins. I remember octopus salad, gyros sandwiches, chicken souvlaki, and ouzo. I remember in Japan golf cart-like trucks, loaded with whole tuna, dashing through the fish market...a steaming bowl of curry ramen...sticky natto...takoyaki carts on the street.

I remember that Laura and Mary in Little House in the Big Woods looked forward to homemade maple syrup poured over snow and that Bilbo Baggins served up scones and cake in The Hobbit.

Please, though, do not ask me what archaeological sites I saw in Crete, or what Bilbo actually did after tea time. I have a horrible memory for anything I can't taste.

Cowboy and I took two weeks this summer to eat and drink our way through Spain. We traveled from Madrid to Seville (and Triana) to San Sebastian to La Rioja (including Logrono) to Barcelona. Here are some of my best memories from the trip:

Cafe con leche, every morning with breakfast (desayunos). Like a latte, it combines a strong shot of espresso with steamed milk (whole by default - and worth it). Normally about 1.20 euros ($1.50 USD).

Tinto de verano, the most refreshing summer drink - one part unaged red wine (joven), one part lemon Fanta (con limon) or club soda. Typically 1.20 euro per glass ($1.50 USD). Paired here with a lomo montadito (grilled pork loin sandwich) at a little bodega in Triana, next to Seville.

San Sebastian was all about the pintxos, Basque for pinchos, or small tapas in the form of sliced crusty bread with delicious toppings, usually involving some - or many - forms of seafood.

According to the tourist books, the pintxos bars in San Sebastian all try to out-do one another in creativity. I found that the places in Parte Vieja (Old Town) served similar (good) fare - but in Gros, on the other side of the bridge, there was a lot more risk-taking (Bar Bergara pictured above).

Pan! Oh, I love a culture that takes bread seriously (I also appreciate Germany for this). Since bread is such a critical complement to so many dishes in Spain, the panaderias offer an awesome variety to choose from. There are no mediocre $4 bricks here. We're talking under $2 for any fresh loaf you fancy.

Jamon iberico, Spanish cured ham from the black-toed pig (the highest quality of which is acorn-fed, jamón ibérico de bellota). At the risk of getting food snobby, I'd describe the experience of eating jamon iberico as tasting a complex Bordeaux or Napa cab, where the flavors unfold, flex and change, and the finish is long. You can find jamon iberico for about 16 euros per platter at tapas bars (they carve the slices off the leg, right at the bar), and, as you can see from the photo of the carniceria above, you can buy it to enjoy at home from 85-168 euros/kilo (or about $50-100 per pound). Just remember that U.S. Customs does not allow you to bring it back to the States with you!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

monkey bread


Some people wake up early on weekends to go biking (cycling) or running. Some people chase their kids around and feed their puppies.  Cowboy and I, well, we make waffles...pancakes...and monkey bread. 

Monkey Bread
Slightly adapted from AllRecipes 

(we took the bread machine short-cut for the dough, but bread bakers could very well do step one - mixing, kneading, and rising - by hand)

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup water
1 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup raisins or 1/3 cup chopped, toasted nuts (like walnuts or pecans)

1. Remove baking pan from machine. Place yeast, flour, ground cinnamon, salt, white sugar, 2 tablespoons butter and water in the order that is recommended for the bread maker. Select dough cycle and press start.
2. When dough is complete, place dough on floured surface and knead 10 to 12 times.
3. In a medium saucepan on low heat, melt one cup of butter, stir in brown sugar and raisins or nuts. Stir until smooth. Remove from heat.
4. Cut dough in one inch chunks. Drop one chunk at a time into the butter sugar mixture. Thoroughly coat dough pieces, then layer them loosely in a greased Bundt pan, staggering layers so you're plopping each dough chunk over a space between two below. Let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until dough is just over the top of the pan, 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Bake in a preheated 375 degree F (190 degree C) oven for 20 to 25 minutes or till golden brown. Remove from oven, place a plate face down on top of the pan and, using oven mitts to hold plate on pan, turn over both until bread slides out onto plate. Serve warm.

This is the perfect buttery, sugary brunch party crowd-pleaser.  (Much easier to make than sticky buns!)  Let your happy guests pull away their own pieces from the loaf.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

hello, here I am again

I recently moved on from my role in marketing/product development at Jamba Juice.

Long term readers may have noticed the inverse correlation between my workload at Jamba and my attention to Bribe Me with a Muffin. Project complexity/pressures up, posts down.

As a graduate school student, I will write more. The year 2010 is also "Bribe Me with a Muffin's" 5th Year Anniversary, and I think it is time for some healthy evolution in my writing. Your feedback is very welcome.

I want to end by saying that working at Jamba was great in many ways. As you might imagine, somebody needs to taste the new smoothie flavors before final recipes are sent to stores, right? Yes. Sometimes 100 times over (and it never got old). Finding happy customers Twitter-ing about my products gave me a trusty, on-demand mood-enhancer (Boost?) at any time of day. But the best part was working with such talented, super cool, exceedingly kind teammates, who made amazing things happen. (Awesome people, thank you.)