One thing Americans – and New Orleanians in particular – do exceptionally well is brunch. Long, leisurely, mimosa/cocktail-fueled, this-is-my-only-plan-for-the-day brunch.
Say what you will about our excess and indulgence… in this case, I support it.
We have recently started hosting meals through EatWith – a website that allows you to share meals in people’s homes all over the world. It’s basically Airbnb for dining, and when we first moved to Barcelona, being a guest was a wonderful way to meet new people and eat delicious food. And since we pretty much already do this kind of thing on our own (two extroverts who really love food and parties), it made perfect sense for us to become EatWith hosts.
Last weekend, we hosted our first New Orleans brunch and made one of my all-time favorites: grits and grillades. I had never had grillades (or grits for that matter) until I moved to NOLA. It’s a slow-cooked meat dish – made with beef, veal or pork – in a thick, flavorful gravy, served over creamy, buttery grits. So a light, healthy breakfast.
It’s easy to make, but it does take a long time to cook, so I advise making it the day before. The flavors are even better the next day, and all you have to do is reheat it and make the grits before people come over (you’re going to want to have people over: it makes a ton). We made our own chicken and beef stock, but you can also use store-bought.
Our last CSA included five wee little potatoes, which were not quite big enough to make mashed potatoes or tortilla. So I turned them into a quick brunch using a few other ingredients we had in the house. We live on the third floor, which is actually the fourth floor European/ fifth floor American, so I try to avoid unnecessary stair climbing when I’m hangry.
I used the Pioneer Woman’s breakfast potatoes recipe as a guide and added a couple of poached eggs on top (plus a healthy serving of ketchup). My poached eggs never turn out quite as pretty as I’d like, but they were perfectly runny and delicious, and I’m working on new techniques to improve their aesthetics.
Cut the potatoes, peppers and onion into medium chunks.
Add garlic and toss with a good glug of olive oil and a bit of softened or melted butter. (I find it's most effective to mix the ingredients with clean hands.)
Season liberally with spices.
Bake at 425 degrees F/ 218 degrees C for 25 minutes, gently turning them once or twice.
Turn the oven up - in my case, as high as it will go to 250 degrees C (482 degrees F) - and bake for another 20 minutes. Check on the potatoes occasionally to turn them or take them out if they're starting to get scorched.
As previously reported, we recently joined a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). We had a couple of reasons for doing so, but one of them was to push ourselves into cooking with things we don’t normally buy.
Challenge number one: Beets.
Neither of us had any experience with buying and/or cooking beets, so when basket #1 arrived with two of them we did what reasonable people do: we left them on the counter for days hoping they would prepare themselves to be eaten.
This did not work, and eventually we took to the interwebs to look for creative solutions, and I was surprised to find there are lots of amazing-looking dishes to be made using beets.
Not really following any one of them in particular, the beet preparation went like this:
The end result is pictured above and turned out surprisingly well.
The moral of the story is get out there and try cooking with something new, even (or especially) if you don’t know where to start with it. It doesn’t need to be fancy or complicated, but playing with a new ingredient can open the door to a variety of other ways to prepare it.
Now I’m actually looking forward to the next time beets show up in the basket so we can make something crazy, like beet and goat cheese ravioli.
I have a very important announcement to make. Brian and I just joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). It’s just a few blocks away from our apartment in the Gràcia neighborhood of Barcelona, I walk by it every day and I can’t believe it’s taken us so long to sign up.
Every Tuesday will henceforth be known as “Christmas.”
Els Bandolers de Gràcia
El Carrer Verdi 12
Phone: 93 217 27 85
Monday to Thursday: 11:00 – 22:00
Friday and Saturday: 11:00 – 15:00, 17:00 – 22:00. Closed Sundays.
Els Bandolers de Gràcia is a great little store where you can buy produce and local artisan products, such as wine, beer, honey and chocolate. The produce comes from local and organic farms in Catalunya, and the CSA is a fantastic deal. Here’s how it works:
1. You sign up and pay a 30-euro registration fee, which includes two baskets – cestas – (you trade an empty one for a magically full one each week).
2. You choose either Tuesdays or Thursdays to pick up your cesta.
3. You pay each week when you get your basket. We signed up for the pequeña, which is still a ton of food for two people and costs 13 euros. The media is 18.50 euros and the grande is 28 euros.
We are only two weeks into our membership, and I already notice an improvement in our enthusiasm and creativity with preparing fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s like a game show: race against the clock to figure out A) what things are and B) how to combine them in an edible fashion.
Mystery greens? Braise them with pancetta, olive oil and balsamic! Potatoes and onions? Breakfast fries! Insanely delicious ripe plums? Eat as many as you can in one sitting, then make a quick stovetop jam with the rest before they go bad! Everything else? Throw it in a pot, you’ve got yourself a stew!
If you’re looking for a CSA in Barcelona, this place is glorious.