Friday favorites 6/24
Brevas are here brevas are here brevas are here! Plus an excellent veggie burger and grilling cuttlefish
It’s Friday!1 Madrid finally got a break from the heatwave this week, so I’ve been enjoying walking around the city without melting. We also took advantage of the weather and made paella; in an effort to use my twitter account more I attempted to live tweet the process, which you can check out here. Feel free to tweet, comment, or email any questions about our method!
Paella wasn’t my only culinary delight this week. Below, check out the rest of my favorites.
I know I wrote a newsletter back in May declaring San Isidro and its associated rosquillas as signifying the best time of the year, but I don’t know what I was thinking. Everyone knows that the best time of the year is actually fig season. Brevas, which are the first fig crop of the year and come from the previous year’s shoots, have finally started popping up in our fruit shops and I can’t get enough. I first became interested in figs when I finally tried them a couple of years ago (I was originally put off by their odd inner appearance) and upon further research found out that they are technically not a fruit but an inverted flower. I also think it’s curioso2 that they are pollinated by a special species of wasp that dies inside of the fig after completing its pollination duties. I’m not going to pretend to know how to explain the science behind either of these facts, so if you’re interested in learning more, check out the links above.
Luckily, it doesn’t take a scientist to appreciate fig season. I always go for the softest, stickiest figs I can find and enjoy them with a steaming cup of black coffee or herbal tea (yes, in the middle of summer!). I find that the jammy flavor complements the bitterness of my drink. When I want to switch things up, halving the figs and placing them under the broiler for a few minutes turns the jamminess level up to a 10 in both flavor and texture, and I like to take them straight out of the oven and pop them on top of a veggie bowl or mixed grain salad. Sliced figs also make an excellent pizza topping, particularly when paired with prosciutto and arugula.
Anytime I can rope someone into trying a vegan restaurant with me I’m happy. As you know, I’m not vegan myself, but I love going to vegan spots because I don’t have to explain my food intolerances (“No, it’s not a lactose allergy. Yes, I can eat butter. Eggs aren’t a dairy product so they’re fine. Oh, by the way, I can’t eat mussels, either. Sorry for being so complicated!” But all in Spanish.). Plus I genuinely like plant-based meals. This week one of my good friends suggested going to Vega, which I had been eyeing for a while. It was a rare midweek lunch date, so we decided to go for the menú del día3 (menus are usually only offered at lunchtime and on weekdays). I find that soups containing avocado can sometimes be too heavy, so I was pleasantly surprised by the light and refreshing flavor of the spinach avocado purée (served cold) that was offered as the primer plato.4 My favorite dish by far, though, was the homemade veggie burger. Made with a mixture of soy and beet and topped with pickled vegetables, sriracha mayo, and vegan cheddar, the burger had both great textural and flavor contrast. I’m usually not a fan of vegan cheese (I’d rather just skip the cheese altogether, even on pizza) but the cheese here was mild and played well with the other flavors.
For my friends outside of the city who are unable to try the burger at Vega for themselves, my favorite veggie burger recipe is this black bean version from Sally’s Baking Addiction. I skip the feta and use eggs as the binder, but Sally gives additional instructions for making the burgers fully vegan. I recommend doubling the batch and freezing the extra patties; I reheat them in the oven from frozen and they always turn out great.
Last year I wouldn’t have touched cuttlefish (aka sepia) with a ten foot pole, but after trying it grilled at the aforementioned San Isidro festival this year, it’s slowly growing on me. This week we decided to try our hand at grilling it at home on our Weber kettle grill, so off to the fish shop we went. The fishmonger recommended a sepia that was a little over a kilo for the two of us (we must have looked hungry, because this ended up being way too much) and cleaned and prepped it for us to grill. To make the cuttlefish, we brushed it with a bit of olive oil and cooked it on both sides until opaque, which is what was recommended online. We then brushed it with a quick picada5 of olive oil, chopped parsley, and finely diced garlic and finished it with Maldon salt flakes and a sprinkle of black pepper. After testing the texture we felt that it was still a little chewy (sepia should have a snappy texture when cooked properly), so we threw it back on the grill for a bit longer until it began to toast at the edges. The charred edges were key, giving a slight crunch to the tips of the tentacles and leaving the inside with the desired snap. If eating something that has more appendages than you do grosses you out (or if sepia is hard to get where you are), the picada itself is delicious, and it works well brushed over any type of grilled or baked white fish.
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“It’s Friday”: Every week I have to stop myself from making a Rebecca Black reference. Gotta get down on Friiiidayyyy…
Menú del día: Menu of the day, which here is a fixed menu offering select dishes at a set price. It usually includes a starter, main course, and either coffee or dessert.
Primer plato: First course
Picada: Picado/a means “finely chopped.” Here it’s referring to a picada de ajo y perejil, which is a sauce made of finely chopped garlic and parsley.
Eso es todo, amigos!: “That’s all, folks” aka the Spanish version of what Porky Pig says in Looney Tunes. David told me about it and I love it (almost as much as I love the fact that Kermit the Frog is named Gustavo in Spain).