Spain, Day One

It’s been nearly a year and I’m still not quite sure how we ended up in Spain. Nishan and I were in the throes of planning a wedding and we kept feeling the pull of the Mediterranean. Tapas, cava, and train rides galore. What’s not to love about Spain? Plus, I was excited to practice my rusty Spanish skills. After a quick stop in Toronto, we flew in to Barcelona and went straight to the market. I was determined to get to Mercat de la Boqueria before the early evening closing time and I wasn’t going to let any jet lag get to me.

Mercat de la Boqueria

Brimming with cured meats, fresh seafood, and loads of produce, Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, or La Boqueria for short, is near La Rambla, the city’s main pedestrian street. Avoid La Rambla and go straight to La Boqueria. The market has been around since the early eleventh century and while it’s overrun with tourists these days, it’s still a beautiful sight to see. The fish! The jamon! The fresh pressed juices!

Mercat de la Boqueria

Mercat de la Boqueria

Afterwards we headed to the El Raval district, where we skipped dinner and went straight for dessert at the famed Granja M. Viader.


This chocolateria has held its own since 1870 and their chocolate and churros were by far the best we’d have during our week in Spain. If you go, get the Suis. The thick, ethereal tuft of whipped cream atop piping hot chocolate is a sight and taste to behold.

All that eating made us, uh, hungry, so we decided to go for a late night tapas dinner at the famed Tapas 24 in the Eixample district near our hotel. The line to get a table snaked down the street but our wait was worth it, despite the icy service.

McFoie Burger

Costelles de concil arrebossades

Highlights included the playful McFoie Burger (yes, that is a ball of foie gras butter) and the costelle de concil arresbossades (rabbit ribs). Sorry, Bugs.

Blistered Shishito Peppers with Miso

Sometimes I don’t have time to cook, but the desire to create something delicious wins so I end up turning on the stove and thinking to myself, okay, I have twenty minutes. Let’s do this.

Adapted from a simple Food and Wine recipe, I made these salty, earthy peppers one afternoon when I wanted to bring something to a family picnic but was short on time. Fresh peppers aside, you probably already have most of these ingredients in your pantry. These little bites are perfect with a cold drink or even as a side dish.

Blistered shishito peppers with miso


1 1/2 tablespoons white miso
1 1/2 tablespoons sake
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small dried red chile
3/4 pound shishito peppers
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger

1. In a small bowl, stir the miso and sake until smooth.

2. In a large skillet, heat the oil with the chile until shimmering. Add the shishitos and ginger and cook over high heat, tossing, until tender and blistered in spots, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the miso sake mixture and toss well. Transfer to a plate and serve.

Linguine with Squid and Shellfish

There is a little restaurant in an alleyway in Trastavere, Rome’s bohemian neighborhood near the Tiber River. My sister and I spent a week here a few years ago during a cold, frigid spell in December. The weather meant that the quintessential Roman markets filled with fresh produce were sparse. No tomatoes, no artichokes, no squash blossoms waiting to be turned into something delicious.

But oh, the pasta. December is just as fine a time for pasta as any other, and I had one of my favorite renditions in Trastavere. The name of the restaurant escapes me now, but the pasta hasn’t. Brimming with seafood and flecked with chilis, I’ve recreated this dish at home. This version calls for pickled hot cherry peppers, but if you can get your hands on some oil packed Calabrian chiles, all the better.

Linguine with squid and shellfish


1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 pound cleaned small squid, bodies cut into 1/4-inch rings
1 pound linguine pasta
2 pounds clams, scrubbed
2 pounds mussels, scrubbed
1/2 pound bay scallops
4 pickled hot cherry peppers, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. In a larger saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook over low heat, stirring, until it just starts to brown, 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of the parsley, the crushed red pepper and a pinch of salt and cook until fragrant. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Stir in the squid, cover and braise over low heat, stirring, until tender, 30 minutes.

2. In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente; drain.

3. While the pasta cooks, add the clams, mussels and scallops to the squid. Cover and cook over high heat until the clams and mussels just start to open, 3 minutes. Uncover and cook until the clams and mussels open fully and the broth is slightly reduced, 4 minutes. Add the pasta, pickled peppers, lemon juice and the remaining 1/4 cup of parsley and cook over moderate heat, tossing, until the pasta is hot and coated in a light sauce, 3 minutes. Transfer the pasta to shallow bowls and serve warm.

Khiar Shoor (Pickled Cucumbers)

Khiar shoor literally translates from Persian to English as “salty cucumbers,” but it is so much more than that. Shoor are a category of Iranian pickled vegetables, be they cucumbers or cauliflower or carrots or nearly any other vegetable. There’s also torshi, but that’s a whole other classification of pickled vegetables that we’ll save for another post.

Every summer while I was growing up, my mom and all the Iranian aunties would gather in someone’s home and spend the day peeling vegetables and peppers and onions, making the next year’s batch of shoor and torshi. The air would be ripe with the smell of vinegar and garlic and the kids would be enlisted to help. The shoor would be ready to eat a few weeks later; the torshi would need to wait months, sometimes even years.

Nowadays you can buy shoor or torshi at any Middle Eastern market but nothing comes close to the homemade version. I made this version when I found myself with too many Armenian cucumbers from my parents’ garden. Once ready, these cucumbers go wonderfully with sandwiches or kotlet.

Pickled Armenian cucumbers


2 red or green chili peppers
2 pounds Persian or Armenian cucumbers
5 cloves garlic, peeled
7 sprigs tarragon
4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
kosher salt

1. Wash, clean and drain the vegetables and herbs. Sterilize canning jars, drain and dry thoroughly.

2. Fill each jar almost to the top with cucumbers, garlic, tarragon, and bay leaves.

3. Bring 6 tablespoons salt, 12 cups water, peppercorns, sugar, vinegar, and chili peppers to a boil. Remove from heat and fill each jar within 1/2 inch of the top with this hot liquid. Let cool and seal jars. Store the jars in the refrigerator for at least 10 days before using.

Seafood and Garlic Chive Lo Mein

I work near San Francisco’s Chinatown and every day is an uphill (literally and figuratively) battle to resist the delicious noodle dishes beckoning at every corner. My favorite are the bustling Hong Kong-style shops that line Chinatown’s alleyways, serving chewy egg noodles tossed with fresh vegetables and seafood.

This dish is an homage to those restaurants that I adore so much. It’s worth it to seek out garlic chives as they impart a uniquely herbaceous flavor, although a combination of regular chives and minced garlic can be substituted. I use scallops and squid here, but any shellfish will work just fine.

Seafood and garlic chive lo mein


1 pound fresh thin Chinese egg noodles
3 teaspoons sesame oil
6 squid (about 4 ounces), cleaned
3/4 pound sea scallops, halved
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster-flavored sauce
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 pound yellow garlic chives, cut into 2-inch lengths
4 green onions, cut into 2-inch lengths

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Add 2 teaspoons sesame oil and toss to coat.

2. Cut off squid tentacles. Cut squid bodies in half lengthwise with a knife and score the inside diagonally in a cross-hatch pattern. Combine squid tentacles and bodies, scallops, cornstarch, and salt in a bowl. Stir to coat; let stand for 10 minutes. Combine chicken broth, soy sauce, oyster-flavored sauce, and remaining teaspoon sesame oil in another bowl to form sauce.

3. Soak dried mushrooms in warm water to cover until softened, about 20 minutes; drain. Discard stems and thinly slice caps.

4 Place a wok over medium-high heat until hot. Add vegetable oil, swirling to coat sides. Add mushrooms, ginger, garlic chives, and green onions; stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add scallops and squid; stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add sauce, stirring, until it boils and thickens. Toss in noodles, mix well, remove from heat, and serve.