Tag Archives: Spain

Easy oven-roasted cauliflower

A friend recently sent me a recipe, which included broccoli, but since I had cauliflower at home, I used that. Since that day I have made the recipe several times and cannot seem to get enough. Some people eat chocolate for a snack, I opt for cauliflower!

So, how to begin? Buy a large cauliflower. Cut it into florets. Place them in a large oven-safe bowl. Sprinkle olive oil, black pepper and salt. Add crushed garlic. Roast in the oven (225C) for 30 minutes (cooking time depends on your taste and on the size of florets, so taste to see how you prefer your cauliflower). oven-roasted cauliflowerOnce the florets have obtained nice color, remove the bowl from the oven. Immediately after, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese (again, add according to your taste). And voila, the dish is ready to be served!! See, super easy and fast to make! oven-roasted cauliflowerFYI: the original recipe said squeeze a lemon at the same time when adding Parmesan cheese, but I have not yet done that. Maybe one day.

PS In case you are wondering, the tiles (carreaux ciment) are from a shop called Mosaic del Sur. Their production takes place in Andalusia, Spain and Morocco. If you are looking for original and beautiful tiles, this is The Place! They have a showroom in Paris, and even if you are not renovating at the moment, stop by to admire these elegant pieces of art! (http://www.carreauxmosaic.com)


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Cicchetti e l’ombra in Venice

Cicchetti e l’ombra is a Venetian tradition that includes a little bit of something to eat (=cicchetti) and something to drink (l’ombra), usually toward the late afternoon or early evening. Similar to enjoying tapas in Spain or apéritif in France before the real dinner, Aperitivo hour in Venice continues to fascinate both locals and tourists, and we certainly had our fair share of Cicchetti e l’ombra during our recent trip in Venice.cicchetti in VeniceCicchetti in Venicecicchetticicchetti

But what does this tradition really mean? In this case, the word Cicchetti refers to small appetizers ranging from prosciutto to baccala and aubergine slices on bread; basically anything that makes a tiny snack. L’ombra refers to a glass of wine, Aperol or other aperitif drink.

According to a common belief, l’ombra (which literally means the shade) refers to the drinking part because “the gondoliers used to snatch a glass in the shade away from the glare of the sun or the water” (DK Eyewitness Venice & the Veneto, 2012).

Cantine del Vino già SchiaviBy a pure coincidence, one of the most famous wine bars of Venice, Cantine del Vino già Schiavi, was located very near to our hotel. What was even more incredible is that we run into it just like that while returning to our hotel during our second evening. And what a fantastic world waited for us inside! Cantina del vino gia schiaviFor a few euros, we sipped prosecco, pinot grigio and local red while tasting dozens of types of cicchetti. These tiny breads were filled with pistachio mousse, dried flower petals, mushrooms, salted cod, cheese, salmon eggs, artichokes, grilled vegetables, sardines, anchovies, eggs with truffle, pumpkin puree, etc. –you name it! It was such a paradise and we kept returning every night…

When in Venice, try to look for these traditional wine bars that continue to respect the tradition of Cicchetti e l’ombra. In addition to our local pearl, Do Mori near Rialto is also very well known and appreciated by both locals and foreigners. Just do not arrive too late, as delicious cicchettis find mouths very fast!

Cantine del Vino gia Schiavi: Fondamenta Nani 992, Dorsoduro, Venise
Telephone : +39 041 523 00 34






What to expect to eat in Roussillon?

Earlier this month I was in the region called Languedoc-Roussillon and specifically in the southern part of it, Roussillon. This area of France is truly interesting food-wise: it is very Mediterranean but the mountains lurk in the horizon, it borders Spain and it is considered part of Catalonia. It has a strong culture of jambon, sausages, different types of seafood, snails, rabbit, cod, anchovies and tapas plates etc., and one should not forget the local wine and cheese making!

Roussillon wine

This blog post is about sharing my culinary experiences during the recent five-day trip in Roussillon, and to show you what to expect to see and taste both at restaurants and at markets. Enjoy!

Beautiful garlic! After all, it is the Mediterranean!
garlic in Collioure

Cheese! (mixture of cow and sheep):
cow-sheep cheese

Roquefort-flavored sausage:
soubressade and local sausages

Sea urchins! Salvador Dali liked them… do you?
sea urchin

Catalan snails in tomato-jambon sauce:catalan snails

Warm goat cheese salad: warm goat cheese salad

Mussels with aïoli and grilled cuttlefish:
mussels with aïoli

Mushroom with Balearic spicy sausage called soubressade on a toast:Sobrassada

Duck legs: duck legs

Beefsteak: a beefsteak

Razor shells (my all-time favorite!!): razor shells

“Small tapas assortment”: tapas assortment

My only regret is that we did not have a chance to taste the local oysters, but one always needs to keep a reason to return!

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Collioure: the pearl of the coastal Roussillon

Collioure is one of those Mediterranean towns that every artist seems to have loved. Matisse, Picasso, Derain, Dufy, Chagall, Braque –you name it– have all immortalized this cute seaside town in the south of France. We spent one night in Collioure, and even if the weather has turned cooler and greyer, we could see and feel the charm of the old town and the historic harbor area.

CollioureI could only wonder how old these plane trees are! It looks like many artists have leaned on them… …imagine the storied they could tell us!

We also witnessed one brave man having a swim in the sea. But after all, who would not be tempted in such beautiful surroundings?Collioure

Collioure has a rich past. Throughout its history, the Spanish have had their fair share of Collioure occupation, and once upon a time Collioure was a summer residence of the King of Majorca! It has been part of France only since 1642.

There is an impressive fort built by Vauban, the military architect of Louis IV, which reminds us of the old battles and the strategic location of Collioure.Vauban fort


If you are traveling in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, make sure to stop here for a day or two. Even during winter season (like last weekend) the life goes on and the tapas scene is quite active. In addition, there are delicious anchovy shops and a dozen of art galleries. And there is the wine route that passes by Collioure –after all, Collioure has its own appellation (appellation d’origine contrôlée, AOC). No wonder all of those artists loved it here!

Salvador Dali’s house in Portlligat

House in Portlligat was the only stable residence of Dali from the -30’s onwards. This is where he worked and lived with Gala, his wife, until her death in 1982. We made an overnight trip from France to this northeastern corner of Spain to see the house yesterday.Salvador Dali house Portlligat

Once inside, the first thing one notices is a huge polar bear holding a lamp. An owl is watching the bear and the visitors. The entrance makes an impression!Entrance to house-museum of Dali, Portlligat

From the entrance the tour continues to the dining room, the studio, the library, the bedroom (the biggest room in the house) and other rooms.

The dining room:Salvador Dali's dining room

The library: Salvador Dali's library

The bedroom (can you spot the animal?):Bedroom of Dali and Gala

Wall decoration: Dali Portlligat

Posters that cover the dressing: The dressing in Dali's house Portlligat

Lastly, one can visit the garden and the pool area: the pool area Portlligat

The guided visit takes about 40 minutes and the house is definitely worth the visit! Be prepared to see a lot of stuffed animals… And remember that one must reserve by internet or telephone. In summer, it is not unusual to book 5-6 days in advance.

Information and booking: http://www.salvador-dali.org/museus/portlligat/en_index.html

Perpignan: a photographer’s paradise

One-hour walk in Perpignan this afternoon was enough to impress me. The town is such a mixture of French and Spanish/Catalan architecture, the buildings are covered with splendid colors and there is that rough, southern-Mediterranean creative edge… If you pay attention, you hear inch’allah more than bonjour. Then there are the jambon shops and bodegas. And there are gypsies dressed in black.

Join me on this inspiring walk!

PerpignanThese first three photos were taken in the gypsy quarter. I had arrived here by accident, and yet I had noticed that the area looked rather poor compared to more touristic and commercial areas, I was just too happy to take photos and watch the life go by. Suddenly a man approached me saying that I should maybe head back toward the center, and it may not be safe to walk around with my camera… Well, I had a glimpse of the famous gypsy quarter and I may even head back tomorrow during the daytime (but with more modest clothes and no jewellery on). Why is it that the forbidden things are often the most attractive ones…?Perpignan

Perpignan gypsies

The following photos were taken in the historical center of Perpignan, which is a cleaned-up version of the gypsy quarter, but equally charming.

Don’t you just love these Catalan-style balconies?Catalan balconies

Or do you prefer this style, often found in the French riviera? Perpignan

On that “less-polished side”,  what do you think of these two photos? Perpignan IMG_7177

Lastly, one more photo (after all, it is the apéritif hour and the bodega is waiting for me!)Perpignan

PS If you are interested in learning more about the Languedoc-Roussillon region, why not to join the Pearlspotting’s Facebook page? I will be here for five days and update Facebook whenever I can!

The French dilemma: holidays in May

Since I last wrote, the spring has arrived in Paris. Just over a week ago Le Jardin des Plantes, where I do my jogging, showed no sign of spring but yesterday almost every tree had buds, and some more than that!

This sudden change in weather also means that we are approaching the famous month of May… Famous, because in France it is a month that feels like a never-ending holiday. It begins with the International Workers’ Day (encouragement is surely needed under the current economic conditions!), the religious holidays (does everyone remember their origin?) and there also is the Victory Day that takes us back to 1945. This year, May 8 falls on Wednesday and May 9 naturally on Thursday. In France this means that many people will make a bridge (faire le pont). For clarification, no, they won’t build a bridge, but they will take Friday off in order to have a loooooooong weekend (sometimes this is imposed by the employer itself!). Even if you don’t live in France, try talking to your boss about “bridge making” and you may get an extra day off!

Furthermore, since most companies ask employees to use their remaining holidays by the end of the month, the dilemma is ready: how to use them, what to do, where to go? A French dilemma! But a nice one.

So, I have been suffering from the same problematic since last week. Some ideas are above the others, but wherever I go traveling, it is important to eat well. Distance-wise, the destination should not be more than some four hours away by plane. Ideally, the weather should be warmer than in Paris… Voila, here is the current shortlist:

1. Spain Spain

Spain, one of the closest destinations to France where the weather is warmer, food delicious and wine good. I would not mind eating some fresh, grilled seafood like razor shells. Not forgetting manchego. Fly to Malaga, rent a car and drive around Andalusia to learn about Islamic heritage in Europe? Or fly to Santiago de Compostela with Vueling (http://www.vueling.com) but forget swimming in the sea in May, I think…

2. ItalyItaly

Italy is like Spain –who does not love these two countries? My dream for many years now has been to drive around the coastline of Italy, but one would need at least one month to do that, I reckon. But how about just flying to Naples and visiting the nearby islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida? Seafood and wine are delicious, too! Or –since I already know these three island– fly to Sicily, the largest Mediterranean island.

3. Turkey Istanbul& Greece

On the eastern side of the Mediterranean is Turkey, where I have been maybe ten times. More importantly, I have never been disappointed with food. How could one be: Turkish mezes are very tasty and the eggplant puree in the picture is to die for! A week in Bodrum with some island hopping to Greek islands of Kos and Rhodes? The sea should be warm enough for pleasant swimming.

4. A seaside resort in a place where it is HOT (Egypt?)

I took this photo in Seychelles some years ago and the beach looks very tempting. With some luck the Mediterranean sea temperature will be well above 20C Seychellesin May but maybe not. The only seaside destination near Europe (again, around 4 hours of flying) where you have “guaranteed hot weather” is Egypt and you can correct me if I am wrong. In Egypt, not only one has the sun and the turquoise water, but there are excellent snorkeling and diving possibilities. My primary concern is that Egypt is mainly a package-tour destination and based on my hotel-review reading, the food is often not top… Do not get me wrong; I am sure Egyptian food is good, but I just need to find the right hotel that believes in preparing traditional food instead of serving pasta buffets…

5. France

The obvious not-so-obvious choice: France. To rent a car and drive towards the South? My usual lunch stop is in Beaune in Burgundy where snails are bigger and better than anywhere else (or at least compared to most of the places I have eaten at). From Beaune the voyage wFranceould continue toward Avignon and further down south either toward Côte d’Azur or deeper into Languedoc, including stops chez les vignerons (read my previous post Wine tasting at Salon des Vins des Vignerons Indépendants). Always an excellent idea.

Ideas to ponder, indeed. Meanwhile, should you like to share your favorite holiday spot with me, or have suggestions or comments, let me know!