Monday, November 30, 2009

A Very Merry Birthday

Happy one year Blog-iversary, Vagabond Table! It's been real. Real fun, real challenging, and mostly a real kick in the pants.

And, to everyone who has read this, thank you thank you thank you.

Oh look! My 1 year old birthday pie, courtesy of Gourmet: Cranberry Apple Crumble Pie.

From new year, new food

Which basically means, cranberries-that-dye-my-whole-apple-pie-red-with-awesome-pecan-streusel-topping.

From new year, new food

Yeah, yeah, I know, another pie. But guess what. Christmas is coming, and this pie is gorgeous. I made it for the second time for Thanksgiving, and it turned out a little tart since I used Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples... ah well. I for one like sour-ish things, but I suggest you go for a mixture of sweet apples with a few sour ones thrown in as the cranberries do a brilliant job of balancing out the sweetness with their own tarty selves. Oh, and note to all: 'Tis wonderful served with a scoop of Vanilla Bean ice cream. Did you notice my attempt at Fall "leaves" on the sides of the pie? Oh yes. I went there.

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving folks! Thanks for sticking with me this far, and I promise that great things are to come in the next 52 weeks.

Monday, November 9, 2009

As American As...

There is a simple equation that I have concerning Fall.

It goes like this.

Fall = Chilly.

Thus: Chilly + Leaves Falling = Beautiful / (Boots + Sweaters)

SO BASICALLY (in case my mad math skillz got you confused)…

Fall = Chilly = Beautiful = Samantha Busts Out Warm Things

Here is my list of current comfy things that I’ve loved reintroducing myself to again after months away:

A green knit blanket my Mama made eons ago
Fuzzy Socks
Saturday Morning Coffee
Wellie Boots
Red wine
Sweet Potatoes
Roasted Cauliflower

From new year, new food

Oh, Pie…Doesn’t it just sound great? Short, but sweet and to the point, Pie doesn’t get all fancy with multiple whipped creams and special flours like cakes do. No, sirree bob. Pie is homey. Pie makes you want to wrap your arms around it and hug it back, ‘cause that’s basically what it does: hugs you from the inside out.

You know, if Marie Antoinette had instead opted for saying, “Let them eat PIE!” people wouldn’t have gotten so miffed. Like I said, cake is kind of prissy, and the French took that whole cake-reference pretty badly when she brought it up. But let’s think what would have happened if she had gone with PIE instead? I think the peasantry would have been like “Huh. You’re right… I got a few old apples and a cup of flour lying around… Pie is good. We can do Pie. Thanks for the tip, Marie!” and a whole load of trouble could have been avoided.

From new year, new food

If you had trouble following where I was going here, I just want to let you know that I’ve baked a couple of pies in the last few weeks, both of which were awesome, both of which used apples, but for now I’m going to focus on the one I just baked, Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust, because I’m pretty sure this isn’t a common type of apple pie, and HELLO it introduced me in a roundabout way to an apparently very American tradition that I was out of the loop on: a slice of apple pie with a crumbly hunk of cheddar cheese.

*Side note: So...I guess people all over the country eat this? I don’t get it, so someone, at some point, will have to show me how to do this. What do you do? Grate some on top? Put a slice on the side? Is the pie hot or cold? I get apples and cheese, but I honestly would very much like to have someone explain to me how this works, and I will gladly follow because I’m uber curious how that hot mess would taste. End note*

From new year, new food

Gourmet (may you R.I.P., dear magazine) had a great article in their amazing September issue about Apple Pie with a Cheddar Crust, a clever take on this tradition. Kari baked one last week and added cloves to hers, so when Vanessa came over after a long day at work last week, we figured some cinnamon and nutmeg wouldn’t hurt, and neither would a small decrease in the sugar, and everything STILL worked out swimmingly! I have half of a pie sitting in my fridge which I spontaneously eat for either breakfast, tea time, or dessert, all of which are good pie-eating times. Especially when that day is Saturday and you have all the pie-eating time in the world.

From new year, new food

The crust was on the crispy-buttery side and reminded me of the flavor of a good cheese cracker while the apples were bright, tangy, and perfectly balanced in their sweetness. In short, it is a lovely, warm, comforting and completely Fall-y type of pie that would be a sweet addition to the marathon of all of my favorite comfort foods in one sitting: THANKSGIVING!!!

If anything, next time I’ll just add more cheese because this time I had cut off a big hunk for lunch earlier in the day and deprived my new pie of even more cheese-awesomeness in the crust.

Dear Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust: please don’t be mad, I won’t let you down again… it’s just that I really love sharp cheddar and couldn’t help myself from stealing a bit from you. Uh… I’ll try not to do it again. Toodles.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Spanish Reverie

Here's a little poem that's pretty obvious I just whipped up for you guys:

Ode to the Other Tortilla

It must be hard
To be a Tortilla Española.
People confuse you
with the kind made of lard-
like tortilla chips
served with tacos and a cola.

I’m sorry
For your identity crisis.

Oh, the humble yet deliciously satisfying Tortilla Española!

I know that it was only a few months ago that I was waxing poetic about these Flour Tortillas I had made, and trust me, you wont find a bigger fan of homemade tortillas east of the Mississippi. BUT I honestly can’t count the times I relied on the other tortilla - Tortilla Española, that is, and dios mio, is it a classic.

I first encountered this simple dish when I studied in Spain during the Spring of 2002. From the first day I arrived in Madrid (and immediately after Carlos, our program director, gave us dish suggestions to order at restaurants that first afternoon), the Tortilla Española was the one constant food that I returned to time and again. It was my first introduction to Spanish cuisine, and though humble compared to the glories of a good paella or gazpacho, its simplicity and adaptability made it perfect for everything from breakfast, lunch or dinner, to party food and a great sandwich.

From new year, new food

The best Tortilla Española I ever tried was in the small and crowded kitchen of our Spanish cooking instructor one chilly spring evening. About 10 of us students were gathered around the stove and watched in awe as she chopped, sautéed, and cooked, with a joie de vivre that pretty much lent her the title of the Spanish Julia Child in my mind. To this day, no Tortilla Española has ever compared to the one from that cozy Spanish kitchen, but darn it all if I’m not going to at least try to come close.

From new year, new food

Tortilla Española is a simple concept: basically it’s a Spanish egg frittata, filled with sautéed onions and potatoes, and can be served by itself in big slices, cubed up as a party appetizer, or, my second favorite way of eating it—tucked between two toasty sides of a baguette, a hearty sandwich that I ordered whenever I used to travel in Spain and was in need a good snack.

From new year, new food

Up close and blurrily personal

I love making frittatas for brunches and breakfasts, but for some reason had never tried my hand at my beloved Tortilla Española, but knew, as soon as my cast iron skillet arrived, that I’d found the perfect dish in which to cook it. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, simply take any skillet pan that you have, wrap the handle in a damp towel, and you can bake it in the oven, easy as pie. Easier, actually, than pie, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s also group-friendly (as evidenced by three friends that spontaneously came over the night I happened to make it, and who gave it a warm reception).

From new year, new food

Bienvenidos a los Estados Unidos, Tortilla Española! I hope I can perfect you and spread your Spanish love everywhere I go. Kind of like Johnny Appleseed and his apples, but more like Samantha Tortilla…which just doesn’t have the same ring to it, but you see where I’m going here.