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What To Cook When You’re Missing Travel

Green Enchiladas

This month I was meant to be in Spain and Portugal with my husband and parents, exploring the famed Alhambra, indulging in paella and papas fritas, eating dinner at 10:00 PM, dancing Flamenco under the stars and relishing in the Alboran Sea. Instead I’m enjoying the beautiful Spring weather at home in Seattle, which isn’t so bad either. For those of you who had trips of a lifetime planned, college graduations, weddings, meeting up with loved ones, all cancelled…I feel you. It’s certainly a privilege to be able to travel even during non-covid times, so while our borders are closed and the world is inaccessible physically, one way to bring travel a bit closer is with food.

If you’re reading this, you probably love travel and you probably love to eat. Welcome my fellow foodie friends, you’re in good company here. My usual blog posts are related to travels that I recently experienced, but since we can’t travel right now, this post will be a bit different. Let’s talk food and recipes!

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What To Cook When You're Missing Travel

It’s incredible how traveling to different countries and being exposed to new foods can change your palate and the way you cook at home. I now enjoy foods I never used to have a taste for before, such as tomatoes (thanks Greece), and sour cream and radishes (thanks Russia I’m a huge supporter of sourcing locally and supporting local farmers and purveyors. Europe has a saying when it comes to food that they call “Zero Kilometer”, meaning all the food they serve should be sourced within less than one kilometer of where they are located; basically the equivalent of the U.S. “farm-to-table” movement. I’d like to share some of my recent culinary creations along with recipes for many of them so you can make it at home! All photos are my own, shot with a Nikon D3300.

I’ll start with Spain, since that’s where we were meant to be now. Click on the dish if it’s hyperlinked, for the recipe, and click on the name of the country for my blog post archives for that particular country.

SPAIN

Shrimp & Chorizo Paella 

 

Flan

 

ITALY

Bruschetta

Bruschetta
Caprese Salad

Mozzarella

Caprese Salad

Mushroom Andouille Sausage & Caramelized Onion Risotto

Mushroom Andouille Sausage & Caramelized Onion Risotto

Mushroom Andouille Sausage & Caramelized Onion Risotto

This was the best risotto I’ve ever made! Here are 4 tips for making the most perfect, delicious creamy risotto:

1) Heat the stock before you add it to the rice mixture so that you don’t cool down the rice and slow the absorption process

2) Stir, stir, stir! Seriously, dedicate an entire 30 – 40 minutes to standing and stirring continuously until the mixture is soaked up before adding more. I remember watching our host in Vescovato make this dish, and he didn’t leave the pan!

3) Use arborio rice – it has an orzo-like texture and the perfect amount of starchiness

4) Don’t skimp on cheese!! Splurge on the good stuff, it makes all the difference. I used Parmigiano Reggiano (grana padano also works, but parmigiano is the best)

Artisinal Gigli Noodles with Mushrooms, Garlic, Shallots, White Wine, Butter, Capers and Scallops

Mushroom & Scallop Pasta

Mushroom & Scallop Pasta

Home Made Marinara Sauce

This is the easiest dinner to make in a pinch. Just chop tomatoes, garlic, shallots and fresh basil and heat it in a pan with olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano, and voila! Ten minutes later you have dinner.

Home Made Marinara Sauce

Home Made Marinara Sauce

INDIA

Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala 

 

Did you know that Chicken Tikka Masala is one of the national foods of England? It’s actually not a traditional food found in India!

*TIP* – rather than chopping the fresh herbs and roots (garlic, turmeric, ginger, etc.), use a pestle & mortar. This is a flavor game-changer. By pounding the ingredients together, it releases the flavors in a much more integrated way than chopping, creating a smooth and seamless richness of bold flavor.

Saffron Cardamom Rice Pudding

 

I love the bold yellow color that the saffron naturally gives this dish. I serve it cold, which is refreshing on a sunny Spring day, yet warm and grounding from the notes of saffron and cardamom. I topped mine with raisins and sliced raw almonds for extra sweetness and crunch. If you are dairy-free, you can use alternative milks such as oat or almond.

RUSSIA

Borsch

Borsch2

Sirnike (Russian pancakes)

Russian Sirnike

For more on authentic Russian foods, check out my post on 12 Must-Try Foods When Visiting Russia.

ASIA

Baked Crispy Peanut Butter Tofu over Wild Rice

Tofu with Peanut Butter Sauce

MEXICO

I partially grew up in California, so I LOVE Mexican food. However, when I cook it at home, I tend to go the more healthy route and non-traditional. Take this enchilada topped with green sauce, for example. I usually use this green sauce as a dip for root veggies or a spread for breakfast sandwiches, but I thought why not try it atop enchiladas? They were the best I’ve ever made, and my husband’s favorite dish in my cooking repertoire. 😉

Enchiladas with Magic Green Sauce

Green Enchiladas

Easy Mole (Non-Traditional) with Cuban Black Beans and Garlic Cilantro Corn

I’ve been inspired by watching “Chef’s Table” recently on Netflix. True authentic mole is an extremely laborious and time-intensive dish, and sourcing the fresh ingredients and 8+ different types of peppers in Seattle proved to be a bit of a wild goose hunt. Plus, I don’t have a pestle & mortar large enough to grind all those peppers, so I searched for an easy “cheater” recipe. I want to make it clear that in no way is this authentic and would probably make a Mexican chef roll their eyes, but it’s easy, it’s good, and it quenches the craving in a pinch.

Mexican Mole Sauce

MIDDLE EAST

Falafel with Roasted Root Vegetables and Harissa Garlic Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

Falafel with Roasted Vegetables

For the Harissa Garlic Cucumber Yogurt Sauce, simply mix the following in a bowl using a fork:

  • 1 – 2 cups of plain Greek yogurt (I use Fage brand because it’s thick)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 TBSP Harissa
  • 1 whole cucumber, diced, skin removed
  • Flaky Mediterranean sea salt to taste
  • Ground pepper to taste

AMERICA

Polenta Fries
Roasted Shishito Peppers, Broccoli, Zucchini & Bell Pepper with Sockeye Salmon

 

BREAKFAST

Are you tired of eating the same thing every morning for breakfast? The beautiful thing about the world working from home is that you get to take your time with making a nice breakfast! It truly is the most important meal of the day and will either get you going and feeling energized (protein-rich eggs & fruit), or leave you hungry within one hour (sugary cereal).

I’ve been really into wraps and toast lately. Because carbs in the morning are totally fine, right? 😉

Easy Breakfast Tips:

  1. Boil eggs (for the perfect “gummy ramen egg”, boil for exactly 7 minutes and don’t add the eggs or start the timer until the water is boiling.) Immediately place into ice water to stop the cooking, and crack shells straight away. Boiled eggs can be stored in the fridge for several days
  2. Keep rotating your favorite cheeses (we love Trader Joe’s and Costco for delicious imported cheeses)
  3. Always have a tub of plain Greek yogurt in your fridge. You can make SO many delicious and healthy, protein-rich sauces from this. Add the “everything but the bagel seasoning” for a cream cheese substitute, add some paprika for a warm sauce with a kick, or chop some fresh chives, garlic and cilantro for an herbaceous fresh za-zoom zing to any dish
  4. De-stem lacinato kale and tear into small pieces. Wash, dry, store in a bowl, and cover with a wrung-out moist paper towel. Then it will be ready to go in the morning and you can just throw it into the pan to cook in olive oil or aminos
  5. Get yourself a jar of Mama Lil’s peppers (Costco has the huge jars at a great price)
  6. If you live near a Trader Joe’s, buy the garlic onion crunch. It’s a tiny jar that goes way too quickly, but makes every dish powerful in flavor with a tasty crunch.
  7. Make sauces and dips! Here are some of my favorites:

Kale Pesto – (this is my new go-to spread for weekday meals. I make it ahead and store it in the fridge for a week…it doesn’t usually last that long, anyway. I use it for salad dressing, dips, spreads or on top of eggs in the morning. The thick consistency makes it great for just about anything)
5-Minute Sunshine Sauce

5-Minute Magic Green Sauce
Miso Peanut Sauce

 

DESSERT

Key Lime Pie

*TIP* – Sneak a dash of cardamom into the pie crust. Also, if you want to make things a bit more tropical, for the whipped cream, instead of heavy whipping cream, use coconut milk or coconut cream.

 

Blueberry Matcha Scones

 

Gluten-Free Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookie, Topped with Flaky Mediterranean Sea Salt

Baked Cookie

Butterscotch Chocolate Bars

Butterscotch Chocolate Bars

Home Made Lara Bars
Home Made Oat Milk

*TIP* – do NOT soak the oats overnight, as it makes the texture extremely slimy. I recommend omitting that step completely.

 

I’d love to know where you are are from, and what have you been cooking lately?

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What To Cook When You're Missing Travel

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