Tapas Party (For one)

I’ve made it to the party section of my Evoo book — take a guess what that means… it means endless amounts of recipes that are designed to feed 20 people. But, I don’t know 20 people…and it is one of those weeks where the only people I want to cook with are me, myself, and I. So, although this tapas menu is supposed to feed 20 people, it will be feeding only one: me. Tonight’s menu consists of Potato Tortilla, Herbed Chicken Tapas, Chorizo and Vegetable Confetti Tortilla, and Mushroom Caps in Garlic Sauce. Let’s get cooking!

This adventure started on Monday at Conad. It had been a frustrating day so far. My roommate Mel and I had been going back and forth with a travel agency that jipped us out of $25. It may not seem like a lot of money, but when you’re in Europe without a job for a year, it is A LOT. Once again we left the agency annoyed, and I thought it would be the perfect time to go grocery shopping. I don’t know why I thought that would be a good idea — my track record with Conad has not been a good one.

Though, this trip to Conad was the easiest, most calming grocery trip since I arrived in Italy 6 months ago. I was able to find every ingredient easily and quickly. To make things even better, All of the items came out to less than €30! I consider that a huge success since this meal is meant to feed 20 people.

I sat down at my kitchen table and said a little prayer since I was about to make a TON of food. I was scared. I didn’t know if I would be able to do it. I kept thinking “This menu will be the end of me.” So I decided to split this menu into two cooking days.

The first day I made the Potato Tortilla and the Herbed Chicken Tapas. To start, I created the marinade for the chicken which consisted of lemon juice, rosemary, thyme, evoo, and salt & pepper. The chicken swam around in that while I chopped up the potatoes and onions for the tortilla. 48005872_Unknown

I was nervous about making the tortilla. I have a Spanish friend who explained to me that they are pretty difficult to make. The instructions terrified me as well — there was a lot of flipping involved. I can’t even flip pancakes correctly, so I wondered how on earth I would be able to flip a tortilla correctly.

I sauteed the vegetables then apprehensively poured the eggs in. So far, so good. The eggs began to set and I attempted to let the top layer run to the bottom to set…that worked too. It finally came time to flip, so I grabbed a plate, but the plate was smaller than the pan. I was anticipating a disaster. I called my roommate Sara over to help, and we both handled the flip with ease. It was nearly effortless. The tortilla cooked for a few more moments, then voila! I made my first tortilla and it turned out beautiful.

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I quickly cooked my chicken, then sat down for my first moment of truth.

3..2..1… Ay caramba! This was more than I could have hoped for. The tortilla was amazing!! For those of you who don’t know what a tortilla is (I didn’t know), it’s basically like a Spanish omelet. It had been ages since I had eaten a potato so the taste of that was like heaven in my mouth. Absolute perfection! The chicken was also marinated perfectly and oh, so juicy. I probably could’ve eaten all 20 servings in one sitting, but I managed to have a little bit of self-control and saved the rest so I could have leftovers this coming week.

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I had a busy week at school, so I wasn’t able to make the second half of this evoo menu until Friday (Today). Luckily I had so many delicious leftovers to tie me over until I was able to cook again.

I came home from the gym ready to make more delicious tapas for myself! I was much more prepared to make a tortilla this time around. This tortilla sounded like a “fully-loaded fries” version of a tortilla because it is topped with sausage, onions, red & green peppers, and peas. While the tortilla set, I cooked the mushrooms and doused them with wine. The aromas coming from the kitchen were utterly mouthwatering.

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This tortilla proved to be more of a challenge since it was double the size of the last one. But fear not — I successfully flipped the beast TWICE! I could barely contain my excitement.

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My stomach was grumbling so loudly, and it thanked me when the moment of truth finally came. 3…2…1… I’m telling you, it does not get better than this. I’m going to start making tortillas regularly because damn are they delicious! The mushrooms were impeccable as well.

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Now time for the ratings. the Potato Tortilla receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I’m telling you, this omelet thing was out of this world! Potatoes, onions, and eggs are the best combination. No one argue with me. The onions became slightly caramelized as I was sauteeing them, so there was a hint of sweetness which made for a firework explosion of flavors in my mouth. Amazing. The Herbed Chicken Tapas receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Homemade chicken dishes are often hit or miss, but this one was a home run! The marinade was one of the best I have ever used, and throughout the week the chicken stayed juicy and delicious. Usually, I get tired of rosemary after eating it two days in a row, but I just could not get enough of this chicken. The Chorizo and Vegetable Confetti Tortilla receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I didn’t think I would be able to top the first tortilla, but 2nd times the charm? I loved how it was filled with numerous vegetables — it made me feel very healthy, and who doesn’t love a delectable healthy dish? I am still in awe of this tortilla. Finally, the Mushroom Caps in Garlic Sauce receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Mushrooms are one of my favorite foods, and when you cover them in a savory garlic sauce…just wow. Juicy, tender, and delicious! This meal was simply incredible.

After reading “serves 20 people,” most people would cut a recipe to serve just themselves…Not me. I will never do that, and anyone who says I can’t eat 20 servings worth of food is not a friend of mine. I think I’m going to turn all of these cooking “parties” into parties of one…because I can never have enough food. Thank goodness I have a gym membership this semester…

Fino alla prossima settimana! (Until next week!)

-Mary Honkus

 

Make Your Own Burrito Bar

Living in Italy is great, but sometimes you just get so sick of Italian food. When my friends and I want something different our go-to is Mexican, but the only Mexican restaurant in Florence is a bit pricey. So how do we solve our craving without breaking the bank?… with our own burrito bar night! This menu is one that can put any Mexican restaurant to shame. We’re making Roasted Salsa with Mint and Cilantro, Spicy Black Bean Filling, Chicken, Red Peppers, and Chorizo Filling, and Refried Beans. Let’s get cooking!

This cooking adventure started last Monday. I knew that I was going to have a tough time finding many of these ingredients, but Mel informed me that there was a Walmart sized supermarket a short bus ride away. I truly thought this supermarket would be the solution, so I purchased a ticket and ventured off to this store.

When I arrived 20 minutes later, I was completely overwhelmed by the size of this place! I was also excited because I had a feeling I would easily be able to find everything…if only I had been able to find everything. It did not matter that this store was 10 times bigger than Conad, it still had the same things!! I couldn’t find beans, cilantro, cheese, or even cumin! I had never been so frustrated in my life. It was a complete waste of a grocery trip.

I came home with light shopping bags and headed to grocery store number 2 – Vivi Market. Vivi is a grocery store that specifically imports foods from different countries including China, Japan, the USA, and MEXICO!! I managed to pick up some black beans and jalapenos, but I still did not have all the ingredients I needed.

I was becoming so frustrated that I thought about emailing the Mexican restaurant, Tijuana, and asking them where they get their shredded cheese and cilantro from. I was becoming desperate at this point and considered even buying the cheese straight from the restaurant.

After a brief mental breakdown, I headed over to grocery store number 3 – Conad. I should’ve just started at Conad to begin with. I gave up on trying to find every ingredient. I ended up settling for parsley over cilantro, and cheese slices over shredded cheese. There was one item I still could not find — cumin. So I desperately wandered into Tiger and they had taco seasoning which is what I settled on. I was so happy that this disastrous shopping trip was finally over. I needed a glass of wine to help me recover from my traumatizing day once I got home.

Two days later on Wednesday I had recovered from that horrific shopping experience and was finally ready to cook! My friends were all finished with class around 6:30 so they came over shortly afterward. I handled some chopping but once they arrived I assigned everyone a job. Mel was in charge of the salsa, Saoirse handled the meat, Ashley chopped a bit, and Sara took care of the refried beans, all while I cooked the fillings.

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I was pretty surprised at how smoothly everything went. Time flew by so quickly and before I knew it, Saoirse was heating up the tortillas, and we were ready to eat! We all overstuffed our burritos, and could hardly wait for the moment of truth.

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3…2…1… woohoo! These burritos were fabulous! I tried each of the fillings, but my favorite was the chicken, red pepper & chorizo filling. It had just the right amount of spice and was so scrumptious! I threw in some salsa as well, and I can honestly say I have never tasted a mint salsa. It was a nice change from the typical run-of-the-mill salsas. I can’t forget about the bean filling and the refried beans! Both of those were delicious as well.

Now time for the ratings. Roasted Salsa with Mint and Cilantro receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. Like I stated earlier this was a nice change from normal salsa, but the mint was a bit overpowering. The Spicy Black Bean Filling receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. Although this was not my favorite, Ashley adored it and that’s what was most important to me since it was the vegetarian filling for her! To me, it was a little bland, but she loved it. The Chicken, Red Peppers and Chorizo filling receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I was so sad that there wasn’t any of this left. I could have eaten it all week. This filling was meaty, juicy, and packed the perfect spicy punch! Finally, the Refried Beans receives ♥♥ (2) hearts. I don’t think these beans were a hit solely because they looked like vomit…oh well.

All in all, this burrito night was a hit! I love when my friends come together and bond over food. We can cross Mexican night off our list…what kind of food party will we get ourselves into next week?

Fino alla prossima settimana! (Until next week!)

-Mary Honkus

 

 

A Great Gathering

With all the traveling I’ve been doing, I have really been missing a nice home cooked family meal. Don’t get me wrong, experiencing European cultures through food is AMAZING, but sometimes you just want to come home to an array of different foods waiting for you on the dining room table. This week was the first week in a very long time that all of my room mates and I were actually home, so we decided to cook a family dinner feast. On tap for this week is Sweet Sausage-Stuffed Portobellos, Giardiniera, Antipasticks, and Fresh Figs and Melon with Prosciutto. Let’s get cooking!

This adventure started out on Monday. After reading over the recipes, I noticed that the Giardiniera needed to be made at least 24 hours in advance so that the vegetables could marinate properly. I went to good old Conad to pick up all of ingredients: cauliflower, carrots, & peppers. I came home, quickly threw these veggies together, and poured the vinegar marinade over top. I finished this off with a good shake, then put it in the fridge for it to marinate overnight.

Fast Forward to today (Tuesday). We still had so many ingredients to pick up, so Shannon and I geared up for our ingredient scavenger hunt. We started at Conad where we managed to pick up some meat and cheese, but we still needed figs, cantaloupe, and sausage.

Next we went to the Central Market. I had never been to the Central Market before, and it was amazing! There were countless stands of fresh fruit & veggies, fresh meats, and endless pasta. I thought this would be the place we would find everything we needed, but we didn’t find anything!! I wasn’t completely disappointed though, because now I know where to go for the best fresh produce.

Our final stop on this quest for ingredients was the corner Crai market. We found all of the items within 10 minutes. Although we only managed to find dry figs, we did find the cantaloupe, so I took that as a win!

The only thing that separated the 5 of us from cooking family dinner was class. As soon as 5:30 struck I ran home to start cooking this gourmet meal! Stef and Ashley were waiting for me in the kitchen when I got home. We strapped on our aprons and began by chopping everything up.

I turned my attention to cooking the mushrooms — side note, we couldn’t find Portobello mushrooms in Italy??? We substituted with another kind of mushroom, but still so weird — The best part of cooking the mushrooms was drenching them with wine, because you know, everything tastes better with wine.

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Next I started on the stuffing while Ashley and Stef put together the antipasticks. We had a really good system going on, and everything was going smoothly, but then we hit a bump in the road. Ashley and Stef were putting together the prosciutto, cantaloupe, & fig platter when we realized we didn’t buy a freaking cantaloupe. Nope, we bought a gigantic grapefruit. A GRAPEFRUIT!! So instead of having this platter, they made dried figs wrapped in prosciutto.

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Finally everything was ready. We had a beautiful spread out on the table, and Kait poured us all a glass of wine. We filled our plates then it was finally time for the moment of truth.

3…2…1… Ahhh, the sweet taste of a home cooked meal. Everyone’s faces lit up with happiness. The most popular dish among our crowd was definitely the stuffed mushrooms. We had an overabundance of stuffing, so we all ate that by itself too. We ravaged through that stuffing. All of us were a bit skeptical of the Giardiniera, but were pleasantly surprised on how delicious it was! The antipasticks were also a big hit. The figs were a little iffy, but overall everyone was happy and full since we ate the whole meal — which was supposedly meant to feed 12 people — obviously Rachel Ray has never fed a group of hungry college girls.

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Now time for the ratings. The Sweet Sausage-Stuffed Portobellos receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Stuffing is such an underrated food. It was great in the mushrooms, and great on its own as well. As we were eating everyone raved about how delicious it was. This was a very successful recipe. Next the Giardiniera receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. I thought this would be like a salad, but it was just pickled vegetables. Stef was super excited for this dish and encouraged us all to try it. It was different from anything I have ever eaten before, and it was pretty good. I wouldn’t eat it every day but it was still good to try. The Antipasticks receive ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. These were pretty simple — just kebabs with provolone and sopressata, but simplicity is often overlooked, and it was delicious! Definitely would eat again. Finally the Fresh Figs with Melon and Prosciutto receives ♥ (1) heart. We tried to compromise after the grapefruit, but there was just no saving this dish. At least we tried, though.

After weeks and weeks of eating out, this meal was greatly needed, appreciated, and helped us bond a little more! Having this Italian gathering with the roomies was probably one of my favorite nights in Italy. Don’t forget the little moments like this — food and friends create the best memories. I swear by it!

Fino alla prossima settimana! (Until next week!)

-Mary Honkus