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Portugese Patterns

portuguese tiles

ceramic tile

Portugal has been one of those few European countries to which for some reason both my husband and myself never had been to. We had often been very close by, in Spain, we had seen pictures, heard recounts and read articles though. According to them, every pore and place of this history laden little country sounded fantastic, and a few weeks back we finally decided to go see for ourselves and travel to Portugal.

What a great decision this was! Even though our expectations were high, we did not get disappointed in any way. The cities are charmful and pictuesque, full of art and beauty stories, the villages and landscapes ever changing, rural and genuine. There’s colors and gardens and architectural styles, orchards and green spaces and traditions. The people act calm, friendly and helpful towards strangers, and seem like a happy and serene bunch between themselves.

pulpo

vineyards in the duoro

And the food, oh the glorious food, is an entire story on its own. Portugese food is down to earth and does, what food first and foremost used to be and (at least there, how refreshing to witness) still is intended to do: It nourishes. Both the body and the soul, and abundantly so. There is little Froufrou in Portugese food, and much honesty. Animals and plants are used in their entiety. So one will get served pig ears instead of just the loin, turnip greens instead of just turnip, or tiny, whole fishes, eyes, fins and all. Continue reading “Portugese Patterns” »

Sweet Beet

beet, potato and cheese stack

It must be the Virgo in me. Or my fascination with colors and what they can do to people. Perhaps also my motherly instinct that makes me want to protect who and what ever seems to be in a rather difficult situation. In any way: I am intrigued, absolutely intrigued, by beets.

I love its gnarly, anti uniform, rough look. The color, the flavor, the texture, the smell. I like its earthiness, which is kind of obvious, and I love its sweetness, which comes surprising. I love the gentle, versatile character that hides behind the beet’s stubborn facade. I love, love, love beets. Period.

bunches of red beet, plus greens

And while I try to pace myself – because not every one in my family is as fanatic as I am, to put it mildly – I could not resist to buy a few bunches of red beets yesterday at the market, when they smiled at me, crookedly as they do. So home we went, and while my mind was turning around some Gold Nugget tomatoes, all of a sudden I remembered those four sweet potatoes sitting somewhere in the dark for a while now. Rustic and robust just like the beets, but a total and bright contrast in every other aspect. They seemed like a perfect couple.

the beauty of a beet

And that’s how I came up with this savory Napoleon. The goat cheese is a classic pairing with beets; it is less common with sweet potatoes, but not less perfect, as it turned out. (I picked a small log of semi aged St.Maure, but any fresh goat cheese will work as well. As will other cheeses, like for instance a creamy blue or even a Raclette.) The idea to use the beet greens came naturally, while I was admiring the unusual yet stunning color combination of that dark, dark reddish purple, bright pink and vibrant green.

colorful beet stalks

I served the Napoleons baked, as an appetizer. They would also make a lovely side dish of any kind of protein though. And in the summer time I will try them unbaked, served at room temperature; simply drizzled with a bit of good oil, as an alternative to salad. There’s softness (in the veggies), crunch (in the greens) and creaminess (in the cheese). One gets earthiness, sweetness and tang. And all together finishes in a smooth, gooey harmony. – Even the non Virgos (four out of six at my table), the one color blind and those with no motherly instinct (all of my male family members) agreed that this was quite something and quite different. So home we will go together again, my sweet beets. Home, beet home. Continue reading “Sweet Beet” »