Pan con Tomate con Queso Manchego, Papas Arrugadas, Pimientos de Padrón

I’ve been down for the count with a killer cough ever since the planes stopped flying over a week ago.  So, when Mrs. NH threw out a menu idea for the tapas meal listed above, I was only halfway enthusiastic.  However, a couple days passed since she floated the idea and my appetite has returned (though the annoying cough lingers).  Good thing, too because the meal we made last night could stand side-by-side with the same dishes presented at any tapas joint in the world.  All except for the pimientos, that is.

We did an experiment the last time we had pimientos.  We had brought a couple baskets home fresh from the Boqueria in Barcelona and I had to head to Washington just a couple days after we returned home to Prague.  So, we ate 1/2 of them and froze the other 1/2.  In all honesty, they weren’t terrible after they were frozen – they were certainly edible.  But the signature melt-in-mouth goodness of fresh pimientos was replaced by a tougher, slightly bitter frozen cousin.  To the uninitiated, they probably would have been fine.  But when you’ve tasted them in their prime, the frozen version are a poor substitute.

Now, the papas arrugadas were a whole other matter.  They were perfect.  Mrs. NH actually managed to find some potatoes just the right size.  She made the green mojo and a red pepper mojo a few days ago and let them really develop their flavors in the fridge for a couple days.  They were amazing.  Yes, they were better than I have had in any restaurant in “La Latina.”  (Admittedly, I’ve never been to Gran Canaria.)   She used an ancho pepper for the red pepper sauce and the couple days of mellowing brought the flavor from spicy-oily to creamy-peppery.  It was perfect.  The green mojo was just as refreshing as any I have ever tasted with the garlic and cilantro moving in a culinary tango over the tongue.  Yum.

Finally, the pan con tomate was lovingly crafted by Mrs. NH as well.  The cool, slightly acidic flavor of the tomato puree worked as the perfect foil to the manchego that was drizzled with just a few drops of grassy Spanish olive oil.  Pan con tomate is one of the simplest dishes in the world but is also one of the most brilliant.  Every time I have it, I can’t help but exclaim something profound like, “Man!”

So yeah, it was a tasty Thursday night.  It was made all the better by the fact that I was not in a hotel, or on a train, or in a line for train tickets, or watching CNN International squawk on about ash clouds or airport closings.  Yep, on Thursday night in Casa NotHemingway, the peppers were as tough as it got.

What I Did On My Winter Vacation

As February drew to a close, I was quite happy to see the month come to an end. It has been a cold winter and with the advent of March, the mind starts to churn with the coming promise of spring. Even if the temperatures don’t reach much above 40°F here, the sun has come out and melted all of that blasted, dirty snow.

I’ve been hibernating somewhat.  The Spain trip broke up the time but the rest has been work.  Except for the beautiful shades of green at either end of this post.  Yes, the promise of the green of spring.  Green.  Spring.  Green.

Those are Pimientos de Padrón.  The start and the finish.  Straight from Barcelona.  I cooked them myself.  I only wish I would have been the only one eating them.

Spring is springing.  Stay tuned.