We've settled in Austin Texas for a few months to be near our niece Caroline and her adorable family. Everywhere you go in Austin, you see "nopales" - prickly pear cactus plants - used as landscaping just as you might see azalea bushes in New England. We came upon a large grocery store called "Fiesta" that features beautiful Mexican produce and exotic spices. Next to the bakery was a station where a woman spent much of the day cleaning the thorns off of cactus paddles that were then sold either whole or cut into pieces - and they sold a lot of them! Determined to try them out, Richard adapted this recipe from one of his favorite TV Chefs - Pati Jinich. Caroline and her all-vegetarian family loved it!!
At one of our very first restaurant meals of our trip, at La Bossa in Camogli, Richard had his first taste of the Ligurian pasta specialty called "trofie". These little curly strands of pasta are served with string beans (and sometimes potatoes!) and drenched in pesto - the fabulous Genoese sauce made from fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, grated cheese, and olive oil. When our nephew Patrick came to join us, Trofie al Pesto became his go-to order. Though readily available throughout most of Italy, this type of pasta is seldom seen in the US. So, we decided to make our own.
On our way to visiting Stefan and Ariane in Baden-Baden for Christmas, we stopped off in Strasbourgh in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France. We read about a regional specialty called Tarte Flambée that we just had to try. The place to get this unique flatbread is La Binchstub, a crowded little counter with a great beer and wine list and slamming flatbreads with creative toppings.
One of the best experiences of our European adventure was enjoying an authentic Paella cooking class at "Mi Paella en el Huerto" ("My Paella in the Garden"). Our friends Hop, Douglas, and Dan raved about the class and insisted we add it to our plans. Our paella experience began when Maria, our guide / instructor, picked us up in the City Hall Square, and began passionately weaving the story of paella from the viewpoint of a native who lives in the very region of its origin.
We came away from the day with recipes and techniques that we've use frequently since. It's particularly great because everything can be done in one pan!
Recipes from the Road
Click on recipe title or “Read More” to see the full recipe and demo video