Ten days, thirty-some meals, and only one Starbucks slip-up later, my quest to conquer the cuisines of Spain and Portugal has been accomplished. Our trip was nothing short of perfect. We kicked off the week with a delightful bottle of Portuguese bubbly (Danubio Brut) while overlooking the breathtaking views of the Algarve coastline (which I highly recommend checking out if you’re in need of a fantastic getaway). The days in Portugal consisted of a lot of lazy beachside lounging with breaks in between, only to seek out the best local fare we could get our ravenous hands on. While we did succeed with discoveries such as Chicken Piri Piri (Portuguese bbq), Caldeirada (fish and rice stew that was similar to paella), and Kabobs galore, there was a time or two in which we were defeated…terribly.
Caldeirada (fish and rice stew)
Lamb Kabob...& Grant
On the eve of our last day in Algarve, our hearts were set on eating at “the best seafood restaurant in southern Portugal” — El Pescador. My hopes were raised high and I had snacked on nothing but a few olives to make space for the feast I was about to indulge in. Sitting high at the dinner table, in my red mahogany chair with lower back arched and shoulders pointing towards the heavens, I scanned my menu. Within nanoseconds I spotted my prey and went in for the leap: “I’ll have the Lobster Cocktail please!” The English translation read “Fresh Lobster and Caviar.” That was all I needed to know. Sign. Me. Up!
When the dish (pictured above) was placed in front of me, my head slowly tilted to the left and my eyes began to tighten up as if I had just been exposed to daylight for the first time in my life. Let me just tell you what this was: Lobster -beautiful fresh lobster- drowning below an everlasting sea of mayonnaise spiked with sugar, ketchup, big chunks of pineapple, tomato, lime pulp, and some other unknown ingredients. Topped with a dollop of caviar, more pineapple and lime… and garnished with basil….AND dill. For the first time in my entire life (well, besides Tripe, which you read about in Culinary Confessions) I could not eat the dish placed in front of me. I was defeated. And I was ashamed. The Grilled Sardines I ordered for my entrée were not as…weird… um…unique? But they also didn’t do their job of filling up the empty growling space waiting to be occupied. I was left with no choice but to turn to something that I could count on. Port. Lots and lots of Port!
To be continued…
If you were wondering where I’ve disappeared to these last couple of days, I’ve been honeymooning it up in Spain and Portugal this week! No, I’m not actually sitting in front of a computer right now, as I am 99.9% sure it would be off with Daily Crave’s head if my husband found out I brought the nerdbox (as he calls it) with me on the trip. Thanks to a little modern technology, I pre-wrote this post as the guilt was weighing heavy on my conscience for leaving you all hanging for so long.
So, until I return, here’s a simple idea that requires little ingredients, even less time to create, and is packed full of flavor:
Try topping your roasted vegetables with crumbled blue cheese and broil in the oven for about 5-7 minutes or until cheese is browned. Makes for a quick and delicious side!
Pictured: Roasted Beets and Carrots. Also great with Roasted Potatoes & Onions or Roasted Cauliflower
About mid-way through the whole wedding planning process I had an aha moment. My mind began drifting back to the day when I was in fifth grade social studies after learning of ancient Europe and each student was directed to create a castle out of the material of their choice. This was a total given. I knew everyone was going to go down the same path I was. But on the day that assignment was due – I shockingly discovered I was the only one out of thirty-two kids who constructed my castle from flour and sugar. White cakes built the walls high, licorice and vanilla wafers acted as the drawbridge, and frosted ice cream cones sat tall to serve as watchtowers. The castle was finished off with pale blue icing spun around the perimeter for the moat and strategically placed m&m’s to add a little spunk to my enchanted palace.
Throughout the months of watching bridal show after bridal show with tiara after tiara, I thought hard about the days of my youth, trying to squeeze out at least one small recollection of having this (common to all but me) desire to be a princess-like bride. But my memory only directed me even further back to third grade. I remembered when my teacher hosted international food week. Left and right the little munchkins were bringing in tacos and burritos for Mexico, stale leftover fortune cookies to represent China, and even PB&J’s brought in by those few prideful tots. But me? I made “Spanish” meatballs with a big fat green olive in the center of each and every one. I mean, what 7-year-old doesn’t like olive stuffed meatballs? Psht! (Don’t answer that).
Determined to find out if I was swimming solo in the sea of wanna-be-a-princess like brides, I turned to my sister Courtney. “Did you ever dream of being a fairy tale princess floating through the sky in a poofy white dress on your wedding day?” I eagerly asked. Without hesitation she quickly responded, “Oh, no. All I cared about back in the day was trying to catch snakes.” Oddly comforted by these words, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was thrilled to know that maybe – just maybe – it was ok for me to care more about my cake than my dress. To be more excited about my appointments for tastings than I was for my appointments with the hairdresser. To actually not want to be a princess on my wedding day, but instead – to just be me…and eat cake.
On Saturday night as we celebrated our new lives together by delicately exchanging bites of Molly’s heavenly (and I mean HEAVEN-ly) mint chocolate chip cake, I found myself floating off into a never-never land filled with flowery fields of rainbowed unicorns and magical candy castles, and one handsome prince standing right by my side. It was at that very moment when I first began to feel…just like a princess.
Oh yeah — P.S. And we live happily ever after…
I am no history guru — but I do know Charleston receives much attention for being the starting point of the infamous Rebels and Yankees, Civil War. But what everyone doesn’t realize is that in the 18 century the city served as a major shipping port for rice, which was cultivated in the surrounding plantations — including Middleton Place, where we said our “I do’s”! (And that’s how you turn history into food talk, folks!) But I truly never realized how delicious rice in the Low Country region is until I was introduced to: Carolina Plantation Rice. Mildly sweet and slightly nutty flavors make this aromatic rice distinctively pleasing to the palate.
One of the best pieces of advice I will ever give you: always ensure you have plenty of southern confederates on hand who keep your rice commodities fully stocked — because trust me when I tell you that once you ally with Carolina rice, you will never turn back! Until then, you can find it Here (along with some great recipes)!
- 1 cup white rice
- 4 strips of bacon
- 1/2 yellow onion
- 1/2 green bell pepper
- 1 – 1/2 cup stewed tomatoes
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp Tabasco
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- salt and pepper
Cook bacon in sauté pan until browned, but not too crisp. Remove and drain on paper towel. Add onions and bell pepper to the pan and cook in the bacon grease until soft. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, Tabasco, salt, pepper. Add bacon back to the pan with the rice. Ensure rice is emerged completely in liquid (you may have to add water if not) and bring to a boil. Once the rice begins to boil cover and turn heat down. Simmer for about 25-30 minutes or until rice is cooked.
There are two essential things you must always bring with you when visiting Charleston: sunblock and an eat-all-you-can-eat-until-you-can’t-eat-anymore attitude. Charleston is without doubt my all-time favorite food city. When friends asked me for suggestions on what to do and where to go, I couldn’t help but ramble off every possible dining room within a twenty-mile radius (while completely skipping over all of the beautiful history, shopping and beaches that also make this place so wonderful). What really gets me excited is how you can dine with southern sophistication at restaurants serving up lavish interpretations of Lowcountry cuisine, or just as easily be seduced by a classic home cooked meal in a small inconspicuous kitchen.
Here’s a taste of what you’ll find on some of the menus:
Slightly North of Broad’s
Shrimp Bisque with Thai Curry & Blue Crab Claw Meat
- 2 (medium) yellow onions, diced
- 2 large carrots, diced
- 3 red bell peppers, diced
- 1 head fennel bulb (or 1/2 head celery), diced
- 1 1/2 – 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 qts strong shrimp stock
- 1 lb blue crab claw meat, cleaned
- 1 tbsp salt
- 3/4 lb butter
- 1 tbsp red Thai curry
- 1 qt cream
- 1 tbsp Tabasco
- 1 cup Madeira
- 1 tsp white pepper
Melt butter in sauté pan, add salt and all vegetables. Sweat until tender. Add curry and stir. Add flour to vegetables to create a roux and stir well. Whisk in shrimp stock and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Whisk in cream and simmer 5 minutes. Saute crab meat in butter, and then add to bisque. Add Tabasco, Madeira and white pepper – stirring to mix. Check seasoning and adjust to taste.
Middleton Place Plantation’s
- 2 cups yellow corn
- 2 whole eggs
- 3/4 qt heavy cream
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- pinch of salt and pepper
Place yellow corn in a greased casserole pan. Mix all other ingredients together. Pour mixture over corn and bake for 45 minutes at 350 F or until golden brown.
Boone Hall Plantation’s
Fried Green Tomatoes with Sour Cream Dill Sauce
Fried Green Tomatoes
- 5-8 large green tomatoes
- 1 cup Italian style bread crumbs
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup yellow corn meal
- garlic salt, cayenne and pepper to taste
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 cup flour
- dash of salt
Slice tomatoes. Combine bread crumbs, cheese, flour, cornmeal and spices in large bowl. Make egg wash in separate bowl and prepare a third bowl with the cup of flour. Dip each tomato into the flour, egg wash and finally the breadcrumb mixture. Fry in vegetable oil at 350 F, about 2-4 minutes or until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and serve with sour cream dill sauce.
Sour Cream Dill Sauce
- 1 cup of sour cream
- 1/2 cup Dukes mayo
- 1 1/2 tbsp fresh dill
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- garlic, salt and pepper to taste
Sea Biscuit Cafe’s
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 cup over-ripe bananas
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbsp vanilla
- 3/4 cup sugar
Mix dry ingredients together in bowl. Mix wet together, and blend in the dry ingredients. Bake in a well-greased loaf pan at 400 F for 10 minutes. Then turn oven to 350 F and bake for another 45 minutes.
Peaches & Cream Stuffed Waffles & Praline Sauce
- 4 cups waffle mix
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 3 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 tsp orange extract
Mix all together. Prepare waffles and spread 1/2 tbsp filling on waffle. Top with peach slices and fold over. Top with praline sauce and garnish with dollop of sour cream, more peach slices and sprig of mint.
- 12 oz cream cheese
- 1 tsp orange extract
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- Spring of mint (optional)
Whip together with electric mixer.
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1 stick butter
- 1 cup whole pecans
- 1/2 cup water (or maple syrup)
- 1/2 cup sour cream
Combine ingredients and melt in saucepan. Add 1/2 cup water(or maple syrup) to thin and 1 cup whole pecans.