Archive | July, 2011

Abra la Boca: A Visit to Barcelona’s Boqueria Market

25 Jul
 The past 10 days in Barcelona have been incredibly memorable. This beachside city hosts numerous outstanding restaurants, quaint boutiques, and distinctive architecture. On Saturday, my family and I visited the famed Boqueria Market.
Located on the bustling street of La Rambla, the Boqueria remains Barcelona’s largest, most eclectic marketplace. Street-goers hustle in and out of the vast warehouse, seeking only the freshest ingredients from the Boqueria’s various stalls.
I wandered aimlessly through the aisles, marveling at the building’s sheer vastness and its seemingly endless supply of products.

For breakfast, I dined at the Boqueria’s acclaimed Pinotxo Bar. Foodies from around the world flock to this hole-in-the-wall joint, enjoying simple Spanish cuisine of high-quality ingredients. I indulged in one of the bar’s signature treats: the xiuxo (pronounced chucho). The pastry’s flaky, sugar-crusted exterior and its light, custardy interior provide the ideal flavor balance.

In many ways, the Boqueria reflects Barcelona as a whole. With its contagious energy and creative distinctiveness, the widespread marketplace represents the cultural and artistic diversity that defines this vibrant city.

La Pequeña Isla de Mallorca

16 Jul
Earlier this week, my family and I arrived on the beautiful Spanish island of Mallorca. I peered out the car window as we drove through the cascading mountains, staring wide-eyed at chalky Mediterranean villas, rustic vineyards and the rippling, crystal-blue ocean.
With its thousand-year-old olive trees and ripened fruit orchards, Mallorca contains endless natural beauty.

After a relaxing few days on this quiet island, I am ready to absorb the bustling city of Barcelona. ¡Hasta luego!

London Calling

11 Jul
My family and I landed in London this past Saturday and have since fallen in love with the picturesque city. The weather has been mild and delicately sunny, relieving us from the scorching Los Angeles heat. Today, we strolled the beautiful Hyde Park, filled with vibrant rose gardens and bushels of lush, overgrown plants.
In light of the pleasant weather, people flocked to the park with newspapers and picnic baskets in tow.
Harrods remains one of London’s most eclectic department  stores, carrying an extensive range of luxury items. My family and I visited the renowned Harrods food court where we purchased delicious specialty cheeses, cold cuts, and breads for our picnic in the park.

My few days in London have been so memorable. I admired the exquisite architecture, marveled at historical artwork, and indulged in delicious foods. Though I am reluctant to leave, I can barely wait to revisit Spain. In the coming weeks, I will share more personal photos and anecdotes from my unforgettable European vacation.

Breakfast Boost

8 Jul

1 whole wheat bagel thin
Whipped cream cheese
Fresh arugula
2 large eggs
Non-stick cooking spray
Salt and pepper

1. Toast the bagel thin. Spread the cream cheese evenly on both sides.
2. Bring a medium skillet to medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Scramble the eggs and spoon them onto one side of the bagel thin. Salt and pepper the eggs and top them with a small handful of arugula. Lightly press the sandwich together.

Eggs serve as excellent sources of protein, providing the optimal boost of energy to start the day. I am always searching for new egg recipes to spice up my morning routine. This nutritious bagel sandwich eliminates sweet cravings with its ideal balance of tastes, satisfying hunger the way no pastry can. Each bite contains a flavorful combination of tangy, crisp arugula, fluffy cream cheese, and hearty whole wheat. Think twice the next time you reach for a chocolate croissant, opting for this healthy, fresh breakfast instead.

Double Chocolate Bliss

7 Jul

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups whole milk

For the filling and frosting:
3 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 pound white chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Serves 12-14 slices.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line the bottoms with parchment paper and butter the parchment. 
2. Stir the semi-sweet chocolate in a medium saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Cool slightly. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. 
3. Using an electric mixer equipped with a paddle attachment, beat the sugar and butter in a large bowl until well blended. Beat in the lukewarm, melted chocolate and vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Add in the cocoa powder mixture in three additions, alternating with milk in two additions.
4. Divide the batter equally between prepared pans. Bake the cakes until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Make sure not to overcook the cakes, they should be soft and airy after 45 minutes. Cool the cakes in pans on drying racks for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of each pan to loosen the cakes. Cool the cakes completely on the racks. Peel off the parchment paper.
5. Bring one cup cream and butter to simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the butter melts. Once the butter has completely melted, add the white chocolate and the vanilla and stir until smooth. Pour 1 1/2 cups of the white chocolate filling into a small bowl; cover and freeze until cold, about two hours.

6. Let the remaining white chocolate mixture stand at room temperature until lukewarm, about 20 minutes. Using an electric mixer, beat the remaining two cups cream and almond extract in a large bowl until peaks form. Working in three batches, fold in the lukewarm white chocolate mixture. Refrigerate the whipped cream frosting just until medium peaks hold, folding occasionally, about three hours.
7. To frost, place one cake layer on a platter. Spread the chilled 1 1/2 cups of white chocolate filling over the layer. Top with the second cake layer. Spread whipped cream frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Chill until cold and set, about one hour. 

          For a Fourth of July family barbecue, my sister and I embarked on an highly-anticipated baking adventure: the making of our very first cake. We searched the internet and flipped through pages of several cookbooks before ultimately deciding upon this recipe from Bon Appetit. We slaved over each component of the dessert; a process that started in the morning progressed late into the afternoon. When I finally took my first bite of the cake, the hours of labor all paid off. 
          I savored the dessert slowly, in disbelief that such a creation had come from my own kitchen. Two layers of perfectly moist chocolate cake, separated by a sliver of white chocolate ganache, and slathered with the fluffiest, cloud-like white chocolate frosting you will ever taste: a chocolate-lover’s dream. You are missing out on dessert heaven if you have not tried this cake. The recipe requires multiple steps but each and every one is completely worth it. Do not be intimidated by the involved process because, while somewhat lengthy, it is difficult to mess up. Even for a first-timer such as myself, this cake fell nothing short of flawless.