dos cortados – espresso milk sugar

One thing I dig about traveling is being surrounded by a different language. I like to wonder about how the different sounds and rhythms of the words we speak (and read) define our sensibilities, personalities and ideas about who we are and how we want to be.

Tres Tintas Vincon Barcelona

Catalan and Castilian Spanish are the official languages in Catalonia where Barcelona is the capital city. Newspapers, books, television channels, road signs and other public signs are in Catalan and Spanish. Many Barcelonins switch easily between the two. And both are on most menus, often hanging out alongside a third language: English…language of tourism.

Catalan and Castilian Spanish have struggled for dominance and the right to define Catalonia’s identity for a long, long time. Politics, religion and snobbery have provoked power struggles that resulted in Catalan being banned completely twice.

view Eric Vokel BCN church buildings flag

In Barcelona, a young barista said he’d prefer that we speak English rather than Spanish with him since he was Catalan. And then he said something kinda feisty about Spain and Spanish. Then he and my husband talked about video games while I perused the pastry case. Video Game: the fourth language.

Pointing at pastries with excitement and appreciation: fifth language.

cortados y postres Barcelona

I respect Catalonia’s tumultuous and tongue-tied past. But I had to go with the language I was most likely to speak half decently and the one that is predominantly spoken here. Thankfully, most Barcelonins I met were patient while I valiantly attempted to resuscitate some mummified high school Spanish.

Barcelona travel books maps FCB Barca

But let’s get back to where we started. Listening to cafe chatter in a foreign language is kinda musical and interesting. The people at the next table might be having an incredibly boring conversation. But I hear only the stray words friendly enough to stick their heads out the window and bark at me.

Actually having to speak that new language is humbling and hilarious. So I was amped when,  jet-lagged and craving coffee,  I ordered our first breakfast in Barcelona without resorting to gestures, grunts, blank stares and ¿Habla inglés…por favor?

Hola…queremos dos cortados, por favor.

cortados and cruasan La Parra Barcelona

A cortado is a shot of strong espresso cut with steamed milk often taken with a little sinful splash of sugar. Cortar, the root word of cortado, means to cut so there you are. Easy to remember.

cortado Aramis cup saucer Vincon on linen brighter

In the afternoon it’s common to stop at a cafe for a quick cortado accompanied by a small cookie or pastry and a few minutes in the Mediterranean sun. It’s a brief break in the day. And now that I’ve experienced the afternoon cortado I prefer the sensibility that goes along with it.

I’ve converted to cortados!

I brought back a pair of perfectly cortado-worthy, blue and white trimmed cups and saucers from VinÇon Barcelona (pictured above)  which I now serve cortados in every morning. And then I hand wash them and remind myself to be chill if I ever break one.

I also collected sugar packets from cafes all over Barcelona. I’ll use them and think about my time there and language and how food is a language too.

sugar for cortados Barcelona brighter

My coffee ritual is altered since I’ve been to Barcelona. There’s a whole new series of little actions I do every morning.

Cortados and the idea of taking a few minutes to enjoy coffee from a tiny, pretty, proper, non-disposable cup took hold in me and is now part of my life. And that reflects an attitude about how I choose to enjoy my time and coffee. I think that’s interesting.

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Hola Barcelona

Barcelona. I started missing this city while I still wandered its meandering, cobbled brick streets; while I sipped Mediterranean sun and mercurial skies.

Eric Vokel BCN Suites penthouse view and pigs

Barcelona has vibe. Look at these Barcelonins moving a mattress along a slim, city sidewalk…no hands, son.

Gracia Barcelona Spain mattress move

This city has soul, swagger, secrets.

Gracia Barcelona Spain graffiti

Buildings, ecstatic with structure, lure daylight to their cores.

Sagrada Familia ceiling

Perceptions shimmer and shift.

Casa Batllo Barcelona Spain Gaudi

Barcelona bustles, roars and honks then becomes incredibly quiet during siesta hours. You gotta rest up for that late night dinner and many, many plates of tapas and glasses of cava.

Textures, cultures, histories and languages meet and mix here.

La Pedrera Casa Mila Barcelona Spain tiles

I’ll be oinking about Barcelona this week…maybe next week too. And I’ll be back to posting here more often. I’ve got a lot to say about Barcelona and traveling and life which is good because this slice of cyberspace has been kinda quiet lately.

La Pedrera Casa Mila Barcelona view through curtain

Sometimes I think being quiet helps me hear through the clatter of clutter and a muttering mind. Or maybe quiet lets me hear the beauty of that clinking symphony; music in murmurs.

Eric Vokel dining reflection

Travel does that for me too. I see another little slice of the world persistently happening.

Eric Vokel BCN view front terrace

Life keeps on. Life there, here and all over this planet has been happening and will keep on happening well beyond my momentary visits to cities and treks to different countries.

I am a visitor in this world.

casa batllo Barcelona looking up

I am a visitor in this body.

Barcelona Vincon pigs and moi

I say…let’s put some miles on our vehicles while we still fire to life.

Oink. Jazz hands. And pass it on!

p.s. the photos in this post link to the locations where I took them. Click away.

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Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Spring has officially sprung in both places where I roam on the regular. Spring! We should wallow in chunky peanut butter, revel in melted milk chocolate and roll in vanilla sugar.

peanut butter milk chocolate chunk cookies in stack

We should bake Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Chunk Cookies and eat them while they’re still warm from the oven; while the chocolate chunks are still melty.

peanut butter milk chocolate chunk cookies with milk and straws

Frosty milk and an oven-warm cookie = happy person. This is a tried and true equation.

peanut butter milk chocolate chunk cookies overhead shot

Oink, son and Bon Appetit!

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Spiced Roasted Chickpeas – Garbanzo Snacks

Making Spiced Roasted Chickpeas is super easy…which seems fair considering all the time we spent soaking, cooking and peeling garbanzo beans.

Spiced Roasted Chickpeas llamas love em

Little glass llamas covet their salty crunch.

Spiced Roasted Chickpeas may be the best snack I’ve made to date. They’re surprisingly hearty, slightly crunchy, salty, garlicky and altogether addictive. This snack is consumable by the pawful.

Spiced Roasted Chickpeas orange and llama

Plus you can customize the spice mix and roast your goregeous, pale gold love notes in whatever spicey concoction woos you.  Be altruistic and go for the simple poem of salt, white pepper, grapeseed oil. Or get all garlic powder and garam masala like I did.

Spiced Roasted Chickpeas bamboo bowls

Any way you spice them these perfectly peeled, oven roasted chickpeas are good snacking material. And Spiced Roasted Chickpeas can be that little something extra for the right dish. This weekend I’m pairing them with a simple carrot soup. They would totally work alongside some hummus, of course.

I’ll see you soon with additional chickpea peeling tips and some supremely sumptuous hummus. Until then…snack on, oinking party people!

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Peeling Chickpeas – Going Garbanzos

I’ve been seeing recipes and write ups about the superior smoothness of hummus made with peeled chickpeas. I’m down with some somewhat laborious food prep. I’ve happily spent an afternoon getting poetic about peeling lemons for limoncello. And I don’t mind segmenting grapefruits into hot little cinnamon love notes.

peeling chickpeas reflections

I’m a city chick now and have been for decades. But I am still, in some small corner of my heart, a little kid with long braids who grew up wild on country land. We sowed, watered, weeded and picked the vegetables we ate in a hand-raked, half acre garden.

I shelled peas, shucked corn and looked at land, land, land with the heat of summer sun sunk deep into my shoulders. There were no buildings, no roads, no other people in view.

peeling chickpeas profile

I think that’s part of why I like time-consuming food prep: it brings the phantom heat of a simple summer sun to my skin again. I see a lost view.

cloudstreaked sky Seattle

Turns out that peeling chickpeas is not as garbanzos as you might expect though it definitely takes some time. I started with dried chickpeas, soaked them overnight then let them simmer until tender.

husks peeling chickpeas

One sixteen ounce bag of dried chickpeas (soaked, drained, simmered and peeled) yielded 5 cups of little, pale gold, love notes. Those five cups of peeled chickpeas yielded a party-size portion of super silky hummus and several batches of spiced, roasted chickpea experiments.

It took me one hour to peel them and I was not trying to be all zippy about it. Most of the chickpeas popped from their husks easily when pinched lightly. A few were slightly stubborn. I watched The Colbert Report and peeled away. Maybe I’ll name a sumptuous hummus after Steven. I’m gonna have to work on a witty name for that.

I’d definitely invest the time to peel chickpeas by hand again. If you’re daunted by that idea…please note that 5 cups of peeled chickpeas is a whole lotta chickpeas. You’ll only need about 1 1/2 to 2 cups to make a sizable amount of hummus.

peeling chickpeas overhead

I’ve found some alternate methods that sound much speedier. I’ll try them and then tell you about it.

Canned chickpeas are already cooked and still have their husks. They too can be peeled if you don’t mind a little extra work. Chickpeas husks are edible and don’t affect the flavor so much as they do the texture of your finished garbanzo bean project. Peeled chickpeas are buttery and smooth. Even their pale gold color becomes more vibrant when the peas are freed from the milky haze of husks.

I think this sort of food prep is my Zen activity. If some extra food prep sounds good to you then I hope you enjoy a little musing moment and love the silken results. Happy unhusking to you, my fellow food prepping fiend/friend!

p.s. Chickpea recipes (including Supremely Sumptuous Hummus) are forthcoming. See you back here soon! – fat pig

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Apple Crumble Muffins

Me: You know what’s cool about taking photos?

“Do tell,” mumbles Wilhelmina, my invisible, photo assistant. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if Wilhelmina just shows up for the coffee breaks and edible props. Like right now…she’s eyeballing the Apple Crumble Muffins on the counter. I think she’s breaking off morsels of muffin from the sides that she thinks are gonna face away from camera. I’d totally consider canning her but I kinda dig her surly nature.

Me: Taking photos makes me really look at the world. I get struck by the simple awesomeness of objects and light; how they define each other. They sing and dance, murmur and shout.

cameo appple in moody light

“Deep,” says Wilhelmina. I totally hear the eyeroll.

Anyway…Wilhelmina is going to tidbit these comforting Apple Crumble Muffins into nonexistence if we don’t get to them quickly.

cameo apple and apple crumble muffin

This recipe will yield a dozen subtly sweet, supremely light Apple Crumble Muffins. Vietnamese cinnamon and golden brown sugar bring spark and smolder into the topping. I’m a big fan of Vietnamese cinnamon because it has a strong, unmuddled flavor. Substitute regular cinnamon if you don’t have the Vietnamese variety and amp up the amount a bit to compensate.

Whatever you do…claim your Apple Crumble Muffins before they disappear like Wilhelmina does when it’s time to do the dishes.

cameo apple and two apple crumble muffins

Have two and call it a double-good morning…or afternoon or late night snack. Enjoy!

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Mon Hei Bakery – come back to the ID

I like new years. I’m down with moving forward.

But as this new year starts up a little piece of my heart stays fast with 2013. A place I love, Mon Hei Bakery, didn’t make it into 2014 with us. On Christmas Eve the long-abandoned top floor of 665 South King Street caught fire and burned through the night.

Mon Hei, the first bakery in Seattle’s Chinatown (est. 1979), and several other offices and businesses operating from the lower level spaces of the historic building are now closed indefinitely. Among the businesses affected: a 34-year-old pet store, Liem’s Aquarium as well as the Greater Seattle Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Palace Gift Shop and Sea Garden Restaurant. The 104-year-old structure is now too unstable to be entered safely.

Mon Hei after fire barricade

I’ve dropped little love notes to Mon Hei into this blog before. Their sumptuously soft, perfectly sugared donuts have certainly appeared in my Instagram feed alongside what I consider to be the BEST egg tarts ever and chicken hand pies, my favorite lunch treat.

Mon Hei Bakery donut, tart, puff

I love the vibe Mon Hei had. Old guys commandeered the little back tables and seemed to always be chilling, chatting and chewing.  The digital doorbell would ding dong as customers entered. Sometimes people set off inadvertent doorbell symphonies as they perused the bakery cases…lost in looking and longing, pacing over the entry mat near the door.

I adored the simple layer cake neon in their window though I struggled to nab a reflection-free photo of it.

Mon Hei Bakery Seattle International District

The stacks of pink boxes waiting…love.

Mon Hei Bakery pink box stack

Come back, Mon Hei! The International District needs you and that’s not just the donut lover in me crying out to you. Small, excellent businesses are the heartbeat of neighborhoods.

The first time I tried a Chinese donut from Mon Hei I went home and researched the history of Chinese baking because if that’s your version of donut then I’m in all the way. In, son.

Dear Mon Hei…people walk by your storefront daily and pause to peer at your place. We wait.

Mon Hei Seattle and man

Here’s my wish for 2014…that this neighborhood bakery will return to The International District of Seattle along with the other businesses and offices that were ousted by flames, water, time.

birds above Mon Hei building

Come back, Mon Hei Bakery. Come back to the *ID.

We wait. Hearts beating. Build back.

I will be there to greet you with oinking arms and thumping heart.

xo – fatpiginthemarket

*ID: International District: a Seattle neighborhood, cultural and commercial center for Seattle’s Asian American and Pacific Islander communities

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Parmigiano Reggiano Cups with Goat Cheese Mousse and Salmon Tartare

Meet the cheese cup.

Parmigiano Reggiano Cups

These are the vessel versions of  Parmesan Crisps made with Parmigiano Reggiano, a big chief amongst cheeses. They’re elegant appetizers that are awesomely easy to make especially if you set up a proper prep space.

Parmigian Reggiano Cups prep set up

You need heaps of finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano, a lined baking sheet, metal ring molds (optional…you can always freehand it) and a mini muffin tin. *I used 3-inch diameter molds.

That orange, square waffle is a rubber trivet. When I take the melted Parmigiano Reggiano circles out of the oven I’ll set it on that orange waffle trivet. That way I’ll be smack next to the mini muffin pan which is where I want to be. Just-melted circles of cheese cool quickly so you want to lift them from the baking tray and gently form them into cups fast. Fast!

Now…please prepare yourself for a weird photo of my hand demonstrating the magical thumb-poke method that transforms a melted wafer of cheese into a cheese cup.

thumb poke Parmigiano reggiano cups prep step

I usually form four to five cups before the cheese is too cool to wrangle.

parmigiano reggiano cups in tray

Bake small batches or sucker someone into helping with that final cup-creating step. And if you don’t get a melted cheese circle poked into cup form in time…no biggie…consider it a snacking cracker. Or serve your Parmigiano Reggiano as crisps and as cups.

I like to fill Parmigiano Reggiano Cups with a dollop of super silky Goat Cheese Mousse.

Parmigiano Reggiano cups goat cheese mousse

And then layer a bright burst of Salmon Tartare on top that feather-light Goat Cheese Mousse.

Parmigiano Reggiano Cups with Goat Cheese Mousse and Salmon Tartare

The silkiness of the mousse alongside creamy Salmon Tartare gets set off by the crispy crunch of big-chief Parmigiano Reggiano. It’s a texture, taste bonanza in one bite.

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say cheese – Parmesan Crisps

Warning: if you make these Parmesan Cheese Crisps while alone in a toasty kitchen on a chilly, winter afternoon you might wind up hovering by the oven amped about the next batch. And then you might eat that whole batch just like you scarfed down the first batch.

Lacey wafers of parmesan are auditioning to become your next quick, impressive appetizer. Wallow in this delicate crunch.

Parmesan Cheese Crisps on Noble Goods board

These ridiculously crispy circles of melted parmesan can be festooned with sesame seeds, spattered with sweet paprika, strewn with whatnot. Make a variety and you’ll have some easy, fast and festive party snacks.

But trust that the purist version of Parmesan Cheese Crisps (sans toppings) is just as fantastic as the decorated version.

Making Parmesan Cheese Crisps is very simple. The best advice I have for keeping the process enjoyable and easy is this:  set up a proper prep space.

Parmesan Crisp prep set up reflection

Cheese: grated. Baking sheet lined with silpat. Ring molds if you have them. Wire rack for cooling. Optional toppings ready.

*The mini muffin pan in this picture is foreshadowing our next cheesy appetizer project where we will magically turn round wafers of parmesan into demure cups…and then we will fill them with sinful clouds of mousses and such. You don’t need a mini muffin tray in your prep line up for making Parmesan Cheese Crisps.

Grate the parmesan cheese finely. I used a microplaner.

Parmesan Crisp heaping Tablespoon

Drop a heaping Tablespoon of grated parmesan into a metal ring set on a silpat sheet. If you don’t have metal ring molds don’t stress…go freehand. And if you don’t have a silpat then line your baking sheet with parchment paper. Works. I tried it for ya. The silpat is just a bit easier to deal with when you start sliding the baked crisps off the sheet.

Parmesan Crisp prep set up OH

Gently use the back of the Tablespoon to spread the grated cheese out a bit. Be a purist and let the parmesan have the stage to itself or lightly sprinkle each round with paprika, sesame seeds, black sesame seeds or whatever seeds/spices/herbs call to you.

Parmesan Cheese Crisp counter shot

Bake till the rounds are golden brown. Keep an eye on them toward the end of the baking time. These crisps can go from perfection to unfortunately burnt very quickly.

In mere minutes the Parmesan Cheese Crisps will be cool enough to serve or to shovel into your mouthzone with wild abandon.

See you soon when we will employ the esteemed thumb-poke to create Parmesan Cups.

Parmesan Cheese Cup

Be there!

Parmesan Cheese Cup Goat Cheese Mousse

Or I will help myself to your Parmesan Cheese Cup allotment. Forewarned: you are.

p.s. You can find that excellent cheese board featured in these photos online. Here’s a link: Noble Goods. Use the code GIFTY to get a merry 20 percent discount. The discount is on till then end of 2013. Boom! I’m friends with these people. They’re good peeps AND they make beautiful objects.

Enjoy their very Noble Goods. Straight outta Brooklyn, boss!

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kohlrabi party – appetizers

Kohlrabi is ugly pretty. And it’s also my current veggie crush. Kohlrabi!

kohlrabi pair whole

These sturdy, round vegetables are grooved and cratered.  Close up they look like planets with staunch landscapes and uninhabitable weather.

kohlrabi still life

Yep…kohlrabi is ugly pretty but not pretty ugly. Fortunately this veggie’s flavor is more embracing than its appearance. Kohlrabi is seriously crunchy and surprisingly refreshing with a subtle vegetal taste and a slight nuttiness in the background. It can be steamed, roasted, pureed for soup or made into fritters.

I like kohlrabi sliced thinly and served raw with different toppings. It’s a light, bright, super crisp alternative to crackers or bread. Gluten free crunch…boom.

Here’s how to prep kohlrabi: peel.

kohlrabi peeled

Slice in half. Lay the halves on a cutting board, flat sides down.

kohlrabi halved

Slice each half thinly.

kohlrabi sliced

Layer your pale, half-moon slices with fresh basil, shaved parmesan and a drizzle of fancy balsamic. Say hello to a crunchy, herbaceous, creamy, sweet bite. Good way to start a party night. Right?

kohlrabi basil parmesan balsamic

And for the meat-lovin’ fleet in the house we have kohlrabi, fresh basil, oven-roasted tomatoes and garlic…crowned with a crispy hunk of bacon. This is a breadless, herb-layered, slider-sized version of the BLT.

kohlrabi basil tomatoe garlic bacon

It’s the KBTGB.

These Raw Kohlrabi Appetizers are so simple and open to interpretation that I’m going to leave the directions at that. Follow the photos above for prepping your new, veggie friend and layer away with toppings of your choice. Fresh herbs, cheese, thin layers of other veggies. Layer away!

Here’s a link to my recipe for oven-roasted tomatoes. I added six roughly crushed cloves of garlic to my oven-roasted tomatoes recipe for the KBTGB appetizer.

Let’s get this oinking party started!

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