Tag Archives: Culture

Spanish Tapas: Not Your Typical Afternoon Snack

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During the hours between lunch and dinner, it is common to go searching for a snack to sustain one’s appetite for four to five hours.  Sometimes we satisfy our cravings with simple foods such as milk and cookies, fruit, or popcorn.

Albondigas (flickr.com/latasca)

In Spain, the hours between lunch and dinner are usually far longer, but the midday hunger is welcomed by several small dishes known as tapas.

Tapas are small appetizers in Spanish cuisine that can range from something as simple as aceitunas (olives with a red pepper filling) to something as distinct as chopitos (small squid, battered and fried).  Tapas serve the purpose of satisfying midday hunger and as food to enjoy while wine tasting or bar-hopping (a typical activity between work and dinner).

Last year, I made a trip to a Spanish restaurant in Fullerton, California, called Lizarran.  At Lizarran, I was able to have a unique food experience in learning that this was no typical afternoon snack.  While I was there, I sampled a few tapas, and my favorite was the Albondigas con Tomate (Spanish-style meatballs in tomato sauce).  It wasn’t the most adventurous of choices, but the Spanish-style meatballs introduced a flavor different from the typical Italian meatball.

However, I do encourage going out on a limb and trying the tapas that leave your mouth watering, or make you cringe just by the description.

The pulpo a la gallega graciously awaits your arrival.

¡Disfrute!

– Gabrielle Castillo

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FPP: Feta Protection Program; a Greek Delicacy

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When I dream of Greece, two things cross my mind: Santorini and feta cheese.

Feta cheese is the wonderfully salty, brined curd cheese that is sprinkled on many Mediterranean delicacies and whose roots can be pinpointed back to the days of the Byzantine Empire. Feta cheese is subject to special treatment in the world of food, due to the fact that it has claimed “PDO” status.

Spanakopita (Photo by Gabrielle Castillo)

“PDO” stands for “Protected Designation of Origin”, meaning that the food must be made in a traditional manner and carry out qualities that are determined solely by natural and human factors of its region. Therefore, feta cheese must be made of goat or sheep milk in Greece and nowhere else.

Seeing as Greek food is my favorite type of food, I enjoy feta cheese to no end. Oftentimes at Greek restaurants, you will find feta cheese used in traditional and modern dishes, and here are two of my favorite:

Spanakopita is a Greek spinach pie that is among the traditional feta dishes. With its flaky crust, spinach, crumbled feta cheese, egg and onions, Spanakopita is a traditional way to experience the distinct flavor that feta cheese has to offer.

A more modern dish that can be found in select Greek restaurants, such as My Big Fat Greek Restaurant and Daphne’s Greek Cafe, is a dish with french fries and feta cheese. My Big Fat Greek Restaurant serves their “Greek Fries” with french fries, crumbled feta cheese, and a lemon sauce.

Greek Fries (Photo by Gabrielle Castillo)

Each of these dishes offer a unique experience with feta cheese. Feta cheese can also be found on certain dishes such as a traditional Greek salad, or feta cheese and Kalamata olives (also known as Greek olives).

Greek can be an intimidating type of food to experiment with, but do not fear, for this is the food of the gods. From lamb to tzatziki, there are many bold, salty, and tangy flavors that will leave you longing for a stroll down the Agios Georgios beach and your taste buds wanting more.

Opa! 

– Gabrielle Castillo

A Tangy Tandoori Surprise.

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India is a country rich in history and culture. From the days of the East India Company and British rule, to hunger strikes, peaceful protests and Mahatma Gandhi, India has remained an influential country in the midst of rapid modernization. Among the list of prominent Indian influences are the signature dishes and flavors that make Indian cuisine so distinct and enjoyable.

Tandoori Chicken (grubwish.com)

Tandoori chicken is a popular Indian dish that consists of chicken, a yogurt marinade, and a tandoori masala (garam masala, onion, garlic, cayenne pepper, and ginger) seasoning. Tandoori chicken has reached many parts of the world, each made with a diverse array of spices.

Kundan Lal Gujral, a once restaurant owner in Pakistan, is responsible for the creation of this now signature Indian fare. In the late 1940s, the developing British empire in India had been put to a stop by the Partition of India, which resulted in violent territorial struggle with neighboring Pakistan. In order to escape the less than peaceful goings on in Pakistan, Gujral made his way to India. Once he arrived in India, he recreated his Pakistani restaurant with new recipes and dishes in order to maintain customers. It was then that Gujral decided to cook a well-seasoned, smaller sized chicken at high temperatures in a tandoor (a clay oven traditionally used for baking bread). The Prime Minister of India, impressed by the chicken, had it served at banquets in which various world leaders, (i.e. Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy) attended. The taste for tandoori chicken spread to the western world, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Tandoori chicken, or what is more commonly known as chicken tikka, is a common find on a menu in any Indian restaurant. With its pungent spices, tandoori chicken is a perfect taste of the unique cuisine that India has to offer.

Here are a few recipes for traditional and modern tandoori chicken dishes:

Indian Tandoori Chicken (AllRecipes.com)

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/indian-tandoori-chicken/detail.aspx

Grilled Tandoori Chicken (FoodandWine.com)

http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/grilled-tandoori-chicken

Fast Tandoori Chicken (NYTimes.com)

http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/05/08/recipe-of-the-day-fast-tandoori-chicken/

Buon appetito!

– Gabrielle Castillo

What Shall We Eat?

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One of the very first things that come to my mind when travel is mentioned, is the food. Food is a significant part of culture and can go as far as defining culture itself. It’s not often that you are able to come across a culture whose signature dish is all that similar to that of another.

Travel has always been a passion of mine and there is nothing more exciting than experiencing different cultures and habits associated with each destination. Although my travels haven’t consisted of faraway lands and obscure places, I aspire to visit a multitude of different countries before I die. Add it to the bucket list if you will, as cliché as it may be. My travel aspirations have a purpose and that purpose is to completely immerse myself in the culture of wherever it is that I happen to visit. But what really grabs my attention is the food.

Food can say so much about a culture. Food can have a historical background, give insight to economic status, and compiled of various flavors and ingredients, food can describe the geographical location.

Food isn’t just something that we consume. It’s a cultural experience in itself.

With that being said, che mangiamo? What shall we eat?

– Gabrielle Castillo