Wednesday, November 08, 2006

State of the Kitchen

The kitchen of our new apartment, though limited to a freestanding double-hotplate unit, a large toaster oven, and a microwave, has proven to be more useable than we initially feared. The hotplates are super-hot, boiling water in half the time as the gas stove in our old place; and though we can’t use them both at once—they’re too close together—we’ve made do. The toaster oven thing is quite large, which means we’ve been able to cook the holy grail of easy dinners: frozen pizza, which here in Barcelona are fantastically cheap and, surprisingly, delicious.

This weekend, I decided to make chili, since Barcelona is—finally—a normal fall temperature, crisp and chilly (at least in the evenings; the afternoons are still warm enough for short sleeves). Recipe in hand, Andrew and I went to the supermarket at El Corte Ingles, since our small, local Condis market has a very limited selection of ingredients—if I would find chili powder in Barcelona, I knew, I’d find it at the Corte. Some of the ingredients proved easy—onions, garlic, green pepper; others, not so. I found what I thought was a can of crushed tomatoes; but neither of us knew for sure. I found what appeared to be chili powder, though there was no way to taste it to find out. And when Andrew went to the meat counter to get the two pounds of ground beef, it proved elusive, for two reasons: he didn’t know how to say ground, and he didn’t know the kilo equivalent.

Ultimately, the chili wasn’t bad. What I thought was chili powder wasn’t—it was, I think, cayenne pepper instead. But aside from being a bit spicier (though, oddly, both spicier and blander) than usual, it was a good first effort.

The same can’t be said for our dinner experiment on Monday, when we tried to make Catalonia-style cannelloni. We’ve had this in a restaurant we like, and it’s delicious: meat-filled cannelloni in a kind of white sauce. Apparently very traditional. We found frozen cannelloni at the grocery store, the b├ęchamel sauce nearby; it seemed promising. It wasn’t. Though we have a toaster oven, we don’t have a sheet to cook anything on, or any tin foil, or any kind of casserole dish; so the cannelloni were kind of toasted rather than baked. And the b├ęchamel sauce was revolting. Just thinking about this dinner makes me feel a bit sick, and even though it’s been two days, my stomach (my strong stomach!) hasn’t fully recovered.

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