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First: Those of you who keep fruit bowls on the counter take note: today I learned that you cannot put kiwifruit and clementines in the same bowl. The kiwifruit cause the clementines to turn to a moldy, mushy mess. I don’t know why. The kiwifruit were fine and only the fruit that was touching was effected. I have learned something…my day is complete!
Second: It’s time, once again for the Food Blog Awards. You have until midnight, December 5, EST to nominate your favorite food blog in one of 14 categories…so take a minute and go nominate food blogs!
Third: Sunday was the first day of Advent and the official start to the Christmas season in Europe. All of the lights and decorations that were put up weeks ago, when the weather was better, will now be lit; the markets and festivities will begin.
Christmas is different here. It’s much more about the food and the traditions than it is about the presents. One of the traditions, in these very Catholic Mediterranean countries, is the nativity scene (yes, in Spain, complete with caganer). Not everyone will put up a Christmas tree but they will have a nativity scene. And so it follows that there are Christmas markets selling figures and components for nativity scenes all over Europe.
I have heard it said that the Christmas markets here are kind of ‘tacky’ and not really worth the visit.
To many American eyes this may be very true. There is no fine jewelry set with precious stones, no hand-made suits of armor or oil paintings selling for hundreds of euros.
The booths are obviously temporary structures with canvas tops, ropes and straw floors in the country; wooden floors and counters in the city.
And there are always the booths of nativity figures, ranging in price from 4 or 5 euros for a small, simple piece to upwards of 50 or 60 for larger, more intricate pieces. To the unfamiliar, I suppose seeing an entire display of 3″ (7cm) high, somewhat crudely made little statues, 100 of this one and 100 of that, could seem a bit tacky; but to the children and adults out to add a new personage to the family’s crèche de Noël or even assemble their own for the first time, this is indeed a treasure trove.
The other booths shelter local artisans selling small, handmade goods: local honey, homemade jams, preserves and liqueurs, freshly baked breads and cakes, home-cured sausages, jars of goose and duck fat, pates and terrines, hand embroidered linens, hand-made wooden toys.
In the city fairs there are more commercial items, and one does start seeing the same pashmina, silk scarf or leather slippers in market after market. But they are still geared toward the local people and the feeling is one of friends gathered for a bit of Christmas cheer – gluhwein and hot chestnuts.
You have to admit, the settings can be lovely….even on a rainy Sunday like this one!
After spending the day in the damp what could be better than a nice bowl of hearty pasta to go with the bread stuffed with Roquefort I was forced to buy?
(I was also forced to buy some handmade chocolates and some cinnamon galletes. I was almost forced to buy a fresh, hot crepe stuffed with Nutella but a firm hand planted around my arm, pulling hard, I might add,
stopped helped me.) (Curses upon you!)
Visit her blog on Friday for the round-up of the weeks pasta recipes from around the world.
And, in the midst of this Christmas post “Happy Chanukah!”
Back to the pasta: the best thing about this dish is the pasta cooks right in the skillet, thickening the sauce and absorbing the flavors…and making clean-up a breeze.
Savory Beef Pasta
1 10 – 12 oz flank steak or other beef appropriate for stir frying or quick cooking
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves
1/2 green pepper
1 tsp chili powder
2 tbs olive oil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 cup beef broth
1 can whole tomatoes, 15 oz (450 gr)
1/2 cup red wine
8 oz (250 gr) red kidney beans
1 1/4 cups penne
Peel and chop the onion. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Chop the pepper. Heat 1 tbs oil in large non-stick skillet and sauté chili powder for 1 minute. Add onions, garlic and pepper; sauté until tender. Remove to a plate. Slice the beef on an angle across the grain, then cut the slices into large, bite-size pieces. Heat remaining 1 tbs oil in same skillet. Add beef and sauté until starting to brown, 3 – 4 minutes. Open the tomatoes. Remove the whole tomatoes and roughly chop; reserve the liquid. Return peppers & onions to pan and add all remaining ingredients including tomatoes and reserved liquid. Stir to combine, cover, reduce heat and simmer 20 – 25 minutes, until pasta is done. Stir from time to time to keep pasta from sticking.
Finally: Don’t forget to search your closet/pantry for skeletons. Remember, confession is good for the soul. It can, but doesn’t have to, be an actual recipe, or just the description of the, um, food or any food and holiday related debacle/story/mishap…. Really, any dirty little secret you feel like sharing! You have until Christmas to post – the round-up will be just before Dec. 31. The usual rules: post, link to me, send me an e-mail with permalink. Click for details!
Come on, tell! Share the pain…you’ll feel better! And so will we!