From San Francisco, CA to Calle San Francisco somewhere on the Spanish Costa Blanca.
The memories from the wedding of my friend “A.” forever locked in our collective memories as well as on my camera memory card.
Now onto Spain – the promise of more sunny landscapes, an idea for a recipe for this post and of course, another wedding.
After “A.”, this time, it’s my friend “B.”
I promise I’m not trying to be funny. As life would have it, “B.” decided to get married after “A.”
Sun, turquoise sea and warm sand.
Historic towns, remote hilltop villages, architecture and castle ruins.
Busy tapas bars and splendid beaches.
This list sounds like a dream come true. I’m actually doubtful myself as I type these words.
But it’s all true! I’ve seen it. I was there.
Oh and I forgot secret coves and rugged capes – not to rub it in!
As I’m going through my pictures – souvenirs of a beautiful vacation reflected in the rearview mirror and disappearing as you drive away – it would be hard for me not to talk about the following little things.
These little things, petits détails, igniting the soft mind when you’re back home and surprise yourself looking out the window, chin resting on fist, and daydreaming about something…
Something, anything other than the reality you know.
Like driving through the Costa Blanca region, from Alicante to Dénia, along the coast or inland by ways of Pego, Planes or Guadalest.
The richly beautiful valley – La Vall de Gallinera.
Landscapes seasoned with trees.
Zesty orange and lemon trees. Shiny olive trees. Majestic cypress trees. Crimson red cherry trees. And droopy avocado trees.
The secret beach of La Granadella under the Cap de la Nau where the water, pebble beach and jagged cliffs look like they were artificially inserted to create an illusory cove.
Yet, we feel we can do anything we want.
And what about El Barrio de la Santa Cruz in Alicante.
Colorful, whitewashed houses, flower-filled balconies, crooked stairways in all directions leading to the Santa Bárbara castle.
I was mesmerized walking up and down the narrow streets. Flags, tubs of flowers and colors everywhere.
An improvised lunch in Pego after hiking Peñon de Ifach proved to be memorable in every sense of the way.
Tapas, white wine, the splashing fountain on the plaza and the overlooking 16th century church.
Stretching the day to the hamlet of Planes where time stood still in some mysterious ways.
Too many nooks and crannies to consider. Just exploring!
But the casually floating laundry drying in the sun with olive trees in the background remains a sight to see.
And I certainly cannot forget to mention the accidental discovery of Altea.
If the word “quaint” could be paired with a picture in the dictionary, it would be with a picture of Altea.
I just sat at one of the cafés and took it all in.
I watched the city live around me. A cobbled maze. A crooked compact core group of streets making up the nucleus character of the town.
Surprises and enchantment at every street corners.
And of course, the white and blue domes of the church of La Mare de Déu del Consol.
However, nothing could compete with the breathtaking Mirador in Benidorm.
The location, the views, the delicate radiating white light from the immaculate surroundings.
And this is where my friends “B. and N.” got married.
I am so very thankful they too gave me their authorization to publish pictures from their wedding day.
It was an affair to remember.
“B.” and I met in 2003 through friends of ours in Milwaukee. But it wasn’t until 2004 that we connected.
And we connected in a peculiar way.
Instantly, I liked her laugh and her Spanish joie de vivre.
She’s a sparkling gal with sparkling eyes – yes, definitely using sparkling twice here and there’s a reason for it… she really is – combined with an infectious smile and personality.
She secretly liked the fact that we could speak French once in a while so she could dive back into her luxembourgeois roots.
And I think she enjoyed me making her laugh, which was perfect because it’d make me laugh in return.
We met but we really connected when we realized we were both going to close on our first house the same day at the same time. Separate houses of course!
And just like that, we opened two bottles of Champagne that night – one in each house – to celebrate the first biggest purchase of our lives.
We met, and we kept in touch. I love that she is part of my story that way and I am part of hers as well.
The wedding was brilliantly elegant – from the reception on the beach of the Montiboli Hotel to the dancing guests sharing their energy way into the night.
The aperitivo with Cava overlooking the sea.
The service in la Iglesia de San Jaime y Santa Ana.
The bride and groom’s smiles, love and humor spreading through the crowd.
Can we celebrate your wedding every day? – I begged. Does it really have to end?
Congratulations to “B. and N.” – I wish them every possible happiness.
Last stop: Barcelona.
Animated, inspired and inspiring, bold, funky, modern and old.
My highlights summed up in 4 words: art, food, Gaudí, people.
The food shopping at the Mercat de Sant Joseph de la Boqueria to buy pimientos de Padrón.
The colorful work and crazy spirit of Gaudí throughout the city.
The vibrant atmosphere at Cervecería Catalana.
Through the maze of streets and squares in the old town – Barri Gòtic – in search of the heart and essence of Barcelona.
Exploring the area of El Born and the neighborhood of La Barceloneta where flags and clothes hang from every windows and where smells of fresh pan con tomate being prepared float in the air before finally leading to the beach.
Strolling and looking up to glance at the Art Nouveau buildings and Modernism exploding in the Eixample area.
This reminds me that the best pan con tomate I tasted was at Ca La Nati. Their special touch: oregano.
I wanted to be in my kitchen to recreate these simple flavors of garlic, olive oil and tomatoes. Barcelona and Spain in my house.
Recreating the flavors with a Frenchie twist. A pan con tomate-flavored quiche.
A quiche with an olive oil oregano gluten-free crust. The earthy amaranth, the light tapioca, the mild crunch of the buckwheat.
A roasted tomato purée with garlic at the bottom.
Topped with tomato slices and oregano.
Emulating the sensation of biting into an olive oil grilled slice of bread rubbed with garlic and tomatoes, sprinkled with oregano.
A hit in my house so I can continue to remember Spain and the Spanish people.
Toujours en vacances !
Pan Con Tomate-flavored Quiche – Roasted Tomato and Garlic Quiche
makes a 9-inch (22-23 cm) quiche + 3 individual 4-inch (10 cm) tarts OR an 11-inch (27-28 cm) quiche + 1 individual 4-inch (10 cm) tart
make sure to use high-quality olive oil
for the roasted garlic tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat the oven to 400 °F (200 °C).
Core and seed the tomatoes – halved lengthwise.
Peel and mince the garlic cloves.
Sprinkle the garlic, salt and pepper over the tomatoes.
Roast in the oven for 30 minutes.
When done, place the roasted tomatoes and garlic in a strainer to discard any liquid and press gently with the back of a wooden spoon until all liquids are gone. Roughly chop the tomato purée, set aside and let cool.
for the gluten-free olive oil oregano crust
2/3 cup (100g) amaranth flour
2/3 cup (85g) tapioca flour
2/3 cup (100g) buckwheat flour
2 Tbsp sweet white rice flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon sea salt
pinch of freshly grounded pepper
2 Tbsp chopped oregano
1/3 cup (75 ml) olive oil
7 Tbsp cold water
Sift the 4 flours over a big bowl and combine them with the xantham gum, sea salt, pepper and oregano.
Dig a well in the center and add the oil. Working slowly with your fingers, mix the oil to the flours until well absorbed. It should be lumpy and chunky.
Crack the egg in a small bowl and add the cold water to it. Whisk for a few seconds with a fork to combine the water and egg.
Dig another well in the flour/oil mixture and pour the egg/water in the center.
Mix delicately with your hands in a circular motion until the dough forms a ball. Do not knead it too much.
Flatten the ball, cover and wrap with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight or for at least 1 hour. If chilled overnight, remember to remove it from the fridge and wait 30 minutes before rolling it.
Preheat the oven to 400 °F (200 °C).
Roll out the dough to fill a 9-inch tart pan (22-23 cm) or an 11-inch pan if you decide to make a bigger one. I use some of the rice flour to roll the dough in case it is a little wet. Line the dough with the pan, press in the corners, and trim it without any overhang.
With a fork, make small holes at the bottom over the entire surface. Cover the dough with parchment paper, drop weights on it (another smaller oven-proof dish, or dry garbanzo beans) and blind bake the crust for 10 minutes.
Remove the crust from the oven, remove the parchment paper and the weights, and bake for another 8 minutes. Set aside.
for the tomato cream egg batter
3/4 cup (180 ml) heavy cream
1 garlic clove – cut in 4 chunks
5 branches of oregano
2 Tbsp of tomato paste (I use the double concentrated paste)
1 garlic clove – minced
1 Tbsp of olive oil
sea salt and pepper
While the tomatoes are roasting or the crust is resting in the fridge, pour the cream in a bowl and steep the garlic and oregano branches in the cream for at least one hour.
Discard the garlic chunks and oregano branches when done and pour the cream through a strainer if necessary.
In a medium bowl, add the tomato paste to the cream as well as the minced garlic clove, olive oil and a pinch of sea salt and pepper.
Whisk until all ingredients are combined.
Add the eggs one by one and whisk until smooth. Set aside.
putting the quiche together
2 tomatoes – sliced thinly
2-3 Tbsp of oregano – chopped
pinch of sea salt
Bring the oven temperature down to 350 °F (180 °C).
Spread the roasted tomato and garlic purée at the bottom of the blind baked crust.
Pour the tomato cream egg batter over the top.
Arrange the tomato slices over the batter and place in the oven.
Bake the quiche for 45 to 55 minutes – if you make small quiches, 25-30 minutes.
The top should be golden and slightly puffed. The egg batter should not be moving.
Optional: at the end, set the broiler on high and broil the quiche for 1-2 minutes until the tomatoes and the top are brown.
Let the quiche rest for 15 minutes. Sprinkle oregano and sea salt on top and serve.