Gigi Travels

Cooking & Travel Adventures

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Still Life – Playing with Food

A still life bowl of farmer’s market items. Next: reassembling these items to look like a face, or cutting them up to resemble mosaic glass. Yep, this is how I like to spend my idle time.  🙂

 

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Farmer’s Market Love

I just LOVE summer. Such a variety of scrumptious things at the local farmer’s market. Here are a few snapshots of what I get to enjoy on a weekly basis. #ilovesummer

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Alberobello, Puglia

The beautiful and stunning trulli architecture in the quaint town of Alberobello, located in the Puglia region of Italy. The Trulli of Alberobello are part of the UNESCO World Heritage site. I highly recommend a day visit, perhaps even spending the night in a converted B&B. My top accommodation pick is the Trulli da Sogno. A truly unique experience, so well worth the money!  

Here are some photos I took during my stay. Such a magical place!

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Coconut Madeleines

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These delicious and easy Coconut Madeleine cookies were adapted from Barefoot Contessa’s recipe.

I’m somewhat obsessed with the use of coconut sugar in my sweet recipes these days. It adds  a really nice caramel-ly flavor and nutty texture to things. Replacing regular sugar with coconut sugar was the only change I made to her recipe. 

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Flavors of Lebanon – Kibbeh

One of my all time favorite cuisines, is Lebanese food. I first experienced kibbeh back in Colombia where my boyfriend’s mother prepared a meal from her native land. I was so taken by the dish that I have recreated it many times in the past decade. Unfortunately, I was unable to get her recipe  (may she rest in peace, sigh…), but I do think this one comes pretty close. Thank you Sofia! XO,  love you so much my dear mentor! 

Ingredients

For the stuffing:

1/4 lb ground beef
1/4 lb ground lamb
2 heaped tablespoons pine nuts, toasted lightly in dry pan
1 small, finely chopped onion
Olive oil
Pinch cinnamon, cardamom, all spice
Salt

For the shells:

1/2 lb bulgur wheat
1/2 teaspoon all spice
1/4 teaspoon sumac
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cumin
A litre of vegetable oil
zest of one orange (optional)

Directions

To make your stuffing:
  1. In a pan, saute the onion in olive oil until soft and translucent.
  2. Stir in the minced meat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, then, as it browns, season with salt and spices.
  3. When the meat has browned all over, and most of its water has been cooked off turn off the heat and allow to cool.
To make the shells:
  1. Soak the bulgur wheat in cold water for an hour (but no longer).
  2. Drain the water off and place the bulgur into a sieve and leave it to drain for 15 minutes.
  3. Place the bulgur gradually to the food processor and pulse until smooth. (This will take time and you’ll have to scrape down the edges repeatedly)
To make your kibbeh:
  1. Get a bowl of water and wet your hands.
  2. Take a bit more than an egg-sized chunk of shell mix and roll into a firm ball.
  3. Make a hole in the centre with your finger and work it into an elongated cavity.
  4. Place your thumb in the cavity and using your fingers pinch the walls of the shell to make them as thin as possible.
  5. Fill this with the stuffing and, keeping your hands moist, pinch closed and shape into a rough lemon shape.
  6. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.
  7. Heat the oil and check it’s up to temperature by dropping a bit of mix in and checking it fizzles to the surface.
  8. Deep-fry in batches of four-six, depending on the size of your pan, for about five-eight minutes each or until deep golden brown.
  9. Sit the kibbeh on a paper towels to drain excess oil.
  10. Serve kibbeh with wedges of lemon and a side salad.

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Washington State – 26 Years Later

I recently reconnected with the Pacific Northwest on a quest to explore the place I once lived with my mom.  When I was the age of 16, my mom decided she wanted to own a B&B. This was 1987. For me, as a teenager coming from San Diego, CA, this was not what I thought was a good idea.  However, I did believe in her dream, so we packed our bags and borrowed my Uncle’s VW camper van and started our Pacific Northwest life. Now many decades later, I had a great desire to revisit our old home and life. So, we did. Although this time we didn’t take a VW camper van, we took Alaska Airlines.

I have to say, visiting these places were amazing.  The state of Washington is beautiful and I totally get why she chose this path many moons ago. Anyhow, here is a slideshow of our mother/daughter adventure in May.

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Roasted Yellow Beets

I was at the farmer’s market on Sunday, the usual plan, and came across these yellow beets. I’ve eaten the red and pink variety, but never this type. Of course I just had to buy them. I knew I was in for a beautiful surprise as I sliced the cooked beets, but had NO IDEA they’d be this amazing! They were an ombre of yellows and oranges, reminiscent of a sunrise. Totally mind-blowing.  An added bonus is that these don’t make a mess when you peel them because of their light color. Anyone who’s worked with red beets, knows what I’m talking about. Anyhow, below is my no-fail simple recipe. I prefer roasting over boiling because I think the flavors are much more delicious. Enjoy!

Recipe:

  1. Wash and clean beets.
  2. Wrap them in tin foil.
  3. Cook in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes, depending on size. Beets should be soft to touch when they are ready.
  4. Allow to cool.
  5. Wipe off skin using a dish towel or paper towels if that is all you have available.
  6. Cut off ends and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices.
  7. Place slices in a bowl and drizzle with 2 generous splashes of rice wine vinegar.  You can use cider or champagne vinegar but I prefer rice vinegar as it has a nice mild flavor.
  8. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
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Brown Derby Cocktail

Recipe

Serving Size: 2

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 oz. good quality bourbon or rye
  • 1 1/2 oz. freshly squeezed grapefruit or blood orange juice
  • 1/2 oz. of honey syrup (made from equal parts water and honey brought to a simmer and cooled)
  • Orange flower water (optional)
  • 1 grapefruit or blood orange slice, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Combine all of the ingredients into a shaker with ice.
  2. Add a tiny splash of orange flower water. (Omit, if not available.)
  3. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled champagne coup or cocktail glass.
  4. Garnish glass with sliced grapefruit or blood orange.
http://gigitravels.com/2014/04/brown-derby-cocktail/

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Faces of Vietnam

I met so many wonderful  people on my trip to Vietnam. The Vietnamese people are one of the kindest and warmest cultures I’ve ever encountered. You can tell by some of the expressions on their faces just how lovely they are. Hope you enjoy these memories as much as I do!

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Amalfi Coast, Italy

 

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