In the days leading up to my vacation in the Southwestern coast of Portugal, I am thinking about all things food — what I will miss back home, the Portuguese treats I’ve been craving all year, the almond and fig trees abundant in the area, the distinctive aroma of wild rosemary and sage, and the spices and tools I will sneak into my suitcase to enhance my trip.
I will of course miss my friends — my cooking partners — the most, but I’m excited to cook with my parents, children and even my non-cooking husband — pretty darn good substitutes! Then there are some American luxuries — like plastic wrap, zip-loc bags and aluminum foil — which are superior to what I’ll use on my trip. So, I’ll miss these.
There will be some adjustments to my routine: I’ll make my coffee in a French Press instead of a Chemex; I’ll use German cream instead of half and half in my morning cup of coffee; I’ll substitute “Danon Puro Yogurt” for my honey drizzled Greek yogurt; I’ll snack on goat cheese and olives since there won’t be any hummus or chips; and I’ll make a daily batch of “Sopa do Vegetal” to have for lunch after spending several hours at our favorite beach, surrounded by caverns and cliffs.
I am jumping out of my skin in anticipation of Tuesday and Saturday morning visits to the farmer’s market in town, picking figs, exotic greens and two-bite apples and pears out of overfilled crates, elbow to elbow with locals; strolling the aisles at “EcoMarche,” the town equivalent of Shoprite, teeming with colorful, foreign labels on products that I can’t get back home; and wandering through the fish markets, with weathered fishmongers displaying their daily catch.
My three children have also been talking obsessively about their Portuguese foods — the swirly pastries they hand pick each morning from the bread truck in the cobblestone square of our fishing village; the razor clams doused in a garlic & lemon sauce at our favorite cliff side restaurant; gooseneck barnacles (known as “Perceves” in Portuguese) that are caught by brave souls who risk life and limb hanging from the sides of rocks exposed by the low tide– just so we can enjoy these sweet briny delicacies. They crave Nestle ice cream pops that come with a cute foreign trinket as a break from the ice cream truck.
As I use up what’s in my freezer, cupboards and fridge, I am very conscious that it will be weeks before I use a certain product or ingredient again. And, as I make each batch of granola, create edible year-end teacher gifts and stir together four berry pies with my friends, I am savoring each and every moment with them. The food adjustments I’ll make during my three-week trip away from home will be a break and an adventure at the same time; one that will add a new dimension to my cooking self, making me excited to come home again and share what I’ve experienced.
Portuguese Vegetable Soup
Makes 2 ½ quarts
5 Potatoes (Yukon Gold), peeled and sliced thinly
1 Large onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
4 medium sized carrots peeled and chopped
1 carrot peeled and sliced thinly
2 Cups watercress, washed and stems removed
â…› Cup olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
In a deep pot, combine potatoes, onion, garlic, 4 chopped carrots, olive oil and salt. Add 3 quarts of water. Bring to a boil rapidly for 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender and some of the water has evaporated. Remove from heat and, using a hand blender, blend until smooth. Return the soup to the burner and bring back to a boil. Add the sliced carrots and Swiss Chard and cook for no more than 10 minutes until vegetables are tender