I know that for a lot of people who love to cook being on vacation means lots of time to prepare food for family and friends. They like to spend long mornings at local markets sourcing for ingredients they cannot find as good, as cheap - or at all in many cases - back home. They never leave home without their knives or some other favorite kitchen tool or essential ingredient. They relax firing up the barbecue or mixing large carafes of frozen cocktails.
I often entertain such Martha Stewart fantasies about moving at ease around a kitchen in Provence, French windows open on a garden where the children quietly play hide and seek behind the bushes and trees, a light flowing skirt swirling just above my tanned bare feet. A pinch of tarragon here, a drizzle of dry white wine there...
The reality, however is very different: I rarely cook consistently on vacation, especially summer vacation.
When we visit my husband's side of the family, there is no doubt about who reigns in the kitchen. I humbly hand over my
scepter wooden spoon to my mother in law and busy myself with other things.
If we travel to the States every day is a whirlwind of friends and family to catch up with. We eat out up to twice a day sometimes and when we are home I spend a lot of time trying to contain my jet lagged, overexcited and overtired kids while my stepmother cooks up a delicious meal. Or we do what so many other fellow countrymen do: order in.
When visiting my mother, things are pretty much the same, minus the jet lag. Although, come to think of it, given Spanish hours, perhaps we should put jet lag back into the equation. There are lots of meals in restaurants and even more at family/friends' houses since the kids. When we do eat in, my mom takes care of the food while I, like the Cat in the Hat, save a vase with my left hand and a silver ashtray with my right while shouting at the kids for the umpteenth time to leave the dead snails and those piles of almonds, carobs and overripe figs outside of the front door please, not inside.
When we are on our own, by the time we get our tired, salty, sandy selves back from a long day at the beach, the most I can get myself to do is open a cold cerveza for my marido and myself and put some jamon, sobrasada and manchego out on the table for the niños, perhaps accompanied with some anchovy-filled olives and a glass or bowl of gazpacho.
This means that by the time I get back I am dying to get my hands chopping and slicing again and simultaneously a little rusty.
If you are feeling a little out of practice too, here is a really simple starter you can make in a matter of minutes. This is the perfect appetizer if you are on a no-carb mission after overeating during the holidays. Or, like us, you sometimes just miss a good NY sesame bagel with Nova and scallion cream cheese.
I made this following a mish-mash of different recipes online. Most of them said to refrigerate the roll for about an hour before cutting. That wasn't enough for me, so I stuck it into the freezer for another half hour and that made the process a lot less messy.
Ingredients (makes about 18)
250gr/8oz smoked salmon
250 gr/8oz cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp lemon juice
scallions, green part chopped thinly (about a handful)
about 2tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
capers for garnish
Combine cream cheese, lemon juice and scallions.
Sprinkle the sesame seeds on a large piece of waxed paper, then arrange the smoked salmon slices on top in a rectangle (about 4 inches wide) making sure to overlap the slices as much as possible). Fill in larger gaps with any irregular or broken pieces you have.
Spread the cream cheese on the salmon in a not-too-thick layer and then roll up as tightly as possible lengthwise.
Refrigerate for several hours or in the freezer for up to an hour (make sure it doesn't freeze).
Cut into 1/2 inch-1cm wide slices.
You can place each pinwheel on a thin piece of toasted bread or a cucumber if you want to keep them no-carb. You can add capers into the cream cheese mixture or some avocado slices lengthwise before rolling for a sushi effect. I used the capers as garnish.