Text and Images by Kyle Beechey
Here at The Arc, we like to think that we’re ahead of the curve, although it seems our summer 2017 vacation destination was right on trend, Portugal. The Algarve, Lisbon and Porto were on everyone’s list, Instagram feed and mind. The country has been a long time favorite vacation destination of Europeans, with the Algarve being the ultimate stop. The region runs the country’s southern coast and is home to many of its most picturesque beaches. Think sweeping cliffs, pristine blue water and this compounded with over 300 days of sun annually, how did it take North Americans so long to discover?
Landing in Faro with stops in Olhão and Lagos, we were looking forward to experiencing a little more than the beach. We’re always interested in a little culinary tourism to immerse ourselves in the local spirit. A visit to the town’s markets was planned with the objective of cooking a Portuguese feast. Tucked countryside was our little casita that came equipped with an outdoor grill.
The market was our guide in menu planning. After a survey of its offerings, we picked up sardines, clams, special Portuguese greens (that had a mild resemblance to kale) and an array of fresh produce.
Let the market be your guide. Everything is worth trying once, whether it be fruit, vegetables or fish. Let your senses lead the way.
Cooking in a rental or Airbnb kitchen can pose some challenges…dull knives, flimsy plastic cutting boards and certainly no mandoline in sight. It can push creativity and prompt one to look to outside forces for inspiration. Literally in our case.
The little house was situated on a small plot of land where chickens grazed and was home to a variety of plant life. We rolled up our sleeves and did a little backyard foraging. Our salad dressing included grape juice straight from the vine and local honey from the owner’s apiary. The herb sauce that garnished our vegetables included fresh almonds plucked from the tree.
In the midsummer Algarvian dusk, we feasted on grilled sardines, steamed clams, grilled Mediterranean vegetables, stewed greens, simple green salad and fresh bread. A meal and a trip that will be remembered far beyond any of the coast’s Michelin starred restaurants.
If you should be so inspired on your next holiday to get in the kitchen here are some tips and simple recipes.
Maximizing the Rental Kitchen & Pantry
• Rental property kitchens generally leave much to be desired. Keeping it simple is key. Avoid recipes/ideas that involve many ingredients or fancy kitchen equipment. You don’t want to bother building a full pantry for a stay of only a few days. You’d be surprised how difficult even the simplest mince, chiffonade or dice is in the given circumstances.
• When building a pantry for a short weekend trip or midweek getaway, stick to a couple versatile basics. Include something for a pop of acid, subtle burst of heat/spice, some umami and fat. For us, that usually means picking up lemons & limes (don’t be afraid to use the zest!), red chili flakes & back pepper, either a Dijon mustard/soy sauce/olive tapenade, tons of fresh herbs, garlic, shallots and good olive oil (!!). You’d be surprised the number of flavor combinations these ingredients can yield. Oh and salt, good salt, that iodized stuff at the back of cupboard won’t do. Maldon, Pink Himalayan or Fleur de Sel, is preferable.
Local Markets & Grilling
• Let the market be your guide. Everything is worth trying once, whether it be fruit, vegetables or fish. Let your senses lead the way.
• Sample, vendors love to let you have tastes of fresh produce and cheese. Take advantage especially when you are somewhere new or unfamiliar.
• When you’re grilling vegetables be aware that they all take different amounts of time, greens being the fastest and starchier produce taking longer. Just keep your eye on things.
• Marinate, toss and season every step of the way. Don’t be afraid of extra oil. Now is not the time to skimp.
• Experiment with whatever is in season. Cabbage, lettuce and winter squash all fare well on the grill.
Simple Recipes Inspired by The Algarve
Verjus Salad Dressing
We were fortunate to use the grapes from the backyard, but if you don’t find yourself with a grapevine out back feel free to use a store-bought verjus. Nothing will be lost. Verjus is popular with chefs since it doesn’t conflict with wine as vinegar does.
Yield - Makes ½ a cup
• ⅓ cup fresh white grape juice or verjus
• 3 tablespoons grapeseed or olive oil
• 1 scallion, minced
• 1½ teaspoons finely chopped fresh green herbs - chive, chervil or parsley work well
• 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
• Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, aside from the herbs and whisk until emulsified.
2. Finish with herbs and additional salt & pepper to taste.
Fresh Green Herb Sauce with Foraged Almonds
This sauce is versatile. It is similar to a chimichurri or salsa verde, but with fewer specific ingredients. It can be used to garnish fish, meat, vegetables or even as a spread. Feel free to use whatever herbs you have on hand. We prefer the rustic feel of a hand chop, but it can also be made in a food processor, if you happen to have one at your disposal.
• 2 cloves garlic
• 1 cup fresh basil leaves
• 1 bunch flat leaf parsley
• 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
• ½ cup olive oil
• ¼ cup lemon juice or red wine vinegar
• 1 lemons zest
• ⅓ cup finely diced shallot
• ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
• kosher salt
1. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, basil, parsley, oregano, red pepper and shallots. Slowly mix in the oil, lemon juice/vinegar, and finish with salt.
2. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, although longer is better. Bring to room temperature and spoon over grilled meat, chicken, seafood, vegetables or serve alongside bread.
Leftovers work well the next day, stirred into eggs, salad dressings or yogurt.