(Nothing But) Flowers

Tulips

People have been asking us what we saw that was really great on our trip to Spain and The Netherlands. Well, at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, we saw the artist’s dozens of variations of Velazquez’s Las Meninas, and then saw the actual Las Meninas at the Prado in Madrid.  While in Madrid, we also saw Guernica, which has its own room at the Museo Reina Sofia. And when we got to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, we could only laugh when we saw the Picasso in Paris exhibit and half wondered if he had been following us.

Yes, we saw some of the true masterpieces of Western Art, but those paintings weren’t the most amazing things we saw on our trip. That honor goes to the day we spent on rented bicycles (3 Euros!) with our American friends Mel and Cullen, who are doing their neuroscience post-docs in Rotterdam.

The Bicycling Party

The four of us biked about 30 km (around 18 miles), from Leiden to Lisse, on our quest for blooming tulips. As it turns out, tulip season was just beginning, but daffodil and hyacinth season was in full swing.

This was not a bad thing, not at all. In fact, I’ll never forget the scent wafting from the fields of hyacinths as we biked by.

We were starving by the time we got the the Keukenhof Castle, and had a wonderful picnic on the grounds. Cullen had packed a 30 year-old chunk of Gouda, speckled with  crystals, from which he scraped delicate shavings with a cheese plane. We ate that with baguettes that Mel had heated in the oven and wrapped in dish towels to keep warm. The Dutch like to spread a little mustard in between their bread and cheese, and Rich and Cullen enjoyed some thin pieces of rare roast beef with theirs.

Picnic food

It was sitting on our rain jackets — which we didn’t need to use a single day on our trip, it turns out — that I fell for this this potato salad. Its origins were modest enough; I found it in the prepared salad section of the Albert Heijn grocery store near Mel and Cullen’s place.

The original had pieces of chicken but I’ve omitted them from my version, making it vegan. (It’s also kosher for Passover.) The Dutch have a very bland palate, so I’ve gussied this up a bit with some fresh herbs and slices of green olive. I think the potatoes in the original had been boiled, but I steamed mine. I also roasted the zucchini after I tossed it with some chopped garlic and olive oil. Nothing here is paper thin, no mandolin required. Everything, including the radishes, is about 1/4 inch thick.

Potato, Zucchini and Radish Salad

About 1 pound of small, new potatoes, scrubbed, unpeeled, halved lengthwise and chopped into 1/4 inch wide half moons. Steamed.

1 Zucchini, halved lengthwise, chopped into 1/4 inch wide half moons, tossed with about 1.5 tablespoons olive oil, one clove of chopped garlic, and roasted for about 20 minutes. If you have red chili flakes, now would be a good place to use a few, if that’s your thing. Keep an eye on the squash; zucchini has a way of getting mushy fast.

About 6 radishes, sliced into 1/4 inch wide discs

1/4 cup of green olives, sliced

A handful of parsley, chopped

5 green onions, chopped

1 shallot, chopped

Juice of 1 lemon

About 2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt to taste

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Warm potatoes have a way of sucking up oil, so you might need to add a few more glugs worth to get it to a moistness that suits you. Enjoy!

Leaving On A Jet Plane

La Boqueria: Barcelona's world-famous market.

Cheap Beets has saved and saved and saved, and now it is time for a vacation. Tomorrow evening, Rich and I will be leaving on a jet plane for Barcelona. We’re excited for architecture and art, and a visit to La Boqueria, of course. Then we’re taking the overnight train to Madrid, to see the Prado and maybe some flamenco. Rich is getting quite excited for all the jamon; I’m excited for the boquerones.  Spain: A country that wanted to get rid of Jews and Muslims so badly, they put pig in everything.

We’re flying from Madrid to the Netherlands and staying with friends in Rotterdam. Our amazing friend has already reserved our bicycles so we can just wake up the next morning and cycle to Lisse to visit the Keukenhof. Yes, that’s right: We’re bicycling through tulip fields. Then it’s off to Belgium to enjoy Antwerp and Bruges. Good beer, frites, chocolate and mussels for Rich await us in Flanders. Finally, we’ll be back on our bikes for a day in Amsterdam.

We’ll be back in time for Passover and with that, more recipes. I won’t be blogging during the trip, but I should be posting interesting photos on the Cheap Beets Facebook page. As always, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in a few weeks.