Ireland

Ireland.  What can I say?  It was stunningly gorgeous, the weather was perfect and the food was outstanding.  I might venture to say that the food, at least in my opinion, is better in Ireland than in France.  Did I just say that?  Well the truth is that since my last trips there in 1998, and particularly 1986, there has been a “food Renaissance” in Ireland.  The food can no longer be described as a bad version of bland British food!  There seems to be an emphasis on local, local, local.  With all that rain, the produce grows quite well and the people are really into the “fresh from the earth” attitude (or from the chicken like my cousin Fergus, the banker who’s really proud of his backyard chicken coop!).  The mild climate also makes for quite a long growing season.  And although I made it a goal to try to eat seafood at least once a day,  I couldn’t resist the steak at cousin Frank’s barbecue.  Luckily,  when one is traveling with one’s vegetarian dad, it’s a lot easier to make the healthier choices (especially when the healthier choices sound so darn appealing!)  Highlights were, of course, salmon, often accompanied by a white wine dill cream sauce and LOTS of fresh veg.  In fact, most meals we had included many portions of different and creatively presented veg served family style.  Particular favorites were carrot and parsnip mash, potato croquettes and the abundance of freshly dressed greens served with everything from the fanciest of seafood meals to sandwiches at a motorway rest area.  By the way, I never did manage to verify the veracity of the rumor about gas station sandwiches but I had an excellent one called a “Turkish wedge” at said motorway rest area on the way to Dundalk.  It included brie and lots of freshly dressed greens (which I noticed they also call a “stack” sandwich–more on that later). 

Is this how you imagine the food in Ireland?!

Another regular on Irish menus was a starter of Carrot Coriander Soup.  I’ll be trying that later when it’s not 90° out!

 
And check out this “goats’ cheese” sandwich found at a roadside bar in the charming village of Glandore in West Cork.  One of the ingredients was “sun-blushed” tomatoes which I assumed (wrongly) were the same as sun-dried tomatoes.  Apparently they are a milder version of the sun-dried tomatoes we’re used to here in the States.  Anyways, whatever they were, this was one heck of a sandwich…once I figured out how to actually eat it!
 
So, over the next few weeks I plan to recreate some of the dishes I had in Ireland and tell you more about the food there  but because there’s so much to say, I’ll space it out some.  In the interest of getting on with it, I give you a healthy summer farmers’ market menu.
 
Bruschetta Topped Tuscan Grilled Chicken with Cucumber Feta Salad
 
The chicken, which is loosely based on Ina Garten’s recipe, is super simple.  Marinate chicken breasts in the following ingredients, preferably overnight.  I’ll have to estimate the amounts since I usually just chuck ingredients in a dish and hope it tastes good.  It usually does because of the lemon.
 
3-4 chicken breasts, poked with a fork
 
juice of 1 lemon
 
1/2 or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (depending how much spice you like)
 
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
 
1 Tablespoon finely chopped Rosemary (though I forgot this ingredient last time it was still good)
 
coarse salt and pepper to taste
 
Bruschetta
 
5 farmers’ market tomatoes, seeded and chopped (seed them by squeezing them over the sink once halved)
 
1 Tablespoon finely chopped red onion
 
10 basil leaves, torn or chopped
 
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
 
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
 
1/2 tsp. sugar
 
coarse salt and pepper
 
Mix in a bowl and allow to sit for flavors to develop. 
 
Finally, for the outlandishly tasty Cucumber Feta Salad, which I recently discovered on David Lebovitz’s hilarious and delicious blog (www.davidlebovitz.com) (and which he swiped from his pal Joanne Weir, whom I watch on Create television–How many degrees of separation is that? Anyways, I digress) you only need a few simple ingredients as well.
 
2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced into small pieces
 
8 oz. feta cheese
 
1 small red onion
 
2-3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
 
1 Tablespoon water
 
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
 
1 Tablespoon (each) finely chopped mint, parsley and dill
 
coarse salt and black pepper
 
First, prepare the cucumber and toss with about a 1/2 tsp. coarse salt. Let sit in a colander for at least 30 minutes, giving it a shake every few minutes.  In the meantime, in a large bowl, mash together with a fork the feta, lemon juice, water and black pepper until it’s fairly smooth.  Add the onion, herbs and cucumber and mix.  David suggests adding chopped olives.  I might be inclined to add some finally chopped red pepper next time for color.  This was indeed a refreshing and satisfying side to the Tuscan Grilled Chicken.
 
Don’t worry.  I’m not done with Irish food but am taking a much-needed break from bread and potatoes until I get my waistline “sorted” (as they so charmingly say in Ireland ;))
 
Slainté
 
 
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About Liza M.

foodie, francophile, Ann Arborite, teacher, bookworm and self-professed latte-lover--come cook with me!
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One Response to Ireland

  1. Kristin says:

    You hit the nail on the head about food in Ireland these days! Local food is increasingly prized, as are the people who make it or grow it. Even in the recession, artisan Irish food is growing in popularity here. Happy to hear you enjoyed your visit here!

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