small is beautiful: agua pela barba

I'm back with another Small is Beautiful feature! If you didn't catch my first two SIB posts, this project was born out of a desire to document and share some of the amazing independent businesses and creative projects near and dear to my heart. 

This week, I'm featuring one of my favorite Lisbon restaurants: Agua Pela Barba. I first admired the work of chef João Magalhães Correia (above right) via Instagram. When I finally made it in to the restaurant last year, I was thrilled that his food tastes 100% as amazing at it looks. João's ability to coax subtle flavors and textures out of seafood makes him one of my favorite Lisbon chefs. He and owner, João Alves (above left) have created a space that is casual, welcoming and one of the finest seafood restaurants in the city. If you find yourself in Lisbon, Agua Pela Barba most definitely needs to be on your list!


And interview with João Magalhães Correia, chef at Agua Pela Barba in Lisbon.

Mad lib time! People could describe your business as Fisherman's shack meets contemporary food.

What is your background?
I grew up in Lisbon, where I first got into cooking because my mom was, to be honest, a really bad cook. The fact that I started living on my own very early also obliged me to cook for myself at a young age. I'd always wanted to do something creative and I loved doing manual tasks. This is why I decided to drop out of law school and follow my passion by attending cooking school. Traveling is one of the things that helped me grow as a cook the most. While working in Milan I noticed the amazing respect and passion Italians have for food and for their national products. This inspired me to go back to Lisbon to try and make people as enthusiastic about local Portugese products. 

How/when did you get the idea for your current venture?
About 2 years ago I noticed that Lisbon lacked a good quality modern fish restaurant that was affordable and not too pretentious or fancy. 
 
On a scale of one to shitting-your-pants, how nervous were you about starting your business?
Pissing-your-pants scared, which I guess is just below shitting-your-pants. There is a lot of competition in Lisbon and even though I knew the concept was good, I was also aware of the fact that this does not guarantee success.
 
What's the greatest challenge with your business?
It used to be getting people interested in the concept. Nowadays the biggest challenge is to maintain people's interest.
 
What do you love most about your business? What brings you the most joy?
I get the most joy out of people's satisfaction. People who spend their money and end up having a great night with food they loved, being able to see to that, that's what I love most about this business. 

What's on your bedside table (be honest)?
My phone and a Meditation book. 
 
Secret hobby and/or obsession?
Mezcal. It's not that secret though. 
 
Favorite city?
Lisbon
 
If you could get in a time machine, zoom back into the past and give yourself one piece of advice before starting your business, what would it be?
Always take time to rest, a rested head thinks more clearly.

What other local business/project do you think is Small and Beautiful?
For my personal booze fix I like to go to this place called A Tabacaria. It's a small bar in Rua São Paulo with an antique interior and good quality drinks, including a very nice Mezcal. The skilled bartender and chilled crowd make it a great place for me to have a drink after work. In the afternoon I like to visit my friend Inês who owns a mobile cocktailstand called MEXE currently placed in Martim Moniz. She makes deliciously fresh and original cocktails that are perfect for these sunny Lisbon days.


I hoped you enjoyed this Lisbon edition of Small is Beautiful! For those of you interested in exploring this beautiful city further, there are still a few spots left in my Lisbon Like a Local culinary & creative retreat this October! 


grilled shrimp with melon, cucumbers and mozzarella

Hello!

I hope you won’t mind that I’ve been keeping my blog posts short and sweet lately. We’ve been having an absolutely perfect summer and I find myself constantly itching to be outside rather than planted in front of my computer. The dreary, grey weather we have for 9 months of the year leads Seattleites to lose their minds in the summertime. The normally reserved (and somewhat grumpy) population is all smiles and small talk and walking-around-town-with-extra-spring-in-their-step when the sun is shining. It’s basically impossible for us to stay inside one second longer than absolutely necessary. 

This glorious summer weather is also why I’ve been posting simple, low-prep recipes. I don’t know about you, but I want to cook everything on the grill when it’s warm out. I’m loath to heat up my little kitchen when it’s already hot. And there’s something about cooking outdoors that seems so right for long days and balmy nights. 

Feeling the cool breeze on your skin and the heat from the grill, watching the flames dance under the grate and the smoke waft through the air--it all has an elemental quality to it that reminds me people have been cooking this way for thousands of years. The simplicity of preparing a meal over a fire has a certain grace that allows me to slow down and be present in a way cooking in my appliance-filled kitchen does not. 

So my plan for the summer is simply to post the best of what I’ve been cooking for myself here on the blog. I made this Grilled Shrimp with Melon, Cucumbers and Mozzarella a few weeks back and loved how it turned out. I’m a big fan of contrasting sensations and flavors, so what made this dish for me was the spice of the chile against the crisp cucumbers and creamy mozzarella and the smoky grilled shrimp paired with the sweet-tart melon. It's got all the flavors I want in a light, summer salad.

I hope you’re enjoying the long days as much as we are in Seattle and that you get the chance to cook out-of-doors at least once this year!

XO,

Olaiya
 


Grilled Shrimp with Melon, Cucumbers and Mozarella

  • ¼ to ⅓ medium ripe honeydew or other melon, seeded and skin removed
  • 2 limes
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Piri Piri, Aleppo or other ground dried chile, to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
  • ¼ serrano chile, very thinly sliced (optional)
  • 2 small Persian cucumbers, sliced into thin rounds or ribbons
  • 1 large ball of fresh mozzarella or about 12 bocconcini-sized balls (about 4 oz. total), torn into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ lb. medium to large sustainable shrimp (I used size 16-20 wild gulf prawns), shelled
  • 2 tablespoons mint leaves, torn if large
  • Special equipment: metal or wooden skewers

*Notes: If you’re using wooden skewers, soak them in hot water while you prep the salad. (This keeps them from burning on the grill.)

- If you don’t have a grill or don’t feel like grilling the shrimp, you can also poach them according to the directions in this recipe

- I think this salad is delicious with or without the mozzarella. 

Thinly shave or slice the melon about ⅛-inch thick. Arrange the melon on a serving platter or divide between individual plates. Halve one of the limes and squeeze a little lime juice over the melon. Melons vary greatly in terms of sweetness and acidity, so taste your melon and season accordingly. You want a nice balance of sweet and sour. Set aside. 

Zest the other lime with a microplane and set the zest aside. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of lime juice, 1 teaspoon of the zest, the olive oil, a pinch of chile, a generous pinch of salt, the garlic and the serrano (if using). Whisk to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. 

Place the shrimp in a small bowl and toss with a little of the chile-lime vinaigrette. Place the cucumber and torn mozzarella in the medium bowl with the rest of the vinaigrette and toss to cover. Set aside to marinate for 10 minutes. While the shrimp, cucumber and cheese are marinating, preheat a grill or grill pan to high heat. 

When the grill is quite hot, skewer the shrimp and grill on each side for 45 seconds to 2 minutes, pressing down on them with a set of grill tongs to make sure they get some nice char. The time will vary depending on the size of your shrimp. You want them to be just a tiny bit translucent inside when you take them off the grill. They’ll continue to cook off the heat and be perfectly done instead of overcooked and rubbery. If you’re unsure of their doneness, pull one of your skewers and cut into a shrimp with a paring knife to check.

When the shrimp are done, carefully remove them from your skewers and add to the bowl with the cukes and mozzarella. Toss to coat, taste and adjust seasoning again, if necessary. 

To serve, very lightly salt the melon. Spoon some of the mozzarella and cucumbers over the melon then top with shrimp. Sprinkle a little of the reserved lime zest over the shrimp then scatter the mint leaves over the top. Serve immediately.

spicy shrimp deviled eggs

Hello!

I’m currently in the middle of wading through a mountain of dishes, clothing and furniture destined for the garage sale I’m holding tomorrow. I’m not the tiniest bit ready, so it should be interesting to see how it all comes together! Somehow these things always seem to work themselves out so I’m sure it will be fine. (And if my sale isn’t the most neatly organized and well-planned on the block, the world will probably keep turning.)

In addition to pulling together a last-minute garage sale, I’m also preparing to launch a new Paris culinary tour for September. Registration will be open next week, so check back then for details! You can also sign up for the First To Know List to receive early access to all tours, workshops and retreats.

Despite having accidentally scheduled way too many projects for myself this week, I didn’t want to leave you without a recipe! So thought I’d share the Spicy Shrimp Deviled Eggs I made for our Fourth of July BBQ. These are spicy and creamy and just a touch sweet from the shrimp. They're perfect for all your summer picnics and outdoor gatherings!

Happy Weekend and XO,

Olaiya
 


Spicy Shrimp Deviled Eggs

  • 6 large eggs
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ lb. medium to large sustainable shrimp (I used size 16-20 wild gulf prawns), preferably with shells on
  • 6 tablespoons best quality or homemade mayonnaise
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon very thinly sliced green onion (dark green part only)
  • 2-3 tablespoons thinly sliced or roughly chopped spicy pickled peppers
  • Small sprigs savory or tarragon or additional sliced green onions, to garnish

*Notes: This recipe can easily be doubled and the filled deviled eggs will keep, covered and refrigerated, for one day if you want to make them in advance. Garnish just before serving. 

- I used Mamma Lil's pickled peppers, but any spicy sweet pickled pepper will work.

- Any additional filling that doesn’t fit in your hard-boiled eggs makes a decadent egg salad that’s fantastic on a slice of toast.

Fill a medium saucepan ⅔ full of water. Bring to the boil over high heat. Gently add the eggs and cook for 13 minutes. Drain the hot water and run cold water over the eggs, or place them in an ice bath, until they feel cool to the touch. Peel the eggs and set them aside. (Can be done up to 2 days in advance.)

Fill the same saucepan about halfway full of water and place over high heat. Salt the water until it tastes like the ocean then add the peppercorns and bay leaves. When the water comes to the boil, add the shrimp. Adjust heat to cook the shrimp at a bare simmer until cooked through (just past the point of translucence). Cooking the shrimp at a gentle heat will help keep them from turning tough and rubbery. Check the shrimp often as they cook, cutting into one with a paring knife if necessary to check for doneness. The time will vary depending on the size of the shrimp. Mine took 4 minutes.

Drain the poaching water from the shrimp and run them under cold water or place in an ice bath to stop the cooking. When the shrimp are completely cool, peel them then dry thoroughly. Roughly chop and set aside.

Cut the hard boiled eggs in half and scoop the yolks into a small bowl. Add the mayonnaise, cayenne, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Mash with a fork or, for a smoother filling, puree the yolk mixture with an immersion blender or in a food processor. Add the green onion, pickled peppers and chopped shrimp. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. 

Spoon the shrimp filling into the halved hard boiled eggs. Chill for at least 30 minutes before topping with herb sprigs or green onions and serving. 

Makes about 6 servings.