Cooking with Spanish Olive Oil

April 30th, 2013 | Food & Wine, Spanish Culture | 0 Comments

Over the years I’ve written about Spanish foods and cooking – tapas, saffron, cazuelas, grilling a la plancha, paella, etc – and one thing that has been a part of it all, besides the perfect Spanish wine to pair with it of course, is olive oil. It is truly essential in any Spanish pantry, an ingredient I use every day.

A few facts:
Native to the Mediterranean, wild olives have been used by people as early as the 8th millennium BC and were turned into oil as early at 4000-4500 BC.

There are many varieties of olives used to make olive oil. In Spain the main types are Picual, Arbequina, Hojiblanca, and Manzanilla de Jaén.

Spain produces almost half of the world’s olive oil, the majority of which comes from Andalucía, though the popular Arbequina olive is from Catalonia.

Olive oil can be used for frying, roasting, sautéing, dipping, drizzling, or dressing. There is no one size fits all though and it is common for Spanish households to have multiple types of olive oil. For example, Extra-Virgin is more delicate than Virgin and is best used for cold or low heat dishes.

Like wine, olive oil flavors are determined by olive variety and production process.

How do you use Spanish olive oil?

Related Articles:
About.com Spanish Food – Tips on Buying Spanish Olive Oil

What to Make This Weekend: Clams steamed with Ham and White Wine

April 25th, 2013 | Food & Wine, Recipes & Tapas | 0 Comments

No matter if the spring weather where you are is chilly or warm, there’s just something about a flavorful tapas plate of clams steamed with ham and white wine that will hit the spot this weekend. Gather a few friends, steam some clams, open a bottle of Spanish white wine, and you’ll have an instant party.

Clams steamed with Ham and White Wine

Ingredients:
3 lbs little neck clams, scrubbed and cleaned
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 oz Serrano ham, diced
1/2 tsp red pepper chili flakes
Pinch of paprika
4 large cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp chopped parsley

Directions:
1. Heat oil in a large skillet, add ham and cook until almost crispy.

2. Add red pepper flakes, paprika and garlic. Stir until garlic is softened and aromatic (about 30 seconds). Do not let the garlic burn.

3. Add the wine and heat for 1 minute. Add the water and bring to a simmer (about 2 minutes).

4. Add the clams evenly throughout the pan. Cover and cook over high heat for 6 – 8 minutes until the shells open.

5. Uncover and remove the clams. Let the broth cook down slightly (about 2 minutes). Pour broth over clams.

6. Sprinkle parsley and serve with a side of toasted bread and a glass of Verdejo.

*Note: Buy the freshest clams and keep cool until use. Discard any open clams before cooking.

Spanish Lit & Love

April 23rd, 2013 | Events, Food & Wine, Spanish Culture | 0 Comments

The St. Jordi Festival, an event similar to Valentine’s Day, is being celebrated today in Barcelona, where Las Ramblas will be lined with booths of vendors selling roses and books, as is custom. To read more about how Spaniards celebrate this romantic, literary-themed festival, click here for a previous blog post.

And if you happen to be in New York from April 29-May 5, you are in luck and can experience some Spanish literary genius through the Spain-US Playwright Project’s “New Plays from Spain” presented by the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, Spain Culture New York-Consulate General of Spain, Fundación Autor, and the Instituto Cervantes.

Spain Culture New York has collaborated on these dramatic readings of contemporary Spanish works which have been translated to English. The works will be read in the presence of the writers Ernesto Caballero, Guillem Clua, Cristina Colmena, Mar Gómez Glez, Borja Ortiz de Gondra, Alfredo Sanzol, and Emilio Williams, and there will be question and answer sessions afterward. On May 1, Tapeña Tempranillo and Freixenet Cordon Negro Cava will be served at an hour-long reception to give an added taste of Spain.

Not in Barcelona or New York? Take part by opening up a bottle of Spanish wine and curl up with a good book, like Miguel de Cervante’s Don Quixote, Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, or The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

What to Make This Weekend: Almond Stuffed Hot Dates

April 18th, 2013 | Food & Wine, Recipes & Tapas | 0 Comments

If you want to create your own version of a Spend the Night  With a Spaniard event at home, put together a plate of olives, quince paste, Spanish meats and cheeses, and a few bottles of Spanish wine. And to add an unexpected, yet delicious treat to that tapas platter, consider making  Almond Stuffed Hot Dates.

Almond Stuffed Hot Dates – Makes 24

Ingredients:
24 pitted large medjool dates
12 slices bacon cut crosswise (about 12 ounces)
24 whole toasted almonds
Fresh pepper to taste
Toothpicks

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 500 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Stuff each date with an almond. Wrap each date with one of the halves of bacon and secure with a toothpick.
3. Put on a baking sheet seam side down. Sprinkle with ground fresh pepper to taste.
4. Bake until the bacon is crisp, about 6 minutes. Serve immediately.

Spend the Night With a Spaniard

April 16th, 2013 | Events, Food & Wine, Recipes & Tapas, Spanish Culture | 0 Comments

With the spring weather bringing sunny days and beautiful blue skies, it’s the perfect time to celebrate. A party with your peña at home or at a favorite restaurant is a great way to welcome in the season, which is why Tapeña is holding two of their popular “Spend the Night with a Spaniard” special events over the next several weeks.

On April 18, Margaux’s Restaurant in Raleigh, NC will be partying on their outdoor patio with tapas, Tapeña wines, and paella. And on May 21, a “Spend the Night with a Spaniard” event is happening at Tapeo in Boston.

If you can’t make it to either of these upcoming events though, you can create your own Spanish-style celebration at home, something I just did last weekend.

I put together a platter of thinly sliced Spanish meats (Salchicon, Serrano Ham, Chorizo), cheeses (Manchego, Iberico, Cabra al Vino), quince paste, and olives with crusty artisan bread and had several bottles of Spanish wine varietals (Tempranillo, Garnacha, Sweet Red). It only took a few minutes to prepare, yet it was a huge hit with my guests.

I had a small crowd, but if you’re having a large party, you may want to make a few more tapas options and/or paella.

What to Make This Weekend: Grilled Goat Cheese w/Quince Paste & Caramelized Onions

April 11th, 2013 | Events, Food & Wine, Recipes & Tapas | 0 Comments

April is National Grilled Cheese Month and my last post included a few ideas for updating or elevating this favorite comfort food. It seems there is no end to what can be added to make a delicious grilled cheese sandwich, which is also known as a bikini in Barcelona. I thought I’d try something new so I added a bit of quince paste, a classic Spanish cheese accompaniment, and made them in a smaller size, perfect to be served as a tapas with a glass of Spanish red wine.

Grilled Goat Cheese w/Quince Paste & Caramelized Onions – Makes 6

Ingredients:
¼ yellow onion
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
Soft Goat Cheese
Quince Paste
Artisan Bread/Baguette

Directions:
1. To caramelize onions, pour olive oil into a skillet and heat with salt and sugar. Once hot, add in thinly sliced onions. Cook on medium-low until onions are soft and browned, approximately 20-30 minutes.

2. While onions are caramelizing, slice artisan bread/baguette into 12 pieces. Spread half of the pieces with a thick layer of goat cheese. Top with a slice of quince paste.

3. Once onions are caramelized add some on top of the bread pieces with goat cheese and quince paste. Add the remaining pieces of bread on top.

4. Grill mini sandwiches until lightly brown and toasted. Serve warm.

A Little Comfort

April 9th, 2013 | Events, Food & Wine, Recipes & Tapas | 0 Comments

Cheddar & Sourdough Grilled Cheese

Taxes are due next week and if there was any time that called for comfort food, it’s now! Luckily, April is National Grilled Cheese Month (and the 12th is National Grilled Cheese Day!), which means all you need is some bread and cheese to create an easy, delicious, and affordable meal. But if you’re feeling like you need a little something extra, consider adding in avocado, tomato, bacon, roasted red peppers, or ham.

In Barcelona, a typical grilled cheese sandwich actually includes jamon de York (American-style ham) and is called a bikini. Named not for the skimpy bathing suit, but for a concert hall in Les Corts, this yummy sandwich can be found in pretty much any bar in Catalunya. Don’t call it a bikini in Madrid though, where a grilled ham and cheese is referred to as a combinado.

Sliced Chorizo & Pepper Jack Grilled Cheese

No matter what you call it, a grilled cheese sandwich is tasty comfort food that can be tailored to your taste buds. Keep it simple or create a real delicacy by giving it a Spanish spin with Manchego cheese and Serrano ham, grilled using a splash of olive oil instead of butter. Serve it with a glass of Tempranillo and your day just got better!

Related Articles:

The Nest – 6 Ways to Enjoy National Grilled Cheese Month

Woman’s Day10 Greatest Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

What to Make This Weekend: PB&J Torrijas

April 4th, 2013 | Food & Wine, Recipes & Tapas | 0 Comments

Tuesday was National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day and I promised a recipe for a PB&J recipe with a Spanish flare and this one will not disappoint. The PB&J Torrija is so addictive if I do say so myself and can be enjoyed for breakfast, brunch or even dessert. A traditional Torrija, similar to French Toast, is usually eaten around Easter, so it seemed the perfect time to combine this treat with the beloved American sandwich – and to great success!

I used a Torrijas recipe from Mark Bittman of the New York Times and cut it in half, and it still easily made enough for two people. Of course slathering the Torrijas with strawberry jelly and crunchy peanut butter made them an even more filling meal than the normal cinnamon and sugar topping.

Torrijas – Serves 2

Ingredients:
Olive oil
1 cup milk
Small pinch salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 large, very thick slices stale artisan bread*
Peanut Butter & Jelly to taste

Directions:

1. Pour olive oil in a broad, deep skillet till it easily covers the entire bottom of the pan and heat over medium-high heat; bring it to a temperature of about 350 degrees. When ready, a small piece of bread dropped into the oil will immediately start to bubble.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together the milk, salt and sugar in a broad bowl. In a separate bowl, beat eggs.

3. When oil is ready, soak a piece of bread in the milk. If the bread is really stale, let it sit until it’s soft, but not soggy. Dip the bread in egg. Shake off excess liquid, then transfer to oil. Stand back, as it will spatter. Repeat with remaining bread.

4. Cook about a minute on each side, until it’s nice and brown, turning carefully; bread should be very crisp on the edges.

5. When done, transfer to a plate with paper towels to soak up any excess oil.

6. Spread with peanut butter and jelly. Serve immediately.

* If you don’t have stale bread, you can lightly toast bread ahead of time so it holds up to being soaked in the milk mixture.

National PB&J Day

April 2nd, 2013 | Events, Food & Wine | 0 Comments

For Valentine’s Day, we tested several different chocolate and Spanish wine pairings and discovered that the new Sweet Red wine went perfectly with a Peanut Butter & Jelly chocolate bar. So when I saw that today was National PB&J Day, I figured it was a perfect time to experience that delicious combination again.

Like many Americans, I have been a fan of the PB&J sandwich since I was a little kid, and continue to enjoy them even now. I regularly incorporate peanut butter into waffle mix and top waffles with jelly, instead of the traditional maple syrup, when they come off the waffle iron. Serving PB&J waffles at brunch time with a glass of Sweet Red wine would definitely be a decadent way to start a weekend or as dessert after a delicious meal!

I’m not the only person that likes to experiment with this combo. Last year ABC News featured several updated versions of this much-loved comfort food in their post It’s National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day. Gothamist Magazine offered some history (it was created by American GI’s during WWII, who knew?!) in their tribute to the sandwich here.

So all of this talk of Peanut Butter & Jelly has me thinking I want to create one with a Spanish flare. Check back on Thursday to see what I come up with!

And if you’re singing “it’s peanut butter jelly time,” you’re not alone – click here to listen.

What to Make for Easter: Revuelto de Gambas y Esparragos

March 28th, 2013 | Events, Food & Wine, Recipes & Tapas | 0 Comments

If you’re having guests over for Easter, we have the perfect recipe for a delicious egg dish that is fast and easy, which is always ideal when entertaining! And what’s even better than that, Revuelto de Gambas y Esparragos (Shrimp & Asparagus Scrambled Eggs) can be served just as easily for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I served it for dinner with crusty artisan bread, some Serrano ham, and Spanish wine, and it was very well received!

Enjoy this recipe for Revuelto de Gambas y Esparragos from The New Spanish Table by Anya Von Bremzen.

Revuelto de Gambas y Esparragos
Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
½ cup thinly sliced asparagus (4-6 stalks, well trimmed)
4-6 ounces peeled small shrimp
5 large eggs
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a 12-inch skillet, preferably non-stick, over medium heat. Add the garlic and asparagus and cook, stirring for 1 minute or so.

2. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until the shrimp just turn pink and asparagus is bright green and tender, about 1 to 2 minutes or so.

3. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low and break the eggs into the skillet, leaving enough space between each egg so the yolks don’t run together.

4. As soon as the egg whites turn opaque, about 20 seconds or so, vigorously stir and scramble the eggs with a wooden spoon or a spatula until they are barely set, about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Do not let the eggs overcook.

5. Spoon the eggs onto plates while they are still a little wet. They will continue to set on the way to the table. Season with salt and a touch of white pepper and serve at once.

Spanish Food Recipes and Tapas