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Spanish Cuisine

Spanish cuisine maintains a solid third place (after Russian and Italian cuisines) in my food system of beliefs, which is a very favorable attitude taking into consideration my infatuation with food in general. In this post, I will provide recipes for a complete Spanish dinner with dishes from the regions in Spain I’ve already explored—Balearic Islands (Mallorca and Ibiza), Andalusia and Canary Islands. Although I did consult other sources, I complemented the following recipes with my own touch. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about fine Spanish culinary traditions and one day will try to experiment with your own food routine.

Appetizer: Mallorca

Cocas
Coca is a variation of a typical Mediterranean dish, with a certain way of preparation and serving in the Balearic culture. Basically, it is a piece of pastry that comes in different variations: sweet, savory, closed and open. The most popular Balearic type of cocas is called Coca de Trempó, which is basically a veggie pizza without cheese. Although it’s hard to imagine pizza not being topped with delicious layers of melted mozzarella and gouda, you might still enjoy the crust and save on calories. Moreover, this healthier version of pizza can be adjusted to your wild imagination and cooked with any kinds of toppings.

Ingredients:
7 red ripe tomatoes
3-4 green peppers
1 large white onion
1 egg
1 cup water
1 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons yeast
4 cups flour

Cooking:
First prepare the dough by mixing egg, water, yeast, flour and olive oil, and let it sit in a warm place for about an hour. Then mix the vegetables, finely chopped, and add some olive oil, salt and pepper. If you want, you can give it a quick stir in a preheated pan, but it’s not necessary. After that roll the dough and place the vegetable mixture on top. Bake for about 45 minutes. When the coca is done, I like to sprinkle it with some red wine vinegar and chopped fresh parsley. Serve it hot. Bon Appétit!

First course: Andalusia
Andalusia is a melting pot of different cultures and cuisines, and one of its most renowned dishes is gazpacho, which also can be cooked according to your own taste. Various types of gazpacho include ajoblanco (garlic and almond), salmorejo (much thicker and made with tomatoes only), porra antequerana (with eggs and tomatoes), and pipirrana (with green peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and onions). My personal favorite is pipirrana, as it is replete with vitamins and minerals and is a balanced nutritious dish for dietary purposes.

Gazpacho Pipirrana

Ingredients:
10 oz bread
5 good quality tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 yellow onions
2 red and green peppers
1 cucumber
7 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 cup water
cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Cooking:
In a big bowl, mash cumin, garlic and soaked bread, and then add chopped onions, tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Place the mixture in a blender and mash it until even. Add very cold water and give it another round. Add more salt if necessary and strain it. Keep it in the fridge until served. Serve gazpacho with chopped tomato, cucumber, green pepper and croûtons. I also like to add plain Greek yogurt mixed with fresh herbs. Enjoy!

Entrée: Canary Islands
Tapas is a common Spanish dish, popular in all regions of the country. To add a Canarian twist to my tapas, I’m going to serve them with famous Canarian mojo. According to a legend, the history of this dish goes back to the 12th century, when King Alfonso X of Castille was recovering from a heavy illness by drinking wine with small dishes between meals. After regaining his health, the king ordered all the taverns of Castille not to serve wine to the customers unless it was accompanied with tapas.

According to another legend, tapas originated from the word tapear, which in Spanish means to cover. During that time, sanitary conditions of many taverns were not as strict as today’s standards, and flies and other insects could be easily found in people’s meals. Therefore, someone smart decided to cover main courses with small wooden boards and serve little snacks on top of them to boost the appetite. 

Even though tapas are considered appetizers, many people in Spain order several of them as an entrée. I love that! You can try so many different flavors without overwhelming your stomach. Some of the most popular tapas are albóndigas (meatballs in tomato sauce), boquerones (deep fried anchovies), chorizo (Spanish sausage), croquetas, papas con mojo (roasted potatoes with special sauce), pimientas rellenas (stuffed peppers), pulpo a la gallega (grilled octopus), tortilla (Spanish omelet), solomillos (steaks) etc.

Croquetas con mojo

Ingredients:
½ cup chicken broth
8 tablespoons olive oil
¾ cups flour
1 ½ cups milk
½ teaspoon nutmeg
ground pepper to taste
½ cup very thinly minced ham (can be substituted with chicken)
2 eggs, lightly beaten with 2 teaspoons water
breadcrumbs

Cooking:
Heat olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk and chicken broth, and keep stirring. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thickened and smooth. Add minced ham and continue to simmer for about 2-3 minutes over low heat. Remove from heat and let it cool for 5-10 minutes and refrigerate for at least 3 hours until mixture is cold. Divide the cooled mixture into 1-inch balls and coat them in beaten eggs and breadcrumbs. Pour enough olive oil in a frying pan to cover ½ inch deep. Heat the oil, place the croquettes inside and fry until golden brown. Remove the croquettes and set them on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Serve with mojo. Yum!

Mojo Rojo

Ingredients:
4 dried red bell peppers
1 slice dry white bread
4 cloves garlic, sliced
¼ tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
½ tablespoon coarse salt
1 cup extra virgin Spanish olive oil
¼ cup water or chicken broth
Spanish sherry vinegar to taste

Cooking:
Soak dried red bell peppers in warm water for 10-15 minutes to soften and rehydrate them. Drain water and remove the stems. Break bread into pieces and set aside. Blend the peppers, cumin, garlic slices, hot pepper flakes and salt in a food processor or blender to create a paste. While blending, add in olive oil gradually. Then add small pieces of bread and water or broth. Make sure the sauce is still thick but not as thick as the paste. Add some vinegar to your taste (I do 1-2 tablespoons). If you store the sauce, place it in a glass jar, cover it with olive oil, seal tightly and refrigerate.

Links:
www.spain-recipes.com
spanishfood.about.com

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