¡Que Viva España!

We are all humming with happiness around here now that the weather is cooler and the food is spicier.  On Saturday I cooked a delicious Arab-Andalusian vegetable ragout deeply flavored with paprika, along with  a golden, crisp garlic chicken dish with saffron.  I will include those recipes and the promised beet and tuna salad, — an unexpectedly delicious  juxtaposition of flavors that we all really loved. (In fact, I had been fantasizing about having the leftovers for lunch on Friday, and spent a good fifteen minutes ransacking the fridge, only to discover the empty plastic container — still fragrant with wine vinegar and garlic — on Luke’s bedside table!)

But before I launch into the recipes, let me take a minute to thank Helen Fisher for a lovely afternoon in her kitchen hearing stories of her worldwide cooking adventures  and looking at cookbooks from around the world, most of which she and her family had published as HP books. She loaned me a grocery sack full of cookbooks and told me I could come back for more when I need them.  I have always loved her cooking and her cookbooks, so I can’t wait to dive in. (Helen is mother of one of my dearest friends from childhood — we all go back to the same little church in Palo Alto)

Remolachas con Atún / Beets with Tuna          Recipe from  Andalucia

  • 10 small beets, yellow or red
  • One 3 1/2 ounce can imported tuna in olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

1.  Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and cook the beets whole with a portion of their stems until easily pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Drain and let cool — then peel, trim and dice.

2.  Place beets in a bowl or platter, add tuna with its oil (I drained the oil — too greasy for my taste) breaking it apart.  Sprinkle some salt, the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and parsley on top of the beets and tuna. Toss gently but thoroughly and serve.

(Adapted from Clifford Wright’s A Mediterranean Feast)

Alboronia / Arab-Andalucian Vegetable Ragout

  • 1 large eggplant, about 2 lbs.
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. onions chopped ( I used 2 medium onions)
  • 4 green peppers (about 4 lbs) seeded and chopped
  • 2 zucchini (about 1 lb.) peeled and cut into small dice
  • 1 1/4 lbs. ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (I confess that I used a large can of diced tomatoes because the tomatoes here in Tucson tend to be awful not to mention that I’m lazy)
  • 2 1/2 Tbs.  paprika

1.  Lay the eggplant pieces on some paper towels and sprinkle liberally with salt. Leave to drain of their bitter juices for 30 minutes, then pat dry with more paper towels.

2.  In a large pot or casserole, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then cook the onions until translucent, about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the eggplant, peppers, and zucchini and continue to cook over medium heat stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes.   Add the tomatoes, cover, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring every once in a while. Sprinkle in the paprika and 1 Tbs. salt and cook another 15 minutes.  Serve a little warmer than room temperature, not hot.  (You really get all the flavors when it’s not hot).

Makes 6 servings                    (Slightly modified from A Mediterranean Feast)

Spanish Garlic Chicken

  • One 3 lb. chicken
  • 1 head of garlic, divided into cloves, unpeeled, lightly crushed.
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. sherry wine vinegar  ( I used red wine vinegar)
  • 1 Tbs. white wine
  • Several strands of saffron, crumbled
  • Sea Salt

1.  Cut the chicken wings in two parts, discarding tips.  Hack off the bony end of the legs.  Divide the remainder of the chicken into quarters, then hack or cut with kitchen shears into 2″ pieces.  Sprinkle well with sea salt on both sides and let sit for 10 minutes.  (Some people don’t like chicken cut this way, because of bones, but it’s a method for cooking it fast and hot).

2.  Heat the olive oil (it should be 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep) in a large skillet or cazuela until it is very hot.  Add the chicken and the garlic cloves and cook over a high flame, turning the pieces frequently for about 12 to 13 minutes until the chicken is well browned and cooked through.  Drain the chicken in a meshed strainer and discard the oil.

3.  In the skillet in which the chicken has cooked, combine the minced garlic, vinegar, wine, saffron, and a pinch of sea salt.  Bring to a boil, add the chicken pieces, and toss until the liquid is absorbed and chicken is golden yellow in color.

Recipe adapted from La Tienda at tienda.com/recipes


¡Que disfruten!   Enjoy, Enjoy, Enjoy!

About tamisrenteria

Tamis Renteria, author and anthropologist, writes novels and short stories about people struggling with different religious, spiritual, and cultural traditions. She lives with her husband and youngest son in Tucson, Arizona where she types on a Mac, cooks ethnic food, and gardens among the sahuaros.
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