Budget Crisis

At the risk of sounding like a total idiot, I’ve suddenly discovered that fancy, exotic cooking can be hard on the old pocket book.  Over the weekend and into early this week I made a couple of wonderful dishes from Spain and had fun chasing down genuine Spanish (hard) chorizo — good old A.J.’s came through again — and discussing the merits of various cognacs with the wine specialist — again at A.J.’s.  However, when I logged into my household account to check the balance, I was shocked to discover that I had only a few bucks to last me another two and a half weeks! (Finance has never been my strong point)  So I announced to the men folk that we would be eating out of freezer and pantry for awhile, and that I would put my cooking skills to the test by getting creative with whatever was at hand.  Gee, what a concept.

By the way, I’ve been reading some amazing books about food recently.  Did you know that Spain consumes more fish than any other European country?  It must be those Catholic Fridays — do they still have to eat fish once a week?   I highly recommend Mark Kurlansky’s Cod, A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World. I do not recommend  Linda Civitello’s book, Cuisine and Culture. Very shallow. But of course, as a cultural anthropologist, I would be looking for something with a little more heft.  On the other hand, the text in Clifford Wright’s book, that I mentioned earlier — A Mediterranean Feast — is fascinating.  It appears that most of what my family gravitates to in  Spanish cooking has medieval Arab roots in Andalucia, where the Moors lived for several hundred years.

El Rape Mozarabe (Andalucia)                                                      A Mozarab Monkfish (or Swordfish) Ragout

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • One 2 lb. monkfish or swordfish fillet, cut into 8 pieces.
  • All purpose (gluten free) flour for dusting
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 2 Tbs. golden raisins
  • 3 Tbs. cognac
  • 1 cup fish broth

1)  In a large skillet, hat 1/4 cup of the olive oil over medium high heat.  Meanwhile, dust the fish with flour and salt, tapping off any excess flour.  Cook the fish until lightly golden, about 3 minutes per side, turning only once.  Set aside.

2)  In a medium size stove-top casserole [or big skillet] heat the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil over medium high heat, then cook the onion and carrot until softened, about 6 minutes, stirring. Add the fish to the casserole/pan along with the raisins and cognac and cover with the fish broth.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook until sauce is thicker, about 15 minutes, adding tablespoons of water if the sauce dries out.  Serve immediately.

Recipe from Craig Wright’s Mediterranean Feast.

This next dish was absolutely awesome — colors like a carnival and absolutely beautiful to set on the table in a big, rustic casserole dish.  By the way, I learned from Wright that “Flamenco/a” in the Andalucian dialect can mean the colorful cuisine of that region, as well as their famous dance form of that name, but it also can mean a well-stacked female.  !!!!

Huevos al Plato a la Flamenca Baked Eggs, Sausage, Ham, Peppers, Asparagus, and Peas

  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 10 asparagus tips, chopped
  • 10 green beans, ends trimmed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 potato (about 1/2 lb) peeled and diced
  • 1/4 lb cured ham (jamon serrano or prosciutto), diced.
  • 1 large ripe tomato, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 lb. commercially cured hard Spanish chorizo sausage or pepperoni, diced.
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste mixed with 1/4 cup water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 8 large eggs
  • 3 Tbs. finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 14 tsp paprika
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, slivered

1)  Bring a medium size saucepan of salted water to a boil and blanch the peas, asparagus, and green beans for 4 minutes. (If using frozen peas, drop them in for the last minute of cooking) Remove and plunge into ice water to stop their cooking.  Drain and set aside.

2)  In a large stove-top oven proof pan [I used two separate vessels — a skillet for the stove top and a casserole for the oven] heat the olive oil over low heat and cook the onion, potato, and diced cured ham together until the potato is almost soft, about 25 minutes, stirring a few times.  Add the tomato and stir together for 4 minutes.  Add the bell pepper, beans, peas, asparagus, chorizo, sherry and diluted tomato paste and season with salt and pepper.  Increase the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes.  Remove the pan from heat.

3)  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Break the eggs carefully into the pan over the vegetables, arranging nicely if possible.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, parsley, paprika, and the slivered butter.  Bake until the whites set, about 15 minutes.

4) Roll up the cured ham slices.  Garnish each quarter of the pan with a roll up of ham, a slice of chorizo, and a piece of bell pepper [I stacked them with toothpicks in little towers] Serve immediately from the pan.

Rich, delicious, beautiful and everyone in the family loved it.  A real winner on every front.

Recipe adapted from Clifford Wright’s Mediterranean Feast.

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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2 Responses to Budget Crisis

  1. wordnerd32 says:

    These sound absolutely delicious! I am so glad we met!

  2. Nancy Fisher says:

    Hi Tamis, when you need a small amount of liquor, just go to Walgreens. They sell really small bottles, which are great for recipes and much cheaper than a big bottle! Found this out last year, when Gaby wanted to make a cake that called for 2 Tablespoons of Cognac.

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