Archive for the ‘Andalucía’Category

Spanish olive oils evoke taste of the country

Alexis Kerner of Olive Oil Workshop in Sevilla Developing a more refined sense of taste doesn’t have to be difficult or intimidating says Alexis Kerner, who founded the Olive Oil Workshop (theoliveoilworkshop.com) in Sevilla in 2014. Tasting, she says, is simply a matter of paying attention and becoming more sensitive to the nuances of flavor.

An American who has lived in Andalucía for more than a dozen years, Kerner never really thought of herself as having an unusually refined palate. Then she became fascinated with the many types of olive oils produced in the region. A recipient of a diploma as a certified olive oil taster from the University of Jaen and the International Olive Oil Council, Kerner offers olive oil tastings as well as trips to orchards and mills. She is bullish about the oils of Andalucía, which make up three-quarters of Spain’s production and more than that of any other single country. “The oils are bold,” she tells tasters. “They really stand out.”

Learning to taste


Olive oil sample Many olive oils—even some of the best—are packed in tins rather than glass. As a result, you can stow them in checked luggage and they will arrive safely home after a trip. Joining one of Kerner’s tastings is a good way to become a more informed buyer. Pat describes her own experience in her new book, 100 Places in Spain Every Woman Should Go, from Travelers’ Tales Press (travelerstales.com/100-places-spain-every-woman-go/).

Kerner usually selects three or four oils for her small groups to taste. Just as in wine tasting, it’s ideal to take small sips with enough air to release the aromatics in the oil.

Olive oil tasting place setting She pours the oils into pretty blue glasses so color doesn’t influence flavor. That way tasters can concentrate on discerning such subtle flavors as banana, artichoke, green almond, fig leaf, and apple. For those who think that olive oil is solely for dressing salad greens, Kerner offers a wealth of new ideas. For example, she often pours the delicate oil made from Arbequina olives over fish or even vanilla ice cream. By contrast, she likes to pour the more intense oil made from Picual olives over dark chocolate ice cream. She uses a spicy Hojiblanca oil to season gazpacho or beef carpaccio.

The workshops are sometimes held at Oleo-le (Garcia de Vinuesa 39, www.oleo-le.com), a compact shop that specializes in olive oil, and carries many artisanal small-production oils not otherwise available. It is one of the best places in Sevilla to select those tins to fill the nooks and crannies in a suitcase.

03

11 2016

Sevilla has a great new hall of tapas

Mercado Gourmet Lonja del Barranco When Sevilla’s Mercado Gourmet Lonja del Barranco (C/Arjona; 954 220 495; mercadolonjadelbarranco.com) opened a year ago, it was an instant hit and yet another example of the trend throughout Spain of converting neighborhood markets into tapas halls. If the structure below looks familiar, it’s because it’s a classic Gustav Eiffel market design. Construction began in 1861 and was completed in 1883, and for generations the handsome iron building on the riverbank at the end of the Isabel II bridge to Triana served as Sevilla’s principal fish market.

Mercado Gourmet Lonja del Barranco The World Heritage Site structure had been closed since the 1980s—until journalist Carlos Herrera and bullfighter Fran Rivera saw an opportunity to give Sevilla a glassed-in tapas court like Madrid’s Mercado San Miguel. Two years and a reported €2.1 million later, the riverfront was awash with Sevillanos eating all manner of tapas and drinking beer and wine. In warm weather, they spill out of the building to picnic and café tables.

octopus at Mercado Gourmet Lonja del Barranco Only a few of the 18 food stalls sell food to take home and prepare (a butcher and a fish monger, as far as we could tell). The rest have tapas and food specialties—and we do mean specialties. One stand (Peggy Sue’s Grill) makes nothing but variations on the American hamburger. Pulpería Barranco serves a zillion versions of octopus (left). Another stall specializes in empanadas.

Salmorejo in every guise

But our favorite stall might be La Salmoreteca, which specializes in variations on salmorejo, a puree that’s a first cousin to gazpacho. The modern version combines tomatoes, bread, onions, and garlic, but the dish predates the availability of tomatoes and peppers from the New World.

salmorejo sampler Brainchild of chef JuanJo Ruiz, the company actually began at the Mercado Victoria (another market turned tapas court) in Córdoba, the city that’s usually credited as the cradle of salmorejo. Ruiz exploded the basic concept of salmorejo to a purported 600 variations. The sampler plate shown above consists of eight distinct variations in small bowls surrounded by Spanish wine crackers—an appropriately sturdy vehicle for scooping up the purées. The bowl in the foreground is the roasted pepper version topped with faux baby eels made from seafood, faux caviar made from vegetables, and some fried potatoes. Just to its right is the salmorejo of avocado and seaweed with a ceviche of dace (a small river fish) and lots of chopped egg.

The dishes offer a surprising and delicious range of flavors and textures for what is basically a dressed-up purée. Salmorejo is a barroom staple in Andalucia, and the concept of whizzing bread and vegetables in a blender lends itself to infinite variations of “salmorejos de vanguardia,” as Ruiz calls them. It’s a trend we can definitely get behind.

The Mercado Gourmet Lonja del Barranco is open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to midnight. On Friday and Saturday, it stays open until 2 a.m.

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19

11 2015

Real meat and potatoes in Córdoba

steak at El Churrasco in Cordoba Because La Mezquita—the 10th century mosque partially inhabited by a 16th century cathedral—is the biggest attraction in Córdoba, many travelers think they should be eating a North African diet long on eggplant and fried fish. But Córdoba is also in the heart of one of Spain’s chief beef-raising regions, and the venerable Restaurante El Churrasco (Calle Romero 16, Córdoba; tel: 957-290-819; elchurrasco.es) serves some utterly delicious steaks grilled over oak charcoal. We made an overnight stop in the ancient city so we could visit the mosque in the pre-tourist silent hour before the morning Mass (trust us—it’s much more spiritual without the tour groups), and we enjoyed a typically extended Spanish Sunday afternoon feast at El Churrasco.

smoked sardine at El Churrasco Before we got down to business with the steak, we enjoyed a sampling of several tapas in lieu of appetizers. That included some fried eggplant with classic Córdoban salmorejo (a gazpacho variant thickened with pureed bread to the texture of a dip) and the restaurant’s pride and joy, a prize-winning smoked sardine with guacamole and tomato compote on a piece of toast. The photo at right shows the morsel. Those sprouts? They’re sprouted poppy seeds, which gives the umami-laden bite a nice snap of spice.

Poor Man's Potatoes at El Churrasco One thing you might notice about Córdoban cuisine is that it sometimes seems that every dish is garnished with a little chopped ham and hard-boiled egg. That included a nice seasonal batch of shell beans sauteed in olive oil (Cordoba also produces some of Spain’s best olive oil). El Churrasco also served an interesting but different take on a Spain-wide standard, patatas a lo pobre, or Poor Man’s Potatoes. The traditional version calls for sautéeing thin slices of potato in olive oil with some minced garlic, salt, and minced parsley. As shown here, El Churrasco used small cubes of parboiled potatoes and sautéed them with bits of serrano ham until lightly browned. At the last second, the kitchen stirred in an egg and soft-scrambled it with the spuds. The approach was simple but the results were delicious.

And then came the steak (and a bottle of Rioja).

08

11 2015

Casa Patas for flamenco and food

artichokes with ham at Casa Patas in Madrid
We almost always advise travelers in Spain who want to catch a flamenco show to skip the meals that are offered as part of an espectaculo. In most flamenco clubs, or tablaos, the meals are overpriced and gastronomically underwhelming. It’s better to eat elsewhere and agree to ordering a drink with the show as part of your admission.

An exception is Casa Patas in Madrid, which functions more like a bar-restaurante with a show in the back than it does like a traditional tablao. It’s a bar with strong Andalucían overtones, lots of Andalucían hams, and lots of sherry on the menu. But the kitchen does a pretty good job with a lot of classics of the Spanish table. On our most recent visit (last week), we had failed to reserve a show in advance, so we did the expedient thing: We went 90 minutes early to get on the wait list (there are always some no-shows) and killed the waiting period by sitting down to eat and drink. One of the biggest surprises was a plate of alcachofas con jamón, or stir-fried artichoke hearts with ham. This version (shown above) was one of the best we’ve had in a long time, with tasty artichokes and a mince of air-dried ham, served in a puddle of olive oil with a roasted red pepper.

flamenco performers at Casa Patas in Madrid As is always the case at Casa Patas, the show did not disappoint either, even though we ended up with very peripheral seats. The establishment was founded by flamenco musicians, and Casa Patas is a mainstay for touring professionals—sort of like small jazz clubs can be for journeyman musicians in the U.S. You get to see the hard-working pros who haven’t settled into being a house act at one of the flamenco tablaos.

Casa Patas is at Calle de los Cañizares, 10; tel: +34 913 69 04 96; www.casapatas.com. Show prices vary with the acts. We paid €36 each.

23

10 2015

Off to Spain. Again.

Pat making photos from CentroCentro in Madrid
Readers who’ve been following us for a while know that we have a special love for Spain and its varied cuisines. In fact, if you just plug “spain” into the search box to the right, you’ll find multiple pages of posts about Spain and Spanish food stretching back to November 2009, when we wrote about the fabulous blue cheese of the Picos de Europa, Cabrales, and gave you a recipe for Cabrales with sauteed apples, walnuts, and honey.

Peruse those pages and you’ll find recipes for authentic paella, patatas riojanas, and a number of other Spanish classics. There are also some Spanish-inspired originals, like saffron shortbreads and orange and almond tart.

We’re heading back to Spain this week for some extended research, with stays in Madrid, the wine country of Toro and Rueda, a stopover for prayer (literally) in Córdoba, and longer stays in Sevilla and Palma (Mallorca). We have meetings and visits scheduled to flesh out research for about 40 essays in the new book Pat is writing, 100 Places in Spain Every Woman Should Go, for Travelers Tales. Publication is scheduled for fall 2016. We’ll try to keep you apprised of tastes we encounter along the way, but given our busy schedule on the road, new posts may have to wait until early November.

Pats subject By the way, if you were wondering, the photo above is Pat taking pictures from the observation deck on CentroCentro, the former main post office building on Plaza de Cibeles in Madrid. She’s taking a picture of the Metropolis office building at the corner of Calle de Alcalá and Gran Vía, the first Madrid thoroughfare designed for the automobile. Inaugurated in 1911, the Metropolis is a rare Beaux-Arts beauty in what Madrileños hoped would become the new modern district of the city.

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13

10 2015

Spanish orange & almond tart for Christmas

Holiday tart of almond, saffron, and Seville orange
Last year for the holiday season we made saffron shortbread cookies, and we were feeling bad that we didn’t have a new holiday cookie this year. We got to thinking about winter sweets and some of our all-time favorite flavors, and the two sort of came together.

Some of the quintessential tastes of Spain are almonds, saffron, and bitter oranges. Why not adapt our standard linzer tart recipe to reflect that different range of flavors? Instead of hazelnuts in the dough, we could use almonds. Instead of vanilla, we could use saffron. And in place of raspberry jam, we could use Seville orange marmalade. (OK, we know that the marmalade is more a Scottish than Spanish flavor, but it does use the bitter oranges of Andalucía.)

Our first thought was to make almond meal using toasted Marcona almonds since they are the classic snack almond of southern Spain. We did that, but by losing the skin of the almond, we also lost a lot of the taste. Moreover, toasted blanched almonds ground up into too fine a flour. The result was a perfectly edible tart, but one with a more crumbly crust and less pronounced flavor than we were looking for.

Back to the drawing board. In the end, it turned out that the much less expensive California almonds gave the best flavor and were the easiest to work with. We toasted them in a dry pan in the oven at 400°F for about 10 minutes, then ground them into fine meal in a food processor after they had cooled. This technique gives a good toasted almond flavor, and also makes the saffron flavor more pronounced. The strength of saffron will depend on what kind you are using. It’s not very Spanish, but we got the best results with “Baby Saffron” from Kashmir, using four blisters of the single-serving packs.

Slices of the finished tart go well with espresso or a flute of cava.

ANDALUCÍAN CHRISTMAS TART slice of holiday tart

Makes one 7 1/2-inch (19 cm) fluted tart (serves 6-8)

Ingredients

1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated sugar
1 generous pinch saffron (0.2 gram)
1/4 teaspoon (1.5 grams) salt
1/2 cup (1 stick, 114 grams) butter, softened
1 egg
2/3 cup (96 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking powder
1 cup raw almonds (150 grams), lightly toasted
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (200 grams) Seville orange marmalade

Directions

In coffee or spice grinder, mix sugar, saffron, and salt. Grind briefly. Empty into medium bowl. Add butter and beat until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat to mix well.

In another medium bowl, place flour and baking powder. Whisk to blend. Grind almonds to fine meal in food processor. Whisk nuts into flour mixture. Add nut-flour mixture to butter mixture. Mix on low speed until all ingredients are incorporated.

piping lattice onto tart Pat 2/3 cup of the dough into bottom of 7 1/2 inch (19 cm) fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Place remainder of dough into cookie press or pastry bag fitted with a 3/8-inch fluted tip. Pipe around the edges to make side crust. Place orange marmalade into shell and smooth out until even. Pipe a lattice over top of tart.

Refrigerate tart for 30 minutes while preheating oven to 350°F. Bake tart until preserves just begin to bubble – about 35 minutes. Transfer to rack on counter to cool. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream to balance the bitterness of the orange.

12

12 2014

What to eat at the airport in Málaga (AGP)

Bull burger
Until last year, international travelers at Terminal 3 in Málaga’s airport servicing the Costa del Sol were pretty much stuck with international fast food like Starbucks, Burger King, and England’s Soho Coffee. So we were delighted to see that Michelin-starred local superchef Dani García had opened Dani García DeliBar. Much of the menu overlaps offerings in García’s Manzanilla tapas bar in downtown Málaga, which is one of our favorite spots in a city that has belatedly but enthusiastically embraced contemporary Spanish cuisine. One of García’s strengths has been the reinvention of some classic sandwiches by giving them a distinctly Andalucían twist. His bacalao (salt cod) sandwich with tomato sauce and chipotle mayo is heads above the best filet-o-fish. His Burguer Bull (pictured above) has brought him a lot of attention from other chefs as well as fast food aficionados. Created in 2008, the burger is a patty of slow-braised oxtail, aka rabo de toro. It’s served on a bun spread with mayonnaise made with beef juices instead of oil, then topped with some arugula and a melted slice of Havarti cheese. It has all the taste depth of the classic dish of rabo de toro with the form and flourish of a great cheeseburger. If you’re staying over in Málaga, be sure to eat at Manzanilla at Calle Fresca, 12 (tel: 95-222-6851; www.manzanillamalaga.com). If you’re staying on the Costa del Sol, take a train into the real city. It’s only 23 minutes from Torremolinos to the Alameda stop in Málaga on the C-1 line. That’s just down the street from Manzanilla.

11

04 2014