paprika

Bites worth standing for

It's easy to get a good, quick lunch in Rome. Usually we opt for a couple of slices of pizza in whatever pizzeria is closest when we're hungry. But for even more variety, we sometimes head to a tavola calda—an amazing array of hot and cold dishes ordered at a counter, served up quickly and almost always eaten standing up. One of the best in Rome is found at Franchi (Via Cola di Rienzo 200, tel. 06-68-74-651, www.franchi.it.), which is also one of the city's most extravagant alimentari (local food stores). Outside of meal time, this is the spot in the Prati neighborhood to buy sliced cold cuts, cheese, and cooked dishes to take home for dinner. But at lunchtime, the shop is swarmed with...Read More

Las Fallas and more paella tips

When we think of Valencia, the first thing we think of is paella. But the city is probably most famous for its jaw-dropping Las Fallas festival always held March 15-19. This year we finally got to attend. It is a whirlwind of parades, music, fireworks, controlled explosions outside city hall, and general madcap revelry that continues around the clock. Valencians construct immensely complex satirical scenes in 300 or more squares of the city. Some of them go 75 feet tall and can cost up to $1 million each. They represent a wide array of political and pop cultural subjects, and the satire can be both biting and bawdy. (Witness Nicolas Sarkozy of France in a hot tub with three buxom women, one of whom is...Read More

Making patatas a la Riojana at home

We don't feel too bad messing around a little with tradition to make this dish with New England provender. This rich stew hails from the Ebro River valley in La Rioja, but until Napoleon brought potatoes to northern Spain in the early 19th century, this dish was made with chestnuts! Of course, nowadays the local potato varieties of the Ebro valley are highly prized—considered by many the tastiest potatoes in Spain. In fact, the Riojanos tend to keep them for themselves. Not only do they have the rich potato flavor of say, a Kennebec, they also keep their shape like a waxy potato while containing enough starch to thicken a broth. We discovered that a mix of waxy potatoes (Red Bliss are the easiest to...Read More

Super Bowl arroz con pollo

We were surprised to read recently that Super Bowl Sunday is the second biggest eating holiday in the U.S., close on the heels of Thanksgiving. Since our own team, the New England Patriots, is not part of the action this year, it's a diminished holiday for us. But we thought we could console ourselves with a good meal, and realized that the one dish we've probably eaten most often while watching football is arroz con pollo. Of course, the football in question is what we Americans call soccer, but the Spaniards are every bit as obsessive about it. As in the U.S., tickets to the games are expensive, and the matches are typically broadcast on premium cable. If you want to see a match in...Read More

Making paella Valenciana at home

Paella must be popular worldwide, judging by the recipe we received from the proprietor of Ceramicas Terriols (see below) when we purchased our paella pan. The directions were in a babble of languages, including Chinese and Russian. We can't comment on the clarity of the Chinese and Russian, but the English was, shall we say, tortured. (Sample directions: "When the meat is gilding, the tomato and paprika are thrown well moved till the whole is lightly fried.") Still, we got the gist of it and we wanted to try it when we got home. Since we have to traipse halfway across the city to buy rabbit, we decided to see if chicken thighs would make a good substitute. We can get good periwinkles in our...Read More

La Pepica: the mother church of paella in Valencia

[caption id="attachment_593" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="La Pepica kitchen"][/caption] When Valencianos say that they are "going to the beach," they usually mean Playa de Malvarossa, an urban strand blessed by fine sand, gentle waves, surprisingly clean waters—and the mother of all paella restaurants, La Pepica. While three-quarters of the menu of this venerable eatery (founded 1898) consists of fish and shellfish, the other quarter is a golden litany of nearly two dozen classic Valencian rice dishes. [caption id="attachment_594" align="alignright" width="300" caption="A maestro of La Pepica"][/caption] The main entrance is on the beach, but we prefer entering from the street just to walk past the dynamic kitchen where dozens of cooks in gleaming kitchen whites prepare pristine ingredients and juggle huge paella pans. The dining room is daunting....Read More

What to buy in a Spanish grocery store

We love visiting fresh markets when we travel. But except for dried herbs and spices, most of the goods won't make it through US Customs. Once we've snapped dozens of photos of mounds of vegetables and tables of glistening fish on ice, we head to a neighborhood grocery store (the kind where homemakers, not tourists, shop) to stock up on food essentials to bring home. Here’s our Spanish grocery list: Saffron Spaniards claim their saffron is the world’s best and price it accordingly. The larger the container, the better the deal. We usually purchase saffron in 20-gram boxes or larger. (A half gram is sufficient for a 15-inch paella.) Stored in an airtight container out of the light, it will keep up to seven years—or...Read More