Garlic Shrimp

In Spain, gambas al ajillo is a favorite tapa, served sizzling hot in shallow earthenware casseroles called cazuelas. Good crusty bread is a must for dunking in the sauce.

3/4 pound small shrimp in their shells
Paprika, preferably Spanish
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 small dried red chili pepper, seeds removed and cut in half, or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon dry white wine (vermouth is fine)
2 tablespoons minced parsley

Shell the shrimp. (It's not necessary to devein them.) Sprinkle with salt and paprika.

Heat the oil, garlic and chili peppers or pepper flakes in a medium skillet. When the garlic is just beginning to brown, add the shrimp and cook, stirring, about 1 minute, or until just done and firm to the touch. Stir in the lemon juice, wine and parsley. Serve immediately, preferably in a small casserole. Makes 4 appetizer or tapa servings.


-- "Tapas and More Great Dishes of Spain" by Janet Mendel



Marinated Green Olives

More olive trees grow in Andalusia in southern Spain than anywhere else in the world. Olives are a typical appetizer and partner particularly well with a glass of chilled dry sherry, which also comes from Andalusia. The longer these olives marinate, the better they become.

1-pound jar large Spanish green olives with pits, drained and well-rinsed
2 lemon wedges
2 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
6 garlic cloves, lightly crushed and peeled
2 or 3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed, or ground cumin
1 teaspoon fennel seeds

With a sharp knife, make a small slit in each olive to allow the marinade to penetrate. Place the olives in a glass jar. Add the remaining ingredients and enough water to completely cover the olives. Cover the jar. Shake well, refrigerate, and allow to marinate for at least a few days, preferably for more than 2 weeks. The olives will keep in the fridge for many months. Makes about 3 cups.


-- "Tapas and More Great Dishes of Spain" by Janet Mendel



Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts

The best raisins of all are the sweet Malaga muscatel, but any raisin will be fine. Chard can be used instead of the spinach; both cook down considerably. If there are leftovers, use them to fill empanadas, made the easy way using squares of frozen puff pastry or pie dough.

1/4 cup raisins
1 1/4 pounds spinach or Swiss chard, washed, trimmed and chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons minced onion
1/4 cup pine nuts
Salt and pepper

In a small bowl, cover the raisins with hot water and let stand 10 minutes. Drain. Chop the spinach or chard coarsely. Heat the oil in a large skillet and saute the garlic and onion over medium-high heat until onion is wilted. Add the greens, turn heat to high and stir-fry 1 or 2 minutes.

Drain raisins and add them with pine nuts to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Combine well, cover and cook slowly over low heat for a few minutes until the greens are as soft as desired. Serves 4.


-- "Traditional Spanish Cooking" by Janet Mendel



Grilled Shrimp with Romesco Sauce

Romesco is a Catalan pepper sauce which is truly sensational, particularly with grilled fish and shellfish. But it can accompany any grilled meat or poultry or, thinned with a bit of water, serve as a dressing for veggies or salads.

Large, unpeeled jumbo shrimp (prawns)
3 ripe medium tomatoes
1 head of garlic
2 tablespoons paprika, preferably Spanish
1 toasted chili pepper, seeds removed or dried pepper flakes to taste
1 dozen almonds, blanched and peeled
2 dozen hazelnuts, skinned
1 slice country style bread, toasted
1 tablespoon parsley
2/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vinegar
Freshly ground pepper

Roast the tomatoes and garlic in a hot oven (400 degrees) until the tomatoes' skins split, about 15 minutes. Remove. Skin the tomatoes, cut them in half and remove seeds. Skin all of the garlic cloves.

Put the tomatoes, garlic, paprika, chili pepper, pepper flakes, almonds, hazelnuts, bread, parsley and part of the olive oil into a food processor. Process until you have a smooth puree. Beat in the remaining oil, salt, vinegar and pepper. The sauce should be the consistency of thick cream. If too thick, thin with a little water or white wine.

The romesco sauce can be made in advance. Bring it to room temperature before servng. Makes enough for 3 to 4 dozen shrimp.

Grill the shrimp on a hot griddle which has been brushed with oil and sprinkled with coarse salt. They will need only a minute or two on each side. Serve with the sauce.


-- "Tapas and More Great Dishes of Spain" by Janet Mendel



Spanish Almond Cookies

In Spain, these are called perrunillas. Don't even think about adding them to a school lunch box. These are adult cookies. Serve them with a glass of wine in the late afternoon or after dinner. The olive oil makes them just crisp enough, but no "oily" flavor is tasted, thanks to the fragrant scents of cinnamon and lemon.

3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup lightly flavored olive oil
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1/8 teaspoon aniseed, crushed (optional)
1 egg yolk, beaten with a few drops water
1/4 cup almond halves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Combine eggs and sugar, beat in the olive oil, then add lemon peel and aniseed. Stir in the dry ingredients until well-mixed, making a soft dough. Chill the dough 30 minutes.

Roll dough into 1 1/4-inch balls or ovoids and flatten them slightly to a thickness of 3/4 inch. Place on an ungreased baking sheet.

Brush the tops of the cookies with beaten egg yolk, sprinkle with sugar and press an almond half in the center of each.

Bake until cookies are lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Makes about 40 cookies.


-- Janet Mendel


Potato Omelet (Tortilla Espanola)
makes 4 servings

1/3 cup olive oil
4 large potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thick
Coarse salt
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 eggs

Heat three tablespoons of the oil in a 9-inch non-stick skillet and add the potato slices and onions, salting lightly. Cook slowly, lifting and turning occasionally, until tender but not brown. Beat the eggs, add the potatoes and let sit a few minutes. Add the remaining oil to the skillet, heat until very hot, and add the potato and egg mixture, spreading it with a pancake turner. Lower heat to medium, shake pan to keep potatoes from sticking, and when brown underneath, place a plate on top and invert, then slide back into the skillet and brown the other side.



Gazpacho Andalusian
makes 8 servings

1 large cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 sweet white onion, coarsely chopped
6 large tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 or 5 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (10-1/2 ounces) condensed beef broth
3 tablespoons each white wine vinegar and olive oil
2 slices sourdough French bread
1 small carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
Condiments: chopped green onions, croutons, diced avocado

Place the cucumber, onion, tomatoes, garlic, broth, vinegar, oil, bread, and carrot in a blender and blend until almost smooth. (Prepare in two batches if necessary.) Thin to desired consistency with water and season with salt and pepper. Chill. Serve in bowls, passing condiments to be spooned into the soup.


Rice with Shellfish (Paella con Molluscs)
makes 8 servings

1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced

1 large tomato, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1-1/2 cups long-grain white rice
1/2 teaspoon saffron
1 bottle (8 oz.) clam juice
1 1/2 cups hot water
1/2 cup dry white wine
16 large prawns, unshelled
16 small butter, rock or steamer clams, unshucked
1 crab, cooked and cracked or 8 very small lobster tails, cooked
1 package (10 ounces) frozen tiny peas, blanched for two minutes in boiling water
1/2 pound baby asparagus, parboiled (optional)
1 jar (2 ounces) sliced pimiento
Lemon wedges

In a large frying pan or four-quart casserole, sauté onion, garlic, and tomato in oil until vegetables are glazed. Add the rice, saffron, clam juice, water, and wine. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Arrange prawns and clams on top, cover and steam until the clam shells open. Transfer to a large paella pan or serving casserole. Add the crab, peas, asparagus, and pimiento. Heat through or keep warm in a low oven until serving time. Garnish with lemon wedges.


Rice with Chicken (Arroz Con Pollo)
makes 4 to 6 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pound broiler-fryer, cut in pieces
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 green or red pepper, seeded and chopped
3 tomatoes, diced
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup rice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoon salt
Pinch saffron

3/4 cup cooked tiny peas
1 pimiento, cut into strips

In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon oil and brown the chicken well on all sides. Remove from pan and add the garlic, onion, and pepper and sauté until the onion is golden. Return the chicken to the skillet, add remaining oil, and sauté for 15 minutes. Add tomatoes and broth, bring to a boil. Add rice and seasonings. Cover and simmer over low heat until the chicken and rice are tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Garnish with peas and pimiento.

makes about 8 servings

1 1/4 cups sugar
3 1/2 cups milk
6 eggs
2 egg yolks
Zest of 1 lemon

In a saucepan, heat 1/2 cup of the sugar over moderate heat, shaking the pan frequently, until the sugar melts and turns amber. Pour at once into a 1-1/2 quart ring mold and quickly tilt the mold in all directions to coat the bottom and sides evenly. Heat the milk, but do not boil. Beat together the eggs and egg yolks just until blended, then beat in the remaining sugar and vanilla. Gradually stir in the hot milk. Pour the mixture into the caramel-lined mold and place in a pan of hot water. Bake in a preheated 325°F oven for one hour or until a knife inserted comes out clean. Let the custard cool, then chill it. To serve, run a knife around the sides of the mold to loosen the custard. Place a large round platter over the mold and quickly invert; lift off the mold.

Serves 8

8 chicken legs
3 sausages
4 Tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups long grain rice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon saffron
4 cups chicken stock (or 2 cups chicken stock and 2 cups clam juice)

1 pound shrimp marinated in:
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon parsley, chopped
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup white wine

1/2 pound fresh mussels
2 cans artichoke hearts, drained
1 jar whole pimentos, drained
5oz. frozen peas, cooked and drained
1 crab, meat only
8 lobster claws or crab claws

2 lemons, quartered

In a large pan, brown the chicken legs and sausages in the olive oil. Add chopped onions and garlic, brown. Remove meat mixture from pan and reserve. Add rice to pan and cook until slightly golden and transparent. Add salt and pepper. Bring stock to a boil. Dissolve saffron in the boiling stock. Cover rice with the stock and put the meat mixture back in the pan. Cover and cook slowly until the liquid is absorbed (about 30 minutes).

Marinate shrimp for at least one hour. Remove from marinade and broil for about four minutes. Add to rice once liquid has absorbed.

Garnish paella with mussels, artichoke hearts, pimentos, peas, crab and lobster meat. Serve with lemon sections.




(anise-flavored shrotbread cookies)

Polvorones.- from the spanish word polvo, or dust-, are so named because they are stremely delicate and crumble easily. That is why they are often sold individually wrapped in tissue paper in pastry shops. Traditionally polvorones are made with lard, but butter also produces a wonderfully short cookie.

1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar plus about 1 cup for dusting
1 eggs yolk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons brandy
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground anise seeds
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened

In a cup, stir together 1 tablespoon sugar egg yolk, lemon juice, and brandy until smooth. In a large bowl, combine flour with the anise, lemon zest, cinnamon, and salt.

In a electric mixer, cream the butter well. Beat in the egg yolk mixture, then beat in half of the flour mixture. Using a wooden spoon, gradually incorporate remaining flour mixture.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Roll out the dought to about 3/8 inch thick on a floured surface. Using a 3-inch fluted-edge round cookie cutter, cut out cookies. Bake on an ungreased baking sheet about 30 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned and firm to the touch. Let cool about 2 minutes. Sift sugar onto a sheet of waxed paper. Dredge cookies in sugar. Arrange cookies on a serving plate and sut with remaining sugar. Makes 10 to 12 cookies.



(Potato and onion omelet)

Served all over Spain, tortilla is a well-loved and versatile dish that can be eaten at breakfast, later in the day as a tapa or as a light supper. It may well become one of your family's favorites.

Olive oil
1/2 pounds of baking potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch
thick salt
1/2 medium onion thinly sliced
4 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch roasting pan with 2 teaspoon oil. Arrange a layer of potatoes in the pan, sprinkle with salt, and scatter with some of the onion. Drizzle with oil. Continue to make layers with remaining potatoes and onion, using 3 tablespoons of oil in all. Roast for 45 minutes, loosening and turning potatoes occasionally with a metal spatula.

In a large bowl, using a fork, beat the eggs until uniform in color. Season with salt. Add the potatoes and onion, separating them as much as possible by pressing down with the spatula so that they are covered with egg. Let sit about 10 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in an 8 or 9 inch skillet. Quickly add the egg-potato mixture, flatten with the spatula, and reduce heat to medium-high. Shake skillet, constantly to prevent sticking. When the underside begins to brown, slide the omelet onto a plate. Place another plate over it, and flip. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in the skillet, remove the top plate from the omelet, and slide it back into the skillet, smoothing out any rough edges with the spatula and continuing to shake the skillet. Brown lightly, turn again and cook until egg is just set. Slice in wedges or small squares and serve hot or at room temperature. Serves 8 to 10 as a tapa



There are many varieties of paella; every village and cook seems to have one (specially in the region of Valencia, where it originated). The following recipe is for the popular 'paella mixta' or mixed paella. The dish takes its name from the special frying pan used in its preparation, very wide and shallow. In fact the correct name is arroz a la paella.

The ingredients vary: if you can't find something that's listed here, be creative and replace it with something similar. Optionally (but very frequently) chicken is added: small parts are fried in the rice as the fist thing; keep it away and add it later on (with the prawns).

Ingredients 8 persons
-1/2 glass of olive oil
-2 cups of rice (short grain, not the vaporized variety)
-5 cups of fish broth
-250 g prawns (gambas)
-1 medium-sized squid (calamar)
-500 gr. clams, or 1000 gr. mussels (mejillones)
-1 slice of angler (or a similar fish)
-1 fresh green pepper
-1 red pepper (of the soft, canned variety)
-1 small can of green peas
-1 small onion
-2 fresh, ripe, small tomatoes
-A few saffron threads
-1/2 clove garlic


Put half of the oil to heat in a frying pan. When hot add the onion (minced) and five minutes later the tomatoes (in small chunks, unseeded and peeled). Leave for 5 minutes, crushing the tomatoes every now and then. Puree (with the potato masher), and add it to the 'paella' pan with the rest of the oil.

Meanwhile, in another saucepan put cold water, adding the spine of the fish and all the shells and heads of the prawns (that should have been peeled, put the tails apart). In a different (and covered) one put to boil the clams with a very small amount of water (they must have been thoroughly washed before, leaving them to rest in salted water); as soon as the clams open take the saucepan away from the fire, discarding the empty half of the shells. The water obtained from these saucepans (clams & prawns) will be strained (using a very thin tea strainer or a piece of white cloth) and saved.


To the paella (with the pureed tomato and oil) add the green peppers in small pieces (about 3 cm), the squid (in thin slices, about the size of a small finger) and the fish (also in small pieces).

Stir for a few minutes and add the rice. Stir for a few seconds with a wooden spoon, not allowing it to get toasted or fried. Add salt and the fish broth (hot, but not boiling) -- If you don't have the 5 requested cups of broth complete with hot water--. Move the pan to even everything, set the fire to a medium position... and don't put any 'instruments' inside the paella or stir its contents from this moment!

Meanwhile, using a mortar, crush the garlic, the parsley and the saffron (add a pinch of salt and it'll be easier). Add two spoonfuls of warm water and pour over the paella, stirring (but only by moving the pan). Also add now the tails of the prawns. When 50% of the broth is left add (in an orderly and well distributed fashion) the red peppers, the clams or mussels and the peas.

From the moment when rice is added it usually takes 20 minutes, but that depends on the type of rice used.

Once the rice is tender and the broth has been consumed the paella is moved away from the fire and left apart for a five minute 'rest' (important). It is served decorated with large lemon slices (some people like to squeeze it on the rice, so there should be a slice per person, that is included in the serving).