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Posted Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Almendras

Almendra is the Spanish word for “almond.” Most of Spain’s almonds go into turrón, a sweet, nougaty candy that’s consumed in huge quantities around Christmas. But almonds seem to always be around in Spain. They pop up, sprinkled with salt, at bars with your cocktails; they arrive in small bags on every Spanish flight; they are ground into all sorts of cakes and pastries; and they accompany most cheeses and fruits. They were also our “secret ingredient” for our Iron Chef–style cooking competition.

–GWYNETH

Posted Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Menu del Día

One of Spain’s great eating traditions is the Menu del Día – the menu of the day. Most restaurants, even the smallest, most casual, run–of–the–mill places offer one. It’s almost always a three–course meal, with an option or two for each course. Typical offerings include fish soup, salads with olives and tuna, baked fish, rice dishes, roast chicken, ice cream and custards. Always affordable and reliable, the menu del día is a pleasant tradition, a good way to eat.

–MARK

Posted Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Besugo

When I took Mark to a market in Madrid, we saw a fish called a ‘besugo’ and I started laughing. Mark was confused, so I explained that in Spain there’s a common expression called a “diálogo de besugos,” which is basically a nonsensical discussion where both parties can’t seem to understand each other. Apparently it has to do with the fish’s big–eyed appearance which seems to almost say: “what are you talking about??”

–CLAUDIA

Posted Tuesday, May 27, 2014

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: MARIO’S AJO BLANCO

Ajo blanco is a very traditional version of gazpacho, but it isn’t as well known as its tomato–based sibling. It’s simple and extremely satisfying; a perfectly refreshing cold soup that celebrates almonds, the ‘secret ingredient’ for the cast’s Iron Chef–style cooking competition.

Serves 4
*1 cup blanched whole almonds
*2 garlic cloves, minced
*1/2 cup sherry vinegar
*4 ice cubes
*1 cup extra–virgin olive oil
*Sea salt
*20 seedless green grapes, halved
*Grated zest of 2 lemons

Put the almonds in a small saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let stand for 10 minutes, to soften slightly. Drain the almonds, transfer to a blender or food processor, and add the garlic, vinegar, and 4 cups cold water. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. With the motor running, add the ice cubes, then add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, blending until thoroughly combined. Season with salt, and refrigerate until chilled.

Divide the grapes and zest between two bowls, pour the soup over, and serve.

Posted Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Something Special About This Week’s Episode

In this week’s episode, it’s fun to know that the last time Mario visited El Escorial – the monastery outside of Madrid – was on a high school field trip when he was a ex–pat teenager living with his family in the country’s capital. On this visit, he remarks that El Escorial is “much prettier than I remembered.”

Posted Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Liquid Nitrogen

Ferran Adriá often employs liquid nitrogen in his cooking, but he explains that it’s “just a tool, like anything else.” In a way, it makes sense – like fire or acid, applying liquid nitrogen to food manipulates it, transforming it from one state to another. Liquid nitrogen is pure nitrogen in a liquid state, and it boils at minus 321°F. Pretty cold. It freezes things on contact. To demonstrate liquid nitrogen’s abilities when we were eating lunch together, Ferran had Chef Paco dip a rose into it, and when it emerged, Gwyneth gently flicked it with her fingers. We were surrounded by shattered petals.

–MARIO

Posted Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Calatrava

Santiago Calatrava, the world–renowned architect and sculptor, was born in Valencia. No surprise that some of his most famous buildings can be found in his hometown. The southern part of the city is dominated by his Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias – The City of Arts and Sciences – which consists of five amazing buildings.

–MARK

Posted Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Recipe of the Week: GRILLED SARDINES

These came in especially handy for Gwyneth when the table was covered with plates of all kinds of pork. It’s important to keep everyone happy!

Serves 4
*1 pound sardines, cleaned and scaled
*Extra–virgin olive oil
*Coarse sea salt
*1 lemon, preferably from Valencia, cut into 4 or 8 wedges

Rub the sardines with just enough oil to make them slick, and sprinkle with salt. Put over a hot grill fire and cook until well marked with grill marks, 3 to 4 minutes; when the sardines are ready to be turned, they will release easily from the grill. Using a spatula, carefully turn and cook for 3 more minutes, or until just opaque throughout. Transfer to a platter, sprinkle with salt, and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Serve with the lemon wedges.

Posted Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Paella Burners

Paella pans should be evenly heated if you want to make perfect paella. It’s worth investing in a special propane burner to ensure the best paella possible, especially if you’re using a pan big enough for a crowd! You can buy them here: http://www.tienda.com/paella/paella_burners.html.

–GWYNETH

Posted Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Something Special About This Week’s Episode

Fun fact in this week’s episode: when Gwyneth and Mario learn to make TWBP (The World’s Best Paella) in Valencia, Manuelo, their paella teacher, builds the fire out of wood from orange trees. The fragrance was incredible and most definitely penetrated the arroz. At home, you can make paella over a wood fire on even on the grill. Can’t hurt to drink a glass of orange juice, just to set the mood…

Posted Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What’s a Benjamin?

Mario and I saw ‘benjamin’ listed on the drinks menu at Ca’n Joan de S’aigo in Mallorca. We found out that a benjamin is a small bottle of cava, a single serving. Apparently in local slang the benjamin of the family is the smallest child, hence the smallest bottle. Great for sipping with breakfast!

–CLAUDIA

Posted Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Golfing…on the road Again…and Again

Spain has some of the most beautiful golf courses in Europe. I was sure to bring my clubs with me and was lucky to swing them in Galicia, Castilla y León and Valencia. Unfortunately I never got to play in Mallorca on this trip – but it’s got some of my favorite courses. Next time on the road…again.

–MARIO

Posted Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mallorcan Salts

Some of the world’s best salt – huge crystals with a clean, round flavor – is harvested on Mallorca’s coasts. There’s a fun trend of grinding different flavors with the salts – hibiscus and black olives, for example. Mario and Claudia tried them at Felipe Jordi’s apartment in Mallorca with Chef Benet Vicens. The mixtures lend wonderful flavor to meats and fish, pastas and salads. A fun addition to your spice shelf. You can buy them here: http://www.tienda.com/food/products/sp-14.html.

–GWYNETH

Posted Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Recipe of the Week: MALLORCAN COAST MIXED GRILL

Mario and Gwyneth grilled seafood with a local chef at a stunning coastal spot. Simple and unbeatable, this recipe is a lesson in great ingredients.

Serves 4
*1 large Mallorcan lobster (or Caribbean or Maine lobster)
*A few whole mackerel, cleaned and scaled
*1 rouget, cleaned and scaled
*12 large head–on shrimp in the shell
*Extra–virgin olive oil
*Mallorcan or Maldon sea salt

To kill the lobster, hold it firmly on a cutting board with its head toward you, plunge a sharp heavy knife into the center of the head, and quickly bring the knife down to the board, splitting the front of the lobster in half; turn it around and cut it completely in half. Rub the lobster, fish, and shrimp with olive oil and season with salt (including the cavities of the fish). Put over a hot grill fire (start the lobster shell side down) and cook the shrimp for about 2 minutes, the lobster and rouget for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the flesh is starting to become opaque; don’t give in to the temptation to flip too soon. Use a spatula to gently turn the shrimp, and then the lobster and fish, and cook for a few more minutes more, until just cooked through. Transfer to a platter, sprinkle with salt and olive oil, and dig in.

Posted Tuesday, March 11, 2014