Recipe of the Week: BAKED APPLES

Pilar baked apples for Mario and Mark for dessert and they were soft and delicious. She gave them some to try in their raw state and they were incredibly crisp – almost too hard. The apples came, unsurprisingly, from her backyard. Use the crispest apples you can find, Macouns or Crispins would be good options. These are especially good with sour cream, ice cream, or even yogurt.

Serves 6
*6 crisp apples
*2 tablespoons sugar
*A small glass of cider (about 1/2 cup)

Core – but do not peel – the apples and put in a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with the sugar and cider. Bake in a 375°F oven for about 1 hour, or until very soft. Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold.

Posted Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Something Special About This Week’s Episode

In this week’s episode, Mario and Mark visit Oviedo, the Asturian city. In Oviedo, you’ll notice a certain fondness for Woody Allen – there’s even a life–sized statue of him in the center of the city. No one could really figure it out at first, but we learned that he was the recipient of the Prince of Asturias Award in 2002. The awards, presided over by Felipe, Prince of Asturias, are an annual group of prizes given for achievement in science, humanities, and public affairs.

Posted Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pimentón

Pimentón is smoked paprika that can be found in nearly every kitchen in Spain – and should be in yours too. It’s full of smoke and strength, wonderfully powerful, and a little fruity. The color of dark rust, it lends a hint of reddish–orange anywhere it goes. There are three types: picante (hot), dulce (sweet), and agridulce (bittersweet), but even the picante is not that hot. I keep tins of picante and dulce in the house at all times. You can buy it here on latienda.com

–MARIO

Posted Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Find the Frog

In the classrooms of Salamanca’s famous university, Columbus gave lectures about his explorations, Cortés studied geography, and Cervantes took courses in the humanities. Mark and I just came to look at the frog. The outside of one of the school’s main buildings is ornately decorated, and legend has it that the student who was able to spot the image of a frog without assistance did not have to take final examinations. Needless to say, it’s now become a game among tourists. You’ll find the frog…as if I’d give that kind of information away!

–CLAUDIA

Posted Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mark in Andalucia

I’d been to Andalucia before, but not like this. Aside from the amazing company – I’ll never forget the day I spent driving and eating and napping with Gwyneth and Claudia – I saw and learned and enjoyed so much in such a short period of time, it was really incredible. The highlights, oddly enough were not the Alhambra (which was breath–taking, but I prefer smaller things), but a home–grown mango from the Granadian coast, which has a near–tropical microclimate; an all–fish meal on a breezy, cloudy seashore as early winter was making its presence felt; the torjitas, local churros that were the best I’d ever tasted (from a secret recipe I couldn’t pry out of the guy); and Lebanese food in a tiny plaza in Cordoba.

–MARK

Posted Tuesday, January 7, 2014

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: COCHINILLO ASADO

Mark and Claudia ate this at Mesón de Cándido and it’s pretty much all you need to know when you’re there – maybe a little green salad with raw onion, but otherwise don’t even consult the menu. The skin of the suckling pig is so crisp that it can be famously shattered with a dinner plate.

Serves 6, with leftovers
*A handful of fresh bay leaves
*1 suckling pig (about 12 pounds), cleaned
*1/4 pound high–quality lard, melted
*4 garlic cloves, minced

Put the bay leaves in a large roasting pan and lay the pig on top, belly up. Add about a cup of water to the pan. Cook in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes. Turn the pig over. Prick the skin all over with a sharp paring knife, then brush with the lard and rub with the garlic. Cook for another 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on the size of the pig, until the skin is very crispy and the meat is tender and succulent; a thermometer inserted into the shoulder should register 145°F. Let rest for 15–20 minutes. Carve and serve, making sure each diner gets some of the crispy skin.

Posted Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Something Special About This Week’s Episode

Be sure to look out for the incredible Segovian aqueduct in this week’s episode. It stands in the center of the city and it is one of the most important and well preserved Roman monuments in Spain. It’s constructed of more than 20,000 granite blocks that were fitted together without any mortar or even clamps. I can’t believe it’s still standing.

– MARK

Posted Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Spanish Wine 101

Spanish wine is labeled according to the amount of aging the wine has received. A bottle labeled vino joven (“young wine”) or sin crianza (“without aging”) will have had little–to–no wood aging. These wines are often intended for consumption within a year of release. The three most common aging designations on Spanish wine labels are Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva.

* Crianza red wines are aged for two years, with at least six months of aging in oak casks.

* Crianza whites and rosé must be aged for at least one year with at least six months spent in oak.

* Reserva red wines are aged for at least three years with at least one year of aging in oak casks.

* Reserva whites and rosé must be aged for at least 2 years with at least six months in oak.

* Gran Reserva designation is typically reserved for the highest-quality vintages. Reds require at least five years of aging, 18 months of which must be in oak. Whites and rosé must be aged for at least four years with at least six months in oak casks.

The vintage year or cosecha on any bottle of Spanish wine indicates that at least of 85% of the grapes used in the wine come from that specific year’s harvest.

Posted Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tejeringos

In addition to Spanish and English, I speak a few other languages, Swedish among them. There’s a great Swedish word, lagom, which has no exact translation in English. Basically, though, it indicates sufficiency, the satisfaction of something being just right. Well, terjeringos, a sort of churro, are totally lagom. They are, in fact, the royalty of the churro world – not too salty or sweet or heavy. Just perfect. Just lagom. We had them in Andaluciacute; a and I’m still thinking about them.

–CLAUDIA

Posted Tuesday, December 10, 2013

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: FIDEOS WITH SEAFOOD

At Restaurante Morayma, Esteban Garcia Mingorance, a young chef, prepares traditional Andalusian food, like these fideos. Fideos are short pieces of thin pasta that are traditionally cooked like a rice pilaf–browned in oil, then cooked in only enough liquid to make them tender. You can use any type of seafood you like – whatever clams look best, whichever shrimp look freshest. The end result is a hearty, flavorful dish.

Serves 6 to 8
*1/4 cup extra–virgin olive oil
*1 pound fideos (or substitute angel hair pasta broken into 1–inch pieces)
*1 large onion, finely diced
*2 garlic cloves, minced
*1 teaspoon hot pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
*One 28–ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
*6 cups fish or seafood stock
*1 cup dry white wine
*1 bay leaf
*A large pinch of saffron threads
*1 pound mussels, scrubbed
*1 pound medium shrimp in the shell
*1 pound clams, scrubbed

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the fideos and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, or until well browned. Using a skimmer, transfer the fideos to a bowl. Add the onion, garlic, and pimentón to the pot and cook until the onion is beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with your hands as you do so, and their juice, raise the heat to high, and cook, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes have broken down and the sauce has thickened, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the stock, wine, bay leaf, and saffron in another large heavy pot and bring to a boil. Add the seafood, cover, and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, or until all the clams and mussels have opened and the shrimp are opaque. Transfer the seafood to a large bowl and add the shellfish cooking liquid and fideos to the tomato sauce. Add the fideos and cook, stirring frequently, until the fideos have absorbed a lot of the liquid and are soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the shellfish, simmer gently just to heat through, and serve.

Posted Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Something Special About This Week’s Episode

Fun fact about this week’s episode: The word granada translates as “pomegranate.” This explains the city’s use of the fruit in its coat of arms and on lampposts, street signs, and the like. I ate the best pomegranate of my life from a tree at the Alhambra.

– GWYNETH

Posted Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Canned Tuna

Canned tuna isn’t held with particularly high esteem. It’s usually hidden under gobs of mayonnaise and sandwiched on bad white bread. Spanish canned tuna is a totally different story. It’s harvested in northern Spain, cooked in seawater, and packed in good quality olive oil. It’s not at all dry – in fact, its texture is almost silky. Best left in its olive oil with maybe just a bit of good salt and freshly ground pepper. Perhaps a piece of toast or some good sliced tomatoes, but a fork alone is just fine.

Posted Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Dali and Rafa’s

Dali was not a particular favorite of mine, so I took incredible delight in discovering works by him that I’d never seen in the amazing Teatre–Museu Dalí in Figueres, near Girona on the Costa Brava. (The Costa Brava itself is among my favorite parts of Spain – really a must.) I don’t remember a more joyful part of the whole trip than the morning we spent here. Check out Abe Lincoln if you get to this place.

We then hit Roses, which is where El Bulli is. Ferran we’ll cover elsewhere, but what was interesting in this trip is that we ate at Rafa’s, what he’s called his favorite restaurant in town and “the best place in the world to eat fish.”

Pretty great. A place with five tables and two cooks, and Claudia and I ate until we nearly burst. My favorite: the shrimp on a bed of salt.

–MARK

Posted Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Patatas Bravas

Patatas bravas, fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce and aioli, are heaven. They’re one of my favorite tapas and the ones at Inopia were some of the best I ever had.

–GWYNETH

Posted Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Something Special About This Week’s Episode

Gwyneth, Mario and Michael Stipe enjoy an out–of–this–world meal of tapas at Inopia in Barcelona. Watching the episode, you might not be able to grasp the amount of tapas they ate: a long ceramic dish of olives–delicious little malagueñas–is brought out first. Then a boda (literally a wedding) of anchovies, both salt–cured and vinegar–cured. Pan con tomate, of course. Then icy–cold bacalao on crunchy bread (pan de aire, which translates as “bread of air”) with olive paste. Next, perfect wedges of green but sweet tomato with tuna belly and scallions. And then jamón, seared tuna, fried gambas (shrimp), tiny fried mullets (“this is my favorite, because I have to work,” says Michael), and anchovies infused with lemon, dredged in flour, and fried. Gwyneth says she’s full and I tell her she’s only started to see the edge of full. We’re not done yet, not even close. Out come baby cuttlefish cooked a la plancha; croquettas de jamón made with Ibérico ham; eggplant with cane sugar; patatas bravas; spiced lamb brochettes; torta Cañarejal cheese; pineapple with lime zest and molasses; strawberries with black pepper and sherry vinegar caramel; finally, small glasses of homemade red peach wine. Michael perfectly renames it: “I’m going to call this place Utopia.”

Posted Tuesday, October 29, 2013