Posts Tagged With: Spain

340/365: National Gazpacho Day*

If you’re a fan of eating cold soup in one of the coldest months of the year, then…you’re weird. But apparently, not alone. December 6 is National Gazpacho Day!

It’s also National Microwave Oven Day and National Cook for Christmas Day. I suppose we could have taken the easy way out and nuked a bag of microwave popcorn, but where’s the fun in that? And, Christmas is still nearly three weeks away. Unless we cooked something that could then be frozen, I’m pretty sure it would be stale or moldy by then. I’d rather not spend the magical day praying to the porcelain gods, so gazpacho it is! Even though it makes no sense to me, having this holiday now. Kind of like National Vichyssoise Day made no sense to me in November.

Gazpacho is a tomato-based vegetable soup, usually served cold, that originated in southern Spain. It’s a staple of Spanish and Portugese cuisine. (Well, of course it is. The climate there is decidedly warmer. Although even over there, it’s more often considered a summer dish). Most recipes include some or all of the following ingredients: stale bread, tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, onion and garlic, olive oil, wine vinegar, water, and salt. The soup can be traced back to ancient times, and may have its roots either the Moors or Romans. (Let’s face it, it was probably the Romans. They had their hands in everything else back in the day).

I was actually excited to find a recipe for Gazpacho Shooters. These are both simple and fun, and don’t require a lot of prep work – and, they contain most of the key ingredients, anyway. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

1 16 oz. container salsa
1 cup Bloody Mary mix
3/4 cup finely chopped cucumber
1/2 cup water

Preparation

Stir together salsa, Bloody Mary mix, cucumber, and water. Cover and chill until ready to serve. Serve gazpacho in 2- to 4-oz. shot glasses. Garnish with cucumber sticks, if desired.

We did just that, and I have to say, this was one of the more fun food holidays of the whole year! They were delicious. And couldn’t have been easier to make.

National Gazpacho Day

Categories: Soup | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

98/365: National Empanada Day

Hope you aren’t too stuffed to enjoy today’s food holiday. April 8 is National Empanada Day!

Empanadas come in all shapes and sizes, and there are different versions throughout the world. They originated in Spain and Portugal and are similar to calzones, which are a variation of the Indian samosa; all are essentially a stuffed pastry that can be either sweet or savory. A cookbook published in 1520 features a recipe for a seafood empanada. Made of a thin circular dough patty folded over whatever is stuffed inside, empanadas became popular with the working classes, who were able to carry around the sandwich-sized pie-like lunch meal; this was especially convenient considering Star Wars lunch boxes wouldn’t be invented for another 400 years. Regional favorites include meat, hardboiled egg, olives, and raisins in Argentina; guava, pineapple, and jelly in Costa Rica; spicy tuna and chili peppers in Indonesia; and pumpkin, yams, sweet potatoes, and cream in Mexico.

For some reason, I always pictured empanadas as a dessert item. Maybe that’s because there’s a booth at our local farmer’s market that sells sweet empanadas filled with a variety of fruits and dusted with sugar; these are very pie-like. Unfortunately, we were out of town and unable to stop by the farmer’s market to pick some up, so I had to do a little searching around town to find empanadas. I found out Taco Time, a regional Mexican fast-food place, had them, so I swung by the food court in the mall after work to pick up a couple. Granted, they don’t look like traditional empanadas, which are usually half-moon shaped, but they were filled with cherry and berry, dusted with cinnamon and sugar, and tasted pretty damn good.

Empanadas

Categories: Pastry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

86/365: National Spanish Paella Day

Spain is the birthplace of bullfighting, foam parties, and today’s food holiday. It’s National Paella Day!

Paella – Spanish for “pan” – was invented by Spanish peasants, who would gather the cheapest ingredients they could find, throw them together in a big pan, and cook them over an open fire. Traditionally, this included chicken, duck, rabbit, and snails. When the meal was ready, laborers would gather ’round the pan and eat from it directly using long, wooden spoons. After awhile, the Spanish were like, “Wait a minute…why are we eating snails when there’s a bounty of seafood available off the coast? What are we, French?!” The recipe evolved to include rice, beans, spices, tomato, and seafood. Mixed paella – incorporating both meat and seafood, along with fresh vegetables, and flavored with saffron – became the norm, and is considered  Spain’s signature dish. It is a popular custom to cook great, big pans of paella at festivals and other public gatherings in Spain. Chefs use enormous paelleras (specialized paella pans) to cook and feed the masses.

They're going to have leftovers for days!

Paella was one of those dishes that looked intimidating when we skimmed over the food holidays before kicking off this challenge. My only experience with the dish was a quick reference to it in a Seinfeld episode. The exchange was brief but memorable.

GEORGE: Ok, fine. It’s going to be very interesting, very interesting if they don’t show up tonight. You know my mother made all this Paella.

JERRY: What is that anyway?

GEORGE: It’s a Spanish dish. It’s a mélange of fish, and meat with rice. Very tasty.

So, with that basic bit of information to go on, I researched recipes – and discovered you can add just about anything to a paella. There were hundreds of recipes to choose from, but I decided to freestyle-it and adapt my own recipe from one I found. The essential ingredients were the same: rice, saffron, chicken, and seafood. From there I could get creative, and that’s exactly what I did. After work I stopped by the grocery store and bought shrimp and scallops. I couldn’t get clams though, and the reason is bizarre and sad. The seafood monger told me their clam supplier in Alaska suffered a tragedy recently: a boat sank killing every crew member but one, and the lone survivor refused to go out clamming anymore (smart dude) – so Fred Meyer is fresh out of clams.

A moment of silence for the lost clammers, please.

As for the paella? It sure looks good in this picture. There was a lot of work involved, and I think it could have benefited from a few changes – more seasoning, the addition of some chorizo, etc. But all in all, it wasn’t bad. Just a lot of work for a Wednesday evening. And one of our more expensive dishes: the tiny jar of saffron alone cost $10. Plus the seafood, chicken, etc….
Spanish Paella
Categories: Poultry, Seafood | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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