Monday, May 28, 2012

Black Rice (Arròs Negre)

Arròs negre is a typical dish from Tarragona, Catalonia, but even today its origin is disputed between Catalonia and Valencia. I believe that it is a dish from Tarragona since they have all the necessary ingredients, including rice from the Delta del Ebro and any fish and seafood that the sea gives them. Its origins, like paella, are humble from the beginning and not very well known outside the fishermen's world. If they catch cuttlefish or squid they cook them with rice and use the ink to give black color and infuse the flavors of the sea. There is a similar dish from Cuba and Puerto Rico called "arroz con calamares."


olive oil
2 pounds squid, cleaned and cut
1 onion
4 garlic cloves
1/2 green pepper
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
fish stock and rice (If using Spanish bomba rice, 3 parts stock and 1 part rice)
2 envelopes squid ink

Optional Ingredients:

1/2 pound shrimp
1/2 pound mussels
1/2 pound clams
1/2 cup green peas

In a paella pan, heat the olive oil, onions, garlic and green pepper. Then add the squid and paprika. Stir and cook of a few minutes and then add the ink dissolved in a cup of broth. Add the rice and fish stock and cook for about 10 minutes. Next add the peas, mussels and clams. Cook until the rice is done. Cover for 5 minutes and serve with alioli.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pork chops with sunchokes and mushrooms (Chuletas de cerdo con patacas y champiñones salteados)

Here is another recipe featuring sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes). Even really good pork chops  need a little spark to jazz them up for the table and this is a tasty solution.

Ingredients for the pork chops and marinade:

5 boneless pork chops
olive oil
lemon juice
chopped garlic

Ingredients for the vegetables:

1 pound sunchokes, cleaned and sliced thinly
1 pound sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/4 cup sliced leeks
1-2 tsp. cornstarch

Marinate the pork chops for an hour or more. Boil the sunchokes in water for a few minutes and drain. Then sauté all of the vegetables until tender, season, and stir with cornstarch to thicken.
Grill the pork chops and then top with the vegetables and fresh parsley.  You will love the flavors.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sunchoke Salad (Ensalada templada de patacas)

Sunchokes - also known as Jerusalem artichokes and "patacas" in Spanish - are a knobby root vegetable indigenous to America. A tuber, it grows under tall stalks and is a member of the sunflower family. My father-in-law has an abundant supply every spring and fall so we have a variety of ways to use them raw or cooked. 


1 lb. sunchokes, finely sliced (you can peel them but I just scrub them well and rinse with cold water)
1/2 cup leeks, sliced
1 red pepper, cut in strips

2/3 cup whipping cream
1 cube instant chicken bouillon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 teaspoons corn starch

Boil the artichoke slices several minutes in water and then add the leeks and red pepper.  Contunue cooking until tender and then drain off the water.

For the sauce, heat the whipping cream with the spices. Stir well until it bubbles and then add the cheese.  Add the cornstarch, stirring again until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Serve on a platter with the sauce drizzled over the vegetables.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Chicken with rice and vegetables (Pollo con arroz y verduras)

This dish is a combination of chicken and any and every vegetable that we have in the refrigerator -  not enough to make a dish by themselves but the sum of all of them with the rice make for a good and healthy meal. For instance, I had three chicken breasts (not enough for a family of five), a handful of green beans, another handful of peas, some leftover artichokes that I froze and a few black olives. The point is to make a good and fresh dish with the available ingredients. It is popular all over Spain.


3 skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 cup green beans, cut in 1 inch pieces
1 cup green peas
1 cup artichoke hearts
1 ear of corn, cut off the cob 
1/2 cup carrots chopped
6 garlic cloves, cut in thirds
1 small can of tomato sauce
2 cups Mexican long grain rice
4 cups chicken broth
4 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste

In a pan put the olive oil, garlic, carrots and brown. Then add the chicken and brown it as well. Add the rice and stir it until it starts changing color. Then add the tomato sauce and four cups chicken broth, stir, and then add the vegetables. Bring it to boil and lower the heat. Let it cook covered until the rice is loose. Then let it rest for few minutes and garnish with black olives.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Scallop Crudo with Blood Oranges and Pistachio Sauce (Crudo de vieiras con naranjas sanguinas y salsa de pistachio)

This recipe is a new creation from my "cocina viva." I had some medium size scallops that were very sweet and tasty. I thought to make a "crudo" with the scallops, blood oranges, micro greens, pistachios and fresh basil from "Just Local." The result is very pleasant.


1/2 pound scallops
2/3 pound blood oranges
4 or 5 drops of lemon juice
1 handful pistachios
1 garlic clove
7 fresh basil leaves
extra virgin olive oil
4 or 5 drops of lemon juice
salt to taste
Maldon salt to sprinkle

Put the juice of the blood oranges on a plate. (I added some drops of lemon juice because they were very sweet.) Cross cut the scallops very thin and lay over the juice of the oranges. Let rest for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator. In the meantime, in a blender put the pistachios, basil, garlic, olive oil and some drops of lemon juice, and mix everything well. After 30 minutes, take the plate with the scallops and turn them, add the mix from the blender, sprinkle some Maldon salt and arrange some orange and micro greens. Buen provecho!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

"Inma" Omelet with Morels, fiddleheads and ramps (Tortilla "Inma" con colmenillas, brotes de helechos y puerros salvajes)

I want to dedicate this dish to my sister Inma, an omelet lover.  

In keeping with the theme of spring flavors, this time I am going to combine the "spring trinity" in an omelet.


1.5 oz ramps, cross cut
5 to 6 morels, cleaned and cut in quarters
3/4 pound fiddleheads
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 eggs

Clean the morels and sauté them with the  fiddleheads and ramps. Add salt and cook covered for about 7 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Beat the eggs really well, add salt and keep beating. Add the mixture of morels, fiddleheads and ramps to the eggs, stir and pour in a nonstick pan. Once the omelet is done on one side, turn it with the help of a plate and let it cook on the other side. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sauté Morel with fiddleheads and Ramps (Colmenillas Salteadas con colas de mono y puerros salvajes)

The "trinity of spring" - that is what Bob at "Just Local," the organic store, calls the trio of ramps, morels and fiddlehead ferns. They are  the earthy flavors of the season.


1.5 oz ramps, cross cut
5 to 6 morels, cleaned and cut in quarters
3/4 pound fiddleheads
2 tablespoons olive oil
Maldon salt to top

Clean the morels with water and lay down on a pepper towel. Cross cut the ramps, green included. In a sauté pan place the olive oil and the ramps and cook until they become translucent. Then add the morels and the fiddleheads. Cover and cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not let them dry (if that happens, add a little bit of oil). On a platter lay slices of lightly toasted crostinis and then top with the  morels, fiddleheads, ramps and a pinch of Maldon salt. A very exquisite dish!!!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Steamed Mussels with Garlic and Lemon Grass Sauce

This a very simple recipe but at the same time it has complex flavors because of the freshness and sweetness of the mussels and the salt of the sea, enhanced with the acidity of lemon grass and garlic.


2 pounds mussels
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon grass
the juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon parsley

In a wide pan heat the olive oil and cook the garlic for about two minutes to get its flavor. Add the cup of water, the lemon grass, and parsley. Bring to boil and add the lemon juice. Then add the mussels and cover the pan. The mussels will be open in a couple of minutes. Serve in a bowl with lemon and parsley.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Top Sirloin Steak with Fiddleheads and Garlic Mashed Potatoes (Brotes de helechos con carne a la brasa y puré de patatas al ajo)

There is something about fiddleheads (cola de mono, Spain, costilla de vaca, Chile, or tête de violin, France) that one cannot resist. Maybe it is the smell and taste of the woods, the pine trees. While most people say they taste like asparagus, I find the flavor closer to Swiss chard. I prefer them boiled, steamed, or sautéd with garlic and served by themselves. Today I paired them with a steak and mashed potatoes. While fiddleheads are a good complement to beef, I still think their flavor stands out most when they are served separately.


1 top sirloin steak (marinated with white wine, smashed garlic and soy sauce, and then grilled)
6 potatoes 
1 garlic head

Mashed potatoes:

Put water, potatoes (not peeled), garlic (peeled) and salt in a pan. When the potatoes are done remove and peel them. Then mash the potatoes and the garlic together, and taste for salt and pepper. Next add the cream little by little, stirring until you have the consistency you desire. Taste and rectify the seasoning. Put the mashed potatoes in a deep oven proof dish or in a ring, paint the top with butter and put them under a broiler until the top gets brown.


Blanch the fiddleheads in boiling water for 10 minutes or longer if you steam them. Then remove and put them in ice water.  
If you prefer, sauté the fiddleheads with garlic in olive oil or butter.

Marinated steaks:

Marinate the steak for 3 or 4 hours before cooking in a mix of 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1 cup white wine and 6 chopped or smashed garlic cloves. When the charcoals are red, grill the meat about 5 minutes each side. Remove the meat and let it rest for 15 minutes covered with aluminum foil.

Assemble all the ingredients on a platter. Enjoy the earthy flavors of the fiddleheads, the juiciness of the meat and the creaminess of the potatoes - all with a touch of garlic!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Watercres Salad with Blood Orange and Candied Pine Nuts (Ensalada de berros con naranja y piñones)

I made another visit to the local organic store and left with a lot of ideas. Today I just went to get some fiddlehead ferns. I like the earthy flavor, the feeling of country, of the nature of the ferns, that with the ramps and morels are flavors of spring. Well, I ended up buying the ferns but Bob insisted on giving me two blood oranges. I couldn't even wait to get home to try those oranges so I started peeling one as I was driving. Not a good idea, but I managed to finish it between red street lights. What a flavor! It was sweet and tangy, but mostly sweet. Since I only had one orange left, I made a salad.

This is the result but if I had extra orange, I would have used it for the salad dressing for color and flavor.

Ingredients (per person)

1 small blood orange
1 handful watercress
1/2 ounce pine nuts
1 tablespoon sugar 
olive oil
sherry or you favorite vinegar
Maldon salt

Cut the top of the orange. With a knife cut the peel in the way you see the orange and then between the membranes. Put 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 tablespoon water and the pine nuts in a pan and let them toast a little bit but do not let them caramelize (they get hard and tough for your teeth). The pine nuts should have some sugar attached. In a bowl, mix the vinegar and oil, whisk until you get a nice emulsion, and wet the watercress in it. On a plate place and arrange the watercress, blood orange, pine nuts, and add Maldon salt at the end.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Green Peas with Ham and Eggs (Guisantes con jamón y huevo)

This used to be one of my grandfather's favorite dishes for supper. He enjoyed eating very much. My mom also enjoys making it, especially because she and my son don't like red meat. He can eat a whole serving plate of peas if we don't remind him that it is to share. The best part is that it is simple, and quick to make.


1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 Onion
1 bag of frozen peas if there are not fresh available 
1 egg per person
3 Tablespoons chicken stock
2 oz. Serrano Ham, prosciutto, or bacon

In a skillet, add the olive oil and the onions. When the onion become translucent, add the green peas and the chicken stock and let it simmer to reduce. Then add the ham or bacon and let it cook for about 2 minutes. Finally add a poached or hard boiled egg (1 per person)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Watercress Salad over a Bed of Tomato and Garlic (Ensalada de berros sobre una cama de tomate con ajos)

Spring also is the time of the year for watercress, a perennial plant. This year spring  arrived in our area earlier than usual.  Watercress is considered a semiaquatic plant that grows in creeks and streams. It is very healthy,  containing iron, folic acid, fiber and vitamin A. For some people it has become a favorite in healthy juices. Most people, however, eat it in salads.


1 grated tomato per person
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1 bag of watercress
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
3 ripe avocados

Grate the tomatoes and put in a bowl. Add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, garlic and salt. In  another bowl add the  tablespoon olive oil and vinegar. Whisk and then wet the watercress in the mix. Check for seasoning.

Serve on individual salad plates or in bowls by putting first the tomato and then topping it with the watercress and slices of avocado.