Cold Almond and Grape Soup
This Andalucian treat is to be found around Marbella, on the south coast of Spain. Traditionally prepared with a mortar and pestle, we now have the modern convenience of the blender, which makes this quite easy to prepare. A wonderful cold soup for those lazy summer days, perfect for lunch around the pool or in the garden.
1 cup slivered almonds
2 or three cloves of garlic, peeled
salt to taste
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 cups water
½ pound green grapes, seedless if possible, if not slice them and take out the seeds
Put the almonds, garlic, and olive oil in the blender, and blend until a smooth puree is formed. Add the vinegar and blend until creamy. Pour into a large bowl, and stir in the water and ice cubes. When the ice has melted, stir again and serve in chilled bowls.
Chicken in Almond Sauce
2 cups water
1 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste
1 whole cut up chicken
1 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
1 cup sherry (the real thing – not American cooking sherry)
1 cup ground almonds
1 cup fresh peas
Brown the onions and garlic with a little olive oil in a large heavy pan that has a lid, then set aside. Mix the flour with the salt and pepper, and coat the chicken with half of this mix. Using the same pan with a little more olive oil, brown the chicken pieces on all sides. Put the chicken aside. Lower the heat, then stir the rest of the flour into the hot oil in the pan, and while stirring add the sherry. Keep stirring while you add the water and almonds, then bring to a boil while stirring constantly. Add the chicken pieces, onion and garlic, and the peas. Cover and simmer for a half hour or more until the chicken is tender and falling apart. The sauce should thicken quite nicely, and this dish is usually served on a bed of rice.
As they say, in the north of Spain, they stew. Here is a stewed chicken recipe from Pamplona, which features LOTS of garlic. This recipe serves four.
1 whole chicken, cut into quarters
1 large onion, chopped fine
6 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon flour
salt and pepper
1 cup dark beer
In a large heavy pan with a lid, brown the chicken pieces in hot oil. Add the garlic, beer, salt and pepper, flour and beer. Stir all ingredients together and cover the pan. Simmer over a medium heat until the sauce thickens, about 45 minutes. Serve with some crusty bread and a red wine.
Traditionally TAPAS were served with your drink, on a tiny plate as a lid, or cover, reputedly to keep the flies out of your drink, but also as a tasty morsel to keep you happy in the bar, and drinking more and more. Sort of like salty chips in the US, but way classier. The word TAPA means lid or cover.
There is an amazing variety of tapas and tapas bars abound throughout Spain, but are especially interesting in the old quarters of the ancient cities. Here a popular pastime is tapas bar-hopping – sampling different delicacies from competing bars, and spending lots of time socializing along the way.
Tapas can be anything from fried fish to meat stews or cold-cuts and cheeses, to fried veggies, mushrooms, and tortillas (in Spain a TORTILLA is an OMELETTE).
Tapas generally come in three sizes, and are not cheap – you can spend more on a meal this way than having a sit-down restaurant dinner. Montados are the original little tapa on a slice of bread; raciones are half-ration dishes; and a porción is a full portion.
Here are a few typical tapas combinations – Chickpeas and Spinach, Clams in Sherry Sauce, Octopus & Paprika, Meatballs in Almond Sauce, Fried Cheese, Quail and Onions, Dried Cod & potatoes or Sole with Raisins & Pine Nuts.
Pan Amb Tomaquet is a tomato crustini-type thing from Catalunya, in the north east of Spain. The words translate literally as bread with tomatoes.
The preparation takes a while to figure out, just by watching people at the other tables, but it is quite fun and tasty to have bread this way… Of course if you speak a little Catalan the waiter might give you a lesson.
Take slices of toasted bread, peel a clove of garlic and rub the bread with the clove. Slice a tomato in half, rub the juice on the bread, then sprinkle with olive oil and salt.
This is one of those things that makes you go mmmmmmmmmm… And it occupies the time while waiting for that fabulous meal.