Friday, April 19, 2013

Gambas al Ajillo

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This is the last recipe from our Spanish Tiny Dinner Party. If you haven't already done so, check out our other Spanish recipes: Patatas Bravastortilla española, and Espinaca con Garbanzos!

When I studied abroad in Spain in 2006, I became friends with this fantastic group of girls. We all lived with host families and would usually have dinner at home and then would meet up at night to botellón. Another common evening activity was to meet up at one of our favorite Spanish tapas places for dinner. At the time, we could get a couple tapas for € 1-2 each. If you find yourself on a trip to Sevilla, my favorite tapas places are:  

No matter which Spanish tapas places I go to, my favorite tapa is Gambas al Ajillo- or shrimp sauteed in garlic with red chilli flakes and brandy. It is best served with a hunk of crusty baguette to dip in the oil afterwards. When we decided to do this tiny dinner party, I knew right away that I wanted to make this dish! My favorite recipe is from DC-based Spanish Chef, Jose Andres' book, Tapas, A Taste of Spain in America

For the Gambas al Ajillo you will need: 

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic- peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 pound of raw fresh shrimp - peeled and deveined
  • 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of brandy 
  • salt to taste 

First do your prep, dice the onion into tiny pieces and mince the garlic. We recommend using fresh shrimp, but if you use frozen shrimp, make sure to let it completely defrost. Clean and dry the shrimp. If you did not buy deveined shrimp, you will need to peel and remove the vein. Instructions on how to do that here.  

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Then add the chopped onions and saute until they are transluscent. 

Then add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute until the garlic is light brown and aromatic.

Make sure all of your shrimp have been cleaned, peeled, deveined, and patted dry. Then add the raw shrimp into the pan with the garlic, onions, and red pepper. Try to arrange the shrimp so that they do not lay on top of each other and each one touches the bottom of the pan. 

Cook the shrimp until they turn pink halfway up the side. This usually takes 2-3 minutes. Then turn the shrimp over and cook until they are completely pink and opaque- another two to three minutes.

Lastly, add 1 tablespoon of brandy into the pan and mix it around the pan to coat the shrimp. Cook for an additional 30 seconds and remove from the heat. Spaniards traditionally serve this in a shallow clay dish with lots of bread to soak up the extra olive oil! If you haven't already seen the other dishes from our tiny dinner party, check out the Patatas Bravas, Tortilla Española, and Espinaca con Garbanzos!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tortilla Espanola

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While living in Spain, I was lucky enough to have a wonderful home-stay family.  Pepe and Margarita were two wonderful individuals who had welcomed foreigners into their home since before I was born.  As it was my first time in a foreign country, they were also respectful to my sometimes sensitive American palate.  When they served me sardines with bones in them, they immediately understood my petrified look and never offered them to me again.  I am an adventurous eater, but I can absolutely not tolerate bones in my fish.  That being said, Margarita consistently prepared some of the best Spanish food I've ever eaten.  One of those dishes was a traditional Spanish dish, tortilla española.  

To make this dish you will need:  
  • 3/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 3 medium Russet potatoes
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 6 eggs

To begin, peel the potatoes.  This can be a time consuming task if you don't have a proper vegetable peeler, but my mom is an expert.  She peeled the potatoes so fast we were having trouble snapping a picture of her in action!
Next, finely slice the potatoes.  For this step, you can simply use a knife and cutting board, but we were lucky enough to use a mandolin for the first time!  I must say, this is an awesome kitchen tool and highly recommend it after seeing how easy it made slicing the potatoes.  It would have taken us ten times as long, at minimum, to accomplish the same task using a knife.
Once the potatoes are prepped, set them aside in a large bowl.  Next, peel the onion and slice it into thin slivers.
Now you are ready to begin cooking.  Heat the olive oil in a large and deep frying pan.  When it is sufficiently hot, add the potatoes and onions to the pan.  Continuously mix the potatoes and onion, ensuring they are cooking evenly, about 20 minutes.
When the potatoes are almost done cooking, beat the eggs in a bowl until they are a pale yellow color.  Transfer the potatoes from the frying pan to the egg mixture using a slotted spoon.  Keep the remaining oil in the frying pan. 
At this point I want to emphasize the importance of the egg-to-potato ratio.  The mixture should be egg heavy, with a fair amount of potatoes.  As you can see in the picture above, we had more of a potato-egg bath situation going on.  Truthfully, we should have used half the amount of potatoes that  the original recipe suggested.  You will see the result of this misstep below.

Back to our regularly scheduled program.....

Return the mixture to the frying pan and cook uncovered until the bottom is golden brown.  
The next step is where the tricky part comes in.  You have to remove the tortilla from the frying pan so you can flip it and cook to the other side.  To accomplish this, we flipped the frying pan onto a strong flat surface (baking sheet, plate, etc). An expert like my Spanish mom could do this in her sleep and make it look like a piece of cake.  In our case, it took three of us to accomplish this task....and we still weren't totally successful.

Once the toritlla is on the flat surface, add a tablespoon more olive oil to the frying pan and return it to the frying pan. Let the dish cook thoroughly, another 3-5 minutes.
When you are done, slide the tortilla out of the frying pan onto a plate and slice to serve.  The photo below is what this dish should look like when complete.
Tortilla Española
Photo courtesy of Saveur
As you can see below, the shape of our tortilla ended up being somewhat less perfect. Actually, it looked kind of like a scrambled tortilla española! But we promised to share our kitchen success and failures with our readers.  For perfectionists like Liz and myself (OK, mostly me) this was a tough hit to our cooking egos. Although it wasn't in the perfect form, the flavors were still perfect and it was truthfully one of the most popular dishes of the night!

If you try this recipe, let us know if you have more success in getting the proper shape than us!  What was your biggest cooking fail?

Espinaca con Garbanzos

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In addition to our love of cooking and finding new restaurants, as friends Amanda and I bonded over the fact we both studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain. When I was living in Spain, I was totally spoiled. My host mother, Manoli, cooked three homemade meals a day of rich and delicious traditional Spanish food. Needless to say, my waistline started to pay the price. Everyone touts the healthy Mediterranean diet, but I struggled to find healthy options.  One of my favorite dishes, however, happened to be an incredibly healthy option: Espinaca con Garbanzos, or Spinach with Chickpeas. One good thing about most home made Spanish dishes is that they are easy to make and are budget friendly. It's a great vegetarian dish that even meat lovers will enjoy! And, of course, the best part is that totally reminds of my semester in Sevilla. 

To make Espinaca con Garbanzos you will need:
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin virgin oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 16 oz package of frozen chopped spinach - defrosted
  • 1 12 oz can of chickpeas
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin (more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (more to taste)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice (more to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons of garlic powder (more to taste)
First do all of your prep. Finely chop the garlic into tiny pieces and dice the the onion. Then you need to get all of the water out of the frozen spinach. Pour the spinach into a colander and then using your clean hands, press on spinach to drain the water. This will take some time because you want to get all of the water out before you begin to cook it. If you don't it will become a soggy, unappetizing mess.

Then, heat the olive oil in a large pan over low to medium heat. Add the onions into the oil and saute until translucent. Next, add the garlic into the pan and saute until it turns golden brown. 

When the garlic and onion are cooked thoroughly, add the spinach and chickpeas into the pan and stir into the onions and garlic. 

Slowly add the spices and lemon juice and keep tasting as you go. Depending on your taste buds, you can add as much or as little of any of these seasonings. We found the original recipe to be very bland so we doctored it up by adding a lot of extra lemon juice, garlic powder, and cumin.
Saute the spinach and chickpeas until it is heated evenly throughout. This should take about 10 minutes and then it is ready to serve!

We served the Espinaca con Garbanzos with the patatas bravas, tortilla espanola, and gambas al ajillo. These were a huge hit! We will be sharing the last two recipes before the week ends, so be sure to check back!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Una Cena Española: Patatas Bravas

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Welcome to the third installment of fooDCrave's Tiny Dinner Parties!  When my mom was in a town a few weeks ago, I decided that she should get the full fooDCrave experience.  Plus, she loves helping to cook and being featured in the blog.  What can I say, she's easily thrilled :)

For this Tiny Dinner Party we decided to feature Spanish foods.  The menu consisted of: 

First Course

Patatas Bravas

Second Course

Espinaca con Garbanzos

Third Course

Tortilla Espanola
Fourth Course

Gambas al Ajillo

We will be sharing all of the recipes with you this week.  Unlike the Italian Tiny Dinner Party, where each dinner guest brought a dish to share,  Liz and I prepared and cooked all four dishes along with the help of my mom and our friend Jackie. 

Spanish food holds a very special place in my heart as I studied, lived, and most importantly, dined in Sevilla, Spain for 6 months during 2008.  I grew to love their Mediterranean diet and eating schedule, which consisted of a small meal for breakfast, large meal for lunch in the late afternoon, and then a smaller meal for dinner anywhere from 8 pm - 10 pm.  
My favorite restaurant in Sevilla was a place called Taberna Coloniales.  Every time I think about it my mouth begins to water. Cliche, but true.  One of my favorite dishes they served was the Patatas Bravas (or Papas a la Brava).  Essentially, these are potatoes that are roasted and then generously covered in either a spicy tomato sauce or a creamy aoli sauce.  We went with the former. 

For this recipe you will need:  
  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika   
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
First, thoroughly wash the potatoes.  Cut them into 1 to 1 1/2 inch chunks.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Peel and chop your onion and garlic.

Next, spread the potatoes over the bottom of a baking pan and toss with 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Lightly salt the potatoes.  Make sure the potatoes are arranged in a thin layer across the baking pan for even cooking.  Another tip: I would suggest spraying the bottom of your pan with cooking spray before tossing the potatoes with the olive oil.  We had some stick issues--nothing major, but I will definitely use cooking spray in the future.  Bake in the oven for 50 minutes, or until browned.

When the potatoes have about 30 minutes of cooking time remaining, begin preparing the sauce.  First, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and saute for 4-5 minutes.  Then, add the garlic and continue cooking for another 2 minutes.

When the onions have begun to brown and the garlic is potent, add the wine to the pot and turn the heat up to high.  Boil the liquid until it is reduced by half.  Then, add the tomato paste and stir to combine.  

Next, add the crushed tomatoes, hot sauce (optional), salt, sugar, and smoked paprika.  Stir the sauce and reduce the heat to low. Allow it to simmer while the potatoes continue to roast.  

When the potatoes have a golden brown crust, mix the sauce into the potatoes in the baking pan, coating evenly.  Return the baking pan to the oven and allow the sauce to caramelize on the potatoes.

This dish was a hit!  It is very simple and cost effective to make and is sure to be a crowd pleaser.  

Friday, April 12, 2013

Braised Lamb Shanks

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First off, apologies for being a bit behind this week. I have been meaning to share this recipe with you since Easter, but a variety of obstacles got in my way. I am finally all caught up, and I now get to share this delicious recipe with you! This year, I cooked my first Easter dinner. We feasted on braised lamb shanks, red bliss smashed potatoes with garlic and chives, and a spring pea salad with radishes, feta cheese, and a honey lime vinaigrette. Since the lamb shanks were unbelievably tender, falling off the bone, and just so delicious, I decided that was the recipe to share. Even though lamb is popular for Easter, this would be a great entree for a dinner party any time of year. 

To make the lamb shanks you will need:
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 lamb shanks (each about 1 1/4 pounds; 1 shank is a portion)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1.5 yellow onions
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 6 oz cans of tomato paste
  • 2 cups of medium to full-bodied red wine
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary leaves
  • 10 to 12 thyme branches tied together in a bundle
  • 3 1/2 cups of water

First, cut the onions, carrots, and celery into 1 inch pieces. Then cut the garlic cloves in half.

Mix all together in a large bowl. 

Then put all of the vegetables in a food processor and puree until it forms an orange paste. I only have this little guy, so I pureed the vegetables in a couple of shifts. 

Once you are done, place the vegetable puree into a bowl and set it aside. 

Now it is time to brown the meat. Take the lamb shanks and rub them generously with kosher salt. 

Then, cover the bottom of a large dutch oven (or heavy pot) with extra virgin olive oil and heat over medium heat. When the oil is hot, place all 4 lamb shanks into the pot.

 Cook on each side until they are golden brown- about 8 minutes per side. 

Then, using a pair of tongs, remove the lamb shanks from the pan and set aside onto a large plate. At this point, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Then add your vegetable puree into the same oil in the dutch oven and cook over medium high heat until it starts to turn brown. This should take about 20 minutes. Don't shorten this step- this is where a lot of the flavor in the sauce will come from.

 Then stir in the tomato paste and cook for another 5 minutes.  


Add in the red wine, chopped rosemary leaves, and bundle of thyme branch and let simmer until the wine reduces by half- about 5-7 minutes.

Add the lamb shanks into the pot, turning once to coat in the sauce, then cover the pot and place in the oven. 

The total cooking time is 2.5-3 hours. But, set your timer first for 1.5 hours. After the first 1.5 hours, then turn the lamb shanks over in the pot and then reset your timer for another 45 minute. Check the shanks every 45 minutes to see how much more time they need. They are done when you can easily pull the shanks apart with a fork!

Place a shank onto each plate and top generously with the sauce! These were one of the best meat dishes I have ever prepared, and I will certainly be making these again soon!