Spanish Food For Thought

Spanish Food For Thought

Step onto your hotel balcony any balmy summer evening in Spain, and you’ll see your neighbors dining at sidewalk cares or strolling arm in arm under the stars. The strollers trace pathways along ancient cobblestones, enjoying historic, picturesque sights.

All along their walk, called a paseo in Spanish, tiny old women dressed in black, and weathered old men, sporting black berets perched at a rakish angle, sit on benches, saluting passersby with a cheerful vaya con dios.

Wandering along such a paseo yourself, you will surely sense the majesty of Spain and the romance of times gone by. Perhaps that’s why every day in Spain seems like a celebration, and this year Spain has two world-class events to celebrate. Expo ’92 is in full swing in romantic Seville from April 20 through October 12, while the Summer Olympics are attracting the world’s finest athletes to Barcelona from July 25 through August 9.

Spanish food, as colorful as the Spanish themselves, plays a prime role in all the festivities. Phoenicians And Olive Trees

One culinary tradition of Spain may have begun back in 600 B.C., when the Phoenicians planted the first olive tree on what is now Spanish soil. Visitors often recall the taste of Spanish olives long after other memories have faded.

Traditional Spanish cooks use olive oil in almost every dish, although today a few adventurers are experimenting with corn oil. And the olive trees themselves have long provided a livelihood for many Spanish families.

The Moors, a mixture of Arabs and Berbers, conquered Spain in the eighth century, adding their Middle Eastern influence to the country’s cuisine as well as to its architecture.

Sixteenth-century Spanish explorers introduced potatoes from the New World, and the Spanish tortilia was born. But don’t confuse this hearty potato omelette with the flattened Mexican tortilia. The Spanish tortilia is a delicious egg dish eaten either hot or at room temperature. It’s often sandwiched between two crusty pieces of Spanish bread.

The recipe here features a baked rather than the customary fried Spanish tortilia, but the real surprise is that it is as delicious as ever.

Marvelous Mercado

Traditional succulent Spanish food still can be found in the mercado (out-door or indoor market place) of every town or village. A visit to the mercado reveals a gorgeous–and pungent–array of fresh fruits and vegetables. The just-picked freshness of fruit in the Spanish market makes it a perfect dessert for any meal.

Besides offering great foods, the Spanish mercado is a grand visual display, showing fresh meat, poultry, and a cornucopia of glistening seafood arranged like a photograph.

Fresh Seafood

Spain has some of the richest fishing grounds in Europe, so it’s no wonder that its seafood is unrivaled. That especially holds true in the coastal cities, such as the lovely Mediterranean city of Barcelona.

All kinds of fin and shellfish are sold fresh daily in great variety, including sole, bass, tuna, lobster, and clams. It isn’t unusual to see a seafood paella decorated with an array of crab, lobster, or clams.

Although some Americans think the hot sauces of Mexico come from Spain, they don’t. The Spanish actually flavor their dishes with milder herbs and spices than do the Mexicans. Spaniards use an abundance of garlic, onions, olive oil, and saffron in their sauces.

Regional

Spanish cooking has some similarities throughout the country, but each region boasts its own special touches. In the south lies Andalusia, the home of Pablo Picasso, sherry, flamenco dancing, and the white-washed pueblo-citos (little towns) that dot the plains.

Andalusian cooks in towns such as Grenada and Cadiz rely heavily on seafood, chicken, and eggs. They flavor all of these with olive oil, garlic, laurel, onions, and deep red succulent tomatoes. If you ever have the pleasure of dining in Andalusia, do yourself a favor and venture into a small cafe to sample a slice of Spanish tortilia served between two pieces of warm crisp Spanish bread.

Or, try a full meal beginning with an appetizing gazpacho Andaluz, the famous chilled, refreshing vegetable soup of Spain. Next, order a main dish of seafood paella piled high with delectables such as clams or mussels and sprinkled with peas to give your meal a colorful touch. Finish your delicious meal with fresh fruit.

With luck, you’ll be able to sit back and sip your after-dinner sherry, while listening to flamenco guitars and clacking castanets and watching beautiful senoritas dance, their polka-dot dresses swirling to the music of gypsy chants.

Catalonia

Catalonia, with Barcelona as its capital, lies on the Costa Brava, Spain’s eastern coastline that follows the Mediterranean from Barcelona to the French border.

Olive oil, garlic, onions, tomatoes, almonds, hazelnuts and pine nuts, along with dried fruits–specially raisins and prunes–give the foods of Catalonia their mild and delicate, yet savory flavor.

 

Because Catalonia borders the water, seafood is often a main dish here, too. The region is also known for its spring vegetables, summer fruits, and fall wild-wood mushrooms. If you find yourself in Barcelona, order one of the area’s fabulous seafood creations and have a taste of a scrumptious rice dish. Then tempt yourself with a sampling of Spanish cheese such as Burgos (white and creamy) or Manchego (mild goat cheese).

Come To The Table

Here are typical dishes from the Catalonia and Andalusia areas are combined into one meal. Although Spanish cuisine is traditionally high in fat (frying is a favorite cooking method), the following recipes have been adapted to meet the American Diabetes Association’s nutritional guidelines of fewer than 30 percent of calories from fat.

(You might want to consider turmeric as a replacement for saffron in the Paella Mediterrania because saffron can be very costly.)

So, invite all your friends to this grand fiesta, put on some flamenco music, and savor the succulent spirit of Spain. Que aproveche!

    GAZPACHO ANDALUZ
(Makes 10 servings)
    3 lbs. medium tomatoes, well-ripened,
and quartered
    2 1/2 cups green peppers, diced
    1 cup onions, diced
    3 cups cucumbers, diced
    3 slices white bread, torn into
pieces
    2 cups cold water
    5 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1 tsp. salt (optional)
    1 sprig fresh parsley (for garnish)

Dice 1 cup of tomatoes; 1/2 cup of the. 2 1/2 cups green peppers; 1/4 cup of the 1 cup onions; and 1/2 cup of the 3 cups cucumbers. Set aside in separate bowls and refrigerate.

Combine the remaining tomatoes, green peppers, onions, and cucumbers in one large bowl; add the bread and cold water.

Puree this mixture in a blender for about two minutes. Remove from blender. If desired, pour through a sieve to take out lumps.

Return the mixture to the bowl. Add the vinegar, garlic, and salt. Process the entire mixture in the blender again for another two minutes.

Cover and refrigerate 1 to 24 hours. To serve, pour soup into one large serving bowl or 10 smaller individual bowls.

Garnish serving bowl or individual bowls with sprigs of fresh parsley. Serve the diced vegetables in their separate bowls so each diner may add garnishes as desired.

One serving  .................1 cup
Vegetable Exchanges  .........3
Calories  ...................75
Carbohydrate  ...............15 grams
Protein  .....................3 grams
Fat  .........................0 grams
Fiber  .......................2 grams
Cholesterol  .................0 milligrams
Sodium
    Without added salt 52 milligrams
    With added salt .. 165 milligrams
  SPANISH TORTILLA
    (Makes 8 servings)
    3 medium potatoes
    1 2/3 Tbsp. olive oil (or 5 tsp.)
    1/2 cup green pepper, diced
    1/2 cup onion, diced
    2 Tbsp. fresh parsley
    1/2 cup tomato, chopped
    1 cup egg substitute
    1/2  tsp. pepper
    1 tsp. salt (optional)
    Nonstick cooking spray

Boil potatoes for 20 minutes, or until tender; peel and cut potatoes into 1/2-inch cubes. Place in large bowl and add 1 tablespoon of the 12/3 table-spoons olive oil.

Using a spatula gently mix the potatoes until they are well coated with the oil.

Place potatoes on a cookie sheet and bake in a 425[Degree] oven for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium pan, saute the green peppers, onions, parsley, and tomatoes in remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil. When the onions are translucent, remove pan from heat.

Combine egg substitute, onion mixture, and potatoes in a bowl. Add pepper and salt; mix well.

Decrease oven temperature to 375[Degree]. Spray 8-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray; pour mixture into cake pan, and place it in the oven for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top begins to brown.

If desired, this dish may be made the day before, covered, and refrigerated overnight. It can be eaten cold or warmed to room temperature in the oven or microwave just before serving.

One serving....................1 portion
Starch/Bread Exchanges.........1
Fat Exchanges................1/2
Calories.....................100
Carbohydrate..................13 grams
Protein........................5 grams
Fat............................3 grams
Fiber..........................1 gram
Cholesterol....................0 milligrams
Sodium
    Without added salt 47 milligrams
    With added salt .. 312 milligrams
  PAELLA MEDITERRANIA
    (Makes 12 servings)
    2 Tbsp. virgin olive oil
    1/2 cup onion, chopped
    4 cloves garlic, minced
    1/4 cup fresh parsley
    5 cups boiling water
    1 tsp. lemon juice
    1 tsp. saffron (or 1 tsp. turmeric)
    1 tsp. paprika
    4 tsp. very low sodium boullion cubes or
granules (not liquid)
2 bay leaves
2 1/2 cups long grain white rice (not
precooked type)
4 medium tomatoes, quartered
2 carrots, cut into strips
    * 2 dozen small clams (or half of a
10-oz. can of baby clams)
    2 Tbsp. margarine
    * 1 lb. cooked medium-size shrimp
(purchased cooked or prepared
at home)
1/2 cup fresh peas, cooked first (or 1/2
cup no-salt-added canned or frozen peas)
    Optional garnishes:
    1/2 red pepper
    Few sprigs fresh parsley
    Lemon wedges

* 1 lb. chicken breast can be substituted for shrimp and clams.

Heat olive oil in large pan (preferably a paella pan). Saute onions, 3 of the 4 cloves garlic, and parsley until onions are translucent.

(Note: If you are using chicken instead of shrimp and clams, cut the chicken into strips and saute along with onions, garlic, and parsley mixture until the chicken is no longer pink, about 10 minutes. )

Meanwhile, in a separate pan, boil 5 cups water and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Add saffron (or turmeric), paprika, bouillon, and bay leaves.

Add water mixture to ingredients in the large pan. Add the rice and distribute it evenly throughout the pan.

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Add tomatoes and carrots. Cover and place over medium heat for about 30 minutes. Add the clams, and replace the cover; continue heating for another 15 minutes, or until the water has been completely absorbed, and the rice has reached a fluffy consistency. Do not stir the rice mixture.

In a separate pan, heat the margarine and saute shrimp and remaining minced garlic for about 10 minutes.

About 5 minutes before serving time, add sauteed shrimp and peas to the rice mixture.

The rice dish is completely done when the clams open and the rice is a fluffy consistency.

Place clams and shrimp in an attractive arrangement, and garnish with red pepper strips, fresh parsley, and lemon wedges.

One serving......................1 cup
Starch/Bread Exchanges...........2
Medium-Fat Meat Exchanges........1
Calories.......................248
Carbohydrate....................36 grams
Protein.........................13 grams
Fat..............................5 grams
Fiber............................1 gram
Cholesterol.....................77 milligrams
Sodium.........................131 milligrams
  ENSALADA CATALANA
    (Makes 18 servings)
    Salad:
    1 med. (about 1 lb.) eggplant
    3 med. green peppers
    2-3 onions (equal to about 1 lb.)
    2-3 tomatoes (equal to about 1 lb.)
    27-oz. cans artichoke hearts
without added salt (approximately 8)
    Dressing:
    2 Tbsp. (6 tsp.) olive oil
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1/4 cup fresh parsley
    2 Tbsp. capers in vinegar
    1/8 tsp. pepper (preferably white)
    1/4 tsp. salt (optional)
    2 lemons
    1 hard-boiled egg (for garnish)

Place eggplant, green peppers, onions, and tomatoes in a covered dish and roast them in a 300[Degree] oven for approximately 1 hour. The vegetable skins should then be bubbling and pulling away from the rest of the vegetable, making them easy to remove.

Allow vegetables to cool to room temperature. After vegetables are cool enough to touch, peel and remove seeds from eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes.

Slice vegetables into strips; carefully mix in artichoke hearts and set aside while dressing is prepared.

Dressing: Measure 1 teaspoon (of the 6 teaspoons) olive oil and saute garlic in it. Add parsley, capers, white pepper, and salt.

Squeeze lemons and add lemon juice to remaining 5 teaspoons olive oil. Mix this well with sauteed garlic; pour over vegetables.

Toss vegetables gently to coat. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Dish can be kept covered overnight in the refrigerator.

At serving time, garnish with sliced hard-boiled egg, if desired.

One serving..................1/2 cup
Vegetable Exchange.............1
Fat Exchange.................1/2
Calories......................51
Carbohydrates..................8 grams
Protein........................2 grams
Fat............................2 grams
Fiber..........................1 gram
Cholesterol...................15 milligrams
Sodium
    Without added salt 28 milligrams
    With added salt ... 58 milligrams

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