Saturday, June 23, 2018


Did you miss World Tapas Day? That was Thursday, but you can still celebrate. Are you inviting folks over to watch the next Spain match in World Cup soccer? Maybe you’re planning a picnic for the Fourth of July?  Whatever the occasion—tapas party, picnic at the beach, buffet supper or potluck, the answer is wings! Bring ‘em.

Crispy chicken wings with a green chile/cilantro dipping sauce.

Wing drumettes are breaded and fried in olive oil.

Wings and potatoes with spicy mojo--terrific tapas, with Sherry--

or with beer.

My world-class wings are Spanish-inflected—there is smoked pimentón in the marinade and they are fried in olive oil. The wings can be served as finger food (paper napkins on the side and a bowl for bone discards), with or without a dipping sauce. I’ve made a green chile sauce, called mojo verde, to go with the wings and with new potatoes. (More sauce suggestions are at the end of this post.)

Cheering for España!

Spain’s last match in first-round play is Monday, June 25, against Morocco. (At 8 pm in Kalingrad, Russia, 8 pm in Spain, and 2 pm ET in the US.) Will the team make it to the final July 15? That will mean a lot more wings!

Crispy Fried Chicken Wings
Alitas de Pollo Empanadas

The thick wing joint, also called drumette, is best for breading and frying. If you have to use whole wings, save the flat joints and wing tips for making stock.

The wings are seasoned in a quick marinade before being empanadas, breaded, by dipping in flour, beaten egg and bread crumbs. Allow the breaded wings to dry in the fridge for an hour before frying. More about frying with olive oil here.

Makes about 16 pieces.

2 pounds wing joints, preferably drumettes
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sweet smoked pimentón (paprika)
½ teaspoon picante (hot) smoked pimentón or pinch of cayenne
½ teaspoon crumbled thyme
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water
1-2 cups flour
2 cups fine dry bread crumbs
Olive oil for frying
Dipping sauce, to serve

A quick marinade with pimentón and lemon juice gives the wings flavor.
Place the wings in a single layer on a sheet pan. In a small bowl combine 2 teaspoons salt, pepper, two kinds of pimentón, thyme and lemon zest. Sprinkle the salt mixture evenly over both sides of the wings. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Let the wings marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Assembly line for breading the wings: dredge them in flour, dip in beaten egg, then roll them in fine dry bread crumbs. Let them dry for an hour before frying.
Beat the egg with the water in a medium bowl. Combine the flour with ½ teaspoon salt and place it in a shallow bowl or pan. Place the bread crumbs in another bowl or pan. Dredge the chicken wings in flour then dip them in beaten egg. Roll them in bread crumbs. Place on a sheet pan and refrigerate, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Frying wings in olive oil. Don't let them brown too quickly. They need to cook thoroughly in the 6-8 minutes it takes to brown them on all sides.

Place oil in a frying pan to a depth of 1 inch. Heat the oil until it is shimmering, but not smoking (360ºF, if you have a frying thermometer). Add wings in one layer. Fry until golden on one side, about 2 minutes. Turn once or twice more until wings are golden-brown on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes total. Moderate the heat so wings don't brown too fast. (Remove and cut into one wing to make sure meat is cooked.) Skim the wings out and drain them on paper towels. Continue frying remaining wings.

Serve hot, warm or room temperature, accompanied by dipping sauce, if desired.
Wings can be reheated in a medium-hot oven for 5 minutes.

Once cooled, wings can be packed in plastic containers for carrying to a picnic.

Green Chile Sauce
Mojo Verde

Spicy chile sauce with fresh cilantro goes well with fried foods.

Instant potato salad: spoon the mojo chile sauce over boiled new potatoes.

This sauce is typical of the Canary Islands where it is served with potatoes and grilled fish. My version this week uses green garlic scapes, the flowering stems of the garlic plant, instead of cloves of garlic. 
Garlic scapes.

4 cloves garlic or 3 tablespoons chopped garlic scapes
1 green chile, such as jalapeño (or to taste)
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
½ cup chopped parsley
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
¼ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons wine vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons water

Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. The sauce keeps, covered and refrigerated, one week.

More recipes for chicken wings:

More sauces to serve with fried chicken wings:


Saturday, June 16, 2018


Córdoba, capital of the 10th century Moorish caliphate, is known for the dish of salmorejo, a thick tomato-based gazpacho cream. Once a meal for field hands working in the olive groves, wheat fields and vineyards of Andalusia, salmorejo today is served in tapa bars and restaurants with garnishes such as exquisite ibérico ham or chunks of tuna. 

The origins of salmorejo are Moorish. But, hang on. There weren’t any tomatoes back then. Tomatoes, “discovered” in the New World after Columbus, did not become widely cultivated in Spain until the 18th century. Indeed, the original salmorejo contained no tomatoes. It was probably first a simple gruel made by Roman legionnaires, of bread crushed with olive oil and garlic. The Moors, who introduced almond trees to the Iberian peninsula, added ground almonds to the bread, creating a dish far more appetizing and nourishing.

Mazamorra is a savory almond cream, chilled and garnished with ham, egg and olives.
Known as mazamorra, this white almond cream is to salmorejo as the white cold soup with almonds, ajo blanco (“white garlic”), is to tomato gazpacho—its precursor.

Green almonds, before the fibrous shells have hardened. The nut kernel can be used in place of shelled almonds.

Mazamorra was originally made in a wooden bowl by pounding the almonds with a mallet or pestle (the maza). Nowadays it is easily confected in a blender or food processor. It can be made with “green” almonds where available. Or, in place of almonds, pine nuts, dried fava beans, carob, lupin beans or vetch. Originally poor folks’ food, mazamorra was made with whatever was available in season.

Because it is a Cordoban dish, I recommend that you use extra virgin olive oil from Córdoba. The Picual variety has a fresh, fruity flavor with just a little bite. By the same reasoning, vinegar from the Córdoba wine region of Montilla-Moriles would be the preferred choice, although Sherry or other wine vinegar can be used. Unlike ajo blanco, which has “garlic” right in its name, mazamorra has a very gentle hint of garlic. The bread should be a dense crumb country loaf. How much water is needed to convert the bread and almonds to a thick cream depends on the bread and the power of your blender. The consistency of the mixture should be a thick cream or stiff mayonnaise.

Serve the mazamorra in shallow bowls or ramekins.
Variations on the garnish, clockwise from the top, sliced apple, vegetable crisps, and diced ham and melon balls.

Serve the almond cream as a party dip with vegetable dippers.

Vegetable crisps (carrot, kale, beet) add crunch to the smooth cream.

Use the mazamorra as a sauce or salad dressing. Delicious on this salad of diced chicken, nectarines, toasted almonds, chives and salad greens.

Serve mazamorra very cold as a starter in small bowls garnished with chopped ham, hard-cooked eggs and olives. Like ajo blanco which is served garnished with Málaga muscatel grapes, mazamorra also goes nicely with sweet fruits. Try melon, mango or ripe figs. Or turn it into a dip accompanied by vegetable dippers. Or, use it as a sauce or salad dressing.

Cold Almond Cream, Córdoba Style
Mazamorra Cordobesa

Serves 6 as a starter.

Almonds, garlic, bread and oil.
4 cups (8 ounces) fresh bread crumbs
1 ½ cups cold water plus additional as needed
1 cup blanched and skinned almonds (see below)
1 large clove garlic
1 ½ tablespoons Sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup extra virgin olive oil plus additional to finish
Garnishes: chopped serrano ham, hard-boiled egg and black olives

Place the bread crumbs in a bowl and add the water. Stir to moisten the bread and let it set 10 minutes to soften. Add the almonds, garlic, vinegar and salt. Process in a blender or food processor until almonds are ground and the mixture is a thick paste. Blend in the oil. Add additional water, a spoonful at a time, to make a thick cream. Refrigerate the cream.

Serve the almond cream in shallow bowls or ramekins garnished with chopped ham, egg and olives. Drizzle with additional olive oil.

Two ways to blanch and skin almonds: Soak the shelled almonds in water to cover overnight OR drop them in boiling water for 1 minute. Pinch off the brown skins leaving the white almonds.

Green almonds in June. Earlier in the spring the whole almond is edible--outer pod, immature shell and gelatinous kernel. I used a handful of the kernels with regular shelled almonds to make the mazamorra.

Related recipes for salmorejo, porra and ajo blanco:

Saturday, June 9, 2018


Last week when I posted about Málaga mixed fish fry, I touted olive oil as the best medium for frying foods. Yep, forget the old wives’ tale about “low smoking point.” The truth is olive oil is remarkably stable at frying temperatures.

I also made the point that olive oil, unlike other vegetable oils, can be strained and safely reused.  The result is that I’ve got about six cups of once-used, slightly fish-flavored, olive oil to use up.

Laboratory studies have shown that foods fried in olive oil absorb less oil than those fried in other oils. That means the oil lasts longer and the food is less greasy. (The test used potatoes, weighed before and after frying in olive oil, sunflower oil and soy oil.)

Extra virgin olive when heated does lose some of the organoleptic qualities, such as fruitiness, for which it is so valued. For that reason, don’t use your most delicate and expensive oils for frying. They are best saved for using raw. Best for frying is a very stable Picual variety olive oil from Andalusia.

I’m using some of my leftover oil for pan-frying. And, not just for fish—potatoes, eggs, breaded chicken cutlets are all fine. But this is definitely a good excuse to fry some more! How about some gambas rebozadas, batter-fried shrimp?

Batter-fried shrimp are crunchy on the outside, moist on the inside.

Gambas rebozadas is a tapa I learned to make in local (Andalusian) tapa bars. The batter usually includes chopped parsley, saffron or yellow coloring and, often, minced garlic too. Cleverly, the shrimp are speared on toothpicks and dunked into the batter, picks and all.  

The Madrid version, called gambas en gabardinas, or shrimp in “raincoats,” is a little different. Instead of toothpicks, the tails are left on the peeled shrimp and no garlic or yellow coloring is added to the batter.

The simple egg-flour batter has a little baking powder or baking soda to make it puffier. The batter can be prepared in advance, but, if possible, dip and fry the shrimp immediately before serving. The shrimp are best served right after frying, as the coating loses its crispness as it cools. If necessary, reheat them in a skillet lightly coated with oil or in a medium oven.

While Málaga mixed fish fry is served with only lemon, the batter-fried shrimp are often served with a dipping sauce. Alioli, garlic mayonnaise, and salsa rosa, “pink” cocktail sauce, are the most usual, but plenty other sauces will complement the shrimp (see below for some suggestions).

Batter-fried shrimp are a favorite Spanish tapa.

Many dipping sauces for the shrimp. This is alioli, garlic mayonnaise with finely chopped parsley.

Batter-Fried Shrimp
Gambas Rebozadas

The same batter can be used for vegetables such as cooked cauliflower, mushrooms, artichoke hearts.

It is usual to devein shrimp before battering. The vein, a black thread that runs the length of the shrimp, is edible, but not pretty.

Serves 6 as a tapa.

1 ¼  pounds large shrimp (about 30 shrimp)
1 egg
½ teaspoon vinegar
½ tablespoon finely chopped parsley
Pinch of saffron threads, crushed
Minced garlic (opitional)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup flour
1/3 cup water
Olive oil for frying
Dipping sauce, to serve

Shrimp on the left have been peeled and stuck on toothpicks. The ones on the right have tails intact. Either picks or tails are useful for picking up the shrimp.
Remove vein with knife tip.

Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving tails intact, if desired. Or, peel the tails and spear the shrimp on toothpicks.

Beat the egg in a bowl. Stir in the vinegar, parsley, saffron, garlic, if using, salt and baking powder. Stir in the flour. Add the water and mix to make a smooth batter. The batter should be the consistency of heavy cream so that it coats the shrimp. Add additional water if necessary. Let the batter stand 1 hour.

Place oil to a depth of 1 inch in a skillet and heat to 360ºF. At that temperature, a cube of bread should brown in 25 seconds.

Using tails or picks to pick up the shrimp. Dip them in batter and fry until golden on one side. Use tongs to carefully turn the shrimp to brown on reverse side. They need only 2-4 minutes.

Fry shrimp until golden, turning them once.

Drain shrimp on paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Skim out the shrimp and place on paper towels to drain briefly. Serve hot accompanied by dipping sauce.

Use the same batter to coat vegetables. These are quartered (raw) mushrooms dropped into the batter and added to the hot oil by spoonfuls.

Sauces to accompany batter-fried shrimp:

And, another recipe for batter-fried seafood: