Sunday, March 26, 2017


Ben came home with 10 kilos (22 pounds) of avocados, picked at a friend’s orchard. After several joyful days of eating guacamole, avocado-shrimp cocktail, avocado toasts, soup with avocado garnish, I started looking for some new ways to enjoy the fruit. At the rate of several a day, we would never be able to use them all, especially as they tend to ripen all at once. 

Avocados galore! Unfortunately, once picked, they all tend to ripen at the same time.

I experimented with freezing the whole avocados, hoping to assure my guacamole futures. This works, sort of.
Frozen and thawed.

Defrosted, the avocados still have good flavor, but they become soft, great for smashing for guacamole but not much good for slicing into salads.

The freezing experiment gave me an idea, though—what about avocado ice cream? I make myself batches of fruit “ice cream” every week, using whatever fruit is in season. Locally-grown mangoes are finished and the ones from Brazil have suffered in transport and storage. Strawberries are coming in, but it’s still early to buy them in bulk. My other favorites—nectarines, peaches and apricots—are a few months away. Persimmons won’t happen until fall. So, when life gives you avocados, make ice cream!

Avocado ice cream, not too sweet, is wonderfully creamy.

Hint: If you have space, refrigerate the unripe avocados, stems still intact. As you use ripe ones, take green ones out of the fridge to begin ripening. This works better than trying to refrigerate all the ripe ones.

The avocado’s creaminess makes it a natural for ice cream. Lemon juice complements the flavor as well as preventing the fruit from darkening. But, then what? A passing comment by a Facebook friend—chile powder on avocado ice cream—inspired me to make the red pepper jam with a jolt of chile. While my ice cream swirling techniques need some improvement, I gotta say that the flavor combo is absolutely sensational.

A swirl of red pepper puree adds piquancy to the ice cream.

Freeze ice cream in individual cups for easy serving.

The red pepper jam is hot and sweet, so I was happy not to add sugar to the ice cream. But Ben preferred it sweetened, so I divvied the cream into two batches, both good.

My only caveat is that this ice cream freezes really hard. Be sure to take it out of the freezer 30 to 45 minutes before serving to soften before dipping. You can also freeze it in individual glasses and only take out as many as will be used at one time.

Avocado Ice Cream with Red Pepper Swirl and Crunchy Pumpkin Seed
Helado de Aguacate con Vetas de Pimiento Rojo y Crocanti de Pipas de Calabaza

2 pounds ripe avocados (3 cups chopped)
½ cup fresh lemon juice
2 cups plain yogurt
1 cup mascarpone, softened
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar (optional)
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
½ cup roasted red pepper jam (recipe follows)
Pumpkin seed crunch to serve (recipe follows)

Peel and cut up the avocados, adding the lemon juice to the cut fruit. Puree the avocados, juice, yogurt and mascarpone until smooth. Add the salt, sugar if using and lemon zest.

Freeze the avocado cream until partially frozen, about 3 hours. Using an immersion blender or mixer, beat the ice cream until smooth.

Use a skewer to swirl in red pepper jam.
Spoon about ¼ of the ice cream into a metal bowl. Dribble red pepper jam over the surface and use a skewer to swirl it through the cream. Add another layer of cream, more red pepper and swirl. Continue layering and swirling.

Return the ice cream to the freezer.

To serve, remove ice cream to soften 45 minutes before serving. Scoop into dessert cups and sprinkle with the pumpkin  seed.

Freeze cream in a metal bowl.

Roasted Red Pepper Jam
Mermelada de Pimiento Asado

You won’t need all of the red pepper jam for the ice cream swirl. Try it dolloped into pumpkin or zucchini soup; spread on sandwiches or burgers; as a sauce with roast chicken or lamb.

Canned piquillo peppers could be substituted for the roasted bell peppers. Use 2 (185-gram) cans. Fresh red chile can be used—roast it with the bell peppers—or just use pimentón picante (hot paprika) or a lesser amount of cayenne.

Makes 1 ½ cups jam.

3-4 red bell peppers (to make 1 ½ cups roasted and chopped)
½ cup water
½ teaspoon hot pimentón
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons sugar

Roast the bell peppers over a gas flame or under the broiler, turning to char them on all sides. Set aside in a pan and tent with foil until peppers are cool enough to handle. Peel away the blackened skin, discard stems and seeds. Cut the peppers up and place them in blender with the water. Puree the peppers until very smooth.

Place the pepper puree in a saucepan with the salt and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook, stirring frequently. Partially cover the pan to prevent splattering. Cook until the puree is thick and jammy, about 15 minutes. Cool.

Pumpkin Seed Crunch
Crocanti de Pipas de Calabaza

3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
½ teaspoon sugar

Place the pumpkin seeds and sugar in a small heavy skillet. Toast on medium-high heat until sugar is melted and seeds are toasted, about 3 minutes. Scrape the seeds onto a wooden board and allow them to cool. 

Sprinkle the seeds over the ice cream. 

Soften ice cream 45 minutes before scooping.

Sugared pumpkin seeds add crunch to smooth ice cream.

Individual cups are easy to serve.

More recipes for ice cream:
More recipes with avocados: Avocado, grapefruit and fennel salad. Shellfish cocktail with avocado.

Saturday, March 18, 2017


I am all about traditional Spanish cooking, home cooking, which, although often inspired, is seldom fancy. Variations on family dishes are legion, with every housewife adapting recipes to availability, but innovations are few. No one would dream of putting basil or chile into gazpacho, let alone of making a jellied variation with shrimp or turning it into ice cream or foam or smoke.

But, sometimes even the tried and true needs a little tweaking, just for fun. So after I decided on a very traditional Málaga recipe to make this week—potaje de jibia con garbanzos—cuttlefish and chickpea stew, a traditional dish for Lenten meals in which cuttlefish takes the place of the meat and sausage in typical legume stews —I dreamed up some variations to jazz it up a bit.

A traditional Lenten stew with chunks of cuttlefish, chickpeas, chard and potatoes.

Potaje is a sturdy, one-pot family meal--

Same potaje with the addition of shrimp and an inky alioli sauce.

I served the original stew in small portions molded in a disc and embellished them with a garlicky alioli sauce colored black with cuttlefish ink.  The kids thought it was a hoot. I loved the way it looked—right up until I stirred the inky sauce into the chickpea stew, turning it a weird grey! See what you think.

Cuttlefish (jibia, sepia, choco) is a cephalopod, like squid and octopus. It is exceptionally meaty, making it a good choice for this stew. However, either squid or octopus could be used instead. Squid is not so thick as cuttlefish and needs less cooking time. Octopus should be cooked whole for 30 minutes, then cut into pieces to continue cooking in the stew.)

Traditional stew.

Same stew, jazzed up. Serve it as a starter.

Cuttlefish and Chickpea Stew
Potaje de Jibia y Garbanzos

Put the chickpeas to soak a day before cooking the stew.

Char-roast the head of garlic over a gas flame or under the broiler until blackened. Rub off outer skin, but leave the head of garlic whole to make it easier to remove from the stew later.

Serves 6.

Meaty chunks of cuttlefish.
1 pound chickpeas
Hot water
2 bay leaves
1 onion
2 cloves
10 peppercorns
1 tablespoon salt
1 ¼ pounds cleaned cuttlefish, cut in bite-size pieces
1 head garlic, char-roasted
1 green frying pepper, stem and seeds removed
1 medium tomato
1 tablespoon pimentón (paprika, not smoked)
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ cup olive oil
2 cups chopped chard
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
Sprigs of fresh mint to serve

The day before cooking the stew, put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with hot water to 1 ½ their depth. Soak overnight.

Drain the chickpeas and rinse them in warm water. Fill a large pot with 10 cups of water: Bring it to a boil and add the chickpeas. When water again comes to a boil, skim off the froth that rises to the top. Add the bay leaves, whole onion stuck with cloves, the peppercorns and salt. Simmer, covered, 40 minutes. (Chickpeas will be about half-cooked.)

Add the cut-up cuttlefish, the whole head of garlic, green pepper and whole tomato. Mix the pimentón and cumin with the oil and stir into the pot.  Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, 40 minutes. 

Squeeze pulp from garlic cloves.

Use a skimmer or slotted spoon to remove the onion, garlic, pepper and tomato. Discard the cloves and put the onion in a blender. Slip skins off of the pepper and tomato and place them in the blender. Squeeze the garlic cloves into the blender. Blend the vegetables, adding a little liquid from the pot, as needed. Stir the blender mixture back into the pot. Add the chard and potatoes. Bring again to a boil, reduce heat and cook, uncovered, until potatoes and chard are tender, about 20 minutes.

Allow the stew to settle 5 minutes before serving with a sprig of mint in each bowl.

Molded tower has collapsed!


Mold the well-drained stew in ring molds or oiled flan cups. (You can make a disc mold by removing both top and bottom from a 3-inch diameter tuna-fish can.)

Use ink sacs from fresh cuttlefish or packets of frozen cuttlefish ink to color the sauce. Ask your fish vendor for the packets of ink or look for them in the frozen foods section.

Cuttlefish and chickpea stew
Rainbow chard
18 cooked and peeled small shrimp
For the inky alioli sauce:
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 clove crushed garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 or 4 (4-gram) packets of cuttlefish ink

Make the stew as in the preceding recipe, using rainbow chard. Use a slotted spoon to separate 6 cups of the cuttlefish, chickpeas and vegetables. Drain off as much of the liquid as possible.

Place a small ring mold on a plate. Fill it with about 1 cup of the cuttlefish and chickpeas, pressing down slightly to pack the mixture. Blot any liquid that runs off with paper towels. Carefully lift off the ring. Continue to mold the remaining 5 servings.

Place 3 cooked shrimp on top of each mound. 

Squeeze ink from packets.

Make the ink sauce. Stir the mayonnaise until smooth. Add the garlic. Beat in the oil little by little so the sauce emulsifies. Stir in the lemon juice. Squeeze cuttlefish ink into the sauce and stir.
Use a spoon to dribble and trail the sauce around the mound of chickpea and cuttlefish stew. Serve room temperature. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017


While I was working through the cocido leftovers last week, I made an Andalusian classic, montadito de pringá, a sandwich made with the cooked meats and fat from the cocido mashed to a kind of pâté.  That inspired a week’s worth of montaditos!


A classic--montaditos de pringá--cooked meat from the cocido, mashed with pork fat--on toasted rolls.

Montadito means “mounted,” or “up in the saddle.” A slice of juicy, fried pork loin, “mounted” on bread and topped with strips of red piquillo pepper, is a classic montadito.  You can heap just about anything on a bread roll and call it a montadito—for example, Russian salad, fried fish, sautéed mushrooms or leftover cocido. So, go ahead, invent some montadito combos for yourself.

A montadito isn’t your ordinary sandwich, something slapped between two slices of sandwich bread. The bread—a fresh, crusty roll—is as important as the filling. Montaditos are served in cafeterias for “elevenses,” segundo desayuno, second breakfast, eaten mid-morning. They’re a favorite tapa bar selection and, of course, they make an ideal lunch. Sometimes the bread is toasted or grilled. Some montaditos are served cold, some hot.

On the left, molletes, smooth buns; above them is a chapata, a small ciabatta; next, a whole-wheat barra, or "bar" loaf; the other three are bollos, crusty rolls, each one makes an individual sandwich.

Usual breads for montaditos are bollo, a crusty roll; barra or baguette, a long, crusty loaf that, once filled, is cut into shorter lengths; mollete, a soft, flat bap of a bun, somewhere between a pita and hamburger bun (but, unlike hamburger buns, with no sugar); chapata, from “ciabatta,” with air pockets in the spongy crumb, and pan de país, country bread baked in round loaves and thickly sliced.  

Blood sausage, raisins and pine nuts, heaped on toasts.

Spread rolls with a spicy tomato sauce, add sardines and strips of piquillo pepper.

Pepito--a steak sandwich, with a tangy mushroom sauce.

Kale with walnuts and cheese, stuffed in a bun called mollete.

Leftovers on a Bun
Montadito de Pringá

Use any leftover boiled meats from the cocido—beef, pork belly, chicken, ham, chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage). Shred or chop them. Be sure to include some tocino, fatty cooked salt pork. The fat, heated and mashed, binds the shredded meat and turns the mixture into a spread for the toasted rolls. (The recipe for complete cocido is here.)

The meat mixture probably needs no added salt or other seasoning. 

Use crusty rolls or soft molletes, which are like buns. Split the rolls and toast them. Spread the pringá on the rolls and press the top half down so the bread absorbs the juices. The montaditos can be prepared in advance. Spread the pringá in the rolls, wrap them in foil. When ready to serve, heat them on a griddle or in the oven.

2 cups chopped or shredded meat, fat and chicken
3 tablespoons cocido broth
4 small rolls, split and toasted

Heat the chopped and shredded meat and fat with the broth in a skillet. Mash the fat to make a sort of paste. Heap the hot pringá on the toasted rolls.

Blood Sausage with Raisins and Pine Nuts on Toast
Montadito de Morcilla

Sweet raisins and crunchy pine nuts contrast with rich and spicy blood sausage (also called black pudding or budin noir). Málaga muscatel raisins are the best, but they have to be seeded. Or use any seedless raisin. Use either morcilla de Burgos with rice or morcilla de cebolla, with onion. Use bollos, crusty rolls, or thickly-sliced country bread. These montaditos are served open-faced.

Makes 8 open-faced toasts.

Blood sausage, raisins and pine nuts.
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup pine nuts
10 ounces morcilla (blood sausage)
¼ cup seedless raisins
4 tablespoons white wine
2 rolls or 8 thick slices of country bread

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the pine nuts until they are golden, about 30 seconds. Tilt the pan so the oil flows to one side and skim out the pine nuts. 

Remove the skin from the sausage and chop it into small pieces. Add to the frying pan with the raisins and sauté on medium heat, breaking up the sausage pieces, 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook until sausage begins to sizzle again, 4 minutes.

If using crusty rolls, split them open and cut each half in half crosswise. Toast under a broiler/grill.
Divide the sausage mixture between the toasts, pressing it down. Sprinkle toasted pine nuts on top. Serve hot or room temperature.

Mini Roll with Spicy Sardines
Mini de Sardinas Picantes

In the bars in the old quarter of Zaragoza, this tapa is known as a “guardia civil.” Pimentón picante, spicy-hot paprika, gives the sauce its fire power. If you haven’t got this sort of pimentón, use cayenne, but in a lesser amount. Piquillo peppers, sweet and piquant, come canned and ready to use. They are worth a search, but, if not available, use any red pimiento. 

Chopped pickles go into the spicy tomato sauce spread on these sandwiches.

Serves 6.

½ cup canned tomato sauce  (tomate frito
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 teaspoons hot pimentón (paprika)
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
¼ cup chopped sweet pickles
1 tablespoon chopped mild green chile (guindilla), optional
6 crusty rolls, split and toasted
3 (120 g / 4 oz-) cans sardines packed in olive oil (approximately 9 sardines)
6 piquillo peppers, split, or tinned red pimiento, cut in strips

Combine the tomato sauce in a small bowl with the vinegar, pimentón, onion, chopped pickles and chile, if using. Spread a spoonful on the bottom half of each roll. 

Strips of peppers on the sardines.

Lift the sardines out of the cans, discarding the oil. Carefully split them open lengthwise. (The bones can be removed, if desired, but they are perfectly edible.) Place 3 half-sardines on each bread roll. Top with half a piquillo pepper or strips of pimiento and cover with top of roll. Serve at room temperature.

Pepito Steak Sandwich with Mushroom Ketchup
Pepito de Ternera con Salsa de Setas

So, a guy named Pepe walks into a bar. Says, instead of the usual bocadillo de jamón, ham sandwich, he wants a hot sandwich. Bar guy griddles a beef filete, thin steak, puts it on a roll. Pepe, known to his friends as Pepito, orders the steak sandwich every time. Eventually, everybody justs asks for the “bocadillo como el de Pepito.” 

Pepito--a steak sandwich, here with piquant mushroom condiment.

At its most basic, this is just quickly griddled beef on a bread roll. Sometimes it has fried green Padrón peppers or cheese or mushrooms or a fried egg. 

Use thin “frying steak,” cut about ½-inch thick, for this sandwich—rump steak is fine, though thinly- cut strip steak or butterflied tenderloin is even better. Pan-grill the meat (use a cast-iron skillet or plancha, an unridged grill pan), about 1 minute per side, so it is still pink in the center. PX Sherry vinegar gives the sauce a slightly sweet tang. If not available, use balsamic. 

Serves 4.
Shredded oyster mushrooms.

For the mushroom ketchup:
8 ounces oyster mushrooms
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of fresh thyme
2 tablespoons PX Sherry vinegar
¼ cup water or beef stock
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Thinly sliced beef.

For the steak:
4 (½ -inch thick) frying steaks, each 3 to 4 ounces
Freshly-ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, sliced
Coarse salt for the grill pan
4 crusty rolls or a 22-inch baguette, toasted if desired
Rucola or other greens to serve.

Tear or slice the mushrooms into strips. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a skillet and sauté the mushrooms on moderately high heat until they begin to brown and crisp at the edges, 6 to 8 minutes. Scoop them out and reserve.

Cut onion in half and thinly slice crosswise. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and sauté the onions until they are very browned, about 8 minutes. Season with ½ teaspoon salt, pepper and a pinch of thyme. Add the vinegar and water or stock.

Return the mushrooms to the pan and heat 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley. (Mushroom sauce can be prepared in advance. Reheat it before spreading on the bread.)

Season the steaks with pepper and sliced garlic. Allow to come to room temperature.

Heat a plancha or heavy skillet very hot. Sprinkle it with coarse salt. Pan-grill the steaks until browned on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Remove.

Spread mushrooms on baguette, top with steak.

Split the rolls or the baguette. Spread the mushroom sauce on the bottom halves. Top with the steak and a few leaves of rucola. If using a baguette, slice the sandwich into four sections to serve.

Add sliced tomatoes to the steak sandwich.   

Kale and Walnut Sandwiches
Montaditos de Kale

Pile sauteed kale on toasted buns.

Taking my own advice—"invent some montadito combos for yourself"—I turned garden kale into these sandwiches with chopped walnuts, dried apricots and goat cheese, packed into molletes, buns. 

For a vegetarian sandwich, omit the optional bacon. 

Serves 4,

Toast mollete in toaster.
1 tablespoon olive oil plus more to drizzle on the bread
2 tablespoons bacon (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 cup cooked and chopped kale
2 dried apricots, diced (about 1 ½ tablespoons)
¼ cup chopped walnuts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces soft goat cheese, cut in pieces
4 (3 ½ -inch) molletes (buns), split, toasted and drizzled with oil

Add goat cheese to hot kale.

Heat the oil in a small skillet with the bacon, if using. Add the garlic and shallot and sauté them gently until softened, 5 minutes. Add the kale, apricots and walnuts. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the kale is bubbling. Add a little water if needed. 

Add the goat cheese to the hot kale. Stir to combine and allow the cheese to soften. Remove from heat.

Spread the kale on the split and toasted buns. Serve warm or room temperature.

Garden kale--inspiration for a montadito sandwich.

More sandwich ideas:

Serrano ham and pork loin sandwich; Tuna and roasted pepper sandwich; Fried ham and cheese sandwich.

Another recipe with kale: