Saturday, June 24, 2017


At my local fish market, I usually ignore the small fry, deeming them—except for fresh anchovies and sardines—too bony to be worth the bother. One of these is the jurel, also known as chicharro  (“horse mackerel” or “scad” in English).

But when I spied these larger specimens, impeccably fresh, I decided to give jureles a try. They were cheap enough and local women were buying them up. 

Jureles are horse mackerel.

Small jureles—about the size of sardines—are usually simply floured and fried. The village ladies who were buying the larger ones said they would prepare them al horno, baked with a layer of potatoes, onions, peppers and tomatoes. The vendor suggested escabeche. (See at the end of this post for links to those recipes.)

I bought two jureles, each weighing about 1 pound. The fish vendor cleaned them and removed the heads. The cleaned fish each weighed about 12 ounces. I figured on a whole one—on the bone—per person. Not everyone is willing to tackle a whole fish, but, with practice and some patience, it is a rewarding experience.

Looking for some guidance with a fish I hadn’t cooked before, I pulled out my reference books—Alan Davidson’s The Tio Pepe Guide to the Seafood of Spain and Portugal (Santana Books); Seafood, A Connoisseur’s Guide and Cookbook, by Alan Davidson with illustrations by Charlotte Knox (Mitchell Beazley), and Manual del Pescado by José Carlos Capel (R&B Ediciones).

All seemed to indicate that the horse mackerel, which belongs to the jack family, is not especially esteemed. The horse mackerel belongs to the fatty, bluefish group (presumably, that means healthful omega-3 fatty acids). It’s a silvery fish with a greenish-gold streak on its side, not to be confused with the true mackerel (caballa), a silvery-green fish with blue-black markings.

The Capel book suggested a recipe by Basque chef, José Castillo. I pulled out my battered copy of Manual de Cocina Económica Vasca (Manual of Economic Basque Cooking) by José Castillo (Editorial Icharopena; 1970) and found fully six recipes for chicharros!

I decided on fish roasted a la vizcaina, or Biscay style. This usually means the dish includes red choricero peppers, but in this recipe, pimentón (paprika) stands in for the peppers. In this case it is regular sweet pimentón, not smoked.

Whole fish are roasted with a topping of garlic, parsley, pimentón and crumbs.

For the fearless, not put off by bones--a whole fish.

Or, fillet the roasted fish in the kitchen and plate it for guests.

Horse Mackerel, Biscay Style
Chicharro a la Vizcaina

Any whole fish may be prepared in this manner. Try it with true mackerel (caballa), sea bass (lubina) or gilthead bream (dorada).

Chop garlic, parsley in mini-processor.
Serves 6 or more.

6 (1-pound each) horse mackerels, cleaned
Salt and pepper
12 tablespoons olive oil
12 (or more) cloves garlic
2/3 cup chopped parsley
4 tablespoons fine dry breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon pimentón (paprika)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
½ cup white wine or dry cider
Lemon slices to serve

Cut two deep slits in the top of the fish. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper and allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Crumbs and pimentón to parsley.
Finely chop the garlic and parsley in a mini-processor. Place in a small bowl and add the breadcrumbs, pimentón and lemon zest.

Preheat oven to 475ºF.

Oil a shallow roasting pan or baking sheet and place the fish in it. Pour half of the oil over the fish. Spread the garlic-parsley-crumb mixture on top of the fish. Drizzle the remaining oil over the fish.

Ready for the oven, with a topping of parsley, garlic, pimentón and crumbs.

Roast the fish for 10 minutes. Remove and pour the wine or cider over. Roast 10 minutes more. Serve with lemon slices. 

More fish recipes for using horse mackerel:

Saturday, June 17, 2017


Eggplant (also known as aubergine) may be my favorite summer vegetable. It’s so incredibly versatile—fry it, roast it, stew it, pickle it. Eggplant pleases me, too, because it has a meaty umami-ness that makes it a good main ingredient for meatless meals. Think eggplant parm or eggplant stuffed with rice and pine nuts.

Sometimes I just want an easy side dish to go with roast chicken or grilled meat. This roasted eggplant with cheese does double-duty—as a side, it bakes alongside a roast and, for another day, becomes the main attraction, accompanied by rice or cous cous, for a vegetarian meal.

The blend of spices gives the eggplant a subtle, exotic flavor. Known as Mudéjar style, for the Moors who opted to stay in Spain under Christian dominion after the Reconquest in 1085, the spice blend includes cinnamon, black pepper, ginger, nutmeg and coriander.

A blend of spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander and pepper seasons the eggplant.

Melted cheese tops the slow-roasted eggplant.

Serve the eggplant as a side ---

--or as the main dish for a vegetarian meal. Don't those look like cutlets?

Roasted Eggplant with Cheese
Berenjenas con Queso al Horno

Serve eggplant hot or keep it for another day and serve it room temperature.

The spices and wine make candy of the slow-roasted eggplant. The eggplant skins are like a terrine, with roasting they become tough and are not meant to be eaten. While authentic Manchego cheese (a sheeps’ milk cheese) is best, you could substitute Parmesan, Gruyere, or pecorino.

I’m thinking the eggplant would work on a grill, too. Spread the halves with spices and oil and wrap them in foil. Once they are tender, unwrap and cover with cheese. Let it melt on the grill.

Serves 6 to 8 as a side; 3 or 4 as a main.

4 medium eggplant (2 ½ pounds)
¼ cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch cloves
Pinch ground ginger
Pinch ground coriander
Grating of fresh nutmeg
Pinch dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dry white wine
6 ounces aged Manchego cheese, grated (2 cups)

Cut off and discard stems and leaves. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise. With a sharp knife, make deep cuts in the flesh lengthwise and crosswise. Salt the eggplant and leave them, cut side down, to drain for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Score eggplant and sprinkle with spices.
Rinse the eggplant in water, drain well and pat dry with paper towel. Place the eggplant halves, cut side up, in a single layer in a baking pan. Drizzle with the olive oil. Combine the cinnamon, cloves, ginger, coriander, nutmeg, oregano, and pepper. Sprinkle the spices over the eggplant. Bake 15 minutes.

Pour the wine over the eggplant. Return to oven for 15 minutes. Turn the eggplant cut-side down and bake 30 minutes longer, or until they are fork tender.

Spread grated cheese on top, return to the oven to brown.

Turn cut side up again and spoon pan juices over the eggplant. (If pan is dry, add about ¼ cup of water.) Spread the grated cheese on top of the eggplant halves. Return to oven and bake until cheese is melted and lightly browned, 12-15 minutes.  Serve hot or room temperature.

More recipes with eggplant:

Pickled Eggplant.
Eggplant Tortilla.
Aubergine (Eggplant) Terrine.
Eggplant Timbale.
Fried Eggplant and Cheese Stacks.
Grilled Eggplant and Peppers (Escalivada).
Eggplant Pisto with Mackerel.
Microwave Baba Ghanoush.
Eggplant-Vegetable Medley (Pisto).

Saturday, June 10, 2017


The call came on a Sunday morning. “They’re falling!” said my friend Charlotte. Not the sky, but apricots, were dropping from the tree in her garden onto a cushion of grass. 

Charlotte picks the fruit off the ground twice a day. It piles up in heaps in her kitchen, awaiting cutting up. Her freezer is packed with fruit and, soon, pots of jam are simmering on the stove. Jars of apricot preserves line her pantry shelves.

Finally, overwhelmed, she invites me and other friends to come pick as much as we like. I usually take away enough apricots to provide months worth of fruit for luscious desserts.

Tree-ripened apricots, pits removed, ready for making jam or desserts.

In my kitchen, I wash the fruit, pit it and cut away any bruised bits. A free-stone variety, these apricots are easy to pit, just cut around the circumference, twist the halves to separate them and lift out the pit. I sprinkle the cut-up apricots liberally with lemon juice to prevent their darkening.

At this point, the apricots can be packed in plastic bags and frozen raw or lightly stewed first, which reduces their bulk, then bagged and frozen.

Apricots, which are native to China, were cultivated by the ancient Persians, who called them “golden eggs of the sun.” Though the Romans knew apricots as an imported delicacy, they weren’t grown in Europe—except in Spain—until after the Crusaders brought them back from the Middle East. In Spain, the Moors, gardeners and volupturaries, were growing and eating apricots much earlier. Spain is, today, one of the world’s largest producers of the fruit.

Unlike most market fruits, the apricot is extremely fragile. It must be picked when completely ripe, for it won’t ripen further afer picking. Because the fruit doesn’t travel well, it is found in the markets for only a short time. The bulk of the commercial crop, which comes primarily from Murcia (eastern Spain), is conserved or dried.

Of the several varieties of apricots, some are almost white, others deeply blushed with orange, yet others almost pink. The pale colored, sweet-fleshed ones seem best for eating raw, while the firmer, tart-sweet varieties are prized for sauces, glazes and desserts.

Store fresh apricots refrigerated and use them promptly. They are extraordinarily rich in pro-vitamin A as well as other vitamins and minerals.

I use most of my frozen apricots for making ice cream—actually, no-sugar frozen yogurt (a link to that recipe appears below). But to celebrate Charlotte’s fabulous apricot crop, I’ve made a luscious mousse that can be used as filling for a pie shell, spooned into dessert cups or placed in a decorative mold and frozen.

Creamy apricot mousse fills a pie shell of ground almonds.

The same mousse can be served in dessert cups.

Apricot Mousse
Mousse de Albaricoques

Apricot puree and whipped cream are soft-set with gelatin.

Mousse is an easy make-ahead dessert.

Gelatin and whipped cream give the mousse a dreamy soft-set texture. Prepare the mousse at least 12 hours before serving so it has time to chill and set. The apricots make a very pale-colored puree.

The quantities given make enough mousse for a large (10-inch) tart shell or 6 to 8 dessert cups. I used a 9-inch pie shell (recipe for almond pie crust is below) and had enough mousse to fill 3 dessert bowls as well.

Have the whipping cream well-chilled. Chill the mixing bowl (preferably metal) and beaters before whipping the cream. 

I don’t use sugar, so I sweetened the apricots with liquid stevia, a non-caloric sweetener. I’ve listed both sugar and stevia in the ingredients, so you can decide which you prefer.

1 tablespoon unflavored powdered gelatin
¼ cup water
2 ½ cups apricot puree
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¾ cup sugar OR 2 teaspoons liquid stevia (divided)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups whipping cream, chilled

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Allow it to soak for 5 minutes.

Combine the apricot puree with lemon juice and ½ cup sugar or 1 teaspoon stevia sweetener. Stir in the vanilla.

Melt the gelatin in a microwave on High for 20 seconds. Stir it to dissolve completely, then whisk it into the apricot mixture. Chill the apricot puree for 30 minutes until it begins to thicken.

Whip the chilled cream until it holds soft peaks. Beat in ¼ cup sugar or 1 teaspoon stevia sweetener.

Fold cream into apricots.
Whisk a quarter of the cream into the apricot mixture. Using a spatula, gently fold in the remaining cream.

Ladle the apricot-cream into individual dessert cups, a baked crumb crust pie shell or, to freeze, a decorative oiled mold.

Chill (or freeze) the mousse at least 12 hours. Keep the mousse or pie refrigerated until immediately before serving.

If desired, top the desserts with sliced apricots.

Almond Crumb Crust
Pastel de Almendras para Tarta

Apricots and almonds are a match made in heaven. This crust starts out crisp, but after setting with the mousse mixture, it becomes cake-y in texture. Use a mild extra virgin olive oil, such as the Arbequina variety, to make the crust.

Unsweetened ground almonds.
¼ cup mild extra virgin olive oil
2 cups (unsweetened) ground almonds
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1 egg white
2 tablespoons cold water

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Dip 2 fingers into the oil and grease a 10-inch pie pan or tart pan.

In a bowl, combine the ground almonds with the salt and sugar, if using.

In a small bowl, combine the egg white and water and stir to combine.

Add the oil to the almonds. Add the egg white to the almonds. Use a fork to stir until combined.

Press almond mixture into pie pan.

Spread the almond mixture in the oiled pie pan and press it firmly in the bottom and part way up the sides of the pan.

Bake the pie crust until golden, about 20 minutes. Let it cool before filling with the apricot mousse.

Bake crust until crisp.

Oh look! Apricots are finished, but the nectarines are starting! My tree is loaded with fruit this year. Time to start gathering them, some to eat out-of-hand, most to cut up and freeze. The apricot recipes work equally well with nectarines or peaches.

Here are more recipes for using apricots and similar fruits:

Cheese Custard Tart with Fruit.
Fruit Ice Cream.
 Nectarine Mousse with Yogurt.
Loquat Mousse.
Figgy Fritters.
Dried Apricot Bars.
Pork Chops with Apricot-Vinegar Sauce.
Apricot Barbecue Sauce.

Sunday, June 4, 2017


I rarely eat beef. In eight years of blogging about Spanish food, I’ve written about beef only six  times—two stews, meatballs, hash, steak sandwich and beef tongue.

But, every now and then, maybe once every six months, I get a hankering for steak. Maybe it’s my Midwestern roots. Where I grew up, we ate steak maybe every other week, a big sirloin to feed a family of six. 

Chuletón--a big rib steak, this one of vaca--cow--, sliced off the bone.

Although bullfighting has a long legacy in Spain’s culture, raising beef cattle for eating does not. The reason is that much of the land is too arid to provide good rangeland and pasturage. Only in Spain’s green north and parts of central Castilla were cattle traditionally raised, both for meat and dairy.

Cattle were slaughtered young because it wasn’t profitable to feed them longer. Called ternera; meaning “veal,” the meat usually was yearling beef; having neither the succulence of baby veal nor the juicy, red meat flavor of a full-grown steer.

Nowadays, encouraged by European subsidies, Spain produces superb beef. And many Spaniards eat plenty of it.  In fact, the best steak I’ve ever eaten in my life was in—not Chicago or Kansas City—but Madrid, in a Basque restaurant serving Galician beef. It was a chuletón de vaca, a massive rib “chop,” grilled over a wood fire, then carved off the bone.

Chuletón de vaca--rib steak of Galician cow, dry-aged more than 30 days.

Entrecôte of boneless yearling beef.

Here’s a glossary of beef words:
Ternera blanca: white veal, up to 8 months.
Ternera, “veal,” 8-12 months.
Añojo: “yearling,” slaughtered at 12-24 months.
Novillo: Young bull, or novilla, heifer. Slaughtered at 24-48 months.
Cebón.: Fattened steer, castrated male, up to 48 months.
Buey; The word means “beef” or “ox.” Designates castrated steer at least 48 months. The word used to be used for any big steak. Now, price usually indicates whether the meat is really “beef” or “cow.” 
Vaca: “Cow,” minimum 48 months. (Usually means dairy cow.) Beef from cows is excellent.
Madurado: Aged, dry-aged beef.
Chuletón: Bone-in rib steak, usually of buey or vaca. Big cut of meat.
Entrecôte; Boneless steak cut from “between the ribs,.” May be from lomo alto or lomo bajo. This is the cut most commonly served in restaurants.
Solomillo: tenderloin, fillet.

In my steak experiments, I tried a chuletón (bone-in) of Galician vaca (2 pounds, costing about $24), aged more than 30 days, and an entrecote of añojo (boneless) (2 pounds 10 ounces, costing about $20). The chuletón was seared in a cast-iron skillet and finished in the oven. The entrecôte was cooked on a wood-fired grill.

Heat cast iron skillet smoking hot. Sear the steak 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to preheated 375ªF oven for 3-4 minutes.

My steak is a little overcooked. For rare, cook meat to internal temperature of  125ªF. For medium-rare, cook to 135ºF. Let the meat rest 5- 10minutes before slicing.

Let steak rest 5-10 minutes before slicing. Cut around the bone, then slice the meat thickly perpendicular to the bone.

Sautéed mushrooms make a savory steak sauce or side dish.

The chuletón is juicy, succulent, but chewy.

Salt the meat before or after cooking? I say, afterwards. Use coarse salt once the steak is sliced.

This is the entrecôte of añojo on the parilla.

Forget the heavy macho wines with steak! Serve tinto de verano--fresh red wine with fizzy lemon soda and ice.

Let the steak rest 5-10 minutes before slicing. Meanwhile, serve a starter of sliced melon with serrano ham.

Ben, the grilling maestro, carves the entrecôte.

Sprinkle coarse salt on the meat after it is sliced.

Mushroom Sauté to Go with Steak
Salteado de Champiñones para Acompañar el Chuletón

6-8 ounces mushrooms, such as portabello
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup chopped piquillo pepper
Red pepper flakes, to taste
2 tablespoons brandy
2 teaspoons Sherry vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup meat juices
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Wipe the mushrooms clean. Cut them in half and slice them thinly.

Heat the oil in a skillet and add the shallot and garlic. Sauté until garlic begins to turn golden. Add the mushrooms and sauté them until they begin to brown. Add the piquillo pepper and red pepper flakes.

Add the brandy and let the alcohol cook off, 2 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

Set the mushrooms aside until the steak is grilled. After slicing the steak, pour meat juices into the mushrooms and reheat them. Serve with chopped parsley.

Chimichurri Sauce for Grilled Steak
Salsa Chimichurri para Carnes a la Parilla

Chimichurri is a sauce famous in Argentina, but it’s found its way into Spain’s cooking too, especially with foods cooked a la parilla—on the grill. It’s piquant enough to complement grilled meat, but it’s also good on baked potato, roasted ears of corn, green beans, roasted squash slices.--

1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup boiling water
5 cloves garlic
1 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Red pepper flakes, to taste
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Dissolve the salt in the boiling water. Allow it to cool.

Chop the garlic in a mini-processor. Add the parsley and cilantro leaves and process until finely chopped. Add the oregano, red pepper flakes and vinegar. Blend in the oil, then the salt water.

Store the sauce, covered and refrigerated. Serve it at room temperature.

Beefsteak Tomatoes with Anchovy Dressing
Tomates con Aliño de Anchoa

Salty anchovies in this simple dressing bring out the sweetness of the tomatoes.

3 anchovy fillets, drained and minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 large beefsteak tomatoes, sliced
Chopped chives
Grated toast crumbs (optional)

Combine the minced anchovy in a small bowl with the pepper, oregano and oil.
Arrange the sliced tomatoes on a serving plate. Drizzle them with the anchovy dressing. Sprinkle with chopped chives and toast crumbs.

Three Bean Salad
Ensaladilla de Tres Alubias

Combine three kinds of cooked beans for this salad that goes well with grilled foods.

2 cups cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup sliced green beans, cooked to taste
1 cup sliced yellow wax beans, cooked to taste
Fresh cooked shelling beans (optional)
¼ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup chopped piquillo peppers
1 hard-cooked egg, chopped
¼ cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar

Combine all the beans in a bowl. Add the onion, piquillo pepper, egg and celery. Add oil and salt and mix. Salad can be prepared up to this point in advance and refrigerated, covered, until serving time.
Shortly before serving add the vinegar.

Rustic Beef Stew with Sausage.
"Ropa Vieja" Hash.
Beef and Chickpea Flour Meatballs.
"Altogether" Beef Stew.
Braised Beef Tongue.
Pepito Steak Sandwich.