Saturday, October 1, 2022



Mangos grown in Málaga, Osteen variety, are in season now.

My little mango tree again produced a single fruit. It was the best mango I’ve ever eaten, but it was soon gone. Happily, Málaga mangos are in season. I bought locally-grown ones from the couple who has a clothing shop that I pass on the way to the market. So, for a few weeks, I’m rolling in mangos. Besides breakfast, maybe a mango tart?

Luscious. no-bake mango tart has cuajada, cream cheese and whipped cream and is set with gelatin. An easy crumb crust doesn't need baking either. 

Diced fresh mango can be scattered on top of the tart before chilling or served alongside. Alternatively, cook the mango with sugar and ginger and spoon the fruit and syrup over the slices when serving.

Whipped cream makes a very rich mango mousse, but low-fat products can be used instead.

Option: instead of filling a tart shell with the mousse, spoon it into dessert coupes. They can be served chilled or frozen.

Mix and match the dairy components of this tart. At the bottom left are small cartons, of cuajada, unsweetened milk custard. Clockwise, above, is mascarpone, a cream cheese that can be substituted for the "original" cream cheese at the bottom. "Estilo griego" is thick Greek-style yogurt, much tangier than cuajada. On the upper right is "queso fresco batido," a no-fat, whipped fresh cheese, somewhat like cottage cheese in taste. On the right is "nata para montar," whipping cream. In the center is no-fat plain yogurt. Other ingredients, not shown, that could be used to make the mousse are requesón, which is similar to ricotta, and cottage cheese.

This week someone brought a lovely no-bake cheesecake with a fruit topping to a friend’s birthday party. The cheesecake wasn’t set with gelatin, but with cuajada. I was intrigued.

Cuajada, unmolded.

Cuajada is a sort of “custard” with no eggs. Cuajo, an enzyme (rennet or junket), sets the custard. Cuajada is, basically, the first step in cheese making. But, instead of cutting the curds and draining off the whey, the thickened milk is poured into cups and allowed to cuajar, set. Cuajada is served with honey, fruit and nuts, an old-fashioned traditional dessert in Euskadi (Basque Land).

In Spain, supermarkets sell packets of powdered ready-mix cuajada, similar to junket pudding mix in the U.S. This is what is used to make the no-bake cheesecake. The cuajada powder contains sugar, which I don’t use. Instead, I bought cups of prepared, ready-to-eat. unsweetened cuajada  in the dairy section. However, as the prepared cuajada was already coagulated, it wouldn’t work for setting the cheesecake. I used it as if it were yogurt or whipped cottage cheese to make a creamy, airy mango mousse with gelatin to fill the tart shell. 

You can mix and match the dairy components. Use yogurt, cottage cheese or ricotta to replace the cuajada. Use more cream cheese and less yogurt and call the tart a “cheesecake.” Use non-fat yogurt and reduced-fat sour “cream” for a less rich version. Or, up the quantity of fruit and decrease the dairy component. Total volume of ingredients, fruit plus dairy, should be about 5 ½ cups for the given amount of gelatin. 

Mangos (also figs) are so sweet that they hardly need added sugar in this dessert. Lemon juice points up their sweetness but isn’t needed to prevent oxidation, as mangos don’t darken with exposure to air. Most varieties of mango are somewhat fibrous. If you want an absolutely smooth mousse, after pureeing the fruit with the yogurt or cuajada and cream cheese, press the mixture through a sieve to remove fibrous bits. 

If you prefer a soft-set mango mousse, decrease the gelatin and place the cream in dessert cups instead of the tart shell. Serve it with a spoon. 

Use any favorite crumb crust, store bought, baked or no-bake. A 10-inch fluted flan ring with removable bottom is perfect for this tart, but it can also be made in a pie pan, springform mold or individual tart molds. (My tart, pictured, is smaller because I made the crumb crust first and then realized I had more than enough mango cream to fill it. The remainder filled four dessert cups.) Both the tart and dessert cups can be frozen. 

No-Bake Mango Tart
Tarta de Mango sin Horno

How many mangos? Depends on their size. A one-pounder will make enough chopped fruit for this recipe. Smaller ones, you'll need two or three. 

Easy way to cut a mango.
You can peel whole mangos, then slice the flesh from the flattened center pit. Or, place a whole mango upright on the cutting board and slice downwards on both sides of the pit. Instead of peeling, score the pulp with a sharp knife, then gently bend the mango half so that it opens up into segments. Cut them away from the skin.

Serves 10.

1 ½ cups chopped mango (12-14 ounces peeled and pitted)
4 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
2 cups plain (unsweetened) cuajada or yogurt 
½ cup (4 ounces) cream cheese, softened
Zest of a small lemon
3 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon grated ginger
4 tablespoons sugar OR ½ teaspoon liquid stevia (optional)
1 ½ cups whipping cream, chilled
Crumb crust for a 10-inch pan (recipe follows)
Chopped fresh mango or mango in syrup, to serve

Peel and chop mangos to make 1 ½ cups. 

Place the water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin into it. Allow to soak for at least 5 minutes.

Puree mango with yogurt.

Combine the cuajada or yogurt, cream cheese and chopped mango in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Add the lemon zest and juice and ginger. Taste the mango cream mixture. If it needs sweetening, add 2 tablespoons of the sugar OR ¼ teaspoon of the stevia. 

Add the softened gelatin to the processor and blend again until smooth.

Place the whipping cream in a large chilled bowl and, using chilled beaters, whip it until it holds soft peaks. Beat in remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar OR ¼ teaspoon of stevia.

Fold mango into cream.

Fold the mango mixture into the whipped cream until thoroughly combined. Spread the filling evenly in the crumb crust. Chill the tart at least 8 hours before serving.

Serve slices of the tart with chopped fresh mango or mango that has been cooked in sugar syrup with a piece of ginger. 

No-Bake Crumb Crust
Pastel de Galletas sin Horno

This crumb crust is not baked. It needs to be chilled before filling with the mango mousse, so make it first. Mix melted butter with cookie crumbs and press into a tart pan. Chill the crust or, if you’re in a hurry, place the tart pan in the freezer. 

In Spain, use galletas María, plain, not-too-sweet, cookies, to make the crumbs. Graham crackers or any cookie or cracker can be used. Grind them to crumbs in a food processor or place the cookies in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin. Add crushed almonds or walnuts, if you like. If using cracker crumbs, you may want to add a spoonful of sugar to the crumbs.

Flavor the crust any way you like. I added crushed aniseed, but cinnamon would also be good. 

This crust can also be baked to make a crisper shell for the tart. (See below for more crust options.)

1 ½ cups cookie or cracker crumbs
Sugar (optional)
1/8 teaspoon aniseed, crushed
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted

Combine crumbs, sugar, if using, aniseed and melted butter. Mix thoroughly. Spread the mixture in the tart pan. Using hands or a flat utensil (bottom of a cup, for instance), press the crumb mixture firmly and evenly in the pan. Refrigerate at least 2 hours so the butter solidifies.

More recipes with mangos:

More recipes for tart crusts;

Saturday, September 24, 2022



The Juan Sebastián de Elcano sails into Sanlúcar de Barrameda as part of the V Centenary celebrations commemorating the first voyage around the world. (Photo La Voz de Cádiz)

One September day, 500 years ago, a single ship, the Nao Victoria, arrived in Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Cádiz) with 18 of the original crew that set out to sail west to the Spice Islands.

The voyage began in 1519, when five Spanish ships with 247 men on board under the command of explorer Fernando de Magallanes (aka Magellan) left Sanlúcar. Like Columbus before him, Magallanes envisioned finding a route to Asia and the East Indies by sailing west from Europe.

Magallanes never made it back. (He was killed by natives in the Philippine Islands.) Juan Sebastián Elcano, a Basque, commanded the Victoria, the only remaining ship, from the Asian ocean (named “Pacific” by the explorers), around Africa and home to Sanlúcar, arriving September 1522. The Elcano, named in his honor, is a training ship of the Spanish navy. 

Sanlúcar harbor was the setting for the 500th anniversary celebrations. The ship Elcano, under the command of reigning King Felipe VI, in white dress uniform, arrived under full sail at Sanlúcar, along with a replica of the Victoria, naval vessels and helicopters for the commemoration of the circumnavigation of the globe. 

In celebratory mode, Sanlúcar, where globalization began, was named the Capital Gastronómica de España 2022. An occasion to celebrate the food and drink of this city situated where the Guadalquivir River flows into the Atlantic Ocean. 

Sanlúcar is famous for its seafood—in particular, the langostinos de Sanlúcar, tiger shrimp; for its Manzanilla (Sherry), and for its potatoes.(See below for more recipes typical of Sanlúcar.) 

Langostinos are in short supply this season, as, apparently, global warming has affected the catch. Instead, I am celebrating Sanlúcar with a favorite Sanlúcar tapa bar specialty, tortillitas de camarones, crispy shrimp fritters.

Tortillitas de camarones are fritters made with a kind of tiny shrimp found in waters around Sanlúcar de Barrameda. 

Make the tortillitas big or small.

Manzanilla from Sanlúcar is the perfect accompaniment to these fritters. Although, a cold beer goes nicely too.

Crisp, lacy edges of the fritters.

Shrimp Fritters
Tortillitas de Camarones

Camarones are tiny shrimp, unpeeled.

Camarones are not baby shrimp, but a diminutive variety of shellfish that thrive in the estuaries around Sanlúcar. In the markets of Cádiz, you’ll find them in baskets, still jumping around like grasshoppers. They go into the batter, shells and all, giving an extra crunch to the fritters. (Camarones are also “harvested” by aquaculture.) 

The secret to these fritters is getting the batter thin enough so that it can be spread to a lacy pancake in the frying pan. Some cooks use agua con gas (seltzer) instead of water to make the fritters lacy. Chickpea flour adds flavor and texture but can be substituted for all wheat flour, if preferred. 

Olive oil for frying is essential. It needs to be about 1/2-inch deep in the skillet so the fritters can float on the oil.

If these tiny shrimp are not available, make the fritters with peeled shrimp that have been coarsely chopped. Optional additions to the fritter batter: chopped seaweed, corn kernels, red pepper flakes. 

Makes 10-12 (6-inch) fritters.

6 ounces camarones (tiny shrimp)
1 cup flour
1 cup chickpea flour
1 ¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½+ cups ice water
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
1/3 cup finely chopped scallions or onion
½ ounce seaweed such as wakame or sea spaghetti (optional)
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Olive oil for frying the fritters

Place the camarones in a bowl and add cold water to cover. Sluice them around and pick out and discard any bits such as detached heads, antenna or other debris. Drain very well.

Thin the batter with ice water.
In a mixing bowl combine the two kinds of flour and salt. Add 1 cup of the ice water and whisk to blend into a smooth batter. Add the parsley, scallions and camarones. If using the seaweed, soak it for 10 minutes in water, then drain and chop. Add to the batter. Fold all of the ingredients into the batter. Cover and refrigerate the batter 30 minutes.

When ready to fry the fritters, thin the batter with additional ice water. Place oil in a skillet to the depth of ½ inch. Heat the oil until shimmering, but not smoking. 

Scoop up batter with a small ladle or large spoon. Make the fritters any size desired. Drop the batter into the oil and immediately use the back of the spoon to spread it as thinly as possible. Fry the fritter until golden-brown, turn and fry the reverse side. 

Remove the fritters as they are fried and drain on paper towels. Serve them recently fried (or reheat in a skillet with no additional oil).

Market in Sanlúcar. The famous langostinos are at the top.

More recipes from Sanlúcar de Barrameda

Saturday, September 17, 2022



Black rice--like paella, but of a different color. 

World Paella Day is coming ‘round again (Tuesday, September 20), a grand occasion to get out the paella pans. But instead of the classic Valencia paella, golden with saffron, I am making black paella, using squid ink to color the rice. Also heretical, I’m using chorizo—forbidden to true believers. OK, so my rice dish is not really paella, it’s arroz negro. But, I’m making it in a paella pan with true Valencia paella rice, so I figure it’s acceptable for World Paella Day.

Arroz negro, a specialty of Alicante, is as traditional as paella is in Valencia. Like paella, it starts with a sofrito to which cuttlefish and shrimp are typically added. No, it wouldn’t include chorizo. 

I totally “get it,” that paella is about the flavorful rice, not the add-ins. You’re not overcooking the shrimp, you’re flavoring the rice. Nevertheless, I decided to save the delicate fresh shrimp as a topping for the rice instead of cooking with them. I used the shells and fish trimmings to make a flavorful seafood stock.

Medium-short grain rice.

About Spanish rice. Paella rice is a round, medium-short variety (usually Sénia, Bahía or Bomba). It has a white perla (pearl) where the starch is concentrated. Its great virtue is as a flavor conductor, soaking up the savory juices with which the rice cooks—olive oil sofrito; chicken, rabbit or seafood; saffron. Paella rice (often called “Valencian,” because it is grown there) is similar to Italian rice varieties used for risotto. But the cooking method is totally different. Risotto is stirred to develop the creamy starch. Paella rice, cooked “dry,” is never stirred, as stirring would break up the starch kernel.

My local fish vendor didn’t have cuttlefish, so I bought potón, thick rings of giant squid. Cooked with the sofrito and rice, about 20 minutes, they were very tender. The chorizo added flavor, making a mar y tierra (surf and turf) rice. (Pescatarians can omit the chorizo.) Black rice is usually served with alioli, garlic mayonnaise. I chose to use the shrimp as a topping and roasted peppers as a garnish, so I omitted the alioli.  

Black Rice, like paella, although it’s not loaded with protein material, can be served as a main dish if preceded by hors d’oeuvres, salad or a starter. It also makes a dramatic starter. Instead of bringing the paella pan to the table, serve the rice and its garnishes already plated. Black rice makes a good side for a plate of grilled jumbo shrimp or other shellfish.

Top the rice with sizzling garlic shrimp.

Or, plate the rice and serve with bright peppers as garnish and topped with shrimp.

Shrimp with garlic and parsley create a sauce for the rice.

Black Rice with Garlic Shrimp
Arroz Negro con Gambas al Ajillo

If you use store-bought fish stock, you may not need to salt the rice. Taste the liquid in the pan and add additional salt as needed. (A recipe for seafood stock is here.)

Spoonful of squid ink.

Frozen squid or cuttlefish ink (tinta de calamar) in small packets (sobres) can usually be found where frozen fish is sold. I also have found a pasteurized version in jars at some fish markets. The ink, a thick gel, is also widely used to make black pasta and black breads (hamburger buns, for example). 

How much ink to use? Start with 1 tablespoon for the given amount of rice. I added another spoonful, because I wanted it really black. Stir the ink into some of the cooking liquid before adding it to the pan. Fresh (never frozen) squid have usable ink sacs. But, it takes quite a few of them to make enough ink to color the rice. 

Serves 4-6.
Thick rings of potón, giant squid.

12 ounces cleaned squid 
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 ounces chorizo, diced
¾ cup chopped onions
½ cup chopped green pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon pimentón de la Vera (smoked paprika)
2 medium tomatoes, grated (½ cup pulp)
1 ½ cups València rice
1/3 cup white wine
1-2 tablespoons squid or cuttlefish ink
4 ½ cup fish or shellfish stock, heated
Sautéed red peppers, to serve (recipe follows)
Garlic-fried shrimp, to serve (recipe below)
Sliced lemon, to serve

Cut the tube-shaped squid body into 1-inch pieces. Cut tentacles in half if they are large. Pat the squid dry.

Heat the oil in a paella pan. Fry the diced chorizo. Skim it out and reserve it. Add the pieces of squid and sauté them on moderate heat for 5 minutes. Add the onions, green pepper and garlic. Sauté them until onion is softened, 5 minutes. Stir in the pimentón and mix in well. Add the grated tomatoes. Continue cooking the sofrito 5 minutes.

Add rice to the sofrito in paella pan.

Add the rice and fry it 1 minute. Add the wine and cook off the alcohol. Mix the squid ink in ½ cup of the stock. Stir it into the rice. Add 3 ½ cups of the hot stock. Return the pieces of chorizo to the pan (save a few pieces of chorizo to garnish the top of the rice once cooked). Taste the liquid and add salt to taste. Season with pepper. 

Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce heat slightly so the rice keeps bubbling. Stir well to mix all the ingredients, then try not to stir again. Cook the rice 10 minutes.

Lower heat and add additional stock as needed. Cook until the rice is just tender and liquid is absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat and cover it with foil or a cloth. Allow to rest at least 5 minutes to finish cooking.

Serve the black rice in the pan or plated accompanied by the sautéed red peppers and the garlic shrimp. Garnish with lemon slices.

Sautéed Red Peppers
Pimientos Rojos Salteados

Use canned piquillo peppers, fire-roasted red peppers or roast your own bell peppers for this garnish.

Roasted and peeled red peppers
Olive oil
Slivered onions
Salt and Pepper
2 teaspoons Sherry vinegar

Cut the peppers into thin strips. Heat oil in a small skillet and sauté the peppers with the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until onions are softened, about 8 minutes. Add the vinegar and cook 1 minute longer. Serve hot or room temperature as an accompaniment with the black rice.

Shrimp Sautéed with Garlic
Gambas al Ajillo

This method is slightly different from the tapa-bar version of gambas al ajillo. Served as a topping for the Black Rice, it has lemon juice and chopped parsley added.

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 tiny chile
6 ounces small, peeled shrimp
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
Flaky salt

Heat the oil in a small skillet. Slice the cloves of garlic thinly crosswise. Add to the skillet with the chile. Sauté until garlic begins to turn golden. Skim out the chile and discard it. Add the shrimp to the oil, Stir-fry them just until they begin to turn pink. Add the lemon juice and water. Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the parsley immediately before serving the shrimp. Sprinkle with flaky salt.

Spoon the shrimp over the black rice in the pan or plated.

More ways to make paella:

Mercado Little Spain in New York City is marking World Paella Day on September 20. Or, get your paella-making kit from their product selection.