Saturday, September 30, 2023


Country-style rice cazuela with rabbit, mushrooms and asparagus.

I was definitely looking for something that wasn’t chicken. Or fish, for that matter. And, what should appear, but a package of cut-up rabbit in the meat section at the supermarket. Rabbit it is. Hopefully it will bring good luck for a new month, a new season.

Rabbit once was widely hunted in Spain, a nice addition to Sunday dinner or the paella pan. Nowadays it is farm-raised. Rabbit is a lean and tender meat, very tasty, not in the least gamey. I’m cooking the chunky pieces, not in paella, but in a cazuela de arroz, rice cooked in a cazuela, country style.
“Cazuela” refers to an earthenware cooking dish, usually wide and fairly shallow, as well as the food cooked in it. Experienced cooks use these clay vessels on a gas stove as well as in the oven. However, as more and more home cooks switch to induction cooking (me included), earthenware is used less and less. Use any wide sauté or braising pan or flat-bottomed wok for cazuela recipes.

This country-style cazuela is finished with a majado or picada, a mixture of fried garlic and almonds mashed up in a mortar (use your mini-food processor) with pieces of the rabbit liver (chicken liver can be substituted). If you do not have or prefer not to use the liver, use a slice of fried bread instead. 

Cultivated oyster mushrooms.
If seasonal wild mushrooms are available, use them in this country dish. Otherwise, ordinary mushrooms such as oyster mushrooms or other cultivated ones can be used. Use any vegetable, foraged or cultivated, in place of the asparagus. (Tip: if you want the asparagus to keep its bright green color, instead of cooking it with the rice as directed in the recipe, blanch it in boiling water and add to the rice at the end of the cooking time.)

Use Spanish short-grain rice, the same type as for paella, preferably the Bomba variety. Bomba rice is forgiving, cooking “al dente” without becoming mushy as other varieties can do if not carefully timed. The rice in this cazuela is cooked “meloso,” or juicy, not dry like paella. You will need triple the quantity of liquid to the volume of rice: for 1 ½ cups rice, use 4½ cups stock. Save a half-cup of the liquid to mix with the ground almonds. Don’t stir the rice while it cooks, as stirring develops the starch, making gummy rice.

I’ve used half a rabbit, about 1 ¼ pounds, cut into two- to three-inch pieces. You don’t eat rabbit? Try the recipe substituting cut-up chicken.

Rice is cooked meloso, somewhat juicy, rather than dry, like paella rice.

Country-style means you can eat the rabbit with your fingers! 

Country-Style Rice in Cazuela with Rabbit
Cazuela Campera de Arroz con Conejo

Half a rabbit, cut in chunky pieces.

Serves 4. 

1 ¼ pounds rabbit pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
Thyme, leaves and sprigs
4 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 rabbit or chicken liver
10 almonds
2 tablespoons parsley
5 peppercorns
¼ teaspoon saffron threads
4½ cups stock or water
1 cup chopped onion
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 ½ cups sliced asparagus
¼ cup dry white wine
1 ½ cups short-grain rice
Lemon wedges to serve (optional)

Sprinkle the pieces of rabbit with salt, pepper and thyme leaves and allow them to come to room temperature.

Sofrito with meat, onions, garlic, mushrooms
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a cazuela/pan on medium heat. Fry two of the cloves of garlic, the liver cut in three pieces and the almonds until they are golden. Skim them out of the pan and place in a mortar or mini-processor. 

Crush the peppercorns and saffron in a mortar and add to the mini-processor with the other ingredients. Blend to make a paste. Blend in ½ cup of the stock or water. Reserve this mixture.

Add remaining 3 tablespoons of oil to the pan. Brown the pieces of rabbit on medium heat, 5 minutes. Add the chopped onion and continue sautéing 5 minutes. Chop the remaining 3 cloves of garlic and add to the pan. 

Add the mushrooms and asparagus and sauté 5 minutes. Add the wine and stir to loosen any browned bits in the pan. Let the alcohol cook off, 1 minute, then add 4 cups of the stock. Bring the liquid to a boil. Taste and add salt if needed. Add sprigs of thyme. Stir in the rice, distributing it evenly.

Add mashed almonds and liver when rice is nearly cooked.

Cook the rice on medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Stir the rice again and lower the heat. Cook, without stirring the rice again, until the rice is nearly tender, 10 minutes. Shake the pan to keep the rice from sticking on the bottom, but do not stir.

Add the mixture of liver-almonds-saffron, distributing it with as little stirring as possible. Continue cooking 3 minutes. Allow the rice to set 5 minutes before serving. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

More rabbit recipes:

More versions of rice in cazuela:

Saturday, September 23, 2023


Cabbage, all dressed up for autumn.

There’s no better relish to accompany a summer’s grill meal than crunchy coleslaw. No soup more warming than a cabbage and bean potaje. For every season, there is a cabbage dish. For this transition into cold weather, here’s a cabbage recipe that can go either way. It works as a cold dish, perhaps alongside grilled salmon, or a side, cozying up with roast pork. 

The seasoning for the cabbage is caraway seed (alcaravea), a spice not nearly so common in Spanish cooking as its near-relative, cumin (comino).  Caraway turns up in the cooking of La Mancha and inland Murcia. In this recipe, I’ve called for a very small quantity, but if you like the flavor, add as much as a teaspoon of caraway. Don’t add the caraway to the cooked cabbage until you remove it from the heat to avoid turning it bitter. 

Autumn fruit: pomegranate.

The (optional) garnish of red pomegranate arils marks the dish as autumnal. The sweet-tangy flavor of this fall fruit complements cabbage, both raw and cooked. 

For a crunchy, slaw-like salad, blanch the chopped or shredded cabbage for only one minute. For crisp-tender, boil about five minutes. For completely soft vegetables, cook the cabbage 15 minutes.  

Cook cabbage crisp-tender. 

Cabbage, raw or cooked, cold or hot, makes a fine side dish with meat, chicken, fish.

Crisp croutons and jewel-like pomegranate give cabbage a fancy touch.

Murcia-Style Cabbage with Garlic and Caraway
Col Estilo de Murcia

2 pounds cabbage (8 cups, chopped)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
½ teaspoon coarse salt
10 peppercorns
1/8 teaspoon caraway seeds
¼ cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cup diced bread (1-2 slices, crusts removed)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Pomegranate to garnish (optional)

Chop cabbage in pieces.

Remove outer leaves and core of the cabbage.  Chop the cabbage into small pieces. Bring a pot of water (about 10 cups) to a boil. Add the vinegar and 1 tablespoon of salt. Add the chopped cabbage and cook to desired doneness, about 5 minutes for crisp-tender. (Save a cupful of cabbage cooking water.) Drain the cabbage.

In a mortar crush the coarse salt, peppercorns and caraway seeds. Reserve.

Heat the oil in the same pot in which the cabbage cooked. Fry the sliced garlic and diced bread just until they are golden. Skim them out. Return the cabbage to the pot with the remaining oil. Reheat the cabbage in the remaining oil, adding some of the reserved cooking water, if necessary. Remove from the heat and stir in the spices from the mortar. 

Immediately before serving, toss the cabbage with the fried garlic and croutons. Garnish the cabbage with kernels of pomegranate, if desired.  

More cabbage recipes:

Saturday, September 16, 2023


Small clams plus garlic flavor a simple soup made creamy with olive oil and crushed pine nuts. 

I swore, no more cookbooks. But, when a book featuring recipes from every pueblo in the province of Málaga appeared, I could not resist. Entre Berza y Pringá, las Recetas de Málaga Pueblo a Pueblo, by Ana Abellán Ciudad (ColandCol Ediciones; 2023), has recipes for 103 dishes “that speak to us of a culture of sustenance” and tell the story of a region, both rich and poor, that extends from beaches to mountains.  (The author blogs about the food of Málaga province here .)

Of course, I turned immediately to the pages dedicated to my own village, Mijas, a whitewashed hillside pueblo overlooking the Mediterranean sea. The entry I found was for Sopa de Limón con Almejas—Lemon Soup with Clams. 

Here’s a rough translation of Ana Abellán’s recipe: Cook clams in water or fish stock with olive oil, garlic, parsley and saffron. Once the clams open, add the juice of a couple of lemons and salt to taste. Place strips of day-old bread in soup bowls and ladle the soup over them. Allow the bread to soak up some of the soup. Ya está—that’s it. 

The soup is a good example of the traditional kitchen—local ingredients such as clams that can be gathered for free or purchased for little money, combined with the basics of oil and garlic, given substance with bread. The soup varies with the region. Another version from my own village (from the book Gastronomía Tradicional Mijeña by Remedios Valenzuela) calls for potatoes instead of bread. In Galicia, famous for its shellfish, clam soup usually contains fideos, thin noodles. In Las Marismas, the marshlands at the mouth of the Guadalquivir, pine nuts gathered in the region as well as bread go into the soup. 

The following recipe is a slightly refined version of that soup, which might have been prepared by hunters camping out, who could gather pine nuts and clams, but who probably didn't have a lemon at hand. 

A good fish stock (there’s a recipe here ) enhances the soup, but is not essential as the clams make their own broth. The clams can be shelled or not before incorporating in the soup. Unshelled, they make a satisfying clacking noise when ladled into bowls. If serving them unshucked, provide bowls at the table for the shells. For a more substantial soup, instead of beating the eggs into the soup, poach one egg per person and place the poached egg on top of the toasted bread in the bowl before ladling the soup over it.

Toasted bread soaks up the flavorful clam broth.

Pine nuts both thicken the soup and, added as garnish, provide a texture contrast.

The soup is as creamy as chowder, but dairy-free.

Mediterranean pine nuts.

Where pine nuts come from: These are the nuts (actually, seeds) of the Mediterranean stone pine (Pinus pinea). I have a trio of pine trees growing alongside my patio. However, the nuts are fiendish to, first, prise out of the pine cones, then crack and extract the kernels, which must be skinned. It’s easier to buy them! However, the ones at the market are usually imported Chinese pine nuts. 

Clam Soup with Pine Nuts 
Sopa de Almejas con Piñones

Carril clams from Galicia.

Serves 4.

1 pound small clams
¼ cup olive oil + additional for the toasts
½ cup pine nuts 
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons dry Sherry (optional)
4 cups fish stock or water
2 eggs, beaten
Sliced bread, toasted
Lemon wedges, to serve

Fill a bowl with water and add a teaspoon of salt. Stir to dissolve. Rinse the clams and place them in the bowl for 1 hour to disgorge any sand in their shells. Drain and rinse the clams again. 

Place the clams in a pan with ½ cup of water. Place the pan on high heat, cover the pan and cook until clam shells open, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Shake or stir the clams if some haven’t opened. Remove clams with a slotted spoon and reserve them. If desired, some or all of the clams can be shelled. Strain the remaining clam broth through a fine sieve and reserve it.

Fried pine nuts and garlics.
Heat the oil in a pan on medium heat. Add the pine nuts and garlics. Fry them, stirring constantly, until they are golden. Remove the pan from the heat and tip it so that the oil flows to one side. Skim out the pine nuts and garlics. Save a few pine nuts to garnish the soup. Place the remainder with the garlics in a mortar or mini-food processor with 1 tablespoon of coarsely chopped parsley. Grind or process to make a paste. 

Stir the flour into the oil remaining in the pan. Stir in the pine nut and garlic mixture. Cook on medium heat while stirring. Add the reserved clam broth, the Sherry, if using, and the fish stock. Keep stirring as the soup thickens slightly. Cook 10 minutes.

Place the beaten eggs in a blender container. With the blender running, slowly add one or two cups of the hot soup to the eggs. Blend until smooth. Whisk the egg mixture back into the soup. Return the clams to the soup and heat gently. Do not boil the soup after adding the eggs, or it might “break.”

Drizzle the toasted bread with olive oil and place a slice in the bottom of each shallow soup bowl. Ladle the soup over the bread. Sprinkle with reserved fried pine nuts and finely chopped parsley. Accompany the soup with lemon wedges.

More recipes with clams: