Saturday, August 1, 2020


Tomato season is peaking! Big ones or little ones, from the garden or from the farmers’ market, heirloom varieties or not, ripe tomatoes are what you want. Eat one right off the vine or cut it up in a salad. Chop a few and sauté them in olive oil. Roast them on the grill or slice them into a sheet pan. Nothing says summertime quite like tomatoes.

Tomatoes weren’t always big and red and at home on the Mediterranean. The originals, discovered in Peru and Mexico by Spanish explorers and conquistadores early in the 1500s, were yellow and not much bigger than peas. The pre-Columbian Peruvians didn’t cultivate them, but gathered them wild in season. Like many other botanical curiosities from the New World, tomatoes were brought back to Spain and cultivated in monastery gardens.

Perhaps because they were unknown or maybe because they belong to the same family as deadly nightshade, tomatoes were believed to be toxic if eaten. They were grown as a handsome ornamental.

If the Spaniards couldn’t see gazpacho in their future, the Italians must have had an empty place just waiting for tomato sauce to put on their spaghetti. After the kingdom of Naples came under Spanish rule in 1522, tomatoes were introduced there and slowly gained culinary ground. The Italians are credited with breeding red varieties.

To celebrate the tomato in Spanish cooking, here’s a listing of recipes that have appeared on this blog with tomatoes as a star ingredient. Maybe not quite fifty, but close enough. Enjoy!

Salads and Cold Dishes

Pipirrana is a chopped salad with tomatoes and peppers often served as a tapa.

Fresh Tomato-Pepper Salad (Pipirrana).           Tomato-Pepper Relish.

Moroccan Chopped Tomato Salad.                   Tomato-Cucumber Relish (Piriñaca).

Salpicón, seafood cocktail with tomatoes and avocado.
Shellfish Cocktail with Tomatoes.

Tomatoes and Peppers with Tuna (Titaina Valenciana)

Layered Gazpacho Salad.

Cobblestone Salad with Chickpeas.

Tomatoes Stuffed with Rice Salad.

Tomato-Tuna-Olive Dunking Salad.

Sliced tomatoes with anchovy dressing.

                  Beefsteak Tomatoes with Anchovy Dressing.

                  Spanish Mixed Salad with Tomatoes.

Bread and Pastries with Tomatoes

Pan con tomate, classic toasts with tomato, olive oil and ham.

A summery quiche with tomatoes.

Catalan Toasts.

Tomato Quiche.

Gazpacho and Soup

Gazpacho and its variations are emblematic of summer in Spain.

Andalusian Gazpacho.                                      Classic Gazpacho.

Country Gazpacho.                                           Gazpacho Cream (Salmorejo).

No-Bread Gazpacho.                                        Mango-Tomato Gazpacho Cream (Porra)

Gazpacho Bloody Mary.                                   Gazpacho Granita.

Gazpacho with Shrimp.                                    Gazpacho with Macaroni.

Hot Gazpacho with Figs.                                  Tomato Soup with Bacon.

Sofrito for Seafood Soup.                                 Monkfish Soup.

How to serve gazpacho? Clockwise from the left, in plastic cups for a picnic, in a tall glass, in mugs, in a fancy coupe, in bowls and, as shooters for passing at a gathering, in shot glasses.  Garnishes are optional; good when served in bowls.

Vegetables with Tomatoes

An all-vegetable stew (alboronía)

Sauté of Green Beans and Cherry Tomatoes.

Pumpkin Stew with Tomatoes and Peppers.

Vegetable Medley with Tomatoes and Zucchini.

Tomato Sauces

Smooth or chunky, fresh tomato sauce goes with many foods.

Sofrito (Basic Tomato Sauce).

Tomato Sauce with Chorizo and Pasta.

Tomato-Sherry Sauce with Fish.

Fresh Tomato Sauce with Stuffed Peppers.

Chicken, Meat, Fish, Eggs with Tomatoes

A summertime stew with pork and vegetables cooked in tomato sauce (pisto con magro de cerdo) .

Pork and Vegetable Summer Stew.                               Pork with Tomato Sauce.

Chicken with Tomato.                                                   Chicken Braised with Wine and Tomatoes.

Stuffed Peppers with Chunky Tomato Sauce.               Lamb Stew with Roasted Tomatoes.

Paella with Sofrito.                                                        Fish Baked with Potatoes and Tomatoes.

Baked Eggs with Tomato (Flamenco Eggs).                 Eggs Poached in Tomato with Cheese.

Tomato-Vegetable Stew with Chicken.

Paella always begins with sofrito,  crushed tomatoes fried in olive oil.


Saturday, July 25, 2020


I’ve been eating a lot of chicken in the past few weeks. It’s easy, versatile, reasonably economical (cheap for supermarket chicken; not so cheap for free range; expensive for organic). After last week’s super pollo con tomate, chicken legs in an intense tomato sauce, I’m now faced with boring chicken breasts. Breast meat, if not carefully cooked, can be dry and tasteless.

These are not those boring chicken breasts. Stuffed with diced bacon and cheese, they’re packed with flavor from the inside out. While the assembly takes a little time, the breasts cook in just minutes.

Stuffed chicken breasts can be served hot, room temperature or chilled. Dinner for four or more.

I served the stuffed chicken with garden beans and a brown rice pilaf with zucchini, red peppers and pistachios.

Stuffing with bacon, onions and cheese helps to keep the chicken breasts juicy.

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Bacon and Cheese
Pechugas de Pollo Rellenas

Fatty bits of serrano ham are the usual stuffing, but bacon works just as well. Diced cheese added to the hot sautéed onions and bacon helps to bind the stuffing ingredients. A semi-cured Manchego is perfect, but you could substitute Gruyère or similar. A handful of chopped parsley or other fresh herb goes into the stuffing mix. I used parsley plus mint.

The stuffed chicken breasts can be prepared in advance and kept, covered and refrigerated, until ready to cook. Bring them to room temperature before cooking. They get a quick searing, then just a few minutes with the lid on the pan to cook through. Don’t overcook them!

Serves 4.

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 2 pounds)
Freshly ground black pepper
Pimentón (paprika), smoked or regular
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup finely chopped onion
5 ounces bacon or serrano ham, cut in small dice (¾ cup)
Pinch of thyme
2 ounces semi-cured Manchego cheese, cut in small dice
2 tablespoons chopped parsley or other herb
2 tablespoons water

Cut a deep pocket into breast.

Trim the breasts of extraneous fat and membrane. If desired, remove the “tenders” (loose strip of flesh on the underside of the breast) and save them for another use. Using a thin, sharp knife, cut a lengthwise slit on the thick side of each breast. With the tip of the knife, very carefully open the slit to create a pocket. Take care not to cut through the outer flesh.

Spread the breasts open on a work surface. Sprinkle them with salt, pepper and pimentón inside and out. Let stand while preparing the stuffing.

Heat a heavy skillet on medium-high. Add the oil and sauté the onions without letting them brown, 2 minutes. Add the bacon or ham and sauté 2 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the diced cheese and stir to combine it with the bacon. Stir in the chopped parsley. Scoop the stuffing into a bowl, keeping the skillet and remaining  oil.

Spread stuffing into the pocket.

Divide the stuffing mixture into 4 portions. Spread stuffing on one half of an opened breast. Fold over the other half. Use wooden toothpicks to close the pockets, enclosing the stuffing.

Heat the skillet in which the onions cooked on medium-hot. (Add a little additional oil, if necessary.) Brown the stuffed chicken breasts, about 2 minutes per side. If possible, brown the edges a little too. Reduce the heat to low. Cover the skillet and cook the chicken about 4 minutes. Turn, cover and cook until chicken is cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes longer.

After searing, the breasts finish cooking in a covered pan in their own juices.
Remove the chicken breasts to a cutting board and remove toothpicks. Let the chicken stand 5 minutes. Add the 2 tablespoons water to the pan juices and cook 1 minute.

The chicken breasts can be served warm, room temperature or chilled. Slice the breasts on an angle about ¾ inch thick. If serving the chicken warm, spoon the pan juices over the slices.

More recipes for not-boring chicken breasts:
Chicken Breasts with Sevilla Olive Sauce.
Fried Chicken Cutlets with Red Pepper Mayonnaise.
Chicken Breast with Crunchy Vegetables.
Chicken Breast with Anisette.
Chicken Breast with Pine Nut Sauce.

Saturday, July 18, 2020


My garden tomatoes this year are small, but intensely flavored.

I learned to speak and cook Spanish in María’s kitchen in my early years in an Andalusian village.  María and her mother did all the cooking for the tapas bar the family ran. Every day of the year these women put out an assortment of tapas, ten or more different dishes, both hot and cold, that changed with the seasons and with what ingredients María had from the family’s huerta, vegetable garden, in the nearby campo, countryside. 

I would sit at the table in María’s kitchen several evenings a week. In the beginning I just watched and chatted, my vocabulary growing by leaps and bounds. Soon, I was asking questions and taking notes (where my recipe collection began). Eventually, I began to help peel and chop and even lend a hand at the stove.

In the summer, one of my favorite tapas was pollo con tomate, chicken with tomatoes. María’s husband, Paco, would come back from irrigating the fields with a basket of dead-ripe, fragrant tomatoes. María peeled them and added them to a pan with chunks of chicken browned in olive oil. She added salt and a bay leaf. Ya está. Nothing more.

The tomatoes cooked down to a thick sauce, savory with chicken juices. The dish was served in small tapa portions with chunks of bread for mopping up the sauce or as a ración, a larger serving, with patatas fritas, fries, as well as bread.

Not counting olive oil, salt and pepper, this dish can be made with only three ingredients. Over the years, I have gussied it up with Sherry, mushrooms and herbs, but, honestly, the intense flavor of vine-ripened tomatoes is all that’s needed to make a delicious dish.

Pollo con tomate--chicken with tomatoes--an easy summertime dish.

Fresh tomatoes cook up to a sauce the consistency of jam.

As a tapa, pollo con tomate is served with bread to mop up the sauce. How about some torn fresh basil on top?

Mix the savory tomato sauce with pasta. Add fresh rucula leaves on top.

Tender chicken legs in tomato served with rice--a whole meal.

Top the chicken with a 1-2-3 sauté of diced zucchini, red pepper, garlic and pine nuts. 

Chicken with Tomato
Pollo con Tomate

This recipe is pretty close to María’s original—three ingredients, chicken, tomatoes and bay leaf—except that I’m using legs and thighs instead of hacked-up chicken. Instead of bay, you could swap a different third ingredient (onion, garlic, red or green peppers, chile, pimentón, Sherry, brandy, mushrooms, ham, olives---). Add some fresh and flavorful herbs to the finished dish. Serve the chicken with bread, with pasta or rice or even with fries.

The tomatoes need to be skinned and the easiest way to do this is to blanch them in boiling water. You may also wish to remove seeds. To do this, cut each tomato in half crosswise and either scoop out seeds with a spoon or gently squeeze the seeds out. Cut the tomatoes roughly into pieces. After skinning and chopping, there should be about 4 cups of pulp and juice.

Serves 6.

3 basic ingredients
2 ½ pound chicken legs and thighs
4 pounds fresh tomatoes
2 bay leaves (or choice of another ingredient)
Free ingredients
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil

Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Allow to come to room temperature.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut a slit in the skin of the blossom end of the tomatoes. Drop them in the boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain them into a colander and rinse in cold water so they do not continue to cook.

Tomatoes, peeled and chopped.
When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins, cut out the cores and break or cut the tomatoes into pieces.  (Remove seeds, if desired. I didn't.)

Tomatoes cook until jammy.

Heat oil in a large skillet. Slowly brown the pieces of chicken. Add the cut-up tomatoes, bay leaves and 1 teaspoon salt. Raise heat until tomatoes begin to bubble. Lower heat and cover the pan. Cook 15 minutes.

Turn the pieces of chicken in the sauce. Continue cooking, uncovered, until chicken is very tender and tomatoes are reduced to a thick, jammy sauce, about 25 minutes more.

Another version of pollo con tomate: Chicken Sautéed with Tomatoes.
Similar: Pork with Tomatoes (Magro con Tomate).

Tomato picking and Country Gazpacho.

Picking tomatoes in the huerta (1968).