Friday, August 6, 2010


Photo from Málaga Hoy/EFE

Michelle Obama is vacationing on the Costa del Sol (southern Spain)! She and younger daughter, Sasha, and some friends are staying at a posh resort hotel in a village just a few miles up the road from where I live.

Although the American press has almost nothing to say about Michelle Obama’s trip—except to wonder why she’s not with the president on his birthday—here in Spain her visit is the story of the week, if not the month. In spite of tight security, crowds are lining up to wave and call out to her: “Guapa, guapa!” (gorgeous). (She did look gorgeous in a flowered belted tunic.)

I am intrigued that she is here and very interested to know if she’s tasting really great Spanish food. Here’s what’s been on Michelle’s menu so far.

Dinner out in the old town of Marbella (Restaurante Buenaventura), Michelle and her party dined on the patio, ordering fresh fish and shellfish, finishing with a warm chocolate cake and torrijas de almendras (custardy fried toasts with almonds).  They drank a red wine from Ribera del Duero and finished with sweet Málaga moscatel. During dinner, she received a call from Barak Obama—and everybody sang Cumpleaños Feliz.

On Thursday, the party traveled by motorcade to Granada. With the temperature at 40ºC (104ºF), they stopped for ice cream (Michelle, triple-chocolate cone) before visiting the Cathedral (which contains the tombs of the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabel, who funded Columbus’s voyages).  Then to the caves of Sacromonte for a private flamenco performance. There, the First Lady reportedly danced a few steps por soleás.

Reversing the usual Spanish timetable, the group had a very early dinner at the Parador San Francisco within the gardens of the Alhambra palace. Then, in the cool of the evening, they toured the Moorish Alhambra.

The tasting menu at the parador reflected the Moorish heritage. To start were a trio of cold soups—traditional Andalusian gazpacho with tomatoes, Moorish-inflected ajo blanco con uvas, a white gazpacho made with almonds and garnished with grapes, and a cold melon soup with fresh mint. Next was a pastry filled with vegetables and spiced chicken, then monkfish in mozarabe style with a sauce of raisins and pinenuts. The main course was cabrito de Guejar Sierra con ajo y piminetos secos, baby kid from the sierra with garlic and dried peppers.

Today Michelle and Sasha are at the beach. On the midday news, I saw video of Sasha splashing in the Mediterranean. I hope they had grilled sardines for lunch!

And, I hope to hear if Michelle enjoyed Spanish food.

Here are two recipes from Michelle Obama’s visit to Andalusia, Spain.

White Gazpacho with Grapes
Ajo Blanco con Uvas

Serves 4.

6 ounces stale bread (about 2 ¾ cups packed bread crumbs)
1 cup almonds, blanched and skinned
3 cloves garlic
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
12 muscatel grapes, halved and seeded

Soak the bread in water until softened.

Place the almonds and garlic in the container of a food processor and pulse until almonds are finely ground.

Squeeze out the bread, discarding the crusts, and add it to the processor. Blend to a smooth paste.

With the motor running, add the oil in a slow stream, then the vinegar and salt. Beat in ½ cup of water, then pour the mixture into a tureen, wooden bowl or pitcher and add the 2 ½ cups of cold water. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt or vinegar if needed. The soup should be fairly tangy.

Serve immediately or chill the gazpacho. Stir before serving into bowls garnished with grapes.

Baby Kid, Granada Style
Cabrito al Estilo de Granada

If you are unable to buy kid-goat, try this recipe with lamb chops. Make sure they are well trimmed of excess fat. You really only need the nugget of tender flesh. The dried peppers in the traditional recipe are called ñoras. They are plum-sized, bittersweet (not hot). They are fried or soaked in water, then the flesh scraped. Use a big spoonful of pimentón (paprika) if ñoras are not available.

Serves 4.

2 pounds kid, cut up, or lamb chops
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon pimentón (paprika)
2 slices bread, crusts removed
1 cup white wine
4 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dry oregano, crumbled
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a skillet and quickly fry the kid or lamb chops until browned on both sides. Remove the pan from heat. Drain off excess fat. Stir pimentón into the pan.

Place bread, wine, garlic, cumin and oregano in blender container. Allow bread to soften for 5 minutes, then process until smooth. Pour this mixture into the skillet with the meat. Add 1 cup of water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer the lamb chops for 10 minutes.

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