Saturday, December 8, 2012


This cookbook's a classic!
It’s that time of year again, when newspapers, magazines, websites and opinionated bloggers publish their lists, Best Cookbooks of 2012. Cookbooks are big for the holiday season, both for gift-giving and for consulting recipes for holiday parties. So, let me tell you about a special cookbook, a real keeper.

2012 marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of my first-ever cookbook, COOKING IN SPAIN, still going strong after all these years!

COOKING IN SPAIN was published in 1987 by Lookout Publications. The book and recipes grew out of a monthly cooking column that I wrote for Lookout, an English-language magazine published in Spain. (I wrote food and other features for 30 years, until the magazine eventually folded.) Lookout Publications morphed into Santana Books, the current publisher.

I wrote COOKING IN SPAIN with expats like myself in mind, for people who needed to find their way around Spanish markets—what is that weird fruit? how do you cook that kind of fish? what are all these cheeses? sausages?—and, having tasted Spanish food in restaurants and tapa bars, wanted to try some of the dishes in their own kitchens. A Spanish-English glossary of ingredients, a cook’s tour of regional cuisines, shopping tips and more than 400 recipes made this the “bible” of Spanish cooking.

Years back, COOKING IN SPAIN was one of the very few books about this, at the time, almost unknown cuisine. Although the book was never distributed in the US, American tourists in Spain bought it to take home. It's a real pleasure to meet people, both here and in the US, who tell me how much they love the book and to talk to Spaniards who marvel that a "foreigner" could possibly know so much about authentic Spanish cuisine.

New edition, new look.

The new edition, which came out in 2006, has all the market and kitchen info of the original edition, but with a fresh format and new color photographs by Jean Dominique Dallet and Jerónimo Alba. You can order the new edition of this book, shipped direct from the publisher, Santana Books.

People frequently ask me, “what is your favorite recipe?” I couldn’t possibly pick just one! But, over many years of sampling Spain’s regional cooking, I have several recipes that I return to over and over.

Berza--vegetable pot (Photo by JD Dallet)

Quite a few of these have already appeared in previous blogs: berza (Andalusian vegetable and sausage stew); gazpachuelo (Mediterranean seafood chowder); meatballs in almond sauceFideuá (seafood pasta paella). Here’s another of my favorites, Basque-style hake. I love the simplicity of the dish—garlic, olive oil and wine complement the delicate fresh fish.

Merluza a la Vasca, Hake, Basque Style
Merluza a la Vasca
Hake, Basque Style

Hake is a wonderful fish, flaky and delicate in flavor. (Restaurant critic Jeffrey Steingarten once called it “rich-man’s cod.”) For this dish it’s important to use fresh, not frozen, fish. Fresh cod or haddock might be substituted if hake is not available.

Serves 6.

Hake steaks.
3 pounds hake, cut into 6 crosswise steaks 1 ½ inch thick
2 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, sliced crosswise
2/3 cup white wine
1 dozen clams (Manila or littlenecks)
1 dozen small peeled shrimp
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
6 cooked or canned spears of asparagus

Salt the fresh fish steaks and let them sit for 15 minutes. Pat them dry and dust with the flour.

Heat the oil in a cazuela or skillet. Add the garlic and the pieces of fish. Let them cook, without browning for 2 minutes on each side. Sprinkle with any remaining flour. Then add the wine, ½ teaspoon salt, clams and shrimp.

Cook the fish, shaking and rocking the casserole, until the fish is just flaky and clam shells opened, 10 to 12 minutes. The sauce should be slightly thickened.

Add the parsley and asparagus. Serve in the same cazuela.


  1. HI
    We are moving to Spain at the end of next year. I love your blog and recently bought your book Traditional Spanish Cooking. I have made loads out of it already -

    Best Wishes

  2. Tanya: Glad you enjoy the blog and book. You'll have a good introduction to Spanish food by the time you move to Spain. Best wishes.

  3. Janet, I've had your "Cooking in Spain" cookbook since its orginal publication in 1987. I bought it from Lookout when I lived in Spain. During my time in Spain it was a guide to all the wonderful food that was all around me. Then after I left Spain it was a way to bring back the memories of one of the best times in my life. It is still one of my favorite cookbooks. It really captures the food and feel of Andalucia.

  4. Would love to get my hands on one of your cookbooks! I have been eating a good amount of merluza a la vasca since my move to Basque Country from Andalucía. Looking forward to reading more from you!

    1. Christine: You can order any of my cookbooks by clicking on the book title in the left-hand column. Some clicks take you to Amazon, some take you to the publisher, who will ship.