Saturday, July 27, 2019


I bought a pound of small shrimp to use as garnish for a dish I was going to photograph. In the end, I didn’t use them. So I cooked the whole, unpeeled shrimp (1 minute in boiling salted water) and put them out for a family meal for whoever was willing to peel them. My grandson Lucas and I devoured those little crustaceans. They were so sweet, so fresh.

These were the variety of shrimp known as gamba arrocera, a small, wild-caught shrimp especially esteemed on the Atlantic coast of Huelva (Andalusia), although they are also caught in the Mediterranean. They are the shrimp I remember eating in local tapa bars years ago. Always simply boiled, they were served plain and unadorned. You peeled them yourself and, in those days, dropped the shells on the floor!

Whole, raw shrimp.

Same shrimp after cooking.

Cooked, peeled and marinated in fresh lemon juice, the small shrimp go into a seafood cocktail called ceviche.

A favorite in Spanish restaurants, avocado halves with shrimp and a dollop of salsa rosa, pink cocktail sauce. This one eschews the usual ketchup. 

They are also the shrimp added to paella and other rice dishes—thus their nomenclature “arrocera.”  Cooked and peeled, they turn up in soups and in a favorite tapa bar salad, salpicón.  The small shrimp—peeled raw—were used as well in tapa bars for gambas al ajillo, or, as it was called in Málaga region, gambas al pil pil. Nowadays it’s common to use the larger langostinos. (More about varieties of shrimp/prawns here.)

Size varies. Mine were 54 shrimp (unpeeled with heads on) to the pound. The variety is also known as gamba blanca (Parapenaeus longirostris) or “white” shrimp, although it’s really a pale pink-beige color. It turns a darker rosy hue after cooking.

These fresh shrimp are best cooked immediately, then stored refrigerated. If kept raw more than a couple days, they begin to show a deepening violet/black color inside the shell of the heads. They are not spoiled!

It’s not necessary to devein the shrimp before eating them. The “vein” is perfectly edible. In larger varieties of shrimp, it can be very unsightly, so is generally removed. But, with these small ones, it’s not an issue.

I enjoyed those shrimp so much that I've bought them again. Some to serve plain--no dipping sauce, no lemon. Just shrimp. The rest I've peeled--pretty easy after they're cooked--to use in a refreshing cocktail called ceviche and with avocado and a piquant sauce.

Gambas Cocidas
Cooked Shrimp

Cooked and ready to peel and eat.

1 pound whole small shrimp
10 cups water
¼ cup salt
Bay leaf (optional)
Lemon slice (optional)
Ice water

Rinse and drain the shrimp. Bring water to a boil with the salt in a deep pot. Add bay leaf and lemon slice, if using. Have a large bowl of ice and water ready.

Add all of the shrimp to the boiling water. Return the water to a boil and remove the pot from the heat. Use a slotted spoon to remove shrimp and drop them into the bowl of ice water. Allow the shrimp to cool completely. Drain.

Either serve the shrimp immediately or store them, covered and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.

To peel cooked shrimp: break off the head (suck out the delicious juices if you like). Pinch off the tail and the "legs." Unwrap the shell from the body.

Shrimp Ceviche
Cebiche de Gambas

Crunchy peppers and onions, buttery avocado, sweet shrimp and tart lemon.

Unlike some ceviche recipes, this one calls for cooked, not raw, shrimp. The shrimp need only 10 minutes in the lemon marinade.

Serves 4 as a starter.

1 cup (5 ounces) cooked and peeled small shrimp
½ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ small red onion, cut in thin julienne
¼ cup diced yellow bell pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh green chile, such as jalapeño
1 avocado, diced
¼ cup peeled and chopped tomato
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Shrimp in lemon juice.

Place the shrimp in a small glass bowl. Pour over the lemon juice. Let the shrimp marinate, refrigerated, for 10 minutes.

Place the thinly sliced onion in a small bowl. Add ½ teaspoon salt and cover with water. Allow the onion to soak for 10 minutes.

In a bowl combine the diced yellow pepper, green chile, avocado and olive oil. Season with salt. Drain the soaked onions and add them to the bowl. Add the shrimp and lemon juice. Add the cilantro. Mix gently. Divide the ceviche between 4 cocktail cups.

Avocado with Shrimp
Aguacate con Gambas

Serve the pink cocktail sauce on the side or---

--dollop it right on the shrimp and avocado.

Lemon juice
Cooked and peeled shrimp
Pink Cocktail Sauce

Cut avocados in half and remove pits. Sprinkle them with lemon juice. Fill the cavities with shrimp. Place a dollop of pink cocktail sauce on top of the shrimp.

Pink Cocktail Sauce
Salsa Rosa

1 plum tomato, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped onion
½ tablespoon chopped green chile, such as jalapeño
1/8 teaspoon hot pimentón (paprika) or a pinch of cayenne
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon lemon juice

Place the tomato, onion and chile in a mini processor and grind them finely. Add the pimentón, mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice and about ½ teaspoon salt. Process to make a smooth sauce.
Sauce keeps, covered and refrigerated, up to 2 days.


At the Feria de la Gamba (Shrimp Fair) in Cartaya (Huelva, Andalusia), 8-11 of August, two tons of shellfish will be served up. Other shrimp fairs in Punta Umbría and Isla Cristina take place at other times of the year.

More recipes with shrimp:
Chickpeas with Shrimp and Fish Sausage.
Baked Shrimp with Sherry.
Zucchini Tubs with Shrimp Stuffing.
Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Shrimp.
Flamenco Salad with Shrimp and Fruit.
Sizzling Garlic Shrimp with Chorizo.
Batter-Fried Shrimp.
Shrimp Boil a la Costa del Sol.
Classic Shrimp al Ajillo.
Shrimp and Fideo Noodle Salad.
Eggplant and Shrimp Rollups.
Shellfish Cocktail with Shrimp.
Rice with Shrimp and Mango.
Shrimp Cocktail with Avocado (Salpicón).
Pasta with Garlic Shrimp and Zucchini.

Saturday, July 20, 2019


Call it fiesta or feria, it’s the Spanish way of partying. Fiestas go on for days. And nights. The party starts in the afternoon with the feria del día, when everyone throngs through the streets with music blaring everywhere, dancing in the plazas. Depending on the town, there might be horses and carriages with riders decked out in flouncy flamenco dresses and guys in wide-brimmed Córdoba hats. Everybody is drinking. How do they manage to survive a sun-drenched afternoon and still go out at night to party some more?

An icy pitcher of rebujitos--an easy-to-imbibe drink of Manzanilla and lemon soda.

The answer is to dilute the drinks with lots of fizzy soda. Some of Spain’s favorite summer refreshers are basically spritzers—wine with soda. The simplest is tinto de verano—“summer red.” It´s red wine, ice and lemony soda in a tall glass or goblet. Sort of sangría without the fruit. Tinto de verano even comes ready-mixed in cans.

But the favorite tipple for the ferias and romerías of Andalusia (southern Spain) is the rebujito—a combo of Manzanilla (dry fino Sherry) with citric soda such as 7Up or La Casera gaseosa.  (Gaseosa is artificially sweetened.) It can be mixed in quantity for a botellón—bring-your-own-bottle street parties. Or poured from an icy pitcher on the deck while the steaks are grilling.

Fresh mint, maybe a slice of lemon are the only additions to rebujito.

There are variations on the rebujito. Mix the soda with sweet cream Sherry and it’s a mulatita or with amontillado for a jerezano. Málaga feria goers might use vermouth instead of Sherry.

Kalimotxo--a mixed drink from the Basque Country can be found in cocktail bars in the U.S. 

In the Basque Country (northern Spain), the party drink is the kalimotxo, a mix of red wine and Coke. OK, that sounds just weird. But, give it a try. The Coke gets subsumed by the wine and the drink tastes a lot like sangría. The wine balances the sweetness of the cola. (If you have any left after a party, use it to marinate ribs for the barbecue—red wine plus sweet cola.)

What kind of glass to serve these drinks in? Take your pick! A tall, skinny high-ball glass or a short rocks glass. Plastic cups (reusable ones, of course) if your drinks are going to a beach picnic. Mix them in a pitcher (or bucket) or, individually, in glasses. Have plenty of ice.

Manzanilla Spritzer

Rebujitos make good sundowners, while the grill is heating.

Manzanilla is a version of dry fino Sherry with its own designation of origin, from Sanlucar de Barrameda. It’s best known as a superlative aperitif wine with tapas such as shrimp, ibérico ham and olives. It’s a fortified wine, with 15% alcohol, so fiesta revellers have taken to diluting it with lemon soda in order to keep drinking during a long afternoon (or night) of dancing and partying.

The basic recipe is one part Manzanilla and two parts citric soda such as La Casera gaseosa, 7Up or Sprite, plus ice and mint to garnish. Lemon slices or other fruit are optional.

Have the wine and soda chilled. Pour them over ice in a large pitcher (preferably clear glass) or in individual glasses.

Serves 4.

Ice cubes
2 cups chilled Manzanilla
4 cups chilled citric soda
Sprigs of fresh mint
Lemon slices (optional)

Fill a large pitcher with ice. Pour over the Manzanilla. Fill the pitcher with the soda and stir to mix. Top with mint sprigs. Add sliced lemon, if desired.

Cream Sherry Spritzer

Cool by the pool. Sweet cream Sherry, ice and soda water.

Cream Sherry is a dark gold, sweet dessert wine with 18% alcohol. Fizzy water turns it into a refreshing summer drink, the sort you might imbibe way before cocktail hour. Say, on a sunny afternoon beside the pool.

For 1 serving:
Fill a high-ball glass with cracked ice. Add sliced orange. Pour over 2 ounces (¼ cup) cream Sherry. Fill the glass with soda water (agua con gas).  Stir to mix.

Red Wine and Coke Spritzer

Fill glasses with ice. Add red wine and cola. 

The basic recipe is 1 part red wine and 1 part cola, plus lots of ice. Coke is traditional, but any cola can be used. Add sliced orange or other fruit. Use a tinto joven, a young red wine with no ageing time on oak, preferably from La Rioja. 

Fill a rocks glass or tumbler with ice. Add red wine and a slice of orange. Fill with Coke.

Coke adds fizz and sweetness to dry red wine.

A video recipe for kalimotxo in the New York Times.

More drinks—cocktails, sangrías, refreshers:

Saturday, July 13, 2019


Onions, straight from the fields. These are a gigante variety, very sweet.

I found a heap of onions on my kitchen cabinet the morning after my family had been to a friend’s finca (small farm), where they were harvesting onions. They brought a bunch back for me. Wow! What onions! The biggest one weighs 2 ½ pounds! What do you do with a 2 ½-pound onion?

I thought of an onion tart, such as the French pissaladière or Catalan coca. But, hey, it’s high summer. I don’t really want to turn on the oven. That’s when I came up with onion tortilla—same round, flat “omelet,” but instead of the classic filling of potatoes, I would use sliced onions.

Brunch, lunch or supper--this onion tortilla is an anytime snack or meal.

Tortilla is usually cooked "juicy" in the center. But, if you want to cut it into squares to spear on picks for tapas, cook it longer.

All-Onion Tortilla
Tortilla de Cebollas

The onions are not fried, but “poached” in a quantity of oil. Moderate the heat so that they gradually release their moisture and become tender. When they begin to brown and caramelize, they’re done. This will take 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how much moisture the onions contain. Drain them in a colander set over a bowl. Save the oil that drains off. You’ll need a spoonful of it to finish the tortilla. The rest can be saved for another use.

A trick to tortilla making: use a large, heavy skillet to cook the large volume of sliced onions (or potatoes) and a smaller, non-stick skillet to finish the tortilla. The smaller the pan, the thicker the tortilla. (I used a 10-inch skillet for a 1-inch thick tortilla.) You will need to adjust the cooking time accordingly. Tortilla usually is preferred “juicy” in the center, golden—not browned—on the outside. However, if you plan to serve it cut into squares and speared on picks as a tapa, cook it thoroughly so no juices run when it is sliced.

Before you start cooking the tortilla, have ready a flat plate that fits easily on top of the skillet plus hot pads, as needed. After the tortilla cooks on the bottom, you are going to place the plate on top of the skillet, hold it firmly in place with one hand and invert the skillet so that the tortilla is turned out on the plate. Do this over a bowl, to catch any uncooked egg and excess oil that might run out. The next step is to slide the tortilla back into the skillet, uncooked side down.  

Serve the tortilla hot or cold, for brunch, lunch or supper; as a side with ham and cheese. A salad of greens or sliced tomatoes is the perfect accompaniment.

It took 8 medium onions (from my own garden) to equal the 2 ½- pound whopper from the friend's finca.
2 ½ pounds onions
½ cup olive oil
½ cup diced red bell pepper
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Black pepper
5 eggs
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Slice onion in julienne.

Peel the onions, cut them in half and slice them lengthwise (stem to root) in thin julienne.  (You should have about 8 cups slivered onion.)

Heat the oil in a deep skillet. Add the onions and sauté them on medium-high heat, stirring frequently. After 10 minutes, add the diced red pepper, red pepper flakes, if using, ½ teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper. Continue cooking the onions until they are very tender and beginning to caramelize, 15-20 minutes total. Place them in a colander over a bowl to drain for 15 minutes.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl with ½ teaspoon salt. Add the chopped parsley. Stir the drained onions into the eggs. 

"Poach" the onions in oil without browning.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the reserved oil in a non-stick skillet. Pour in the egg and onion mixture. Use a wooden spatula to turn the mixture two or three times, tilting the pan so uncooked egg runs under the mixture. Then allow it to set without stirring. Use the spatula to firm all around the edges. Let it cook until the top begins to appear cooked, about 5 minutes. The tortilla should brown very lightly on the bottom.

This tortilla has been turned to cook the reverse side. And, while I'm a pretty experienced tortilla flipper, using a brand new no-stick skillet, I let it slide off the plate on which I had inverted it (into a bowl, not the floor), causing the deep crease on one side!! 

Place a plate on top of the skillet. Hold it firmly in place and reverse the skillet so that the tortilla rests on the plate. If needed, add a little more oil to the pan. Slide the tortilla back into the pan to cook the reverse side, 3 minutes more. To remove it, lift one edge with a spatula and slide the tortilla out onto a serving plate.

More recipes for onions:

More variations on tortilla:

Saturday, July 6, 2019


Black olives from Spain have been hit with high tariffs.

Has the price of black olives skyrocketed at your favorite grocery store? You can thank Trump’s trade wars for that. Black olives from Spain have been hit with tariffs of almost 35 percent. Exports have plunged. According to ASEMESA (the Spanish table olive export board), exports are down 48 percent in the first trimester of 2019 from the same period in 2017, before tariffs were applied. 

OK, you say, you don’t really like black olives anyway. But, there’s no denying the visual impact of sliced black olives on pizza or tossed with salads. For that reason alone, they are a huge export product.

I have a nostalgic fondness for black olives, which I associate with holiday meals in my childhood (Midwest America). Black olives made an appearance, along with cream cheese-stuffed celery, only on special occasions. Velvety-black, salty-sweet, blander than green olives, so-called “ripe” olives were a treat.

In fact, black olives are not actually ripe, nor are they naturally black. (Most varieties of olives turn a deep purple, not black, when fully ripe.) The olives are picked firm and green, processed in an alkaline solution to remove the bitterness. They are allowed to oxidize which darkens them. A ferrous gluconate solution (E579 on European labels) further blackens and fixes the olives’ color.

In Spain, where there are hundreds of types of table olives—green, purple, pink, black—and ways of processing them, canned black ones turn up as garnish. Here are recipes for moje and mojete that are finished with black olives.

Moje manchego is a soupy salad with tomatoes, onions, tuna and, of course, extra virgin olive oil. It's meant to be served with chunks of bread for dipping, dunking, sopping. 

Mojete malagueño is an unusual combo of potatoes and oranges. Black olives make a visual impact. 

Mojete is not a salad, not a soup, not a dipping sauce. It’s a “dunk.” A liquidy salad meant for dunking chunks of bread into. It’s the sort of meal field workers concocted in rural areas. Filling and refreshing. What began as peasant fare, today is enjoyed for fiestas.

Make moje and mojete at least an hour before serving to let the flavors come together. If possible, chill the mixture. Serve with bread for dunking, scooping, sopping. They make good starters or snacks.

Tomato-Tuna Dunking Salad with Black Olives, La Mancha
Moje Manchego

Moje is best with fresh tomatoes, but canned ones can be used too.

I visited the town of Alcázar de San Juan (Castilla-La Mancha) when it was celebrating a local fiesta. At midday groups of friends gathered in the huge central plaza, in the shade of the town hall, where they set up folding tables to prepare this moje. Each group had an enormous earthenware bowl, in which were combined tomatoes, onions, hard-cooked, eggs, tuna, olives, and olive oil to make a soupy-salad. How to eat it? Invited to partake, I was instructed to scoop it up on chunks of bread. Those with country know-how speared the bread on the tip of a pocket-knife and dipped into the moje. 

The tomatoes can be fresh ones or, traditionally, home-canned tomatoes. (Nowadays even canned tomatoes from the supermercado are used.) A food processor works well for chopping the tomatoes and onions. 

Serves 4-6 as a starter or snack.

Scald tomatoes to peel them.
1 ½ pounds ripe tomatoes
1 small onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 small (3-ounce) can tuna or bonito, drained
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon wine vinegar
1-2 hard-cooked eggs
½ cup whole or pitted black olives
Bread for dunking

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the tomatoes and boil 30 seconds. Drain and rinse them in cold water. When tomatoes are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins and cut away the stem ends. Chop the tomatoes finely. (If using a food processor, don’t puree the tomatoes; leave them with some chunks.) Place in a bowl.

Mix chopped tomatoes, onion and canned tuna.

Finely chop the onion and add to the tomatoes with the salt and tuna. Add the oil and vinegar and stir to combine. If making ahead, cover and chill the salad until serving time.

Taste the moje for seasoning and add more salt and vinegar if needed. Place in a shallow bowl and garnish with sliced egg and olives.

Málaga-Style Potato-Orange Dunking Salad with Black Olives
Mojete Malagueño con Naranjas

The juice of oranges plus extra virgin olive oil make the dressing for this salad.

This mojete comes from Málaga's inland Guadalhorce Valley, famous for its citrus groves. Potatoes and oranges may sound like an odd combination, but they work surprisingly well together. 

Serves 4 as a starter or snack.

Add olives after mixing.
2 medium potatoes (12 ounces)
1 large navel orange
3-4 spring onions
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup orange juice
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup whole or pitted black olives
Bread for dunking

Peel the potatoes and cut them in ¾ -inch dice. Bring a pan of water to a boil and cook the potatoes until just tender, 5 minutes. Drain them well and place in a bowl.

Olive oil is essential to mojete.

Peel the orange, removing all the white pith. Chop the orange, discarding any seeds and as much of the membrane as possible, but saving the juice. Add the chopped orange and any juice to the potatoes.

Sliver the onions lengthwise. Add to the bowl with the oil, orange juice, parsley and salt and stir to combine. If making ahead, cover and chill the mojete until serving time.

Place the mojete salad in a shallow bowl. Garnish the top with olives. Serve with bread for dunking.

Bread--essential for dipping.

More recipes with black olives:

A report on the tariffs on Spanish table olive exports is here.