Saturday, January 25, 2020


My neighbors, who were returning to France, dropped off a bag with remains from their kitchen. Here’s a heap of red potatoes, several heads of garlic, red onions, oranges and most of the lemons I had given them a few days earlier.

What to cook with red potatoes? A sort of hot potato salad with lots of garlic.

Red potatoes. I never cook with them. Although they are widely available in markets, red potatoes were not traditionally grown in my region of southern Spain. What are their attributes? For one thing, this variety, less starchy than “baking potatoes,” doesn’t turn to mush when cooked and mixed with dressing, making it perfect for potato salads.

My mother used to make a German hot potato salad using red potatoes. I found a Spanish recipe, typical of Murcia, that reminded me of that old favorite. This one, patatas al ajo cabañil, or “shepherd’s garlic potatoes,” doesn’t start with boiling the potatoes. They are first sliced and cooked in olive oil, then finished in a sauce of crushed garlic and vinegar.

Potatoes are lightly browned, but not crisped, in olive oil. The finished potatoes are slightly juicy with the garlic-vinegar sauce.

The potatoes don’t fry, but “poach” in olive oil. This is the same procedure used when cooking them for a Spanish tortilla. So use plenty of olive oil and, if necessary, cook the potatoes in two batches. They need to lightly brown on the edges and be tender, but they don’t need to be crisp, as they will finish in the garlic sauce.

Lift the potatoes out of the oil with a slotted spoon and reserve them in a bowl. No need to drain on absorbent paper, as residual oil becomes part of the sauce. Strain the remaining oil and save it for another use. You will be surprised at how little oil is absorbed by the potatoes. I started out with 1 ½ cups of oil and retrieved 1 ¼ cups after straining. Olive oil, mind you. No other oil will give this result.

Serve the potato dish, hot or room temperature, on its own (a little chopped bacon would make it not unlike German potato salad) or, Murcia style, as a side with pan-fried chicken, rabbit or lamb chops. Sometimes the same aliño, or garlicky dressing, is added to the meat as well as the potatoes (make double the quantity of sauce). I'm thinking this is a perfect side with old-fashioned Midwestern meatloaf like my mother made.

The potatoes, with their tangy sauce of vinegar and garlic, are a great side with chops. Here alongside a thick-cut chop of ibérico pork. (The accompanying salad-relish is sliced oranges, grapefruit, avocado and red onion with olive oil.)

Red potatoes keep their shape.

Another way to serve the potatoes--topped with fried egg.

Potatoes with Garlic Dressing
Patatas al Ajo Cabañil

Rinse potatoes after slicing.

Serves 6 as a side dish.

2 pounds red potatoes
1 ½ cups olive oil
4-10 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1/8 teaspoon cumin seeds
Red pepper flakes (optional)
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup water
Chopped parsley

Peel the potatoes and cut them crosswise into ¼-inch slices. Place the slices in water. Drain the potatoes and pat dry on kitchen towels.

Moderate heat so potatoes cook gently in olive oil.

Heat the oil in a deep skillet. Add half the potato slices and cook them on moderate heat, turning gently, until they begin to turn golden and are just tender, 8-10 minutes. Skim the potatoes out of the oil and place them in a bowl (no need to drain on paper towels). Add remaining potatoes to the pan and cook them in the same manner. Remove.

When oil has cooled slightly, strain it into a jar and save for another use.

Place the coarsely chopped garlic in a mortar with the coarse salt, cumin seeds and red pepper flakes, if using. Crush the garlic to a smooth paste. Stir in the vinegar and water.

Return the potatoes and residual oil to the skillet on medium heat. Pour the garlic-vinegar mixture on top of the potatoes and gently combine them without breaking up the potatoes. Season with salt. Cook until all the liquid has cooked off, 5 minutes.

Serve the potatoes hot or room temperature, sprinkled with parsley.

Saturday, January 18, 2020


“Bring me broccoli plants,” I told my sometimes-gardener. But, when I went out to the huerta (kitchen garden), I found a row of baby cabbage plants instead of broccoli. “That’s all there were,” he said. Cabbage is a vegetable I like, sure, but I rarely eat more than a couple heads of it in a season. This is going to be the Year of the Cabbage.

Cabbages in the garden.

So far, it’s turning out to be a season of good fortune. The small cabbages are sweet and crisp, a delight in coleslaw and stir-fries. Plain, “boiled” cabbage makes an easy side dish, seasoned with a refrito of olive oil, garlic, pimentón (paprika) and a dash of vinegar. Yet to come, my version of stuffed cabbage (see link to that recipe below). 

Today I’m making a cabbage-potato gratin dish. It makes a terrific side with pan-grilled sausages or baked spareribs. But it would also serve as a vegetarian main dish with salad and good bread as an accompaniment.

Cabbage in Spanish has a redundancy of nomenclature: col, repollo and berza are all names for the same type of cabbage with green outer leaves and pale, almost white inner ones. (Confusingly, “berza” is the name of an Andalusian potaje, as in berza de acelgas, that contains green vegetables such as chard, but no cabbage.) Col de Milán is crinkly green Savoy cabbage. Lombarda is red cabbage. 

Under a crunchy gratin of cheese and breadcrumbs, layers of potatoes and cabbage.

Baked cabbage stays juicy. 

Cabbage gratin could be a vegetarian main dish--

or a side dish with baked spareribs.

As a side, the cabbage is good with ribs, sausages, chops.

Cabbage and Potato Gratin
Gratinado de Coles con Patatas

Remove core from cabbage.
Serves 6.

1 ½ pounds potatoes (5 medium)
1 ¾ pounds cabbage (1 small)
5 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves chopped garlic
1/8 teaspoon cumin seeds (optional)
2/3 cup white wine
Freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces cheese, grated (1 ½ cups)
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
Pimentón (paprika), preferably smoked

Cook the potatoes in boiling water until they are just tender when pierced with a skewer. Drain. When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes and slice them 3/8 inch thick.

Discard outer leaves from the cabbage. Cut it in quarters and cut out and discard the core. Slice the cabbage crosswise.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a deep skillet. Add the garlic and cumin seeds, if using. When garlic begins to turn golden, add the cabbage. Sauté until it begins to wilt and lose volume. Add the wine. Raise the heat until liquid boils. Season the cabbage with salt and pepper. Reduce heat and cover the pan. Cook gently until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove cover and cook off most of remaining liquid, if necessary.

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Layer potatoes and cabbage, top with cheese and crumbs.

Generously oil a cazuela or glass baking dish. Put a layer of sliced potatoes in the bottom. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Cover the layer of potatoes with all of the cabbage. 

Sprinkle half of the grated cheese on top. Layer the remaining potato slices over the cabbage and cheese. Cover with remaining cheese. Top with bread crumbs. Sprinkle with pimentón. Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil over the top.

Cover the top of the cazuela with foil. Bake until the potatoes and cabbage are bubbling, about 25 minutes.

Raise oven temperature to 400ºF. Remove foil from the baking dish. If oven has an upper heating element for gratin, place the dish under it. Bake until the top is browned, 5 minutes. Serve the gratin hot.

Gratin is best hot out of the oven.

Spareribs are rubbed with adobo spices and marinated 24 hours before roasting in the oven. Top them with a picada of chopped raw garlic and parsley. (Link to recipe for spareribs is below.)

More recipes with cabbage:

Related recipes:

Saturday, January 11, 2020


Puchero, a meal-in-a-pot. The soup is served first, with rice, a few chickpeas and carrots, followed by platters of boiled meats--chicken, beef, pork, salt pork, sausages, vegetables and chickpeas. Pumpkin sauce is a tangy condiment. 

Puchero is almost the same as cocido, the grand one-pot meal especially famous in Madrid. Every region of Spain has its version of "boiled dinner." Puchero is the one I learned to make in the Andalusian village where I live. 

Back then, puchero was an everyday meal. It consisted of a big pot of boiled meats, fat, bones, sausages plus chickpeas, vegetables and potatoes. From the pot came, first, a bowl of soup broth with rice or thin noodles and, to follow, a platter of meat, sausage and fatty bits with the vegetables and potatoes. It was an inexpensive meal to feed a family.

Puchero is served for the midday comida (2 pm), never at night. Nowadays, when families no longer take a long midday break—working mothers, businesses that stay open all day, school cafeterias, have changed the routine—the traditional puchero tends to be reserved for Sundays instead of everyday.

The frugal housewife usually uses the olla exprés—pressure cooker—to reduce cooking time. That makes puchero the perfect meal for today’s Instant Pot. Usually it is made in quantity. Leftover broth can be turned into a different soup for another meal. The chickpeas get recycled in salads. The scraps of meat and sausage—called pringá—go into hash, croquettes or are spread on toasted buns, called molletes. Feel free to add more or less of any ingredient.

Ingredients for a puchero, clockwise from upper left, chorizo, hueso de caña (beef marrow bone), espinazo (fresh pork spine bone), morcilla (blood sausage), morcillo (beef shin), tocino (salt pork fat), and punta de jamón (serrano ham bone). 

Glossary of puchero/cocido ingredients:
Añejo (well-cured, aged, ham bone)
Costillas (fresh or salted pork ribs)
Chorizo (pimentón red pork sausage)
Espinazo (fresh or salted pork spine)
Gallina (stewing hen) or pollo (chicken)
Garbanzos (chickpeas)
Hueso de caña (marrow bone)
Morcillo (beef shin meat, boneless)
Morcilla (blood sausage, black pudding)
Panceta (pancetta, fresh or salted pork belly)
Punta de jamón or hueso de jamón (chunk of serrano ham bone)
Tocino salado, tocino fresco (salt pork; fresh fatback)

The serrano ham bone, a piece of only 2 or 3 inches, gives a defining flavor to the soup, an appetizing, umami, subtly rancid taste. A sprig of fresh mint, added to the hot soup immediately before serving, is a sublime final touch.

Puchero is best made with chickpeas cooked from scratch, not from a can. So put them to soak 8 hours before cooking. If your tap water is especially hard, add a pinch of baking soda to the soaking water (or use bottled water). Bring the water to a boil before adding the chickpeas.

Serve the broth as a primer plato--first course--with a few chickpeas, carrots and rice or soup noodles. The sprig of fresh mint is essential with this broth.

After the soup, serve the boiled chicken, beef, fatty bits and sausages, all cut up, with the vegetables and chickpeas.

Carrots, turnip and potatoes cooked in the savory broth can be embellished with coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper and savory pumpkin sauce.

Serve chickpeas with the vegetables or save them for another meal.

After the soup, a plate of meat, sausages, chickpeas and vegetables with tangy pumpkin sauce. Bread is an essential accompaniment.

Mix the pumpkin sauce into the chickpeas and vegetables.

Puchero is a “white” soup. If chorizo and morcilla sausages are to be included in the meal, they are cooked separately, so that the red pimentón in their spicing doesn’t color the broth.

The broth typically is served with thin vermicelli noodles (fideos), rice or thinly sliced bread in it. It usually has a few chickpeas and slices of carrots.

Tangy pumpkin sauce as condiment.

In my pueblo, puchero was always served in its purest form, with little embellishment (sometimes green onions to be munched on alongside the puchero). But elsewhere in Andalusia I have discovered an easy salsa de calabaza—pumpkin sauce—served as a condiment. Mixed with the boiled meats and vegetables, it adds tang.

Everyday Soup Pot, Andalusian Style
Puchero Andaluz

Serves 4-6 with leftover broth and chickpeas.

½ pound raw chickpeas, soaked overnight in water

16 cups water plus additional to cook sausages
½ chicken or stewing hen (about 1 ½ pounds)
6 ounces boneless beef shin
6 ounces fresh or salted pork ribs or spine bone
2 ounces salt pork or pancetta
4 ounces ham bone
Beef marrow bone
1 leek, white part only
4 large carrots, peeled
1 turnip, peeled
1 stalk celery
4-5 medium potatoes, peeled
Salt, as needed
1 cup medium-short grain rice

2-3 links soft cooking chorizo (8 ounces)
6 ounces morcilla (blood sausage)

For the pumpkin sauce:
8 ounces pumpkin or squash
1 clove garlic
¼ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
Pimentón (paprika)

To serve
Sprigs of fresh mint to serve with soup
Sprigs of parsley to garnish meat platter
Bread to accompany the puchero

The night before cooking the puchero, put the chickpeas to soak in water to cover. Soak them at least 8 hours. (If tap water is very hard, use a pinch of baking soda in the soaking water.) Drain the chickpeas.

Skim off the foam that rises.

Place the chicken, meat, fat and bones in a large bowl. Wash them in two or three changes of cold water. Drain and place them in a very large soup pot. Add 16 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil. Use a skimmer or ladle to skim off and discard the foam that rises to the top. 

Add the soaked and drained chickpeas, the leek, carrots, turnip and celery. When the liquid again comes to a boil, skim once again. Cover the pot and lower the heat so the soup bubbles gently. Cook 1 hour.

Remove chicken and reserve it (unless you are using gallina, boiling hen, which needs longer cooking). Add the potatoes to the pot. Taste the broth and add salt to taste (about 1 ½ teaspoons). Bring again to a boil, lower heat, cover and cook until chickpeas and beef are completely tender, 40-60 minutes more.

During the last 30 minutes that the puchero is cooking, Place the chorizo and morcilla sausages in a pan, cover with water and cook them 20 minutes. If preparing the pumpkin sauce, cook the pumpkin in the water with the sausages. Keep the sausages hot.

Blend pumpkin for sauce.
For the pumpkin sauce: Skim out the pumpkin. Remove peel and cut it into chunks in a mini food processor or blender. Add a quarter of a cooked potato from the big puchero pot, the garlic, cumin and salt. Add the oil and vinegar and blend to make a smooth sauce. Thin the sauce with 1 or 2 tablespoons of broth from the pot. Place in a sauce bowl and sprinkle with pimentón.

Remove the bones, meat, fat and vegetables from the puchero pot. Place the vegetables in a bowl or on a platter. Skim out the chickpeas and place them in a bowl. (Some chickpeas can stay in the soup.)

Remove congealed fat.

(If the puchero is to be served the following day, place the vegetables and meats in a covered container with a little of the broth and refrigerate. Pour the broth  through a colander, discarding any stringy bits of leeks or celery. Refrigerate the soup overnight. The following day, skim off and discard the fat that has congealed on top of the soup. Reheat all of the ingredients. Cook the rice in the broth.)

Discard the bones. Cut the meat, pork fat and reserved chicken into pieces. Cut the chorizo and morcilla into chunks and add to the platter. Keep warm.

Remove broth that is not going to be used for soup and save for another use. Leave about 1 ¼ cups of broth per person in the soup pot. Slice one of the carrots and add to the soup with a ladle of the chickpeas (allow about ¼ cup chickpeas per person).Bring again to a boil and add the rice. Lower heat, cover the pot and cook until rice is just barely cooked, 10 minutes. 

Ladle the broth with rice, carrots and chickpeas into wide, shallow soup bowls. Garnish each with a sprig of mint. Serve the soup.

Garnish the platter of meats with parsley. Serve it with the bowl of vegetables, chickpeas and pumpkin sauce.

Recipes for puchero leftovers:

Other versions of cocido:

Saturday, January 4, 2020


I have a very old deep freeze, given to me second-hand, that has served me well for years. Especially when I was testing recipes for cookbooks—cooking for four or six, when there were seldom more than two at table, I always had more food than could possibly be consumed. Even without recipe testing excess, I’ve gotten very used to stashing leftovers for another day.

A few days ago, a power surge did something to the freezer’s circuitry or thermostat or capacitator. I’m going to try to have it fixed. Meanwhile, I’m sorting through the contents, my frozen assets fast becoming liquid.

Last week’s empanada will be tomorrow’s lunch. Eight cups of fish stock will go into fish chowder. A bunch of frozen bananas plus some leftover frozen whipped cream will make instant ice cream (whirl it all in a food processor).

Here’s a little container of rendered ibérico lard, a precious ingredient prepared for some past recipe. And a jar of angel’s hair confiture, an exotic sort of jam, cabello de angel, made from cidra, a kind of squash.  The two ingredients suggested cortadillos de cidra, shortbread squares with a filling of angel’s hair. Cortadillos are a pastry typical of winter’s hog butchering, when lard is plentiful. They are made for the Christmas holidays, but, packaged, are available all year round.

Shortbread bars made with both lard and olive oil have a filling of sweet angel's hair. The pastry is rich and moist, keeps well in a cookie tin.

Angel's hair confiture, stashed in the freezer since last year.

Unfortunately, my cache of lard was insufficient to make an all-lard shortbread. Will the recipe work with half lard and half olive oil? Yes!

A dusting of powdered sugar as well as the filling add sweetness to a pastry that's not overly sweet.

These bars can be cut again in half.

Dessert or a tea-time treat.

Shortbread Bars with Angel’s Hair Filling
Cortadillos de Cidra

This makes a rich, crumbly pastry that keeps well. It’s good served as dessert, accompanied by sweet Sherry, or for merienda, snack-time, with tea or coffee. 

Canned angel’s hair confiture is available at supermarkets everywhere in Spain. If you cannot obtain it, try substituting homemade pumpkin jam (a link to the recipe appears at the end of this post). Or, use something unusual such as tomato jam or date paste. Or apricot jam or orange marmalade. 

If the angel’s hair confiture seems too thick to spread, thin it with 1 or 2 teaspoons of hot water.
Rendered pork lard.

Use non-hydrogenated, white leaf lard, sometimes called “baker’s lard.”

The shortbread itself is not too sweet; the jammy filling is what puts it in the dessert category. 

Bake the shortbread in a square or rectangular pan, so that it can easily be divided into squares. An 8 X 8-inch or 10 X 6-inch pan should be about right. (My Pyrex baking pan was a little too small for the amount of dough.) 

Depending how you slice the pastry, you will have 8 to 16 rectangles/squares.

½ cup rendered lard, room temperature
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
½ cup sifted confectioners’ sugar + more for dusting the squares
3 ½ cups sifted cake flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (220 g) angel’s hair confiture (cidra)
Hot water, if needed, to thin the angel’s hair
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Combine the lard and oil in a mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed until well combined. Add the lemon zest and the sugar. Beat until mixture begins to thicken. Stir in the flour and salt until well-mixed. 

Turn the dough out onto a board. It shouldn’t be necessary to flour the surface, as the fat content keeps the dough from sticking. Knead it briefly until it comes together into a ball. Let the dough rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325ºF.

Cut a sheet of baking parchment to fit a square or rectangular baking pan, allowing extra to extend around the sides. 

Roll or pat the dough on parchment, lift it into baking pan.

Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Place the sheet of baking parchment on work surface. Roll or pat one ball of dough, approximately ½ inch thick, to roughly the size of the baking pan. Lift the parchment and place it in the pan. Trim away excess dough or, if dough doesn’t extend to the sides of the pan, press it to spread it. 

Spread angel's hair on top of first layer of dough.
Spread the angel’s hair on top of the dough. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Cut another sheet of parchment. Roll or pat the remaining ball of dough ½ inch thick. Carefully invert the slab of dough on top of the angel’s hair. (Discard the parchment.) Trim the dough so it fits the pan. 

Bake the shortbread until it is pale gold, 40-50 minutes. Do not let it brown. Remove and cool on a rack. Allow the shortbread to cool completely before removing it from the pan (3 hours).

Trim the sides of the pastry, then cut into squares or rectangles. This recipe made 8 bars cut in 3X2-inch rectangles. Each one can be cut again in half, making 16 pieces.

Sift powdered sugar over bars.
Use the edges of the parchment paper to lift the shortbread out of the pan. Place it on a cutting board. Use a serrated knife to cut it into squares. Put confectioner’s sugar in a small sieve and sift over the squares. Lift them onto a serving platter or wrap each one individually in tissue paper.

The squares will keep in an air-tight tin for up to a week. Keeping them in the refrigerator firms them up.

The bars were cut again in half, making pieces about 1 ½ X 2 inches.

More recipes using angel’s hair:

More pastries with lard: