Saturday, March 28, 2020


Cazuela de fideos--noodles cooked with seafood in the Málaga style. This version is with sea scallops.

By the end of the second week of lockdown, it’s definitely time for another run on the supermercado! The cupboard is almost bare. We’re down to bare bones. But, I’m not scraping the bottom of the barrel. In a reverse operation, I’m using my stash of foods kept just for special occasions. This is certainly a "special occasion," if not the sort I originally had in mind.

I’ve defrosted a bag of plump sea scallops, a shellfish I adore. I used to buy them fresh, but they seem to have disappeared from local markets. I occasionally splurge on frozen ones.

I’ve also discovered in the freezer two small containers of shrimp broth (made from the heads and tails of fresh shrimp) and a bag of baby fava beans. Favas are in season now, but I´m not growing them this year. These are left from a previous year. In the cupboard, a packet of fideos, thin soup noodles, and some canned tomatoes.

My ingredients suggest a cazuela de fideos, a Málaga-style seafood and noodle casserole. Instead of the traditional version, with clams or bacalao (salt cod), this one, with scallops, will be special.

Noodles and sauce cook together. They are served juicy, not soupy.

A sprig of fresh mint is the finishing touch. My version has baby fava beans and, instead of peas, a garnish of snow peas from my garden. (So nice to have fresh vegetables, even when shopping is circumscribed.)

Plump scallops come with the coral or roe.

The fideo noodles cook right in the liquid (flavorful stock). A sofrito of onions, garlic and tomatoes fried in olive oil makes the flavor base. (The sofrito can be made in advance.) Cook the noodles in a clay cazuela if you have one or use any heavy pan.The finished noodles should be juicy, saucy, not soupy. A sprig of fresh mint is the typical garnish, making the dish truly “Málaga style.”

Potato is typical in this dish, yes, with pasta. Also typical are peas, fava beans, artichokes. I scattered the tiny (defrosted and peeled) favas on top of the fideos, like a garnish. Fresh ones can be cooked with the noodles. I also considered pureeing them with mayonnaise and garlic to make a green-tinged alioli to serve alongside.

Scallop and Noodle Casserole
Cazuela de Fideos con Vieiras

1 medium potato, cut in ½-inch dice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound sea scallops (3-4 per person)
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ teaspoon saffron threads, lightly crushed
8 ounces (about 2 cups) fideo noodles or spaghetti broken into short lengths
¼ cup thick sofrito (recipe follows)
3 cups shrimp, fish or clam broth
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cooked fava beans or peas
Snow peas, blanched
Sprigs of fresh mint

Fideo noodles come in various sizes, from thin angel's hair to thicker. This medium noodle is perfect for the cazuela and also for soups. Use spaghetti broken into short lengths, if fideos are not available.

These are thawed baby fava beans. Blanching splits the outer skins, making them fairly easy to peel. The skinned beans are vivid green, a nice contrast with noodles.
Par-boil the diced potatoes for 2 minutes. Drain and reserve them.

Heat the oil in a cazuela or heavy pan. Sauté the scallops with the clove of garlic on medium heat, turning to brown them lightly on all sides. They should be just cooked through. Remove the scallops from the pan. (Leave the garlic in the pan.)

Add fideos to the oil in the cazuela, then add the sofrito and broth. The pasta cooks in the sauce.

Sprinkle the saffron into the oil in the pan. Stir in the fideos and potatoes and sauté for 1 minute. Add the sofrito and broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat so liquid bubbles gently. Season with salt and pepper. (If broth and sofrito were salted, additional salt may not be needed.) Cook, stirring occasionally, until fideos are al dente and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 6 minutes.

Place the sautéed scallops and fava beans on top of the fideos. Cover the pan and allow to set 5 minutes.

Serve the fideos and scallops garnished with snow peas and sprigs of mint.

Thick Sofrito with Canned Tomatoes
Sofrito con Tomates en Conserva

Sofrito usually is made with fresh tomatoes. Here's a recipe for making it with canned tomatoes. You only need half of this thick sofrito paste for the fideos recipe. Store the rest in the fridge for use in another recipe. 

Makes ½ cup thick sauce.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves chopped garlic
¼ cup chopped green pepper (optional)
1 cup drained and crushed canned tomatoes
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons dry Sherry

Fry the onions and tomatoes until all liquid is cooked away.

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet. Sauté the onion, garlic and green pepper on medium heat until softened, 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook on medium-high until all of the liquid is cooked off and the vegetables begin to “fry” again in the oil.

Add the Sherry, raise the heat and cook off all the liquid. Let the mixture just begin to brown. Remove from heat.

Puree the sauce in a mini-processor.

More recipes with scallops:

More recipes for fideo noodles:

More about sofrito here.

Saturday, March 21, 2020


And, on the seventh day, I shopped. I parked as far from the market as possible, for a chance to stretch my legs, and donned rubber gloves. (No masks available anywhere.) Officers on patrol pulled up next to me, saw my shopping bags and moved along without a word. At the market, the butcher and fruit vendor handed over receipts to show as proof that I was out and about to purchase food, almost the only movement outside home that is permitted. Such is life during the coronavirus crisis lockdown. 

Another customer at the butcher’s (keeping a 1-meter distance from others) asked if business was suffering with people keeping to their homes. Francisco, the carnicero (butcher), replied that, no, he had had the best four days ever. “But, nobody is buying meat with any joy,” he said. It seemed true. Usually a feast-day food, meat and poultry were being purchased for survival. Everybody seemed pretty glum.

But I was overjoyed to have a fat pollo amarillo (free-range “yellow” chicken) for roasting, a bundle of fresh asparagus and local avocados to replenish my menu planning for another week in quarantine.

Still, I haven’t eaten too badly in the seven days of isolation, using frozen and canned foods plus produce from my garden—cabbage, kale, chard, carrots and snow peas. Here are some of the dishes I ate during the first week of lockdown.

Snow peas from my garden, for an easy stir-fry with beef (from the freezer).

For St. Patrick's Day, a recipe from Epicurious--Cabbage Potato Pie. Only, instead of potatoes, I used mashed zucchini. (For anyone following my blog: this is the last cabbage from the garden!)

Chickpeas in the freezer from a previous meal go into hummus with tahini. Great snack food. I use the leftovers as a dressing for salads and cooked vegetables.

Harira, a spicy Moroccan soup (this recipe also from Epicurious--see the link below), is a great lunch dish. I had vegetables from the garden. You could use canned chickpeas. Add beef, lamb or chicken to make the soup even more substantial.   

From the pantry: canned mussels in escabeche. These are canned with pieces of algae from Galicia.

To make sauce for pasta: Add contents of two cans of mussels in escabeche to sautéed garlic, ham and kale.

I served one portion of the mussel-kale sauce with noodles and the other with zoodles (zucchini noodles).

I kept myself entertained one afternoon making these cauliflower patties, using leftover cauliflower "rice" that I had made for the stir-fry earlier in the week. I wanted crisp crackers, but they're not. But they make a tasty snack, nice with a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Cauliflower Patties
Tortitas de Coliflor

Makes 16.

2 cups cooked cauliflower “rice”
1 cup (unsweetened) almond flour
1 egg, beaten
½ cup grated Manchego cheese
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon smoked pimentón picante (hot paprika)

Heat oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Combine the cauliflower rice and almond flour in a bowl. Add the egg, cheese, salt, pepper and pimentón. 

Drop spoonfuls of the cauliflower mixture onto the baking sheet. Use the back of the spoon to press them into 2-inch patties.

Bake the patties until golden, 15 minutes. Serve hot or room temperature.

To make cauliflower “rice”: Cut out and discard the center stalk of the cauliflower. Cut the cauliflower into florets. Add the florets and small stems to food processor and pulse until they are chopped to the consistency of rice grains. Place the cauliflower kernels in a microwave-safe bowl and drizzle them with olive oil. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir. Microwave for 1 or 2 minutes more or until cauliflower is the desired degree of doneness. Add salt.

Links to recipes pictured above:
Harira (Moroccan Soup), by Joan Nathan.
Cabbage Potato Pie by Anna Stockwell.

More recipes for cauliflower rice here.
More recipes for cooking with algae here.
More recipes for lockdown meals here and here.

KitchenQuarantine  a Facebook Page.

By the way, it's SPRING! Orange blossoms.

Saturday, March 14, 2020


At least so far, all is well with me. I’m staying home from the gym (closed for two weeks), missing the market and morning coffee at my favorite café. I realize I’m in the vulnerable cohort of “the elderly,” so I’m taking a little extra care. How about you?

Please excuse the corny slang at the top. I was just trying to come up with a title for today’s blog, featuring a recipe with duck and pears. Finding confit duck on sale and admiring my neighbor’s pear tree in full bloom inspired the choice of recipes.

Duck with fruit is classic. In Catalonia, the fruit is pears.

Pear tree in bloom in my neighbor's garden.

Ànec amb Peres—duck with pears in the Catalan language—is a traditional dish in the Catalan region, where pears are grown and ducks are raised. It’s a simple braised dish with the addition of vi ranci (vino rancido), an oxidized wine typical of the region, and pears that add a touch of sweetness to the sauce.

I used confit duck legs, which are salted and “cured,” somewhat like ham, then cooked. They’re sold shrink-wrapped with some of their fat, which can be used to make the sauce. Because the confit duck is already cooked, it does not need to cook more than 15 minutes in the sauce.

If using fresh duckling, cut it in quarters. Use the necks and wing tips for stock. Roast the duck in a medium-hot oven (375ºF) for 30 minutes. Save the fat which is rendered to use in making the sauce. Cook the quartered duck in the sauce for 45-60 minutes or until tender.

I found it curious that traditional recipes for duck with pears call for the pieces of duck to be browned in lard—pork fat. You’d think that fatty duck would hardly need extra fat. Perhaps it once was to disguise the sometimes “fishy” taste of wild duck. With farm-raised duckling, use a little olive oil if you don’t have enough duck fat.

If you can’t find vino rancido (yes, the word means “rancid,” but not in a pejorative way), substitute dry Sherry.

The sauce is thickened with a version of the Catalan picada sauce, this one with almonds and galletas Marías. The Marías are a plain, not-too-sweet cookie. If not available, graham crackers are a suitable substitute or just use fried bread.

Cook pears until tender, but not so they fall apart. 

Sweet pear and succulent duck go well together.

Duck with Pears, Catalan Style
Ànec amb Peres (Pato con Peras)

Confit duck leg will cook with carrots, onions, wine, pears, turnips and, to finish, a picada of ground almonds and galleta María (lower left). 

Shrink-wrapped confit duck leg.
Serves 4.

4 firm pears, peeled
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Strip of lemon zest
4 confit (cooked) duck legs, about 12 ounces each)
4 tablespoons duck fat, olive oil or lard
1 cup chopped onion
½ cup diced carrot
½ cup diced turnip
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup grated tomato pulp
¼ cup dry Sherry
3 cups duck or chicken broth
Sprig of thyme
Sprig of celery leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

For the picada:
¼ cup toasted almonds
1 clove garlic
2 galletas María (plain cookies)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Place the pears in a pan with water to cover, the lemon juice and strip of zest. Bring to a boil and cook them until tender when pierced with a skewer, 5-10 minutes, depending on how firm they are. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, Cut the pears into quarters and remove cores. Reserve them.

Scrape any fat from the duck legs and save it. Save any juices or gelatin clinging to the meat. 

Heat 4 tablespoons of duck fat, oil or lard in a heavy skillet. Brown the duck legs, skin-side down, and remove them. Add the onion, carrot, turnip and garlic to the fat. Sauté, stirring frequently, until onion begins to caramelize, 10 minutes. If necessary, add a few spoonfuls of water and keep cooking until vegetables are fairly browned. Add the tomato pulp and cook until liquid cooks away. Add the Sherry and cook until alcohol is cooked off. Add any reserved meat juices or gelatin.

Add 2 ½ cups of the broth. Add the thyme, celery, salt and pepper. (Confit duck is already somewhat salty.) Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook 15 minutes.

Puree then sieve the sauce.

Remove some of diced carrots and turnips to use as garnish. Discard thyme and celery. Scrape remaining sauce into a blender and process until smooth. Press the sauce through a sieve and return it to the pan. Add the duck legs. Cook gently 15 minutes.

For the picada: In a mortar or blender, crush the almonds, garlic, galletas and parsley to a paste, blending in the remaining ½ cup of broth. Stir this paste into the skillet. Cook 5 minutes. 

Add pears to the sauce, if desired, or keep them, without saucing, to serve alongside the duck.

Serve the duck legs, pears and sauce, garnished with reserved diced carrots and turnips.

More recipes with duck:

More about galletas Marías here.

Saturday, March 7, 2020


How does my blog get done, week after week? Or, as someone asked me, how do I keep finding new stuff to write about? 

Early in the week I start thinking about it: what do I want to eat (that I haven’t already covered on the blog)? I try to choose Spanish recipes or, at least, make dishes using iconic Spanish ingredients.

What’s fresh and seasonal, in the market or in my garden? What new ingredient have I found? What have I seen to inspire me in one of the hundreds of Spanish cookbooks in my collection or on Facebook/Instagram/Foodgawker/NewYorkTimesCooking/other folks’ blogs? Where have I recently travelled and what have I eaten outside my own kitchen? What’s in the news that has a possible food angle (e.g., Trump's tariffs on Spanish black olives)?

By midweek, I have a plan. I shop and cook. I cook in the daylight hours, so that I can photograph the food with natural light. Having been a writer/journalist all my life, I find that writing is the easy part. Cooking is the fun part. Photography is what’s hard.

Not the stuffed mushrooms I intended to blog about. This last-minute dish is cabbage from the garden, sausages, potatoes and carrots, topped with a pine nut picada with garlic and parsley.

This week I was inspired by finding enormous (at least 5-inch) portobello mushrooms in my local market. I planned to stuff them two ways. But, by Friday, even with a special order, no more giant mushrooms were to be had.

Serendipity kicked in. I pulled up a cabbage from my vegetable plot (you will recall, this is the “year of the cabbage”) and found some chorizo criollo in the freezer. Potatoes and carrots. A pine nut picada to give it extra oomph. Take the beauty shot. Dinner plus blog, done.

Picada is a Catalan preparation or sauce, a little like gremolata, that is stirred into a dish or spread on top of it at the end of cooking.  This version uses pine nuts instead of the more usual hazelnuts or almonds. They can be pounded in a mortar, finely chopped or, easiest, ground in a mini food processor.

I like chorizo criollo. It is flavored with garlic and pimentón like cured Spanish chorizo, but this is a raw sausage. It's especially juicy for cooking. Use any fresh pork sausage in this dish. Sausage stays juicier if cooked whole. Use kitchen scissors to cut it into bite-size pieces immediately before serving.

The garlicky picada topping gives pop to braised cabbage and juicy sausage.

The dish is juicy, not soupy.

Cabbage and Sausage with Pine Nut Picada
Guiso de Coles y Salchichas con Picada de Piñones

Serves 4.

Cabbage from the garden.
1 medium cabbage (1 ½ pounds)
1 carrot, sliced
3-4 medium potatoes (1 pound), peeled and cut in pieces
Thick slice of onion
Freshly ground black pepper
3-4 cups water
14 ounces fresh pork sausage, such as chorizo criollo
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts (1 ounce)
3 cloves garlic, peeled
Pinch of cumin seed (optional)
¼ cup parsley, finely chopped

Discard tough outer leaves of the cabbage. Cut it in quarters and cut away the core. Slice the cabbage. Place it in a medium stew pot with the carrot, potatoes and slice of onion. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and pepper. Add enough water to almost cover the cabbage. Tuck the whole sausage links into the vegetables.

Cook just until vegetables are tender.

Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until the cabbage and potatoes are tender, 10-15 minutes.

Fry pine nuts and garlic.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small skillet. Fry the pine nuts, whole cloves of garlic and cumin seed, if using, until pine nuts are golden. Remove from heat. When slightly cooled, place the contents of the skillet and ½ teaspoon salt in a mini food processor and process until finely chopped. (If desired, save out a few pine nuts to garnish the finished dish.) Stir in 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid from the cabbage pot. Immediately before serving, stir in the chopped parsley.

Use a slotted spoon to remove cabbage, potatoes, carrots and sausages from the pot. Cut the sausages into chunks. Add only enough of the cooking liquid to keep the cabbage juicy, not soupy. Spoon the pine nut picada over the cabbage. Serve hot.

More recipes with picada:

Links to lots more recipes with cabbage here.

Recipes from the black olive trade war here.