Paella

Paella By Marta Diaz Megias Paella is one of the most popular and famous of global dishes, but to define exactly what paella contains is almost impossible. There are as many variations of paella as there are cooks, with many claiming that their recipe is the best tasting or most authentic. The origins of the dish, however, are quite humble. Understanding a little of its history will help explain why so many varieties exist. Valencia is where the Romans introduced irrigation followed by the Arab conquerors that brought rice, and perfected the rice farming. No surprise the best and most authentic Paella comes from Valencia. Valencia is in Eastern Spain. It is one of the largest natural ports in the Mediterranean and has been one of the most important rice-producing areas in Spain since rice was introduced by the Moors over 1200 years ago. In fact, the Spanish word for rice is ‘arroz’, which is derived from Arabic, not Latin like most of Castilian Spanish. Paella was originally farmers' and farm laborer’s food, cooked by the workers over a wood fire for the lunchtime meal. It was made with rice, plus whatever was at hand around the rice fields and countryside: tomatoes, onions, and snails, with a few beans added for flavor and texture. Rabbit or duck might also have been added, and for special occasions, chicken plus a touch of saffron for an extra special color and flavor. Paella was also traditionally eaten straight from the pan in which it was cooked with each person using his own wooden spoon. Little by little, as 'Valencian rice' became more widely available, paella recipes were adapted with new variations appearing. With Valencia being on the coast, it is no surprise that various types of seafood crept into the recipes over the generations. Now paella is the generic name of 200 or so distinctive rice dishes or ‘arroces’ from the Valencia region alone, not to mention other parts of Spain and the rest of the world. To this day a "true" Paella Valenciana has no seafood but a mixture of chicken, rabbit, and snails with green and white beans. Where does the name Paella come from? It’s a little confusing but ’paella’ or to be more exact ‘la paella’ is the name for cooking pan itself and not the dish. The word comes from old Valencian (in Valencia they have their own…

Mediterranean Cauliflower Salad

Mediterranean Cauliflower Salad By Marta Diaz Megias This salad is not a specific recipe from Spanish cuisine, but its ingredients are very basic and available everywhere. Its preparation is quick and easy, and once it is prepared it can be kept in the refrigerator without losing any of its quality. It is a great accompaniment to many meals and snacks. Ingredients: 12 oz chopped cauliflower florets 1 chopped red bell pepper (ribs and seeds removed) 1 oz pumpkin seeds 1/3 cup chopped pitted oil-cured black olives ¼ cup sundried tomatoes Dressing: 4 Tbsp virgin olive oil 2 tsp apple cider vinegar 1 tsp Dijon Mustard 1 tsp salt ½ tsp ground black pepper Preparation: 1. Place all ingredients for the salad in a bowl, pour dressing and mix it very thoroughly. 2. In a screw-top jar mix all ingredients for the dressing. Then pour over and toss the salad and it’s ready to serve. Enjoy!

Trofie

Trofie By Elisabetta Ciardullo A couple of weeks ago we spoke about the recipe for the Ligurian Pesto sauce. Well, Pesto is used in many ways, but for sure it was created to go hand in hand with the pasta called Trofie, also typical of Liguria. This is a hand rolled pasta, so easy to make that it can be a great and fun family project. The name of the pasta derives from a verb in the Genovese dialect that means “to rub”, from the movement that you have to make to obtain its shape: rubbing the dough against a wooden table or between your palms. As with many other Italian pasta types that require an incredible amount of love and dedication, the Trofie were traditionally made by the women of the family, who would get together around a large table and make the pasta while chatting away all afternoon. Of course, the invention of a machine to make this shape of pasta made everything easier (and scrapped the therapeutic collective process), but surprisingly the mechanical production of Trofie started only in 1977, by Pastificio Novella. To tell you the truth I do not remember eating Trofie in Rome as a kid; the first time I saw them was during a vacation in Liguria, just around that period. The ingredients to make Trofie are only three: semola (which is the result of the grinding of hard wheat), water, and salt. It is important to use this kind of flour, as it is coarser and has a more rustic taste and texture than regular flour. Semola can be purchased in any Italian food store or on the internet, and it is very different from any other flour. It is made from the hard wheat; it is grinded twice “rimacinata" and has a fine texture. The color is more yellowish than the baking flour. Careful though, as it cannot be substituted with “semolina”, which is a much coarser grinding of the durum wheat. This recipe is a poorer version of egg noodles. Once more the economic need to make something appetizing with very little ingredients gave birth to one of the most scrumptious dishes. The pasta is of course high in carbs; but with the help of this amazing, healthy sauce and a generous serving of Extra Virgin Olive oil, it becomes an acceptable trade-off, that will soothe the mind and resource…

Ribollita

Ribollita By Elisabetta Ciardullo Ribollita is the boiled-twice hearty soup from Tuscany. Its origin, in a simplified version of the XVI century, points specifically to the beautiful town of Arezzo, close to where my mother was born. A few summer vacations spent there as a kid at some cousins’ casale (rural farmhouse), make it easy for me to imagine how and why this simple, vegetarian soup was created. In catholic Italy, Friday was a day where no meat could be eaten, so the habit of putting together some vegetables and let them boil for hours on a Friday was born. To get rid of all bread leftovers of the week, stale bread was added to the soup to make it thicker and give it the consistency of a vegetarian / vegan stew ante litteram. Consider also that all the ingredients were readily available in the vegetable garden that every farmer maintained, so the dish was typical of the “cucina povera” tradition, namely cooking with few inexpensive ingredients, but still making some appetizing dishes. The soup was re-boiled before consumption, even more than once, and each re-boiling concentrated and enhanced the flavor. There is a general consensus about the ingredients to use, but as always in Italy, each family has its own recipe, or maybe the twist is simply a consequence of what is available in the pantry. Two ingredients are always present though: lacinato kale and beans. The first is also known as black kale, or, in English, as dino kale for its bumpy, dark green leaf. Usually, this kind of kale grows in winter, it is very resistant to cold temperatures and actually needs to be exposed to ice-cold nights to become more tender. All of which of course never happens here in California, where we can enjoy this tasteful and healthy vegetable all year long. Black kale, as all the other members of the large kale family, has been shown to have significant health benefits. On top of that, black kale contains a massive amount of polyphenols and antioxidants, which through their anti-inflammatory effects are thought to decrease the risk for many chronic diseases including asthma, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and many more. It also contains large amounts of carotenoids, who help ensure eyes’ health. The beans used are mostly Cannellini, a variety of medium sized white beans typical from Italy, but they can be substituted with…

Pisto Manchego

Pisto Manchego By Marta Diaz Megias Pisto Manchego is a wonderful Spanish dish rich with juicy flavors from seasonal vegetables, including tomato, bell pepper, onion, and zucchini. Pisto Manchego is a traditional Castilian dish that originated in La Mancha region in central Spain. Pisto in Spanish generally refers to diced vegetables of all kinds. It is derived from the Latin word pistus meaning crushed or pounded. The most popular versions of pisto include pisto andaluz from the Andalusian region, pisto toledano from Toledo and pisto bilbaína from Bilbao, the Basque region, which includes scrambled eggs. The Basque version makes this kind of pisto very popular among vegetarians, because of its simple preparation and the use of commonly available vegetables. The origin of pisto is believed to be from the ancient Moorish dish al-buraniya or as it is known in Spanish as alboronia. In the year 822 Al-buraniya was specially created and served at the wedding of the Moorish princess Būrān. Hence the name al-buraniya in her honor. There is no doubt that today’s Spanish cuisine is still influenced by the Arabic flavors. The Moors ruled the Iberian Peninsula for seven centuries (700 AD to 1400 AD). Moors introduced the technique of frying in oil to the Spanish community and advanced the production of olive oil. Originally this dish was cooked outdoors in the fields with easy-to-get local produces by farmers in La Mancha. The real pisto only has green and red bell peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini, but the vegetables used varied depending on the area, season, or local preferences. The ancient recipe only had eggplant, olive oil and garlic. The discovery of the Americas brought new products such as tomatoes and peppers, these elements soon became basic in Spanish cuisine. Over the years, eggplant was gradually replaced. In today’s pisto, tomatoes and bell peppers are a must and as per the availability other vegetables are included. It is a vegetarian dish that makes use of the Mediterranean vegetables that are in season. Ingredients: 300 grams Onions finely chopped 1 Red bell pepper diced and seeded 1 Green bell pepper diced and seeded 300 grams Zucchini diced 100 ml extra virgin olive oil 400 grams Tomatoes peeled and seeded 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 1 tsp salt 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper My personal suggestion is to add a tsp of turmeric Preparation: 1. Crush the tomatoes. 2. Heat the…