It’s almost been a full year since I returned from my Barcelona adventures abroad, and I am really starting to reminisce those memories. There were quite a number of people from our school who went there and of course I am living with my best friend, Liz, who was my roommate and travel buddy abroad.
Besides the fact that I have decorated our apartment wall to wall with pictures from abroad, we thought it would be fun to have a little Spanish dinner. We invited one of our friends over for a Sunday night feast and I have to say, it was a wonderful success. It is actually all thanks to Alexis who kept reminding us about it, so we finally made a plan and put it on the calendar.
Alexis was planning to make an authentic tortilla, so we decided to make paella along with churros and chocolate (“xurros amb xocolat” in Barcelona). Now there are thousands of recipes out there for paella, but I actually had one already lined up. My grandma had actually ripped out a recipe on paella a few months ago and sent it to me, but I never really had an occasion to make such a feast. I kept it in my recipe binder (about 99% full of recipes I have ripped out of magazines and newspapers but have never attempted…oops) and finally had a reason to pull it out.
When we were in Spain, we actually sampled each type of paella: vegetable, chorizo, seafood, and even the authentic rabbit paella from Valencia. Let’s just say the last two were not on my top 10 list.
This was the paella made for Liz’s 21st birthday by our host mom, Conchita. She was a doll and had spent all day cooking it as a surprise. Sad part was she went to town on the seafood and the Spanish don’t seem to have a problem with little creatures in their food looking back at them. I, on the other hand, was about to have a gag reflex simply by looking at the eyeballs.
This was from a delicious place in Madrid, Isabella’s Cafeteria, which was recommended by my friend who was studying in Spain. We felt like such locals as we walked in, sat down and ordered the paella and tinto verano (basically red wine sangria) without a menu.
Vegetable Paella (because not everyone likes octopi or rabbit staring back at you)
Serves 6 to 8
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced (we used ~1/2)
1/2 large fennel bulb (I had no idea what a fennel was and actually had to search it on Google)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups rice (color is your choice, we selected brown)
2 cups warm water
1.5 cups dry white wine (used white cooking wine)
1/2 tsp paprika
3/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
1 x 14-oz can artichoke hearts (I discovered a jar of spicy hearts in the cupboard at home, so we simply picked up one more jar at Safeway.
3/4 cup sliced drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
8 oz thin asparagus or green beans, trimmed and halved
1/3 cup green olives (optional…excluded since I have a slight hatred for them)
3 Tbsp chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley (optional…forgot to pick up at store)
1. Place paella pan over medium heat and let it get hot. Add oil and tip pan to coat.
2. Add onion and fennel and cook, stirring frequently until vegetables begin to soften (~4-5 minutes). Add garlic and continue to stir, until onions and fennel are lightly browned (~3-5 minutes).
3. Mix in rice, lightly coating all the grains with oil. Stir in water, paprika, wine, salt, turmeric, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes. Gently shake pan to distribute rice evenly. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.
4. Remove pan from heat and scatter asparagus over the rice. Cover pan and bake in preheated oven (~350F) until rice is tender with a slightly crusted bottom (~30 minutes). Ours turned out with al-dante rice, so I might recommend cooking it for a tad bit longer, depending on your preference.
5. Scatter chopped parsley over the top and serve hot.
What is great about paella, is that you can even make it ahead of time, up to 1 day in advanced. Refrigerate cooled paella in an airtight container for up to 2 days. When ready, spread it in a pan, cover and reheat in an oven (350F) for 25-30 minutes.
This is from one of our MANY churros y chocolate outings (almost as many as our gelato outings). The Spanish churros are so much crispier than any churros I have discovered in the United States. I’m sure they have spent years perfecting the doughy recipe and the cooking and frying procedure.
Churros Con Chocolate (yet another way to spell it)
Churros: my laziness allowed us to pick up some from Smart & Final. These churros had a distinct “Mexican churro” taste, but they did the trick for tonight. I did find a good baked churro recipe, so I will have to test that out next time.
Chocolate (uber-healthy recipe!):
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (dark chips might provide an even richer flavor)
2 cups milk (we used skim so I call this the “healthy chocolate pudding”)
1-1.5 Tbsp cornstarch (used to thicken the chocolate)
Directions: We used a crockpot to make the chocolate, so it could cook over a period of time without me having to constantly stand at the stove, stirring it. Place the ingredients into the pot and set on medium heat. You can up the heat to “hot” if you are willing to stand close by just to make sure the chocolate doesn’t burn. I kept sneaking a peak and was worried that the chocolate wouldn’t thicken in time, but it did. Crisis averted.
The recipe also calls for 1/4 cup sugar, but since I never purchase sugar, I just excluded it. The chips were rich enough in sugar, that I don’t think anyone noticed.
I don’t think I have been this full since I lived in Spain and our senora was feeding us three over-sized course meals daily. Let’s just say, I don’t miss the heart-burn. 🙂
Liz and I have decided that it would be fun to make at least one fun dinner recipe per week. Even though we live together, we barely get to eat at the same time, simply due to our overly-busy schedules. Hopefully this will happen and we can get our friends involved too!
”In between goals is a thing called life, that has to be lived and enjoyed.” – Sid Caesar