Spanish Themed Dinner

On Father’s Day this year, I cooked a special dinner for hubby & the kiddos. We had already celebrated with my father when my parents visited back in May and we celebrated with hubby’s family on Saturday. So, this was just for our immediate family. I asked my older son for ideas and he suggested “pan con tomate” – bread with tomatoes. This is a very common tapas item and is so easy because the diners do most of the work. I decided to continue with a Spanish theme to our dinner (I LOVE to have “themes” to our meals). We had garlic shrimp, another common tapas offering, paella-stuffed peppers and a “Valencian” salad. Here’s the recipes along with the (very) few pictures that I took.

Pan Con Tomate (sadly no photos)

  • good country bread such as ciabatta, focaccia, etc.
  • tomatoes (ripe ones from your garden or farmer’s market are the best)
  • garlic cloves (bigger ones are better)
  • good extra virgin olive oil
  • coarse ground sea salt

Directions: Slice your bread about 1/4-1/2″ thick (the first joint of your thumb is about an inch) – you’ll want about 2-3 slices per person. Halve or quarter the tomatoes, depending on size (if I’m using Roma tomatoes I’ll just halve them, if I’m using big slicing tomatoes then I’ll quarter them) – you need one tomato piece per person. Cut enough garlic cloves in half so each person has one half. Grill or toast the bread until brown in spots. Place bread, tomato pieces, garlic halves, coarse sea salt & olive oil on the table. Each diner takes a piece of garlic and rubs the cut side on their warm bread. The heat & roughness of the bread will melt some of the garlic into the bread. Then rub the tomato on the bread so some of the pulp gets smeared on the bread. Drizzle with olive oil & sprinkle on some sea salt.  Eat! It is so amazing how such ordinary ingredients can taste so amazing.

Garlic Shrimp

Although this is typically a tapas item, I made a larger amount and served it for our main course. I used this recipe from Epicurious, except I left out the red pepper flakes (younger child doesn’t like spicy) and lemon juice (b/c I forgot). I have this very cool garlic press that’s also a garlic slicer which makes this easy recipe even easier.

Paella-Stuffed Peppers

I made this up as I went along so here’s description of what I did. Since I was already making shrimp for the main course I decided I wanted the paella filling to be mostly rice with some seasoning.

  •  2 links Spanish chorizo (about 2-3 oz) – this is a smoke cured type of sausage (like pepperoni), not an uncooked sausage, flavored with smoked Spanish paprika.  If you can’t find it, you can substitute pepperoni or kielbasa
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped (red, orange or yellow)
  • 3/4 cup medium grain rice
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth (from a can, box, bouillon, etc)
  • 2 pinches saffron threads
  • 3 whole bell peppers (we like red, yellow & orange, but if you like green use that)

Peel the casing off the chorizo and chop into small dice. Place chorizo, chopped onions & chopped peppers into a medium size non-stick saucepan. Sauté over medium heat until the peppers & onions are softened but not browned.

Meanwhile, crumble saffron threads into chicken broth and heat (I used the microwave). Add the rice to the peppers & onions and sauté in the rendered chorizo fat until the grains turn opaque (they will initially appear slightly translucent but will turn milky white in a few minutes – this is the first step in making pilaf and risotto too). Add 1 1/2 cups of the warm saffron-infused chicken broth, bring to a boil, cover and cook 15 minutes or until broth is absorbed and rice is al dente (chewy, not crunchy but not soft either).

Meanwhile, cut remaining three peppers in half through the stems. Carefully remove the seeds and inner ribs. Place cut side up in a baking dish just big enough to hold the peppers. Microwave for about 6 minutes to soften slightly (this will reduce oven time later so your filling doesn’t dry out).

When rice is done, scoop into pepper shells, dividing evenly and mounding as needed.  Drizzle remaining broth over and around peppers. Cover with foil. Bake at 325 for 10-15 minutes or until heated through. Serve warm. I didn’t use any salt in this recipe since I felt that the chorizo and chicken broth had enough. This is definitely going to be a frequently requested recipe in my house.

“Valencian” Salad (sadly no pictures either)

This is a salad I make to go with various Mediterranean meals. I call it “Valencian” because I prefer to use Valencian oranges. As is typical with most of my salads, I just have general instructions and not specific quantities.

  • lettuce (field greens if you want to get fancy otherwise whatever is in your vegetable bin)
  • oranges (preferably Valencian)
  • red onion
  • Kalamata olives
  • good extra virgin olive oil
  • sherry vinegar (can also use red wine, white wine or champagne vinegar)

Use your personal preferences on the quantities of each of these.

Tear up lettuce into pieces and place in your salad bowl. Thinly slice some onion (I have a mandolin that was a gift from hubby that makes this so easy!), quarter and add to lettuce. Peel oranges and separate into sections. Cut into bite size pieces and add them to the bowl along with any juices that drip onto your cutting board. I have trouble removing the membranes so I don’t bother anymore – which wouldn’t cut it in a fancy restaurant but is fine at home. Add kalamata olives to salad.

Mix dressing using one part vinegar to two or three parts oil (i.e. 1 Tbsp vinegar to 2-3 Tbsp oil). In France, where vinaigrettes originated, they use a ratio of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil. For me it’s too oily so I use either a 1 to 2 ratio or even a 2 to 3 ratio. The best way to determine what works for you is to mix up the oil & vinegar and dip a piece of lettuce in it to taste. You’ll know right away it it’s too tart (add more oil) or too oily (add more vinegar). Also, different vinegars might need different ratios depending on their tartness. Toss dressing with salad right before serving. Season liberally with salt & pepper.

Please let me know if you try any of the recipes and what you think.

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