La Cocina de Mama: The Great Home Cooking of Spain

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9780767912228: La Cocina de Mama: The Great Home Cooking of Spain

Penelope Casas, the foremost American authority on Spanish food and the author of the bestselling Tapas, presents more than 175 robustly flavored yet amazingly simple recipes representing the best of Spanish home cooking—the cooking handed down through generations of Spanish “mamás.”

Long overshadowed by France and Italy, Spain has finally taken its rightful place as one of Europe’s great culinary meccas. Consider the reborn cities of Madrid, Barcelona, and Bilbao; the new respect afforded Spanish wines; the popularity of tapas bars in the U.S.; and Spain’s widely influential Michelin three-star chefs, Ferran Adrià and Juan Mari Arzak. Despite the world-wide acclaim for these chefs, arguably the greatest Spanish food is found not in the nation’s restaurants, but in private homes off-limits to tourists, where women still cook the recipes their mothers and grandmothers cooked before them. Now, Penelope Casas takes us into those homes to uncover the secrets of this simple, easily reproduced, and altogether marvelous cuisine.

For La Cocina de Mamá, Penelope Casas has collected recipes from great chefs and traditional home cooks in every region of Spain, all of whom have shared with her the dishes they grew up loving and still cook for themselves today. There are recipes for tapas, like Clams in Garlic Sauce; elegant soups and hearty one-pot meals like Stewed Potatoes with Pork Ribs; many wonderful seafood dishes like Fish Steaks with Peas in Saffron Sauce; meat and poultry dishes, such as Pork Tenderloin in Orange Sauce, Rack of Lamb Stuffed with Mushrooms and Scallions, and Lemon Chicken with Ginger and Pine Nuts; paella and other rice dishes—and even a few pasta dishes; unusual vegetable preparations, including Sautéed Spinach with Quince and Toasted Sesame Seeds; and desserts like Basque Apple Custard Tart. Whether of Roman, Moorish, or peasant origin, all of the dishes appeal to today’s tastes and exemplify the virtues of the Mediterranean diet—lots of olive oil, lean meats and fish, and vegetables. Sidebars throughout discuss ingredients, areas of Spain unfamiliar to most Americans, travel vignettes, and more. At last, Americans can discover the unique and irresistible flavors of authentic Spanish home cooking in La Cocina de Mamá.

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About the Author:

PENELOPE CASAS is a frequent contributor to the New York Times, Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Fine Cooking, and Condé Nast Traveler. Casas is also a consultant and lecturer on Spain, a guest speaker at the Smithsonian and the National Geographic Society, and an adjunct professor at New York University. In recognition of her efforts on behalf of Spain, the Spanish government awarded her the National Prize of Gastronomy, the Medal of Touristic Merit, and named her Dame of the Order of Civil Merit. She and her husband have led gastronomic tours of Spain for more than twenty years. They live in New York City.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER 1


TAPAS


the little dishes of spain


On my first visit to Spain so many years ago, I lost my heart in Madrid—to Luis, whom I later married, and to tapas. The two events really went hand in hand, beginning that first night when I joined Luis and his friends in making the rounds of the tapas bars and taverns that line the evocative dimly lit streets of Old Madrid. Such tapas as Serrano ham and potato omelet ( tortilla españ ola) were an integral part of the long, fun-filled evenings I spent in Spain that first summer, and my love for tapas has never diminished. They are what I crave the minute I touch down on Spanish soil.

Tapas to me are a vivid symbol of Spanish spontaneity and the carefree life that so captivated me long ago. In tapas bars (it is said that Spain has more bars than the rest of the European Community combined) food and drink help to create an atmosphere of instant camaraderie. It is always a thrill for me to enter a lively tapas bar and let my eyes take in the spectacular array of tapas on display in earthenware casseroles and on platters along the length of the bar. Just as important as eating the food is becoming engulfed in the warmth and gaiety of a tapas bar, be it in the company of friends or the people you meet while standing at a crowded bar.

Although many a time I have made a meal of tapas, Spaniards generally regard them as appetizer food, and once the midday tapas hour has passed, bars fall into a cheerless silence. Clients return home for lunch—the main meal of the day—or head to restaurants to continue socializing. Bars come to life again around 7:00 p.m. then empty once more as the 10:00 p.m. dinner hour approaches.

Tapas have an uncertain origin, although it is generally thought that they began at least a century ago in western Andalucía's sherry country. Since sherry is a fortified wine, served as an aperitif, it cries out for an accompanying nibble. The custom developed of serving a slice of ham, some olives, or other tidbits on a little plate that covered the mouth of the sherry glass. A cover or lid in Spanish is called a tapa, and thus the word became associated with appetizer food.

From this humble beginning, an enormous variety of tapas emerged, and each region of Spain has its specialties. In Galicia, empanadas (pizza-size savory pies), tiny fried green peppers, and octopus bathed in olive oil and sprinkled with paprika appear time and time again in tapas bars. In the Basque Country, pintxos—complex and beautifully crafted little bites—are labor-intensive wonders. As the capital of Spain, Madrid unites tapas from every region, and they coexist with local favorites like spicy patatas bravas and batter-fried cod ( soldaditos de Pavía), and in Sevilla—tapas heaven to be sure—exquisite little fish fried to crunchy perfection and foods bathed in cooling vinaigrettes reign supreme. You can serve tapas with any kind of wine or beer. Nevertheless, there is nothing better with tapas than dry fino sherry, the drink that started it all.

Tapas were at first slow to catch on in America. Certainly they were not the boom that was predicted in 1985, the year my book Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain was published. Rather, acceptance was a gradual process that took place over decades. Today tapas have finally become a significant food trend, and tapas bars are sprouting across the nation.

Many of the tapas recipes in this chapter do not, in fact, come from mamá but from tapas bars around Spain. Tapas are street food, easy to find anywhere and not likely to be served at home. But tapas are really about portion size—just about any food in small amounts becomes a tapa—so many tapas can become first courses or even main courses. The possibilities are endless. Make several tapas and you have a lively tapas party (a good selection might include one tapa that is marinated, one fried, another in a sauce, and yet another with bread or pastry). Perhaps supplement them with a few instant tapas like those described on the following page. Select one tapa and serve it as a first course, like Clams with Ham and Artichoke Hearts (page 35) or Breaded Mushrooms with Alioli (page 42). Or increase the portions of Old-Fashioned Spanish Potato and Tuna Omelet (page 39) or Mini Meatballs in Saffron Garlic Sauce (page 55), and you've got a meal. The beauty of tapas is their enormous flexibility.


Instant Tapas from the Spanish Pantry


Tapas can be as easy as opening a can or a jar. In fact, there are tapas bars in Spain that do nothing more than that, placing the contents on a plate or spearing a variety of these first-rate conservas on toothpicks. Although professed gourmets may scoff at anything from a can, in Spain these products are top notch and treated as delicacies. Here are some suggestions to effortlessly supplement any tapas menu.


*Fry blanched almonds, preferably marcona almonds from Spain, in olive oil. Drain and sprinkle with salt. Or purchase marcona almonds already fried. Watch them disappear in the blink of an eye.

*Top wedges of Manchego cheese with slices of quince preserves ( membrillo).

*Make banderillas (so called because of their resemblance to their counterparts in the bullring) by spearing on toothpicks or small skewers such jarred products as pitted olives, cocktail onions, pickles, anchovies, pimiento or marinated hot red pepper, and chunks of tuna.

*Slice piquillo peppers into strips, combine with minced garlic and extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with parsley.

*Open a can of cockles in brine and add a generous squeeze of lemon juice.

*Serve pickled mussels from the can, just as they are.

*Spread green or black Spanish olive pâté on rounds of garlic toast and top with strips of piquillo peppers or anchovy fillets.

*Lightly saute slices of chorizo and spear with a toothpick onto pieces of bread.

*Place a Spanish sardine on a slice of garlic toast (cut from a French-style loaf), top with strips of bottled hot red peppers, and sprinkle with parsley.

*Bring out anchovy-stuffed olives—always a big hit.

*Present a plate of delicious caperberries.


PIQUITOS de ENRIQUE DACOSTA
Enrique's Bread Bites


These small flatbreads serve the same purpose as bread sticks. They are crisp and flaky, and because of the olive oil (use your finest) and salty edge can easily be addictive. Based on centuries-old tortas de aceite, they are the specialty of young chef Enrique Dacosta, whose restaurant Poblet in Denia, Alicante, is the best regarded in the region. They are great with tapas.

Instead of making bread dough for this recipe, I simplify by buying pizza dough from my local pizzeria, and the results are excellent.


makes about 15 bites


1/4 pound pizza dough, at room temperature
Kosher or sea salt
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more for brushing
About 8 tablespoons flour



Place the dough in a bowl and knead in 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and 2 tablespoons of the flour and work with your hands to fully incorporate. Repeat three more times for the remaining oil and flour, adding 1 tablespoon oil and 2 tablespoons flour at a time. Turn out on a floured work surface and knead lightly until smooth, adding more flour if the dough is too sticky.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Roll the dough on a floured surface to 1/8 inch thick and cut with a cookie cutter into crescents or other shapes. Place on a greased cookie sheet, brush with olive oil, and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake for 15 to 16 minutes, until lightly golden. Turn off the oven and leave in the oven for another 10 minutes to fully crisp.


PAN con TOMATE y ANCHOA
Garlic, Olive Oil, and Fresh Tomato on Toasted Bread


Nothing could be more simple and down to earth than this tapa, but its appeal is universal. It originated in Catalunya, but can now be found all over Spain. In fact, I will never forget a breakfast of exceptional pan con tomate and steaming café con leche at an outdoor café overlooking the mountains of Granada in Galera, a town of cave dwellings. The recipe that follows has the advantage of last-minute assemblage, so the bread doesn't get soggy. Since ingredients are few, it goes without saying that the very best tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, and anchovies are essential.

If last-minute preparation is not a problem, I suggest the even simpler traditional method of toasting the bread, rubbing it with a cut clove of garlic, then rubbing with a cut tomato, squeezing the tomato gently as you rub. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt.


serves 4


1 1/2 pounds very ripe and flavorful tomatoes, preferably plum tomatoes, split in halves crosswise
2 large garlic cloves, mashed to a paste
4 tablespoons best-quality fruity extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Kosher or sea salt
Good-quality French-style loaf, split in half and halves cut into 4-inch lengths
8 to 16 best-quality anchovy fillets, preferably jarred, optional


With a coarse grater held over a bowl grate the tomatoes down to the skin. Pour off any excess liquid. Add the garlic, olive oil, and salt to taste (the mixture should be well seasoned). Let sit for a few minutes to meld flavors.

Lightly toast the split bread and drizzle with olive oil. Pour the tomato mixture into a serving bowl and arrange the bread and anchovies, if using, on plates. Let each guest spread the tomato mixture on the bread and top it off with one or two anchovy fillets.


QUESO MANCHEGO con ACEITUNAS y PIQUILLOS
Manchego Cheese Canapés with Olives and Piquillo Peppers


An extremely easy tapa to assemble that comes straight from El Corregidor, the most delightful bar and restaurant in the region of La Mancha, where Manchego ...

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