Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Spanish Pantry ...and La Tienda Inspired Tapas

As I browsed the shelves at La Tienda, there were so many delicious and beautiful things to choose from I hardly knew where to start (and that is nothing compared to what you have to choose from on the website!). Since we often have tapas at our house, I wanted to select some items that would allow me to make some of the recipes on the La Tienda website and to recreate the tastes of Spain that Don Harris introduced me to. So I started by asking Don what items you should have in your pantry as a foundation for a good Spanish meal.

Don Harris of La Tienda makes these recommendations:

• Spanish extra virgin olive oil- La Tienda sells several artisan olive oils, and even if you have had fine Italian extra virgin olive oil, you owe it to yourself to give these artisan oils a try. I had sips of two very different oils in Don's shop each with completely different character.

• Sherry vinegar- The very best sherry vinegar comes from Jerez and it has a depth and complexity that adds layers to any dish.

Chorizo - This is a Spanish sausage. Some of the sausages at La Tienda (like those in the picture of the previous post) are red from the addition of pimenton or smoked Spanish paprika.I bought the little chorizos and they were leaner than any chorizo I have had before. They are great in eggs and cooked with garlic and wine.

• Serrano or Iberico ham- These are both famous Spanish hams and have only recently been imported into the US. These are both served sliced paper thin. Iberico hams are from black acorn-fed pigs giving the meat a unique taste that makes it a prized Spanish delicacy.

Manchego cheese- A delicious sheep's milk cheese from the La Mancha region of Spain, great in thin slices.

Pimenton (smoked paprika)-This is one of the ingredients that made the biggest impression on me at La Tienda. Donhad me smell the bittersweet pimenton and it had a depth and richness that made me think of about a hundred ways I could use it. Pimenton comes in sweet, bittersweet and hot.

Calasparra rice- This is a special Spanish rice used in paella. For a good paella, Don explained,you need a rice that can absorb lots of liquid without disintegrating, and that is where Calasparra rice is unique.

• Olives- We left with a can of olives stuffed with anchovies, neither of which I am crazy about, but Don assured me "These are not the salty hairy nasty anchovies you see on pizza", and when they found their way to our tapas table, they were truly incredible!

• Spanish saffron from La Mancha- I know this is an embarrassing confession, but saffron is not something I have had in my spice cabinet. I learned a lot about this precious spice from Don, and if you can't make the trip to Toano you can benefit from Don's expertise as well.

• Canned bonito tuna-Spanish canned tuna is not chicken of the see and bonito tuna at La Tienda is line caught and packed in oil

Armed with many of these staples I couldn't wait to incorporate then in a tapas meal. I used La Tienda's recipe link to find some new dishes and I did a little experimenting on my own for what was a wonderful tapas menu:

Anchovy-Stuffed Spanish Olives
Green Gazpacho
Shrimp and Chorizo
Artichokes with clams
Magdelena strawberry shortcake

Green Gazpacho- I am posting this as this week's entry to Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Cate of Sweetnicks

This recipe is adapted from a recipe on the La Tienda index and relies on the complex flavor of the Spanish sherry vinegar. Use watercress as a base and play with what herbs and greens you have in your CSA or farm market and each time the dish will have a different nuance.This a delicious and refreshing salad that you should add to your reperatoire.

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

2 bunches of watercress (you can also add or mix other greens such as dandelion, fennel,etc.)

1 bunch of mint (I also added some fresh thyme and sage from my garden,almost any fresh green herb would be good)

1/2 head lettuce shredded

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons Jerez sherry vinegar

Sea salt

Cold water

Preparation:

This gazpacho should be eaten immediately after it is made, so that it is crunchy and refreshing.

Remove the stalks from the herbs, rinse and drain them. Finely chop them and place them in the large bowl. Add shredded lettuce. Add them to the bowl and mix them with the herbs so that you get a uniform mixture of flavors, textures and colors.

Place the garlic and salt in the mortar. Pound them together until you have a smooth paste. Slowly add the oil so that it emulsifies and then the vinegar and a little cold water. When it is clear, continue liquefying for a few more seconds and then pour it over the vegetables and immediately add the remaining cold water. Serve immediately.

This "liquid salad"is reminiscent of the Andalusian countryside, and is a fresh, delicious and light dish that your family and friends will love.You can scatter edible flower petals on top for an even more festive look.

Shrimp and Chorizo

This was a quick and easy invention to showcase these delicious ingredients, and it was a big hit (Eaten before I could get a picture!)

1/2 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 pound chorizo, cut in bite-sized chunks
5 cloves garlic,chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon sweet pimenton
1 tbsp olive oil

Cut each shrimp in two. Saute garlic in olive oil, add chorizo. Saute for about 5-8 minutes. Add white wine and sprinkle pimenton on top and stir together until wine is reduced by half. Stir in shrimp, and cook until it just turns pink. Salt to taste and serve with crusty bread.

Magdalena Strawberry Shortcake

Angel food cake and biscuit-based shortcake, move over! The spongecake magdalenas provide the perfect base for the seasons freshest berries soaking up the juices.

For each serving cut a magdalenas in half. Cover with fresh sliced strawberries that have been tossed with just a touch of sugar and cold water and bruise the berries to release the juice. Top with whipped cream, and enjoy!

7 comments:

Bistro 613 said...

Rock on! I've loved Tienda for a very long time, even more so after they (finally) opened a retail store to the public! Great post on some great staples.

Deborah Dowd said...

Bistro 613- I just wish they were open on Saturday!

Kalyn said...

Love the idea of "liquid salad." I love that brand of smoked paprika, the best I have tried!

Natashya said...

I am a huge fan of Spanish chorizo. I like to alternate it with shrimp on a skewer for BBQ. You have inspired me to investigate other Spanish flavours, I wish we had a shop like that near us.

Deborah Dowd said...

Kalyn- The salad is so good, perfect for summer, and I am addicted to the bittersweet pimenton!

Natashya- You can get all of their products just by going to the website, which is also a great resource. If you sign up for their newsletter, they even let you in on their sales!

Moon said...

Thanks for the site. I started with smoked paprika and have gone on from there. I'd really like to try their saffron. Thanks for the site, it looks delice!

Veron said...

Now you have me more excited to make a trip out to Toano and visit La Tienda!