Hola!

¿Cómo estás?

This formally concludes the Spanish speaking portion of this text.

For those two sentences are all of the Spanish that I know.

If you are wondering, I would not consider myself fluent.

Week 2 brings us to Spain.

Now class, who knows where Spain is?

Spain is in Europe, of course.

And it just happens to be north of our first stop, Morocco.

Before I started doing my research into the cuisine of Spain, I knew that they had olives, manchego cheese, Spanish red wine (of course) and tapas.

It turns out that Spanish food has much more to offer, and it varies greatly region by region. Until recent years, the mountains that criss cross Spain made travel between regions difficult, so people cooked the foods with what could be caught and/or grown in their area. The two ingredients that you will find throughout the whole of Spain- olive oil and garlic.

Ah yes, Spain and I shall get along nicely.

Seafood is quite common in Spain because the nearly whole country is surrounded by water. Ham and cheese (not necessarily served together, of course) are also staples of the typical Spanish diet. Spain also serves up quite a bit of chicken and vegetables. Citrus is also indigenous to Spain.

And darn it. Reading all of that made me want to try a little bit of everything.

Enter tapas!

It was decided. To experience as much of the Spanish deliciousness as possible!

I started super simple.

This is actually how I start most meals when we are entertaining. A couple of blocks of cheese with crackers and olives.

Ah cheese-manchego cheese- hello, lover. Manchego is a sheeps’ milk cheese made in the La Mancha region of Spain. It is firm and buttery and salty.

I bought one block that had been aged 6 months and another block that had been aged 12 months- they were similar in taste, with the 12 month cheese being slightly bolder in flavor.

And bolder in my book=delicious!

I picked up some Spanish olives at my grocery store. Salty perfection.

Pour yourself a glass of good Spanish red!

Next up, a bright citrus salad.

My heavens. This was my favorite dish of the evening.

Bright juicy oranges paired with sharp red onions along side sweet raisins and salty olives.

(When I use fresh onions- you know, not cooked- I like to give them about a 10 minute soak in ice water before draining them and adding them to the dish. It really mellows out the flavor so that you don’t have onion breath for the  next 4 days).

It tasted fresh and summery.

It made me momentarily forget that I was eating this meal in Ohio in the middle of winter!

The dressing was a super simple vinaigrette that amped up the flavors.

Ceviche was the next must have item.

Ceviche is raw fish marinated in lime juice, a little oil and chili peppers.

Side note science lesson: The citrus used to marinate your raw fish in does not actually cook your seafood. Cooking requires heat (duh!). Citric acid mixed with seafood causes a chemical process called denaturation to happen. Denaturation changes the proteins in the fish turning the flesh firm and opaque (to look just like it would when it is fully cooked).

However, citric acid will not kill any bacteria (like heat would), so if you are going to make ceviche you should use fresh fish from a trusted source.

Science lesson concluded.

Scallops and halibut. Mmmmm.

I marinated our seafood for about 1 hour.

I knew I had to incorporate ham in some way or another, since the Spanish seem to dig the pig.

Truth be told- this is just regular old bacon.

To make this truly Spanish, I would recommend using serrano ham- a cured salty cut of pork.

I did not have any serrano ham on hand- so bacon to the rescue.

Bum! Bum! BUM! BUMMMM!

Bacon wrapped shrimp. Don’t mind if I do!

Finally, I knew I needed empanadas.

Simply stated, empanadas are stuffed bread or pastry.

I stuffed my pastry with chicken, cheese, cilantro and onion amongst other things.

I used frozen pie crusts for my pastry- don’t judge me.

I can’t bake.

And I value my time.

Frozen Kroger pie crusts are about as authentically Spanish as you can get.

I promise.

I’m not even lying.

I also cheated a bit more by using meat from a rotisserie chicken. Moist, tender, flavorful, and most importantly- time saving- chicken.

Some of my empanadas turned out much prettier than others.

But trust me, they all tasted fab.

There ya have it.

My Spanish spread:

I would have loved to have the time and kitchen space to try to make a paella or gazpacho or a dish with chorizo as well. Alas, I can’t do it all!

Week 2 is in the books.

The food was great.

I think the citrus salad was my personal winning dish of the week. I would definitely make it again- it was super simpe with accessible ingredients.

Second place goes to the empanadas. Savory and hot- perfect for a cold day. And I had extra filling- so I whipped up some quesadillas for lunches that week. Truth be told, I think I actually preferred the quesadillas over the empanadas.

The very very best part of Week 2 was the company of our fellow diners- our friends, John and Sara.

And little William too…

The adults had a ball, and I’m pretty sure our boys did too.

Make one or all of these to transport yourself to España this week!

Adios mis amigos,

Leah

PS. For detailed recipes, click here.

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