La Semana Santa: A Couple of Spanish Recipes

For those of you who don’t know, I am very fond of Spain and Spanish history and culture.  I first became enchanted with Espana over 13 years ago on holiday and, as a result, it’s drawn me back on several occasions since.  And when I can’t travel there, which is often the case, I continue to enjoy sampling the many diverse wines, cheeses, meats, and tapas…  In honor of Holy Week (La Semana Santa), the week between Palm Sunday and Easter, and the religious processions during this sacred week for which Spain is renown, I was inspired to prepare a traditional Spanish dinner of Sopa de Ajo Castellana (garlic soup) and seared scallops with saffron.  If, like me, you are feeling in the mood for a Spanish siesta but can’t pull away for a holiday to the Iberian peninsula, try a couple of these Spanish recipes, which you might enjoy in lieu of a trip.

SOPA DE CASTELLANA (CASTILIAN GARLIC SOUP):

Garlic soup is a traditional peasant soup that hails from the Castilian region of central Spain.  Think Don Quixote de La Mancha, noble red wines, and olives.  This soup is typically enjoyed in winter, however, it can be prepared any time of year.  It has been rather windy and cool in NYC this week so the timing is perfect, IMO.  Rumor has it this soup is also great for curing hangovers…

Servings: 4 to 6

Total Time: 30-45 mins

What you need:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of sweet paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
  • 4 cups of chicken or beef stock (water or veggie stock are adequate substitutes)
  • 8-10 slices of day old crusty bread (i.e. a baguette), cubed
  • 4 eggs (optional)
  • optional: 1 1/2 ounces Spanish serrano ham, chorizo or prosciutto, diced
Instructions:
  1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until it starts taking color but not fully brown, 3-4 minutes. Optional: Add diced ham or chorizo and saute for 30 seconds.  Add the bread and cook 2-3 minutes more, stirring to coat the bread in oil.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle the paprika over the bread and toss to coat evenly. Return to the heat, add the stock (or water), heat up until it simmers; cook for 10-15 mins.
  3. If you have them, fill 4 oven-safe bowls with soup and carefully slip 1 egg into each bowl and leave to cook in a preheated oven at about 390 degree F for around 10 mins. Serve the soup very hot.
  4. OR: If you do NOT have oven-safe bowls like me, gradually add the eggs to the soup, stirring constantly to form long threads.  (The eggs are not necessary to the recipe, but are a traditional ingredient.)
  5. Serve.  Feel free to add shavings of your favorite cheese on top.  I suggest Manchego, a popular Spanish sheeps-milk cheese with buttery, nutty notes.

SEARED SEA SCALLOPS WITH SAFFRON

This a simple recipe for Galician-style scallops.  Galicia is a region on the north-west coast of Spain, famous for its seafood-based cuisine as well as its regional wines, of which Albarino, a white wine, is arguably the most popular.

Total Time: 25 mins

What you Need:

  • 12-16 large sea scallops
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion (or 1 shallot), chopped finely
  • Optional: 1 to 2 ounces of Serrano ham or chorizo, cut into pieces the same size as the onion
  • 2 teaspoons of finely chopped parsley
  • A pinch of saffron
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry or dry white wine
  • Juice of a lemon

Instructions:

1.   Rinse and pat the scallops dry and salt each side with the kosher salt. Set aside for 10 mins.

2.  Add the olive oil to a large frying pan or skillet and heat over high heat until it’s near the smoking point. Lower the heat to medium-high.

3.  Lay the scallops on the hot oil to sear. Do not move them for at least 2 minutes. Shake the pan a bit to see if they release themselves. Once they do, lift out and put on a plate, seared side facing up.

4. Once the scallops are all seared on one side, add the onions (and ham if desired) and saute for 2-3 minutes, stirring often to pick up any stuck-on bits from the pan.

5. Crumble the saffron over the pan, then add the parsley and sherry (or white wine) and stir well to combine. Return the scallops to the pan, seared side up.

6. Let this boil down vigorously until the wine is almost gone, then turn off the heat and remove the scallops to the plate as you did before.

7. Place the scallops on a dish and spoon out the onion-ham mixture on top of the scallops with a drizzle of lemon juice.

You may want to enjoy these dishes with a side of crusty bread and extra virgin olive oil for dipping.  Wash it all down with a dry white vino such as Albarino.  Personally, I went with a simple bottle of dry, still (as opposed to bubbly) white wine from Penedes, a region near Barcelona well known for harvesting grapes used in the production of Spain’s cavas, or sparkling wines.

Above: seared scallops with saffron, garlic soup, bread and Manchego cheese with a side of extra virgin olive oil.  I enjoyed my meal with a glass of Pares Balta’s Blanc de Pacs, D.O. Penedes, Catalunya, Spain 2010.  This wine is a relatively inexpensive ($12) dry organic crisp white with minerals, subtle peach, and floral notes.

For an aficionado like me who is always pining for the next trip to Spain but can’t make it right now, I hope these recipes will take you on a quick culinary trip to the Iberian peninsula.  And if you’ve never been there, perhaps you’ll be inspired to pay Espana a worthy visit.  Buen provecho! (Bon appetit!)

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