Sunday, July 19, 2009

A little bit of Spain in Los Angeles

It did not take long to come up with reasons for throwing a Spanish Tapas themed dinner party.
#1. To relive the amazing paella that we had in Cannes this past May
#2. To celebrate our first month reunion from graduating business school
#3. Tapas party Part Dos since I missed the first one while I was in Costa Rica
#4. To put to use Uday's newly remodeled kitchen (think granite counters, stainless steel appliances, new cabinets.. Hmm.. looks strangely similar to my kitchen.......)

We decided to make a bunch of tapas (* denotes recipes available below). We had two versions of sangria: cava sangria (with sparkling wine) and traditional red wine sangria. Nectarines, oranges and apples were used in both versions. There was also ample wine and champagne.

Bacon-wrapped dates with almonds* in the making..

The final product. It was scrumptious! This reminded me of the amazing bacon-wrapped dates that I had at Primitivo. There were loads of great flavors and textures, all in one bite: The date was sweet and creamy, the bacon was salty and crispy, and the almond added a nice, hard crunch.

Scallops scampi*, tiny delectable bay scallops.

Albondigas* (the non-soupy kind), in tomato sauce. The meatballs were cooked well (tender, not dry) and the sauce was thick and had a little kick to it (from the chipotle). I also liked that they were mini meatballs, which made for good tapas-style dining.

The spread. Apart from the albondigas, scallops and dates mentioned above, we also had a plate of prosciutto, homemade hummus, chickpeas and spinach*, and in the top right corner of the photo, Spanish Tortilla*.

Potato-leek soup*. The soup was thick, rich and oh so delicious. There was also bacon topping, which really completed the dish.

Seafood Paella, the staple of the night. The rice was cooked perfectly, and the dish was aromatic. There was a plethora of seafood including mussels, fish, shrimp and clams. There's really nothing better than a home-cooked paella because you can choose any ingredient that you desire.

To end on a sweet note, we had homemade ice cream. Two choices: Strawberry and Heath Bar. Although the strawberry was great, the heath bar was my favorite. It had the perfect combination: chocolate and toffee. I loved the crunch that it gave in the ice cream.
The night ended with some rockband. Successful party: There's nothing better than good food, great company and some disastrous singing.


Almond-stuffed Medjool wrapped in bacon

6 slices bacon, cut into halves
12 dates, pitted
Whole almonds
Wooden toothpicks

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
Stuff almond in the cavity of the date. Wrap each date with a slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick.
Bake the dates on a non-stick cookie sheet until the bacon is brown and crisp, about 5 minutes
Flip the dates over and bake for additional 5 minutes.

Serves 12

Bay Scallops Scampi - Recipezaar recipe

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 lb bay scallop, rinsed and patted dry
3 garlic cloves, slivered
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons capers
1 pinch kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons lemon zest

In a large heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the oil and half of the butter over medium-high heat until mixture starts to brown.

Transfer scallops to the skillet and cook until seared, about 20-30 seconds. Gently flip and sear on other side for another 20-30 seconds. Remove skillet from heat.

Add the garlic, lemon juice, wine and capers. Season with salt and pepper. Toss gently and place scallops on a warmed serving platter. Garnish with parsley and lemon zest.

Albondigas - Food Network recipe from Giada de Laurentiis with slight modifications (^ denotes modifications)

1 small onion, grated
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
3 tablespoons ketchup
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound ground dark turkey meat
3 tablespoons olive oil
26 ounces Simple Tomato Sauce, recipe follows, or store-bought marinara sauce

Add the onion, garlic, egg, bread crumbs, ketchup, parsley, Parmesan, Pecorino, salt and pepper to a large bowl and blend. Mix in the turkey. Shape the turkey mixture into 1 1/4-inch-diameter meatballs. Place on a large plate or baking sheet.

Heat the oil in a heavy large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and saute until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat. Transfer the meatballs to a plate. Pour off any excess oil. Add the marinara sauce, about 3 cups. Return all the meatballs to the pan. Turn the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly and the flavors blend, 15 to 20 minutes. Season the sauce, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Transfer the meatball mixture to a serving bowl. Serve with toothpicks.

Simple Tomato Sauce^:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

1/2 cup canned chipotle peppers^
4 to 6 basil leaves
2 dried bay leaves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional

In a large casserole pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil, chipotle peppers and bay leaves and simmer covered on low heat for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and check for seasoning. If sauce still tastes acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time to round out the flavors.

Add half the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce.

Chick-Peas and Spinach Tapas -Food Network recipe from Padma Lakshmi

10 ounces fresh spinach leaves, rinsed
19-ounce can (2 cups) chick-peas, drained and rinsed
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
1 to 2 lemons, juiced or to taste
1/4 to 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cook the spinach in a saucepan with the water clinging to its leaves, stirring, until wilted. Drain, squeeze dry, and finely chop.

In a bowl combine the spinach with the chick peas, pepper, chives, lemon juice, oil, salt, and pepper. Serve as is or chilled with toasted bread or as a filling for pita pockets.

Serves 4

Tortilla al estilo Route 11 (Route 11 potato chips omelet) - "Tapas : A Taste of Spain in America," by Jose Andrés

7 large eggs
4 ounces good-quality potato chips, such as Route 112 teaspoons
4 tablespoons Spanish extra-virgin olive oil

Break 6 of the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Add the chips and stir, crushing them a little as you blend the eggs together. Allow the mixture to sit until the chips absorb a lot of the egg, 5 minutes. Then beat the seventh egg and add it to the egg-chip mixture. Add the salt.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a small sauté pan (no bigger than 6 inches in diameter) over a medium flame. Add the egg mixture and stir briskly a few times with a wooden spoon to prevent the eggs from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Shake the pan in a circular motion for 10 seconds to keep the mixture loose as the eggs start to stick together. Then lower the temperature and cook for another minute.

Place a plate over the pan and invert the pan and plate together so the tortilla winds up on the plate, raw side down. If the pan looks dry, add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Return the tortilla to the pan by sliding it back in, raw side down. Continue cooking for another 60 seconds. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Potato Leek Soup - recipe

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
1 medium onion, chopped
3 leeks, thinly sliced and rinsed well
3 cloves garlic, smashed
5 medium russet (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
4-5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper, to taste
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

In a large heavy-based stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, leeks, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until softened.

Add the potatoes, 4 cups of the stock, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

In a blender, puree soup in batches until smooth. Return it to pot. Bring to a simmer. Add the cream and parsley, and taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper, if you like. If the soup is too thick, add remaining stock in 1/4-cup increments until it is the consistency you prefer.

Serves 6

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