On one of our numerous trips to Spain, we took a cooking class in Seville at Taller Andaluz de Cocina. One of the recipes was making a Salmorejo—sometimes known as ardoria or ardorío—a traditional soup originating from the Andalusia region in southern Spain. It is composed simply of tomato, bread, extra-virgin olive oil and garlic.
The soup is served cold and is garnished with chopped Spanish serrano ham and diced hard-boiled eggs. Unfortunately, the grocery store was not carrying either jamón serrano or Ibérico, but push-come-to-shove, prosciutto is an acceptable substitute. Although reminiscent of gazpacho, Salmorejo is more pink-orange, and is also much thicker and creamier in texture, because it includes more olive oil and bread.
A Spanish-themed dinner was planned for a belated birthday of some good friends. For starters, our drinks, tinto de verano, were paired with a tomato-pesto Manchego cheese appetizer. While The Hubs made a seafood paella on his grill, and Spanish music played softly in the background, our guests, Maria Odili and Steve, took the opportunity to do a bit of dancing.
The Salmorejo was our initial course, and boy was it a hit, we think even better than the version we made in Seville, with everyone enjoying seconds! After the paella, lots of laughter and more wine, those that still had room feasted on Maria’s homemade peach cobbler. Not a shabby way to spend a midweek evening at all…
4 oz. stale bread, torn in pieces and moistened with water if too dry
4 oz. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
1 clove garlic, peeled and green shoot removed
2 tsp. table salt
2 tsp. sherry vinegar
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped, for garnish
2 oz. jamón serrano or Ibérico, diced, for garnish
Core the tomatoes and cut into quarters while holding them over blender jar. Add the bread, garlic, salt and vinegar. Blend all ingredients until smooth, scraping sides of blender jar as needed.
With the blender on, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream to create a creamy, salmon-orange emulsion. Taste and even out the flavor by adding more salt and vinegar if needed. Remember that the garlic and vinegar flavors will taste stronger after resting in the refrigerator.
Before serving, garnish the soup with chopped boiled egg, diced ham, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
Here’s an elegant low-carb salad that’s bulky enough to feed four as a main entrée. It was the perfect antidote for lunch on a recent Sunday afternoon when a couple of friends dropped by and our original plans for outside dining fell through due to inclement weather.
Much of the prep can be prepared ahead of time, such as the hard boiled eggs, bacon, and shredded chicken. A rotisserie chicken is so easy, and generally cheaper than buying a whole uncooked chicken—basically a no-brainer. But if you happen to have some breast meat already cooked, go ahead and shred that.
We always keep a homemade sherry-based mustard vinaigrette on hand, thus we used it with the added touch of flavor provided by the bacon fat. Sherry vinegar is now appearing not just in specialty stores but also in many ordinary supermarkets. With its nutty, oaky, savory flavors it is good in applications across the board. While we always buy “Columela” sourced from Spain, Napa Valley Naturals costs just $0.43 per ounce and is sold widely in supermarkets, so it’s a good one to try.
By mid-August we harvest green beans on a daily basis. Even with gifting friends our excess supply, the beans will be a staple for dinner many nights a week. We’ve roasted, grilled, steamed and boiled them either alone or in combination with other veggies.
I asked The Hubs to whip something together that would use both an abundance of the beans and our plum and grape tomatoes, and that would compliment our dry rubbed loin lamb chops and Herby Potato Salad. Greek-style instantly came to his mind, which typically uses flat Romano beans. However using our freshly picked pole beans, the dish was still hearty, healthy and bursting with fresh and vibrant colors and flavors.
In lieu of blanching the beans first, you could add them raw at the halfway point of cooking the tomatoes. Just keep a sharp eyeball on the beans so that they are crisp-tender and not overcooked, limp and no longer bright green.
Blanche* the green beans in salted boiling water for 2 to 3 minuted depending on how thick they are. Drain and immediately drop in an ice bath until cool. Drain in a colander.
In a large sauté pan, heat oil until shimmering over medium heat. Add garlic slices and cook until lightly golden, about 2 minutes.
Add the onion to the garlic with a pinch of salt. Turn the heat down to medium-low and continue to cook until the onions are softened, about 2 to 3 minutes more.
Add the chopped tomatoes, turn the heat back up to medium, stir in a 1⁄2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and 1 tablespoon of the oregano. Stir well, partially cover, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally until tomatoes break down and release their juices. *If you choose not to blanche the beans, you can add raw beans 5 minutes into cooking the tomatoes, and cook just until beans are crisp-tender, about 5-6 minutes more.
Stir in the blanched beans and remaining oregano and cook for 1-2 minutes more while beans heat through. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar. Serve immediately.
We’ve been particularly enamored of Mediterranean-inspired dishes as of late and this vegetarian pasta dish is loaded with the robust flavors of that region. It’s a riff on a recipe from “The Italian Country Table” by Lynn Rosetto Kasper, who found inspiration for the citrusy, savory tomato sauce in the markets of Siracusa, on the island of Sicily.
We found this recipe in a recent copy of Milk Street Magazine where they prefer the meaty, concentrated flavor of oil-cured black olives, but insist milder green olives (such as Castelvetrano) work well, too. Having oil-cured black olives on hand, we used them. The only major difference we made was to use fresh oregano at a ratio of 3-to-1, that is 1 tablespoon of fresh for the 1 teaspoon of dried.
The sharp tang of pecorino Romano cheese is an especially good match for the fruity, herbal flavors. While warm, crusty bread makes a nice partner to the dish, we opted for less carbs and paired the pasta with a side salad.
It was wonderful again the next day for lunch. Just drizzle a little EVOO over the top, cover and microwave for a few minutes, top with more grated cheese.
TIP: Don’t boil the pasta until al dente. Drain it when it’s a few minutes shy of al dente, but don’t forget to reserve about 1 cup of cooking water first. The pasta will finish cooking directly in the sauce, which allows the noodles to absorb flavor.
1 Tbsp. grated orange zest, plus ½ cup orange juice
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
2 pints grape tomatoes
1 cup lightly packed fresh basil, torn into small pieces
½ cup pitted oil-cured black olives or green olives, finely chopped
2 oz. pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (1 cup)
In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Stir in the pasta and 2 tablespoons salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until just shy of al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, orange zest, oregano and pepper flakes, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and orange juice, cover and cook until the tomatoes begin to burst, about 4 minutes.
Reduce to medium, then press on any whole tomatoes with the back of a spoon so they burst. If the pasta is not yet done, remove the skillet from the heat, cover and set aside.
To the skillet, add the drained pasta and ½ cup of the reserved pasta water. Bring to a simmer over medium and cook, tossing with tongs, until the pasta is al dente, about 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and black pepper.
Off heat, add the basil, olives and half of the cheese, then toss to combine, adding reserved pasta water if needed so the sauce coats the noodles. Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and drizzle with additional oil.
A rare cool, rainy Sunday afforded us the opportunity to cook a slow braised dish for a summer dinner. While thumbing through several favorite cookbooks, I happened upon this Roman Braised Beef with Tomatoes and Cloves in Milk Streets “The New Rules” by Courtney Hill.
The “new rule: don’t sear your meat” goes against something we typically do, brown our meat beforehand. But because you cook it uncovered for the last hour or so, the meat will brown at the end of the process.
Pot roast comes to mind with this meal, and in Rome, cloves are used to flavor the dish known as “Garofolato di Manzo alla Romana” because cloves are called chiodi di garofano. Here, the earthy, subtly smoky and slightly bitter flavor of cloves complements the natural sweetness of onion, fennel and tomatoes.
Milk Street advises not to use ground cloves that have gone stale, as they won’t add much flavor or fragrance to the braise. If your cloves have been in the pantry for more than a few months, uncap and take a whiff. The aroma should be sharp and strong. If not, pony up and get a new jar.
Unlike pot roast where you cook the large piece of meat whole, the beef is cut into chunks and simmered as a stew resulting in succulent meat throughout. Polenta is an excellent accompaniment for absorbing the flavorful sauce. In a unique pairing, we wedded the meat with another Milk Street recipe Spanish Green Beans with Ham, Almonds and Smoked Paprika.
This recipe is an adaptation of the remarkably delicious green beans from Extremadura, Spain, home of pimentón, aka Spanish smoked paprika. For perfectly crisp and tender beans, cooking techniques are combined. You start by searing the veggies in a hot pan to develop browning and flavor. Then add water and a tight fitting lid to steam them until tender. Voila!
6-7 lbs. boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks
¾ tsp. ground cloves
kosher salt and ground black pepper
4 oz. pancetta, roughly chopped
6 med. garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 med. yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 med. fennel bulb, trimmed, halved, cored and thinly sliced
28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
2 tsp. fresh thyme, minced
Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. Place the beef in a large bowl and season with the cloves, 1 tablespoon salt and 2 teaspoons pepper.
In a large Dutch oven over low, cook the pancetta, stirring occasionally, until sizzling and the fat has begun to render, about 5 minutes.
Increase the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the pieces begin to brown, another 7 minutes.
Add the garlic, onion and fennel, then increase to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and translucent, about 6 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Stir in the beef, then cover, transfer to the oven and cook for 2 hours.
Remove the pot from the oven. Stir, then return to the oven uncovered. Cook until a skewer inserted into a piece of beef meets no resistance, another 1 to 1½ hours.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a medium bowl. With a wide spoon, skim off and discard the fat from the surface of the cooking liquid, then bring to a boil over medium-high, scraping up any browned bits. Cook until the liquid has thickened to the consistency of heavy cream, 10 to 12 minutes.
Stir in the thyme, then return the beef to the pot. Reduce to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is heated through, about 5 minutes.
Spanish Green Beans with Ham, Almonds and Smoked Paprika
First, the almonds. Begin by toasting them in olive oil to deepen their nutty flavor, then add the garlic and thinly sliced serrano ham, cooking the mixture until the meat crisps and the garlic is fragrant. Then remove that mixture from the pan and add the green beans and char them in the flavorful fond left behind.
For the final flourish of smoked paprika, first deglaze the pan with another 1⁄4 cup water, scraping up any remaining flavorful bits, then remove the pan from the burner and stir the spice in off heat. This preserves the paprika’s smoky aroma, resulting in a pan sauce that is as quick as it is deeply smoky-savory.
Don’t stir the beans too often after adding them to the pan. Stirring only a few times allows the beans to take on some char that adds flavor the finished dish. If you’re entertaining more than four people with the braised beef dinner, you’ll want to double this bean recipe.
My mistake here was using a nonstick skillet so the beans didn’t get as good a sear as I wanted. But in the end since there were no browned bits left in the pan, there was no reason to perform Step 5. Instead, I just sprinkled the smoked paprika right onto the finished beans, stirred and served. OMG, so friggin’ good!!
Spanish Green Beans with Ham, Almonds and Smoked Paprika
2 oz. thinly sliced serrano ham or prosciutto, sliced into ¼-inch-wide ribbons
2 med. garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. green beans, trimmed and halved
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
½ tsp. smoked paprika
In a 12-inch skillet (don’t use nonstick) over medium, heat 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the almonds and cook, stirring often, until lightly golden, about 2 minutes.
Add the ham and garlic and cook, stirring, until the ham crisps and the garlic is fragrant, another 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl; set aside.
To the same skillet over medium-high, add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and heat until smoking. Add the beans and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring only a few times, until the beans are lightly charred, about 4 minutes.
Return the ham-almond mixture to the pan and add ¼ cup water. Cover, reduce to low and cook, occasionally shaking the pan, until the beans are tender-crisp, about 3 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a serving dish.
Set the skillet over medium-high and add ¼ cup water. Bring to a simmer and cook, scraping up the browned bits, until the liquid has reduced to about 2 tablespoons, about 2 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the paprika. Drizzle the sauce over the beans and serve.
Tomatoes are another summer staple that explodes with a variety of luscious choices by season’s end. In fact, every year in our raised bed herb garden we are fortunate to get several “bonus plants” compliments of seed from our compost.
Fresh, snappy late-summer beans are a fleeting pleasure on their own, but jazz them up with the sweet acidity of grape tomatoes and crackly breadcrumbs, you’ve got a winning combination. The layers of colors (especially if you include yellow wax beans) and crisp and juicy textures effortlessly upgrade any main, such as our herb-marinated grilled bone-in pork chops.
As soon as I eyeballed this recipe in our latest Martha Stewart Living magazine, I knew it was going to make an appearance on our dining table within days. Unfortunately I could not access any yellow wax beans, so instead I used a combination of red and yellow grape tomatoes for that tri-color effect.
A few weeks earlier we made bead crumbs from some leftover crusty bread and put it in the freeze until such time we would need them again. Well this seemed like the perfect occasion, although the crumb was much finer than asked for here, still we went ahead with the recipe and it was great! They were a side dish to those grilled pork chops, but hardly played second fiddle.
12 oz. green beans and/or yellow wax beans, trimmed
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 slices rustic bread (5 ounces), crusts removed, torn into large pieces
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
10 oz. cocktail tomatoes or large cherry tomatoes, or a combination, halved
1 oz. Manchego cheese, finely grated (1/4 cup)
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add beans and cook until bright green and crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain and transfer to a serving platter; lightly drizzle with oil.
Pulse bread in a food processor until coarse crumbs form (you should have 2 cups). In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil and butter over medium. Add breadcrumbs and season with salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in skillet over medium-high. Add tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in breadcrumbs. Top beans with warm tomato mixture. Sprinkle with cheese; serve.