Dessert · Mediterranean · Spanish

Almond Cake (Tarta de Santiago)

This is a flourless almond cake that we love with coffee or tea, or in the evening after a rich meal. The appeal is how very easy it is to make, and how it is so simple and yet so decadent at the same time. The recipe was given to us by a dear friend of the family, and we have been enjoying it ever since.

Tarta de Santiago has origins in the middle ages in Spain, where it was often topped with a cross in powdered sugar for St. James.

You will need:

  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 6 eggs, separated.
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 small orange
  • For the topping:
  • dusting of confectioners sugar
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, slivered or sliced.
  1. Roast slivered almonds for 4-6 minutes at 200 degrees in a pan, and then set aside.
  2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. You can use either a greased springform pan or a greased 9 inch cake pan. Dust with flour.
  3. Whisk vigorously or use a mixer to blend sugar and eggs yolks until creamy. Beat in zest and extracts. Add almond flour and salt and mix well. With a clean whisk or mixer, beat egg whites until stiff. Gently fold egg white mixture into the almond flour mixture until well-combined. Pour batter into the pan and bake.
  4. Bake until deeply brown (40-45 minutes). Let it cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes on a rack. After, turn the cake out and let it cool completely on the plate before serving. Top with confectioner’s sugar and roasted almonds.

Baking · Central American · Dessert · Spanish

Tres Leches

There are many iterations of Tres Leches that vary according to country and tradition. Regardless of recipe, tres leches is essentially a cake soaked in three types of milk (evaporated, condensed, and cream). While soaked sponges is far from new (i.e. rum cakes or tiramisu), tres leches utilizes canned milk, which became popular in the 20th century. Several writers trace the cake’s origins to Mexico, but it quickly became popular in Central and Latin America. The recipe that follows is an adaptation from my former colleague who is from Venezuela. Years ago, we had a tres leches bake-off, and out of all the recipes we have tried, hers was the clear and proven winner. This is a very simple, but very delicious recipe. Although it fast to bake and assemble, you will need several hours for cooling and chilling.

For the cake:

  • 5 eggs
  • 200g sugar (1 cup)
  • 200g flour (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

For the frosting:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioner sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • cinnamon, for dusting

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 C).
  2. Cream butter & sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and then vanilla until fluffy and light. Add in flour and baking powder, and beat until well-blended. Pour batter into greased 13 x 9 baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden.
  3. Prick the baked cake multiple time with a fork and allow to cool completely. After the cake has cooled, blend condensed milk, evaporated milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream. Drizzle over the cooled cake and allow it to rest in the fridge for several hours (2-2/12 hours). This will allow the cake to expand and absorb the liquid.
  4. Beat remaining cream (2 cups) with confectioners sugar and vanilla until stiff. Layer onto the cooled cake and dust with cinnamon. Serve chilled.
Appetizer · Mediterranean · Side dish · Spanish

Easy Romesco Sauce

For those of you that don’t know, Romesco is a rich, multi-purpose sauce made of roasted red peppers & tomatoes that goes amazingly well with fish, vegetables, and spread on a great quality bread. It is traditionally thickened with almonds and bread, and the result is a garlicky, smoky masterpiece that you will find pairs with everything, especially eggs.

To make this traditionally, you would roast and char the tomatoes & peppers, however, what follows is a quick and easy cheat, where I let others do the work for me. Also, I skip thickening it with bread so those in my family avoiding gluten can eat without thought. Regardless of how you make it, make sure to give the sauce time to rest before serving.

It’s okay to cheat. I promise.

You will need:

  • 1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
  • roma tomatoes
  • 1 cup almonds, roasted*
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbs red wine vinegar

Steps:

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Arrange almonds on baking sheet and lightly roast for 6-8 minutes. *If you are busy, you can skip roasting the almonds, although roasting them brings out their flavor more.
  2. In a food processor, chop almonds until they are fine. Then, blend garlic, almonds and tomatoes until it is a paste
  3. Add in red peppers, parsley, paprika, salt & pepper. Add in vinegar, then olive oil, a little at a time until smooth and the desired consistency. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, and allow to fall to room temperature when serving.
Store in the fridge. Anyone else keep their fresh herbs in a glass of water in the fridge?

Serving ideas: This is great with fish, eggs, steak, and grilled vegetables such as eggplant. Personally, I love it smeared on a crusty baguette or ciabatta with a little olive oil. Often, we use it at breakfast. A common breakfast I make in the morning is chicken sausage (usually sundried tomato) with some tomato and sweet potato topped with romesco. This is great for those who are watching their intake of carbs or fat, or looking for a healthy start to the day.

Appetizer · Mediterranean · Spanish

Pisto Manchego

Pisto Manchego is a typical ratatouille found in Spain. Like Caponata, it is meant to be spread onto bread. Often, it is served with egg, almost like a shakshuka.

You will need:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion whole
  • 5 cloves of garlic with skin on
  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 eggplant
  • 4-5 tomatoes
  • 1  tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine*
  • Salt and black pepper

Steps:

  1. Grill/roast the all the vegetables under the broiler until charred. This can take from 20-25 minutes. You will need to check frequently, and rotate the veggies.
  2. While they cool, you can remove the charred skin off the vegetables. Core and seed the peppers and cut into bite-sized pieces. Halve the eggplant and cut into bite-size pieces. Peel and chop the onion and garlic. Chop the zucchini and tomatoes.
  3. Preferably in a cast-iron skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic, red pepper, oregano and cumin. Saute for 2 minutes. Deglaze with white wine. Add the remaining vegetables.
  4. Cook – Bring to a boil then simmer until the vegetables are all tender and the sauce has thickened. Season with additional salt and black pepper.
Appetizer · Mediterranean · Spanish

Eggplant Fritters with Honey (Berenjenas con miel)

This recipe is typical of Southern Spain. It is best served fresh and hot. It serves 4 people for a Tapas/Appetizer portion. This would be delicious served with a white wine with some minerality such as pinot grigio or an albariño.

This is great during the summer, and is meant to be eaten immediately. However, you do need to have the eggplants soaking for an hour before you intend to fry them up and serve.

You will need:

  • 1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/3 inch discs
  • Flour
  • Honey
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt

Step one:

Peel the eggplant and cut it into circular slices about 1/3 inch thick. Put them in a bowl, add enough milk to cover, and put a small plate on top to hold them down. Let soak for 1 to 2 hours; drain. The purpose of the milk is to draw out any bitterness.

Step two:

Cover a plate with plenty of flour mixed with a sprinkling of salt. Working in batches, turn the eggplant slices in this so that they are entirely covered with flour, then shake them to remove the excess. Deep-fry in sizzling but not too hot oil, turning the slices over as soon as the first side is brown. Drain on paper towels.

Serve hot with a drizzle of honey.

Central American · Spanish

Black Beans & Rice

The recipe for black beans and rice varies from country to country, and as a result, there are arguments over the best version. Some add coconut, some add ham hocks or bacon, and some call for a lot of fresh cilantro. Unfortunately, there is no way to know exactly how my husband‘s grandmother made her recipe that he still misses to this day. I tried my best to get close to her original – this recipe borrows heavily from Cuban black beans, and can be adapted in a variety of ways. I use a lot of cilantro, because that was Abuelita’s preference. Now, on a time-saving note, you can totally use a slow cooker for this, but I must admit, I love making this with a great pot (see below) and letting it simmer on the stove old-school style. You can prepare regular white rice or Cilantro lime rice.

Portion: makes around 2 quarts.

Time: 2 1/2 – 3 hours

You will need:

  • 1 lb dried black beans, picked through and rinsed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (divided)
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped (divided)
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced (divided)
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 1 tsp dried Italian oregano (divided)
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped Cilantro leaves
  • 1 heaping tbs sofrito (optional)

Step one:

Bring beans, bay leaf, ¼ cup chopped onion, ¼ cup chopped bell pepper, 1 Tbsp. garlic, 1 Tbsp. salt, ½ tsp. oregano, and 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot or ditch oven.

Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally and adding more hot water if needed to cover, until beans are tender and covered by about ¼” liquid, 2½–3 hours. Discard bay leaf.

Step two:

Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-low. Add remaining onion, bell pepper, garlic, and oregano; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are very soft and beginning to brown, 6-7 minutes. Stir into cooked beans. Add 1 heaping tbsp of sofrito, if desired, as well as 1/4 cup fresh cilantro.

Step three:

Stir beans while simmering for 2 1/2 to three hours until cooked down.

One half hour before serving the beans, prepare your rice.

Serve black beans over cilantro rice and top with fresh cilantro, if desired.

Central American · Recipes · Spanish

Chicken Adobo

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You will need:

  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 3-4 tbs minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp ground espresso, fine
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 tbs canola
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 Tbs molasses
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbs fresh cilantro

Step one:

Blend tomatoes in a food process until smooth. Set aside. Combine chipotle, garlic, oregano, espresso, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper in a bowl. Pat chicken dry and coat with chipotle rub.

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Step two:

Heat 1 tbs oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Cook chicken until golden brown on both sides (6-7 minutes) and transfer to a plate. It will not be completely cooked.

img_4523

Step three:

Heat remaining oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and cook until softened and lightly browned, around 6-7 minutes. Stir in molasses, tomatoes and chicken along with juices. Cover and simmer chicken until the sauce has thickened, around 10 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a plate (keep warm with aluminum foil if needed). Season sauce in pan with salt and pepper, and then spoon over chicken. Add cilantro on top. Serve with rice.

 

Source: America’s Test Kitchen*

Central American · Recipes · Spanish

Seared Shrimp with Avocado and Tomatoes

img_8502

This is a very refreshing summer dish, especially if you have fresh, ripe tomatoes. This is mildly spicy. If you want to adjust heat, add less chipotles in adobo sauce. The avocado pairs perfectly with the texture and flavors of the dish.

You will need:

  • 1 lb fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 1 shallot or 6 scallions, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
  • 1.5 lbs extra large shrimp (21-25’s), peeled and deveined
  • 1/8 tsp sugar (or a pinch)
  • 2 tbs canola oil
  • 1 tbs lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
  • 1 avocado, halved and pitted, diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Step one:

Toss tomatoes, shallot/scallion whites*, cilantro, garlic, chipotle and 3/4 tsp salt together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, toss shrimp with sugar, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.

 

Step two:

Heat 2 tbs oil in a skillet over high heat – your goal is to sear the shrimp, so a good quality skillet is preferred. Add shrimp to the pan in a single layer and cook, without moving them, until slightly brown (seared) on 1 side. No more than 1 minute. Transfer shrimp to a large bowl (they will be undercooked – this is okay).

Step three:

Add tomato mixture to the skillet and cook on high in the remaining shrimp juices. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the tomatoes have softened. Stir in the shrimp with accumulated juices and cook until the shrimp are opaque, about 1-2 minutes.

img_8502

Step four:

Transfer shrimp to a platter and add avocado. Serve with additional cilantro, scallion greens and lime wedges.