My work schedule is pretty flexible and I usually take Friday and Sunday off each week, so if there is a dinner plan for either Friday or Sunday, I’ve got anywhere from an immediate one or two days to prepare.

And with Tapastravaganza! coming down for the following Sunday, today Friday was pretty full. Here is the current menu which I laced together from my books, gathered magazines, and online sources…not to mention in one case a purloined recipe shot with my camera phone from a cookbook somewhere. Hmm. I know what I’ll do to make up for this–I’ll buy this book I saw at that selfsame bookstore.

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There, justice will be done. And speaking of justice, this blog has been amended here to note that all photos here (save the topmost book cover image) are courtesy of journalist/photographer Astrid Barros. Many thanks for making this blog entry look better than usual!

And…the menu:

Gilda appetizer
Ensaladilla Rusa based on Jose Andres’ video here
Fried Almonds (not sure if Marconas are affordable right now!)
Seared Fennel Tuna a la David Tanis
Pa Amb Tomaquet (tomato bread)
Cheese Platter Leonora/goat, Cabra Romero/goat
Pimentos de Padron
Duck Fideos a la Duende
Alfajores with ‘Special’ Coconut Ice Cream

Well, that oughta keep me busy for a few hours. Home made ice cream…home made dessert…hand-made appetizers, yet…YET! One item here is going to be ‘store-bought’ only because its a pretty reasonably good substitute and time- saver. Maybe I’ll say and maybe I won’t. Given that the near entirety of this meal will be made from scratch, even the fried almonds and the appetizers and everything I’ll take the responsibility and remain righteous.

Pimm’s Sangria
Sangria is in essence wine, fruit, and a bit of a bubbly soda mixed in for good measure. More nuanced sangria will have a bit of bourbon or liquor mixed with a bit of sugar at the start. This one used Pimm’s Cup #1 for the liquor base and seemed reasonably successful. Along with the sliced mango, apricots, and cherries.

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Gilda Appetizers and Chorizo Sarta Charcuterie
The Gilda appetizer is an olive, a piparra pepper, and an anchovie. Delicious and simple. The Chorizo Sarta is popular in Spain, particularly so in Catalunya.

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Fried Almonds and Sliced Bread
No Spanish meal is complete without bread and maybe even almonds! I am slowly teasing their appetites here with these tapas.

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Pimentos de Padron
Time to go green so as my wife looked at me with some trepidation (what’s next? Is it ready? Do you need help?) I took one item out of the fridge to get closer to room temperature but opted for the pimentos de padron peppers first. I fried them up in a bit of EVOO till they began to blister and added fleur de sel for their final touch. I told them how they had the reputation of mostly being mild but that one out of ten would be spicy– so take your chances! (I knew the hot one would end up on my wife’s plate because I know how the universe is with her).

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Three Cheese Plate
Next were three cheeses, one from Spain called Leonora; a goat cheese of some distinction that was suitably smelly, Cabra Romero, another goat cheese with a rind steeped in rosemary, and a local California cow’s milk, San Geronimo, which is mild and unpretentious. With sliced baguette all three were nearly demolished amidst the six of us.

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Stuffed Piquillo Peppers
This was a last minute substitute for the leeks with romesco sauce and proved very nice. Laura Chenel goat chèvre, lemon juice and zest (from our own tree), a pinch of red pepper flakes, and minced mint leaves. My god, Martha Stewart has a recipe I wasn’t embarrassed to use! A few folks found the ratio of cheese to pepper too ‘cheesy’ which was a valid enough observation. Next time I’ll fill them a bit less full; not a problem.

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Seared Tuna with Fennel and Pepper Crust
I should have brought this out of the fridge a bit earlier so that the entire fillet could have come to room temperature. This piece of yellowfin tuna was rubbed with fennel seeds, pepper, salt, and olive oil and marinated for a couple if hours in the refrigerator. It was pretty nicely seared, though someone noted that the inside was still a bit too cold, despite two minutes or so of cooking. Astute observation and will be corrected next time around.

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Ensaladilla Rusa
Yes…for some damned reason, this dish is immensely popular in Spain and has as many variations as there are home cooks. It is typically comprised of boiled potatoes, hard boiled eggs, cooked carrots and peas, and all mixed together with mayonnaise and anchovies, and salt and pepper to taste.

Of course, I forgot to add the tuna, and my wife (for whom this dish had been made specially) immediately knew that there was something missing. I quickly added tuna to the rest of the salad and it was ‘saved’. For an added touch of elegance, I add a garnish of salmon roe on top of each serving.

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Pa Amb Tomaquet (tomato bread to we non-Catalunyans)
Slices of bread, toasted or put under the broiler to brown, brushed with olive oil, and the freshest of (in this case) heirloom tomatoes halved and rubbed into the bread. A sprinkling of salt. Serve.

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And Finally…Pato Fideos a La Duende
This is an absolutely fabulous dish with so many competing flavors that each bite is a luscious surprise of flavor. Starting with duck legs which are poached with vegetables to cook through, the remaining duck broth is saved for the Fideos (Spanish noodles) to absorb. A sofrito of onion, garlic, tomato, and parsley is made as a base flavor, the Fideos, previously toasted and fried in EVOO and added again to the dish, then receive the luscious duck broth where the ducky flavor is absorbed. Once the noodles are nearly done, the previously reserved duck meat which was trimmed from the cooked duck legs is added to the mix. Chopped olives and sweet chestnuts are added, and a final mix is made. For a final garnish, sweet arrope is added along with their- is-never- enough duck skin cracklings and the final main Plato is served!
I was more than pleased to see multiple second servings get plopped onto our guests’ bowls.

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Dessert! Alfajores and Special Homemade Coconut Ice Cream
While as a baker I’ve had my occasional difficulties with cookies, for some reason some baked desserts have somehow managed to succeed despite my penchant for making chocolate chip cookie soup. These little shortbread cookies came out exactly perfectly…unlike my attempt at making dulce de leche. My efforts had a poor result. When someone commented on the cookies and how nice they were, they asked if I had made my own dulce de leche. I responded truthfully that I had…but it remained in the fridge as a poor failure and my store bought dulce de leche saved that dessert.

No such failures attended my home made coconut ice cream, and the mix of coconut cream, milk, and half and half along with the toasted coconut shreds worked remarkably well with the xxxxx and xxxxxx which I added after due deliberation. Smooth and creamy with a pleasant crunch from the toasted coconut, it finished off a three hour meal of tapas and a main with considerable appreciation.

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Our guests were gracious and interesting, as usual, and by evening’s end I was pleasantly exhausted yet relaxed with another thankfully successful meal.

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