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Jul 6, 2009 07:35 AM

Home cooking in Spain

So this is one of those very general posts.

I'm heading to Spain for 3 weeks this summer, and we'll be staying in a house with a well-equipped kitchen - the house also has a vegetable garden (figs, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, rhubarb) and three hens (which lay eggs).

I'm extremely excited to cook up some nice meals, relaxing and drinking some san miguel and wine, but I can't seem to come up with many food ideas.

This is what I'm thinking so far:

Melon and Serrano Ham
Gazpacho (anyone have any good recipes? I've tried making it once before, but it ended up being WAY too oniony)
Dates in bacon
Grilled Zucchini
Mushroom Casserole
Spanish Tortilla
Panzanella (sp?)

Anyone got any inspiring ideas for dinners, lunches, snacks, etc?

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  1. 1080 Recipes by Ortega is an English translation of a Spanish standard, sometimes called the Spanish Joy of Cooking.

    1. I think you are going about this backwards. I have stayed in many houses around France, and have chosen to go to the market, become inspired and then prepare my menus. To plan menus in advance is a little short sighted, since you don't know what will be in season at the exact moments you are in the country.

      If the town has a particularly good butcher, you may find that you will eat sausages; or perhaps there is a great cheese shop. The market might have tomatoes, but many only cucumbers one week.

      If you elect to bring a cookbook with you, don't forget to bring measuring devices such as cups, teaspoons etc. since the house will probably not have these.

      Every house I have swapped/rented has claimed to have a well-equipped kitchen, and not one of them has. I always carry four tea towels, a chefs knife, a paring knife, sharpening tool and a high quality corkscrew. I have never regretted having a good knife to work with. Everything else I can make do.

      Have a blast!

      7 Replies
      1. re: smtucker

        Thanks for the advice, smtucker - my boyfriend's parents actually own the house (they've built it for retirement), so it's really well-equipped in terms of knives, corkscrew etc etc.

        But I see your point with regard to the "getting inspired" there - the only thing is that the house is in the outskirts of Malaga/Marbella - ie tourist trap central, so we mostly hit the supermarket or department store.

        Thing is, I'm just not the best at improvisational cooking - thus just looking for a few ideas here. Not planning on doing a "food schedule" or anything - just thought I'd ask around for some ideas.

        1. re: hangrygirl

          Ah, so you know the house. What a total advantage that is! If you will there in summer, and since you mention zucchini, it sound as though that is the case, you should find great tomatoes, peppers, green beans, a full abundance of summer. You will have access to great olives and olive products. If you can cook outside, that keeps the house a bit cooler which is nice.

          I expect that you will have access to some very fresh fish which are lovely on the grill. Imagine a meal that begins with a cold tomato soup, then moves into grilled fish and vegetables on the grill. Perhaps topping the fish with some tapenade. Desert can be a fig tart [buy the dough in the supermarket, found in the refrigerator section] and a sweet local wine.

          I am not above flirting with the pork guy either. Ask to taste a few of the samplings. Perhaps he makes a pate that you could enjoy. A few slices of a cured Spanish ham can be added to a frittata, wrapped around those figs which have been stuffed with a local soft cheese or eaten with fresh melon.

          I have found that tourist areas often have a local cookbook translated into several languages. This could be a nice "gift to the house" that would help you structure your cooking and reduce the need to improvise.

          Can you tell that I am just a tad jealous?

          1. re: hangrygirl

            tapas! always great, and with such variety that whatever you find in the market can work. also good to make ahead for snacks, lunches when you don't feel like cooking in the heat, etc. Roasted asparagus with serrano ham; marinated olives; and don't forget chorizo. I make garlic fried bread and chorizo tapas but there are many other recipes. sauteed garlic mushrooms; stuffed cherry tomatoes or stuffed pimentos if you feel adventurous. Choices are endless and so delicious

            1. re: knet

              asparagus season is finished. even in spain. :)

            2. re: hangrygirl

              I don't understand the problem.

              Malaga has great markets for fruit, veg and salad. The surrounding towns also have regular, although not daily, markets (assuming you stay clear totally touristy places like Puerto Banus). You'll be on the coast in the area of Spain best known for simple fish cookery. And some of the best beef in the whole country is raised in Andalucia.

              This is not a region for for fancy cooking. Make or buy some tapas - ham, tortilla, patatas bravas, some olives and bocquerones. Buy spankingly fresh fish and fry it. Eat it with some of the most flavoursome tomatoes you're ever likely to find. Or just get a big steak and cook it as they would in one of the asadors.

              As you might have gathered, the Costa is one of my favourite places in the country.

              1. re: Harters

                one of my favorite things about cooking and casual eating eating in this region is how great the produce, fish, cheeses and pork products are. i've had some of the best eggs of my life here too.

                simple preparations, just with local olive oil, salt, pepper, some lemon and garlic and everything seems off the charts good. when i return, my palate i always shocked by complicated food. (it takes weeks before i can eat that food again.)

                to the op: i love cooking too, but you're on vacation. i never want to spend hours in front of the stove. buy what looks and smells best. shop often, like a local. serve simple.

              2. re: hangrygirl

                Don't diss the supermarket idea. Most decent ones (like Carrefour or Mercadona) will have a vast variety of fish and shellfish. It will be on display but often frozen - don't despise it for this, it is usually very good quality and usually offering a much greater variety of local seafood than the local fish stall at the market. Certainly a much wider variety than you'd see in fresh in a northern European supermarket.

            3. Why not purchase one of Penelope Casas' books: Tapas or Delicioso...both will give you all sorts of ideas...and by the way, I don't think you'll find San Miguel...try the local wine...

              4 Replies
              1. re: penthouse pup

                I've found San Miguel everywhere in Spain.

                1. re: greedygirl

                  San Mig. is indeed everywhere (and they have a brewery in Malaga, so you can pretend it's local). Cruzcampo is the genuine Andalucian beer (originating in Seville), although that is now also pretty much everywhere.

                  This link (in English) may give the OP some ideas for regional dishes:

                  And if you're there in August, don't forget the Malaga Feria is for the from from 14/8. Should be great fun, if the ones at Estepona and Marbella are anything to go by.

                  1. re: Harters

                    unfortunately we leave on August 7th! But maybe next year.

                  2. re: greedygirl

                    My apology...when I was there, I guess I just was attracted to all those local vinos...

                2. Have you ever attempted migas or paella?

                  1. Will you be eating at restaurants in the area at all? When I was in Spain last year I found every restaurant meal we ate very inspiring and tried things that went far beyond what I had thought of as typical Spanish food (paella, etc). Maybe keep a notebook of ideas based on things you've tried. If you are able to communicate with market vendors, they are often helpful as well. I agree with the 1080 Recipes and Penelope Casas recommendations mentioned above. Good luck and have fun - I'm very envious!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: ms. clicquot

                      Thanks to ALL for great suggestions! I'm so excited!

                      We will be eating out a little, however, the house is about 20 mins drive into the hills from the nearest town (Elviria) on awful roads, so we want to minimize the driving in our dodgy rental car. Thus loads of cooking at the house :).

                      Tapas is a wonderful idea! My bf's parents just got back, and informed us they've left half a leg of cured ham - Mmmmmmm!

                      I'll be sure to check out the Penelope Casa book - I've never attempted migas or paella - what IS migas? I've never even heard of it.

                      1. re: hangrygirl

                        Migas is how you use up stale bread. Supposedly it originated with shepherds in the mountains, making a meal of old bread, some peppers, and sausage.

                        A good paella takes practice, and may not be something you want to imitate without some reading. But there are a lot of other Spanish rice dishes. And there a noodle, fideo, dishes that are similar.

                        If the house has the appropriate wide paella pan, and matching heat source, it might be fun to play with the dish.

                        1. re: hangrygirl

                          Migas is basically a fry-up of stale bread, garlic, peppers. Often eaten to mop up sauce served with offal on the day of the matanza (the day of the year that the family pig is killed).

                          I wouldnt bother trying to cook paella either. It's definitely a dish better cooked by a restaurant. When my Mallorcan brother in law and his family are on the island, they always get it as takeaway from a restaurant rather than have the fiddle of cooking it.