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Seasonal Spain-Inspired Menu

I'm hoping some of you will help me work out a menu for a dinner party. In a couple of weeks, I'm hosting a small plates dinner get together for a local organization. The idea is to highlight local foods in a Spanish-inspired menu. From the date we thought of this theme, I had it in my head that I would have red bell peppers available. I do this every year, expect red bell peppers to be available in mid July, but they really aren't available until early August. Every year, disappointment; this year, wrench in my menu plans. No grilled red peppers, no red pepper in the gazpacho, no romesco sauce.

Restrictions/context: I'm in central Illinois, if that helps you think of seasonality. This will not be sit down (I don't have the space), so I'm hoping for foods that do not require a knife. I do not have central air, so I do not want the oven on in the hours before the party. I do have a charcoal grill.

Produce in season: still have the hardy greens, carrots, beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, summer squash and zucchini, eggplant, possibly peas, green beans, potatoes, fennel, leeks, lettuce, garlic, possibly cherries, possibly blueberries, possibly apricots

So, here is my current thinking on menu. I'd love your feedback/ideas.

Assorted olives: completely non-local, of course, but I couldn't do Spain dinner without them. I rationalize this with the argument that it will help people to understand that one can focus on local without being a zealot.

Local cheese plate

Local charcuterie plate (sadly, no Spanish-style cured sausages available because I did not conceive of the party far enough in advance. We will have an assortment of the cured sausages the local guy has available, and he is currently experimenting with some various pates with Spanish flavors)

tortilla (traditional tortilla espanola, possibly another version with peas, if they are still available)

gazpacho

assorted grilled veggies (verduras a la plancha)--without romesco sauce (which is not necessarily traditional but is something I love with my veggies), so ideas on what to serve with them would be great. Parsley sauce (mojo)? garlic mayo?

some kind of grilled meat; I was hoping to have frenched lamb chops, but I am having a difficult time with availability right now. Local meat I can currently get my hands on: about any cut of beef and pork, whole chickens, chicken legs and wings (but not small ones--I would love nice small chicken legs), ground lamb (mini lamb-burgers?), whole rabbit, some goat cuts I can't recall (but think my guests would be leery of goat)

Dessert: an assortment of local goat's milk gelatos; something else to be determined

Thanks in advance for your input!

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  1. How about a lemon and pimenton aioli with the grilled veggies: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

    If you want to use pork and your grill, you might consider Steven Raichlen's recipe for Pinchos Morunos - http://www.bigoven.com/recipe/165926/... (though this author left out the 2 TBL sherry that is in the recipe in Barbecue Bible).

    Sounds like a truly lovely party!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Terrie H.

      Thanks for the ideas! I really like the idea of the pinchos morunos! And I had not thought of adding pimenton to the aioli. I'm going to try a small batch of that this weekend and see what I think.

      Gracias!

      1. re: Terrie H.

        Those pinchos were a huge hit, Terrie! Absolutely delicious. Thank you so much for suggesting it!

      2. For the meat - Frit de Matances - perhaps my fave Spanish dish.

        Here's a recipe in English. The lamb's heart is not essential (I was once given aversion with lungs) but the liver is. Basically it's a fry up of the liver, potatoes, onion, fennel, garlic and peppers. Because everything is chopped (and you can control the size of the dice), it's ideal for eating with just a fork.

        http://sherryfood.blogspot.co.uk/2008...

        1 Reply
        1. re: Harters

          That sounds delicious to me, Harters, but I fear too many of my guests will be uncomfortable trying it.

        2. If people are not Going to be sitting down then I would think a Tapas Dinner would be the way to go.
          If you are going to serve grilled Meat it should be bonless and probably on a Pinchos or something else people can pick up, Bread or small rolls.
          Grilled Pork Loin rubbed with Pimenton, Garlic and Thyme
          Pinchos de Pollo with Mint and Cumin.
          Ground Garlic Lamb Pinchos
          Seared Beef with a Local Blue Cheese
          Sauces
          Mojo Verde or Rojo (Canary Island style)
          Salsa Brava
          Aioli and the endless variations on the sauce. Olive, Mint, Sqiud Ink, Pimenton etc......
          Desserts
          Turron
          Bunuelos de Viento
          Mixed Berries with Brandy Custard

          1 Reply
          1. re: chefj

            Yeah, tapas is what I mean by small plates. I just have leaned toward not using that word the last several years as it seems so misused in my neck of the woods.

            Terrie H. sold me on pinchos morunos for the grilled meat. I'm going to do both lamb and pork, I think.

          2. Beyond the grilled veggies, I'd say a pickled element would be very refreshing on a hot summer day. Escabeche de verduras or conejo would be something you could make a few days prior and would require nothing more than grilled bread and a flavorful olive oil to serve. Of course that is if your rabbit and green beans aren't calling out for paella first.

            3 Replies
            1. re: JungMann

              Ooh. That's an interesting idea, JungMann! I am keeping that on the maybe list. I have a rabbit. I was actually considering a couple of recipes in Foods of Spain (for another day, not for the party), but perhaps I'll do this instead.

              1. re: debbiel

                JungMann, I've decided to hold the rabbit I have in the freezer for a smaller dinner party. What do you think of escabeche of just vegetables?

                1. re: debbiel

                  I always keep jars of vegetable escabeche in the summertime. It's easy to make a batch over the weekend and keep it in the fridge for the week. I usually pickle the vegetables after frying them in batter for a heartier escabeche that can satisfy for lunch, but there are other methods of pre-cooking that are lighter.

            2. If you haven't already, you might want to give these threads a gander:
              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/846991

              5 Replies
              1. re: qianning

                Oh yes., I've looked at those threads. And have been going to my Foods of Spain and Moro cookbooks for recipes. Thanks!

                1. re: debbiel

                  You've probably seen them, but there are also some cotm threads that cover the p. casas books

                  1. re: qianning

                    I have seen them but have not reviewed them for a long time. Thanks for the reminder!

                  2. re: debbiel

                    If your'e using the original Moro cookbook then try the Carlos stuffed squid recipe.
                    You can make the stuffing and stuff the squid beforehand.

                    1. re: Paprikaboy

                      Thanks paprikaboy. Trying to keep the menu primarily local, so squid is out, even if I did eat fish or seafood. :)

                2. Absolutely ubiquitous when we were in Barcelona was pan con tomate. Lightly toast the crunchiest, airiest baguette, rub pretty hard with half a tomato, drizzle with good oo and sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt.

                  I think a tortilla espanola is a great idea...and can be made ahead and served at room temp.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: c oliver

                    Will definitely have pa amb tomaquet! Have had that so many, many times in my visits to Barcelona. It never tastes quite as good at home, but I suspect my friends who have not been to that city won't know what they're missing out on. :)

                    How far in advance do you think the tortilla can be made? Can I make it Monday morning for Tuesday evening dinner?

                    1. re: debbiel

                      Tortilla is good for making ahead and will sit well in the fridge - I've never kept it past 24 hours but presume it'll keep for a few hours longer.

                      Pa amb tomaquet, or pa amb oli as I better know it, will get some carbs into your meal. Don't forget to rub the toasted bread with garlic before the tomato.

                  2. What about paella? Might be more of a production than you're seeking but this recent NYT paella cookoff piece has me wanting to make a batch:

                    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/17/din...

                    Have you ever ordered from La Tienda? I have a Spanish friend and she gets rice and other foodstuffs from them. They have a bunch of recipes on their site:

                    http://www.tienda.com/recipes/recipes...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: tcamp

                      Paella is more of a production than I am hoping for. Or at least, less of a tapas feel for me. But I think I'm going to keep the rabbit in the freezer for now and do a paella dinner for a smaller crowd sometime soon. I somehow missed that article from this week, so thanks so much for the link!

                      I've ordered embotits from La Tienda and have been really pleased with the quality. Not doing it for this meal, of course (local focus), but will definitely be ordering more butifarra soon!