This summer I spent 2 wonderful months in the north of Spain where I was doing research on the Mediterranean diet. While I learned about the Mediterranean diet and its many benefits through my work, the best and most delicious way I learned was through eating…a lot. For two months, I happily feasted on the finest jamón (ham), tortilla de patata (Spanish potato omelette), and pintxos (small tapas). The hardest part was getting used to the late meal times – lunch at 2 pm and dinner at 9 pm!
Some of the most striking differences I observed between the Mediterranean diet and the American diet were 1) very generous amounts of extra virgin olive oil, 2) an abundance of fruits and vegetables, 3) less red meat, and 4) smaller portion sizes. I noticed that there were little stores that only sold fruits and vegetables located on almost every street corner. In the little neighborhood I stayed in, there were 4 of these stores in less than 10 minute walking distance! In Spain, people love to take their time to eat with friends and family. Meals can last for hours, until midnight even! At work, unlike in the US where many people have sad desk lunches, co-workers take the time to eat together and socialize. The Mediterranean diet isn’t just about the food, it’s also about the lifestyle. During my time there, I was lucky enough to try many unique Spanish foods such as Basque cuisine, croquetas, San Jacobos, and one of my favorites, salmorejo.
Most people have heard of the famous Spanish chilled tomato-based soup called gazpacho. It is from the south of Spain (Andalucia) where it gets very, very hot during the summer. However, many people haven’t heard of salmorejo, which is also a chilled tomato-based soup from southern Spain (Cordoba). Salmorejo is thicker and creamier compared to gazpacho, mostly because of the addition of stale bread. Another difference is that salmorejo is usually topped with hard boiled egg and ham. I prefer salmorejo because of the creamy texture; it is absolutely perfect in the summer!
- 8 plum tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 small onion
- 2 tbsp sherry vinegar (or cider vinegar)
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp chili powder (optional)
- salt and pepper
- 3 slices stale whole-wheat bread
- 3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
- Iberian ham, chopped (optional)
- Core and seed tomatoes and then chop into quarters. Some recipe use tomatoes without the skin but I left them on.
- Add tomatoes, garlic, onion, sherry vinegar, olive oil, chili powder and salt and pepper into a blender.
- Purée until smooth. Then start adding pieces of the bread and blending until it gets to a creamy, thick consistency.
- Pour into bowls and top with chopped eggs and ham (I left out the ham for a vegetarian dish).
It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted a non-dessert recipe. Desserts are so much more fun to make, eat, and photograph. Also, there isn’t a hungry family waiting for you to finish taking photos so they can finally eat! I managed to snap a few photos of this lovely soup before my family got too hungry.
Sometimes in the summer, it can be too hot for warm, cooked food. Sometimes, you just need a nice chilled soup to cool off from the unrelenting sun. Gazpacho is a delicious cold Spanish soup made from tomatoes and other vegetables. This version of gazpacho has avocado (yay!) and plenty of other healthy green vegetables.
Leafy greens are super healthy and the darker the green, the better it is for you. Spinach is great because it has lots of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and folate. These are good for reducing risk of arthritis, cardiovascular disease and even memory loss!
This creamy gazpacho is an excellent way to eat a lot of vegetables in just one serving. It is rich and flavorful because of the variety of ingredients in it. It is a very quick recipe – all you gotta do is just toss everything into the blender!
CREAMY AVOCADO GAZPACHO
1 medium tomato, cut into quarters
1 small cucumber, cut into chunks
1 avocado, cut into chunks
3 large basil leaves
1/2 jalapeño, seeded and roughly chopped
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1 small celery stalk
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 ice cubes
Salt and pepper
Chop up tomato, cucumber and avocado, and set aside some small chunks for garnish.
Combine tomato, cucumber, avocado, basil, spinach, celery, garlic, red wine vinegar, honey, and ice cubes in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.
Taste and season with salt, pepper, and additional red wine vinegar if necessary.
Refrigerate until chilled and garnish with chunks.
adapted from Epicurious
Get ready to fall in love with this traditional paella that originated from Valencia, Spain. Your taste buds will literally start dancing from the intricate flavors of this dish! I’ve always thought of paella as 5 fabulous dishes in 1. Instead of separately cooking your rice, vegetables, chicken, and seafood, they are thrown all together in one flat pan!
My mom and I have made paella before, but we recently learned from a paella class that it is crucial to use the right ingredients to get the authentic Spanish flavor. The key ingredients that make paella so special are saffron (precious threads of a flower that make the rice yellow), bomba rice (a short, fat grain), and chorizo (a flavorful Spanish sausage).
Paella is a truly spectacular dish. Once you put in all the ingredients, you’re not allowed to touch it or move the ingredients around. You just sit and let it cook (and hope it doesn’t burn). If it does start to burn a little on the bottom or sides, well then you have that famous socarrat (tasty, toasted rice at the bottom of the pan)!
Every paella dish is a work of art, just bursting with colors and flavors. A masterpiece really. There are many variations of paella, but this recipe is my absolute favorite. It features chicken and seafood and a sofrito made of parsley, onion, garlic, and tomatoes.
1 (3-pound) frying chicken (cut into 10 pieces)
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish chorizo sausage, chopped finely
1 onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
Bunch parsley leaves, chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
4 cups bomba rice
6 cups of chicken broth
Pinch of saffron threads
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined
6 long strips of red pepper
1/2 cup green peas, frozen and thawed
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1 Paella pan (13-inch)
Season shrimp and chicken generously with salt and pepper.
Place paella pan over medium-high heat and add olive oil.
Sautee the chorizo pieces until brown. Set aside.
In the same pan, brown the chicken. Set aside.
Finely chop the onion, parsley, and tomatoes. In the paella pan, sautee with garlic until golden brown and the ingredients are blended well. This is called the sofrito.
Add the rice and mix well.
Pour in the chicken broth and let simmer for 10 minutes. Periodically move the pan around so that the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid.
Stir in chicken, chorizo, and saffron. Let it cook for 5 minutes.
Add in the mussels, shrimp, and long strips of cooked red pepper. Let it cook for 15 minutes. When you can smell the rice toasting, it is ready!
Cover with aluminum foil for 5 minutes (so the shrimp can turn pink).
Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley.
adapted from Tyler Florence’s recipe