We made paella on a budget the other night, and it was awesomeness! Two considerations for us were cost, and the fact that we had two vegetarians, and we didn't want them to have too much trouble picking out the meat and seafood, so we stuck to big chunks of chorizo, which they could easily spot. Also, we are fortunate in that LaTienda, a Spanish food importer, is based right here in Toano, of all places! So we can shop there. YOU are fortunate, in that they have a kick-ass website where you can order all foods Spanish: http://www.LaTienda.com.
I, BTW, cannot even THINK the word "paella" without thinking of the Fawlty Towers episode where Manuel makes (or talks a lot about making) his famous paella . . .
Here's the recipe - we were budgeting, and we have some great local fresh produce. My friend Alisa bought the veggies from a local farmer's market, and we went to LaTienda for the Spanish foods. I always keep smoked paprikas on hand - they add so much flavor! Anyway, here's the recipe we improv'd:
1/4 c. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
salt (we had some French salt, but you can use kosher or sea salt)
fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons paprika - we used Spanish smoked paprika (the "bittersweet" style, from LaTienda)
1 large white onion, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 yellow summer squash, diced
1 large (we used a ginormous one) bell pepper, diced
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
8 oz. Spanish style chorizo links (we got ours at LaTienda) - some recipes call for 1 pound, we went quality over quantity!!
4.5 cups chicken broth
2 cups short-grain rice (we used Bomba Spanish rice - it is awesome! you can sub Arborio)
pinch of saffron threads (don't hate us, but we skipped this, to save dinero)
Heat a paella pan or very large shallow skillet - a big cast-iron skillet is awesome, but I used my flat-bottomed cast-iron wok my cousin Shelia gave me a few years ago (thank you Shelia, I love my wok!!)
Pour in the olive oil, and heat to medium. Add the paprika, and stir it into the oil. Add the onions and the bell pepper, and sauté until softened. Stir in the diced tomatoes, chicken broth, and chorizo. Cook that about 5 minutes, and add the veggies. Bring the liquid to a boil, and then stir in the rice. Cook without stirring for about 20 minutes.
I noticed that I did add a little more olive oil as I was cooking - use the salt and pepper to taste; I tend to throw in pinches while I'm cooking - you know your own taste :-)
We bought picos (little Spanish tapas breadsticks), cheese, and anchovy-stuffed olives to use as apps and to eat along with the paella, and had a great fresh salad Alisa made - with a great vinaigrette she made. We thought another touch which would be great would be do mince the anchovy-stuffed-olives and add to the vinaigrette!
OH!! and the SANGRIA:
2 cups simple syrup (sugar water - dissolve sugar in warm water) - this part is to your own taste, k? I didn't put much sugar in the syrup, so you have to gauge this to your own liking
1 24 oz (750 ml) bottle red wine (I used 3-buck-Chuck)
1/2 c. orange juice
10 oz. Tonic water
thinly sliced oranges, lemons, apples, or whatever you have on hand
Mix, pour over ice, enjoy - I DID punch this one up with about 3/4 c. of Trapiche Malbec (Argentina) - and that made it JUST RIGHT :-)
I love to cook. I hate to clean up. I have watched my amazing professional chef friend, Doug Scott (Boulder, Colorado), cook genius meals, and keep the kitchen as clean as when he started, dancing around the kitchen like the pro he is - like some amazing ballerina! Or whatever you call guy ballerinas! He once whipped up some Grande Marnier crepes for us, just on a whim, and they were sooooo fine . . . and it was like he didn't even use a pan! The kitchen was clean before he finished!!! How does he do that?!
I watch Rocco's Dinner Party and Top Chef on Bravo, and even the sloppiest chefs keep their kitchens cleaner than I do as they cook. I have not mastered this art. (BTW, I am now Tweeting every Wednesday night during my watching of that show - follow RoccosDinnerParty on Twitter!) Which might explain why my kitchen is not clean yet . . .
I'm still cleaning up from last night's venture. Or, rather, procrastinating thinking about cleaning. Which IS an art I've mastered.
Okay, about the food: I live in a rural area, and the fresh veggies available are awesome - especially when your neighbors drop them off on your porch. My bud Alisa dropped off a huge bag of fresh-picked (you know 'cuz the dirt was still on 'em) veggies, and it was the perfect makins' for calabacitas. There was fresh eggplant (saved that for later), summer squash, zucchini, jalapeños, tomatoes, and some bigass ears of corn. I added cheese and cumin near the end - which made it über-yummy, to use a technical foodie term.
I actually wore gloves to handle the jalapeños for roasting and peeling - but of course, I then handled the knife handle with bare hands, so my hands stung a little anyway. I made it the whole evening without touching my eyeballs!! A minor (read: major) victory for me! I usually forget, rub my eyes with my peppery hands, and spend the evening looking like I'm weeping at previews for The Real Housewives of New Jersey.
Last time I made my two-day mole, I didn't wear gloves. My hands were red and burning for three days. I touched my eyeballs many times, to wipe away the tears from touching my eyeballs the last time. I was a mess.
Anyway, mijo Andrew made Navajo fry bread to go with the calabacitas, and it was awesome! This meal was kinda inspired by my visit to the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian with some of my art students (thanks to a Target grant, and am I being too tangential and parenthetical?). More specifically, and less parenthetically, our visit to the CAFETERIA of the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian. Awesome Native American foods, and I spent part of the time salivating (not literally, because that grosses out middle-schoolers) over some of the kids' choices: fiddle fern salad, fry bread tacos, and the exotic delicacy known as "chicken fingers." Okay, so I didn't salivate over that. But only one kid opted for the typical fast-food fare - all the others went experimental - and they LOVED it!
Anyway, we had an awesome meal last night. Calabacitas, fry bread, no eyeball touching . . . what's not to love?
peace and good food, y'all,
It's been an amazing couple of weeks - from 5 trips to Richmond in as many days, to judging a comedy contest and performing comedy in Ohio, to making some new friends to hanging with creative geniuses in Baltimore . . . and going to the American Visionary Art Museum there. Seriously, y'all, this is a don't miss!!! Also, there is an amazing museum shop called "Sideshow," curated by a bud of Barbara's - it's amazing. I would pay for the train trip JUST to shop there!! I'm getting back asap!! Currently, there's a show there called "What Makes Us Smile," curated by the museum director, the awesome Gary Panter, and the hilarious Matt Groening!! It TOTALLY made me smile. Brilliant, beautiful, touching, hilarious. How many shows (art or otherwise), can you say THAT about?!! Enjoy the whoopie cushion bench, and the pizza box paintings, and the museum's astounding Pez dispenser collection - among many, many other wonderful, smiley-inducing thangs!!
I was also privileged to visit a Holocaust survivor in his home - he collects African Art (I luh-uh-uv African Art) - he had plenty of Yoruba art, and art from Cameroon - gorgeous, gorgeous stuff!! What an amazing person. Humbling to meet him. Awesome to hang with my cartoonist friend Barbara Dale, and my creative genius bud, and proprietor of QUIRKS OF ART, Jenn Raines.
Now things are settling down - no, wait, I'm getting ready to go to DC to pick up my son from a summer arts trip he's on - and getting in all the studio time I can, as I have several art projects on my table. Onward and upward!! This is a great summer so far - doing bills and business stuff (which I'm way behind on) next week - but I know that won't ruin my WHOLE summer . . . or WILL it?!
"Destiny . . . Destiny . . . no escaping, that's for ME!!" (Ms. Lakshmi! Gordon Ramsey!! Top Chef! Iron Chef! That's for ME!!)
I gotta cook. And I gotta eat. Last night I made a fine Turkish dish. It was egg on sauteéd spinach. Matter of fact, I think that's what it was called, "Egg on Sauteéd Spinach." I'm sure it's losing something in the translation. But it was delicious. You sauteé (am I putting that accent on the right "e"?) - or the quotes in the right place for that matter - or those dashes . . . geez, I'm OCD. Where were we? Oh yeah, spinach. You sauteé the spinach in olive oil and onions, throw in feta cheese, salt and pepper it, and steam/cook an egg on top. It's awesome and low calorie. Salivating yet?
When I watch Martha and Emeril, I get appliance envy.
These food shows are responsible for my buying tongs, a garlic press, and a nutmeg grater. (Once-a-year use: pumpkin pie.)
Not to mention the chef clogs. I bought those first. They are SHOES, after all. Hey, I’m not made of stone. Speaking of stone, isn't Curtis Stone a TOTAL DOLLFACE? You gotta love those Aussies. And, when they can cook, why, they're double yummy.
But now I’m becoming a downright diva: “I need a meringue torch and I need it now! Why can I not find a spatula which matches my dishes? I cannot go another moment without an egg separator!!!”
“I buy vintage cookbooks too. It’s really stepping back into a different era. Wow, I didn’t have a clue you could use lard to make macaroni and cheese.”
“I really DO love to cook. You know this because I own tongs . . . and I USE them. And I use the term “lemon zest” in daily conversation:
“Why, this could use a little lemon zest!”
“That wouldn’t have happened if you had added a little lemon zest!”
“I wish we could all be as happy as lemon zest!”
I also know my garnishes rather well. You’ve got your easy things – your lemon twist, your little radish rose-wanna-be’s. And don’t forget your capers.
I’m lovin’ the capers. Capers work hard. They’re like the Oompa Loompas. You may not notice them, but they don’t care. They’re green, modest, camouflaged, really, but they still do their work. They salt it up, honey. They pack a punch. Not like those freeloader garnishes. Paprika. Parsley. Pimiento. (Why are they all “P” words? Pretty pathetic.)
I mean by this, that pimientos are self-centered little additions. They are not contributing. They just sort of shout, “Look at me! Look at me!” Can you tell me what a pimiento event tastes like? I didn’t think so. They’re showy, shallow, and they do NOTHING. They are the Paris Hiltons of the food world. (Another “P” word!) Because I think we all know that the cheese is the one doing all the work in pimiento cheese. But who’s getting first billing? Yeah.”
BONUS BLOGGY WOG RECIPE:
Teresa’s Deviled Eggs with Capers, or “The Garnish’s Revenge”
1 doz. eggs, boiled
¾ c. mayonnaise or ranch dressing
1 t. Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
Dill pickle relish to taste
Paprika (oh, well)
Capers to garnish (!), about 36-40 small
Halve eggs. Mash yolks. Add mayonnaise, relish, salt and pepper, and Dijon mustard. Stir together. Spoon into egg halves. Garnish with paprika (oh, well), and three capers per egg! These are delish. The little capers are hard at work for you on this one.
Stay hungry, my friends :-)