Sunday, July 24, 2016

Tapas Meals for Captured Possessions

As much as I love writing about food, in my novelette, Captured Possessions, it plays a minimal role. After sneaking her way aboard one of the armada’s ships as Spain heads to war with England in 1588, a nobleman’s daughter finds herself struggling for survival. Far from the romantic tales she’s heard, life at sea is harsh—the storms, the strenuous work, and due to their lack of readiness after Sir Francis Drake’s raid on Cadiz the year before, poorly prepared barrels led to rotting food and spoiled wine. After the ship she’s traveling on is captured and she is taken as prisoner of war, there is no talk of food. It’s just sustenance at that point, and given her noble background, a far cry from the delicacies she’s accustomed to. 

No doubt about it, Consuela is a spoiled brat from the start. She’s temperamental, prone to tantrums and histrionics, and considers pairing colors on an outfit work. She can’t bear to be without her betrothed, a young officer who is to serve aboard La Nuestra Señora del Rosario. Though he’s reluctant to do so, he helps her don a disguise so she can join him. She never enjoys a decent meal again. 

There are several points in the story where she reminisces about the past—and wishes she could have behaved differently. I adore the Spanish culinary tradition of tapas. As I replicate some of the dishes served at night, preferably with sangria or sherry, I did put a modern spin in most of them. I love to experiment in the kitchen, and once I open the spice cabinet, there’s no stopping me. Aleppo pepper and smoked paprika are used very generously here. 
When I think of Consuela enjoying tapas, I see her in her family’s courtyard, long before she makes the plan to run away. It’s an old palace built by a Moorish emir, with a beautiful fountain and lush orange trees. The sun has set and the sky is violet and gray, and scent of night-blooming flowers fills the air…

Andalusian Gazpacho

1 thick slice bread
1 large bottle of Spicy Hot V8
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 red onion, minced finely
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
Dash of white pepper
2 1/2 high quality olive oil
5 tbl. sherry vinegar
Croutons and sliced almonds for garnish

**Variation: instead of V8, use 2 lbs. freshly crushed tomatoes and 1 pint of water. I know it sounds crazy, but I don’t like tomatoes. V8 has been by go-to in order to replace them in gazpacho recipes for years. 

Put slice of bread in food processer and blend until they form crumbs. Add to large bowl. Add salt, garlic, cumin, olive oil, and sherry vinegar, and onion. Add approximately 2 pints of Spicy Hot V8. Stir until well-blended. Chill before serving, add garnishes. 
Wine-braised Chorizo
1 lb. chorizo
2 shallots, minced finely
1 cup red wine, preferably rioja
1 tbl. butter

Melt butter in cast-iron pan. Add shallots, cook until they are soft but are not yet browning. Cut chorizo into circles, add to pan. Pour in and cook until reduced into a thick sauce. 

Fried Goat Cheese with Shallot Dressing

1/2 lb. goat cheese
Panko for dredging (or substitute with regular bread crumbs) 
2 eggs, lightly beaten with 2 tsp. water
Bread crumbs
Aleppo pepper, smoked paprika dash of salt
Oil for frying

Mix panko, Aleppo pepper, smoked paprika, and salt into shallow bowl. Beat eggs and add water in another bowl. Cut goat cheese into 1-inch squares. Add oil to cast iron skillet at least 1/2 inch deep, and heat to approx. 350F. Dredge cheese in egg mixture and then bread crumbs and fry quickly, until golden on both sides. Drain. 

Shallot Dressing

2 tbl. olive oil
2 tsp. sherry vinegar
1 shallot, minced
2 tsp. cilantro, chopped fine
1/2 tsp. chopped capers

Brown shallots in olive oil then blend with the other ingredients. Serve over fried cheese. 

Smoked Fish Salad on Garlic Toast

3 1/2 tbl. olive oil
3 cloves garlic (or to taste) 
Baguette, cut into rounds
6 oz. smoked fish, coarsely chopped (I used trout)
4 tbl. shredded lettuce
4 tsp. shredded roasted red pepper
2tsp. olive oil mayo
3 tsp. diced red onion
Seasonings, e.g., smoked paprika, Aleppo pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. I also add about a teaspoon of Old Bay. 

Combine olive oil and garlic. Brush the bread on both sides, place on cookie sheet, and broil until browned on each side. Cool. 
Mix the rest of the ingredients in a bowl. Pile onto bread slices. Serve at room temperature. 

Orange and Olive Salad

4 Cara Cara oranges
8–10 kalamata olives
2 tbl. finely minced red onion
1 tbl. high quality olive oil
1 tbl. fresh lime juice
A dash of salt and pepper

*Note: Cara Cara oranges are my personal favorite. Their jewel-like intensity makes a beautiful presentation, and the flavor and juiciness are incomparable to other oranges in my opinion. 
Cut oranges into segments, remove all pith. Slice olives thinly. Add onions, olive oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Serve chilled. 

Serve with olives; smoked jámon, fresh bread, assorted cheese, fruits and nuts. 

Captured Possessions is available on Amazon, and will soon be distributed to other retailers. And a heartfelt thank you to the first reviewer, who gave it five stars! 

(post originally published April 28, 2014) 

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