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Spring in southern Spain is as you would expect spring to be – a lot of
drizzle, a shy sun, and weather that changes as often as a teenager’s
mood. But these late spring days before hordes of tourists swarm the
city is the time of year when Seville is most hospitable to visitors
seeking to sample its flavors. The trams and buses are crowded; the
horse-drawn carriages are not. Chalk-drawn multi-lingual menus do not
yet dot the sidewalks. Hosts and hostesses do not yet beckon passing
pedestrians. Chefs do not yet need to accommodate an array of special
requests. The food is honest and the service is friendly.
A bar crawl is the way to go, sharing a handful of tapas – snack-sized dishes – and then moving on to the next tapas bar.
Spaniards know how to fry, which comes in handy when the sky is gray,
the air is damp and patrons huddle inside. They perch on stools or lean
against the bar and start with patatas bravas, - “brave potatoes” – pan-fried potato chunks peeking out from under a
spicy sauce. Eventually everyone gleefully falls down the deep-fried
rabbit hole to indulge in croquetas.
Looking deceptively similar to large tater tots with their deep golden
hue and craggy texture, these nuggets are filled with everything from
béchamel cream sauce to oozy cheese to spinach to tuna to ham.
if, because of dietary laws, you don’t partake in tasting jamón – the
haunches of dry-cured ham that hang from the ceiling of every tapas bar
in town - the ritual is worth watching. With each order, a long, thin,
flexible knife is pulled out from behind the bar. The knife is whetted
and honed and then expertly slid through the meat, yielding slices as
thin as the paper that wraps the lox that emerges from the counter at
Zabar’s. The knives are sharpened so frequently that they only have a
six- to nine-month lifespan, the wall behind the bar a collection of
retired relatives who have given their lives in service.
weather clears up, crowds wander out to other nearby watering holes.
They gather under the ever-strengthening sun around large upended wine
casks. After a quick swipe with a dishcloth, the tables are set with
small dishes of briny olives that, quickly consumed, give rise to a
whole new set of cravings for cool dishes heated only by spice. On order
are bowls of gazpacho, a chunky liquid salad drowning in a vibrant red
pool of juices, decorated with a splash of olive oil, and often
surrounded by small plates of diced pepper, tomato, and cucumber for
A variation on gazpacho is salmorejo
– a cold, tomato-only soup thickened with day-old bread and spiked with
a good dose of garlic. Garnished with diced egg (and, traditionally,
ham) this smooth, orange-colored potage offers a hearty and filling
course to top off your tapas tour. Regardless of which soup is eaten,
most Sevillanos (including the children) wash everything down with
tumblers of tinto de verano, the red wine of summer, a refreshing mix of red table wine, lemon soda, and seltzer.
If you can’t get on a plane fast enough to fly to Seville this spring, make salmorejo in your own kitchen, invite a crowd, and eat the cold soup under the sun with a few glasses of tinto de verano.
is a creamy chilled tomato soup thickened with bread and traditionally
served with a sprinkle of diced egg and ham. The addition of bread
results in a deep orange soup rather than the red that you might expect.
In this recipe, I refer to two different olive oils. For the soup
itself, use an every-day workhorse extra virgin olive oil. For garnish, I
recommend a higher quality, ideally Spanish, oil pressed from arbequina
olives. I’ve found that the arbequina olive produces an oil with a
fresh, fruity flavor that tastes like the olives from which it is made.
If you can’t pick any up in Spain, Unió is my favorite and available in
the US online and at Whole Foods. That said, the salmorejo will be excellent with a drizzle of your own favorite olive oil.
- 8-12 ripe tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 C sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
- 2 t sea salt to taste
- 3/4 C extra virgin olive oil
- 2/3 day old baguette (~200 g); in a pinch, I’ve used other crusty white bread or even pita
- Fruity olive oil for garnish
- 2 eggs
Core and roughly chop the tomatoes. You can peel them for a smoother
consistency, but I haven’t found that it makes an appreciable
difference. Throw them in blender with the garlic and purée. A lot. The
mix will be a light red. Add vinegar, salt, and regular olive oil. Keep
puréeing until smooth and orange. This can take a few minutes. Depending
on the size of your blender, you might need to do it in 2 batches.
Soak. Tear up the bread and drop into the blender with the tomato mixture. Let soak for about 15 minutes until soggy.
Boil. Hard boil the eggs. Let them cool.
Purée again. Once the bread is good and soggy, purée until smooth and even lighter orange.
Garnish. Drizzle with a special fruity olive oil and sprinkle with chopped egg (and ham if you want).
Tinto de verano
Tinto de verano
is a simplified version of sangria popular in the south of Spain,
essentially a 1:1 mixture of red table wine and lemon-lime soda called
gaseosa. You can substitute Sprite or 7-Up or if you don’t like the
artificial taste of soda, make your own with a lemon-lime simple syrup
and plain carbonated water. Simple syrup is a 1:1 mixture of sugar and
water that can be infused with different flavors or left plain and is
often used in mixed drinks. This slightly more involved recipe is below.
Regardless of which you make, throw in a slice of lemon and drink away.
Makes 6 cups
- 1 bottle red table wine – don’t bother using a fancy wine; I use a very inexpensive Cabernet
- 1.5 C sugar
- 1.5 C water
- 2 lemons
- 1 lime
- 1.5 C seltzer or club soda
Chill. Chill the red wine.
Make a lemon and lime infused simple syrup. Bring to a boil water and
sugar and stir until the sugar completely dissolves. Remove from heat.
Thinly slice the lemons and lime and drop them into the sugar water. Let
cool to room temperature and then chill in the refrigerator. Remove the
lemon and lime slices and reserve for garnish.
Mix. In a very large pitcher (or two), mix together the chilled wine, simple syrup, and seltzer or club soda. Serve in tumblers with a slice of lemon.
Gayle Squires publishes recipes and photographs on the blog, Kosher Camembert. Her cooking and baking is inspired by international travel and all recipes are kosher.