Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

Easiest grilled squid, with a nod to Spain

On our Spain tours we’ve enjoyed some amazing seafood. Spaniards (like Sicilians) cook squid and octopus fearlessly, and most of the time it’s tender and delicious, with none of that “rubber-eraser” texture. I’ve always been a bit afraid to cook them at home due to that risk. However, last weekend we decided to throw caution to the wind and cook a squid appetizer on the grill!

I took the easy way out; I bought fresh squid from the fishmonger that was already cleaned and ready to go. We patted it very dry with paper towels first, both inside and out.

Then we marinated it for about 15 minutes, in a quarter cup each of extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice and a sprinkling of salt.

Drying the cleaned squid.

Drying the cleaned squid.

Marinating.

Marinating.

The grill was fairly hot, and we used a grill tray that had had time to heat up over the coals. Then we put the squid on the grill and cooked it for 2 minutes on each side. If your grill was hotter than ours was, you’d be able to cook it for even less time. We knew it was time to flip it or to pull it off when the outside started to bubble and turn lightly golden.

As soon as we pulled it off the grill, we brushed on a little more olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice, and sprinkled with a little fresh parsley.

On the hot grill tray.

On the hot grill tray.

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

And then we devoured it. Here’s Elph having the kind of late-summer-discussion over great food and wine that helps us make it through the long winter to come.

Good food, wine, and conversation!

Good food, wine, and conversation!

Seville Orange Marmalade

I usually make several kinds of jam each summer, but had never made any winter citrus marmalade. This weekend I decided to do something about that, and went in search of Seville oranges. One local shop had some; February is a good time to find them. So, I bought 7 oranges (which turned out to be a lot, most recipes called for 4 or 5).

Seville oranges are a kind of bitter orange, that are apparently planted all over the city of Seville in Spain – being there when they bloom must be amazing.

I did some reading online and found many variations and opinions on how to do Seville Orange Marmalade, so I ended up combining pieces from several. I knew I wanted to can it in order to extend its shelf life, and so I can give it as gifts.

The first thing is to figure out, how to get all those seeds out – Seville oranges are packed full of seeds. I liked the suggestion from The Wednesday Chef blog to score the orange so that you can peel it in four quarters easily, then juice the orange and collect the seeds. I put the seeds into a small linen spice bag. And then you slice the peel into 1/8″ thick slices.

Seville oranges

Seville oranges

Peels removed, juicing the pulp

Peels removed, juicing the pulp

 

You combine juice, sliced rind, chopped pulp, and the bag of seeds in a pot, cover with water, and let sit overnight. (Supposedly this helps with bitterness, I don’t know.) The next day, you bring to a boil (still with the bag of seeds in there, to help add natural pectin) and then simmer about 45 minute to an hour, which is supposed to help make the orange rinds more tender – apparently once you add the sugar, the rinds stop getting tender from cooking.

 

Seeds successfully separated!

Seeds successfully separated!

Cooking the oranges before adding sugar

Cooking the oranges before adding sugar

While the oranges are simmering, bring your large canning pot full of water to a boil, and put your canning jars in to sterilize, and the lids in a separate pot to simmer. And, put a small plate in the freezer.

Remove the bag of seeds from the pot of oranges. Add the sugar to the oranges, stir gently until dissolved, and then let cook with the heat on high. A note about the quantity of sugar – the most traditional recipes seem to use twice the weight of sugar to oranges. I couldn’t quite bring myself to do that, so used a little less, and mine was plenty sweet.

 

Sugar added.

Sugar added.

Boiling hard until its 222-223 F, skimming off foam

Boiling hard until its 222-223 F, skimming off foam

Some recipes said stir continuously, others said stir occasionally – I opted for occasionally, and I skimmed off foam occasionally too, with a large spoon. I used a digital thermometer to check the temperature, which could get tricky because every once in a while a lava-hot bubble of orange-sugar-water would erupt out of the cooking marmalade so you need to be careful.

Mine took a full hour to go from boiling (212F) to the 222-223F range. I tested a teaspoon of the marmalade on the plate from the freezer and lo it was softly gelled after 30 seconds – it would move slowly and blob-like when I tilted the plate, but did not run quickly down the plate, so it was done.

I turned off the heat, pulled the jars, ladle, and funnel out of the hot water, and then carefully filled the jars leaving 1/4″ headspace. I wiped the tops of each jar with a damp cloth, and the put on the lids and bands from the simmering water. (I kept one jar out to eat right away of course!)

Filling the jars

Filling the jars

Jars cooling on the counter

Jars cooling on the counter

I filled up my canning rack with the jars, carefully lowered it in to the boiling water canner, covered, brought back to a boil, and let boil for 10 minutes. Then I pulled the rack out and lifted the jars on to a towel on the counter, there to cool for 12 hours or so.

And then, I cut a thick slice of a good crusty bread, toasted it a bit, slathered with lightly salted organic butter, and spread with marmalade, and made a cup of black tea with milk to accompany it. SO delicious, with great flavors and textures – chewy, bitter and sweet, plus the salty richness from the butter and the nuttiness of the wheat bread.

Worth the wait!

Worth the wait!

 

And, the house did smell wonderful for hours! Recipe follows.

RECIPE

Originally inspired by http://www.thewednesdaychef.com/ and by Alton Brown’s recipe on the food network http://www.foodnetwork.com/

Seville Orange Marmalade

Makes 12 half-pints (approximately)

3 pounds 12 ounces Seville oranges (7 large)
12 cups water
5 pounds 12 ounces granulated sugar

Wash the oranges thoroughly, especially if you were not able to find organic fruit. Score the peel of each orange with a sharp knife in quarters and remove, and slice 1/8″ thick, and put in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Juice the oranges; I used a hand held juicer, which worked well in that it collected a lot of the seeds too. Then take the pulp and squish it around on a cutting board to remove more seeds, and then chop the pulp up. Add the juice and pulp to the pot. Put the seeds in a spice bag, tied shut, and add to the pot too. Add 12 cups water, cover and let sit overnight.

The next day, bring the pot to a boil, uncovered, still with the seed bag in, and let simmer rapidly for 45 minutes to an hour. The goal is for your peel to soften; apparently once you add sugar the peel will not soften any more.

While the fruit is cooking, fill a large pot (at least 12-quart – I use my lobster pot) 3/4 full with water, set over high heat and bring to a boil. Place 10 (8-ounce) jars and rings, canning funnel, ladle, and tongs into the boiling water and make sure the water covers the jars by at least an inch. Boil for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the lids and leave everything in the pot until the marmalade is ready.

Also, place a small plate in the freezer.

Remove the bag of seeds from the pot. Increase the heat under the orange mixture to return to full boil. Add the sugar and stil gently to dissolve. Then stir the mixture occasionally, and occasionally skimming off foam with a large spoon, until it reaches 222 to 223 degrees F on a candy thermometer, and darkens in color. For me this took an hour; apparently that was on the long side.

Along with testing the temperature, when its near 222 degrees test the readiness of the marmalade by placing a teaspoon of the mixture onto the chilled plate and allowing it to sit for 30 seconds. Tilt the plate. The mixture should be a soft gel that moves slightly. If mixture is thin and runs easily, it is not ready.

Remove jars from the water and drain on a clean towel. Place a canning funnel onto the top of one of the jars and ladle in the marmalade just to below the bottom of the threads of the jar. Repeat until all of the mixture has been used. The amount of marmalade may vary by 1 to 2 jars. Wipe the rims and threads of the jars with a moist clean cloth and top each with a lid. Place a ring on each jar and tighten and put in your canning rack.

Gently lower the canning rack in to the pot of boiling water. Add additional boiling water if necessary to cover the jars by at least an inch. Bring back to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the canning rack from the water, and then using the jar lifter to place the jars on a cloth on the counter, spaced a few inches apart, and allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours before opening. Once open, store in the refrigerator.

Enjoy on hearty toast with lightly salted butter.

Spanish Membrillo – a quince paste your Manchego cheese is begging for

While visiting Spain earlier this year (working on creating two new Zingerman’s Food Tours), I got to taste a wonderful fruit-paste-and-manchego-cheese appetizer. I learned that the fruit paste was called Membrillo, and is made from fresh quince.

The taste stayed with me, and when I got back to Michigan after leading the fall Tuscany tour I decided to try making Membrillo myself. (The full recipe is at the bottom of the post, following the photos.)

First, you need to get ahold of some ripe quince. Your neighbors may have a quince tree or bush, or speciality produce stores should carry them in the fall. Make sure to get quince that are ripe – they are yellow and smell good – kind of like a ripe apple-pear aroma with a bit of pineapple thrown in. They are very hard even when ripe. I washed them and peeled them. (The recipe I used called for peeling them; I also made quince jelly, a different recipe, and for that one I did not need to peel the fruit.)

Ripe quince

Ripe quince

Peeled - they look and feel like peeled apples

Peeled – they look and feel like very firm peeled apples

Then, you cut the fruit off the core (or use a corer if you have one), and chop it roughly. Put it in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add several strips of carefully-cut lemon zest (you don’t want the white pith), and a vanilla bean pod that has been slit lengthwise, and water to cover. Bring to a boil, and simmer until the quince is soft, about 30-40 minutes.

Chopped quince

Chopped quince

Add water, a vanilla bean, and strips of lemon zest

Add water, a vanilla bean pod, and strips of lemon zest

I really enjoy the aroma of quince – while cooking it made the whole house smell fruity. Once soft, you drain the quince, discard the vanilla bean but keep the zest in with the quince. Then puree it (I used a blender), and measure how much puree you end up with so you know how much sugar to add.

Blending the quince

Blending the quince

Quince puree

Quince puree

Return the quince puree to the heavy-bottomed pot, with the heat on medium-low. Measure out the same amount of sugar as quince puree, and stir it in. When the sugar has completely dissolved, stir in the lemon juice. Continue to cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for about an hour to an hour and a half. (This reminded me of cooking really good grits – I needed to find tasks to do near the kitchen where I could just pop up and stir the pot every few minutes and then go back to what I was doing.) The color will change from yellow to a deep orange, and it will get quite thick.

Quince puree with the sugar just added

Quince puree with the sugar just added

Quince puree after 1.5 hours

Quince puree after 1.5 hours

While the puree cooks, preheat the oven to 125. Butter some parchment paper well, and line a small baking pan with it. (I used a torte pan but a small square or round baking pan would be fine, 8 x 8 or 9 x 9.) Pour the quince paste in to the parchment-paper-lined pan. I used a spatula to smooth out the paste, so it was even.

Buttered parchment paper in a torte pan

Buttered parchment paper in a torte pan

The quince paste after being poured in to the baking pan

The quince paste after being poured in to the baking pan

Then I put the quince in the oven to dry for about 1.5 hours. I took it out and let it cool, before wrapping it in plastic wrap and keeping it in the fridge. The sugar in it meant that it lasted several weeks, and it was a great excuse to buy several kinds of aged cheeses to eat slices of the membrillo with. We ate the membrillo with an aged Spanish Manchego (which is sheep’s milk cheese), a cheese called Calcagno, which is another aged raw sheep’s milk cheese from Sardinia, and it was also really good with Challer-Hocker – a cow’s milk cheese that is softer than those other two – a mountain-style cheese from Switzerland. Yum. Recipe follows, enjoy!

The cooled membrillo, ready to wrap up and put in the fridge.

The cooled membrillo, ready to wrap up and put in the fridge.

The membrillo on a cheese platter - it was definitely a hit.

A wedge of the membrillo on a cheese platter – it was definitely a hit.

Spanish Membrillo
(with thanks to SimplyRecipes dot com for the recipe that I started with!)

INGREDIENTS
approx 4 pounds quince, washed, peeled, cored, roughly chopped
1 vanilla pod, split
4 strips of lemon peel – only the yellow, no pith – about 1/2 inch by 1 inch each.
3 Tbsp lemon juice
About 4 cups of granulated sugar, exact amount depends on how much quince puree you end up with

DIRECTIONS

Place quince pieces in a large saucepan and cover with water. Add the vanilla pod and lemon peel and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook until the quince pieces are soft (30-40 minutes).

Strain out the water, discard the vanilla pod, but keep the lemon peel with the quince. Purée the quince pieces in a food processor, blender, or using a food mill. Measure the quince purée. Whatever amount of quince purée you have, that’s how much sugar you will need. So if you have 4 cups of purée, you’ll need 4 cups of sugar. Return the quince purée to the large pan. Heat to medium-low. Add the sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the lemon juice.

Continue to cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the quince paste is very thick and has a deep orange color.

While the puree cooks, reheat oven to low (125°F, or 52°C). Line a 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper with a thin coating of butter. Pour the cooked quince paste into the parchment paper-lined baking pan. Smooth out the top of the paste so it is even. Place in the oven for about 1 to 1.5 hours to help it dry. Remove from oven and let cool.

To serve, cut into squares, slices, or wedges and present with Manchego (or other flavorful) cheese. To eat, take a small slice of the membrillo and spread it on top of a slice of the cheese. Store by wrapping in plastic wrap and keeping in the refrigerator.