Monday, August 13, 2012

Week 4: Spain

Week 4: Bienvenidos a Espana!

Hola! Welcome to Spain!  I will be fully immersing us in the culture this week by writing all the posts in Castillian Spanish - one of the 4 co-official languages of Spain.   NOT!  Yeah, that's totally not gonna happen. You will get my usual badly written English with my poor punctuation and overuse of emoticons :)  Enjoy.
This week we will be exploring Spain.  We have been putting a star on the map of each country we visit, so we put our star at 40.2ºN/3.4ºW (did you notice I leaned how to make the degree sign?) that latitude/longitude marks Madrid, the capital of Spain.  An interesting thing about Madrid, it is located in the exact center of the country! Spain is located on what is known as the Iberian Peninsula of Europe but actually a few of it's cities, Centa and Melilla, are on the African continent which is only 12 miles from mainland Spain.
Spain, like England, is a monarchy that has a parliamentary government.  King Juan Carlos has ruled since 1975, when he took over leadership from the dictator Francisco Franco, who had ruthlessly ruled Spain from 1939 - 1975.  During that period many people emigrated from Spain, but when King Juan Carlos restored democracy, Spain once again became a popular tourist destination and new home for many immigrants.
Spain has become a leader in renewable energy, mostly solar power and wind energy.  They have the most extensive high-speed rail system in all of Europe and are only second to China in having the world's most extensive.  Pardon the pun, but Spain is moving fast!  Except between the hours of 1:30 and 3:30, when they still traditionally close shops and restaurants for a siesta because dinner is not typically until late at night!
This week we will try to touch on some of the most famous of Spanish customs and foods.  We will try to "run with the bulls", paint like Picasso, dance the Flamenco (!), and try some delicious food.  Let's start with the food :)  Spanish food is very much influenced by the many different cultures who have and still live there.  Being surrounded by the sea and oceans, seafood is a big part of their diet, garlic, olive oil and rice are also staples.  Put all those ingredients together and you have our first project-  Paella!
Project 1: Arroz con Calabacines (summer squash paella)
I got this recipe from a great blog at and have changed a few ingredients to match what we had on hand but there are lots of great recipes to check out, including what I take to be the traditional seafood paella.  My family doesn't eat a lot of seafood, I know it's good for you but it is a taste I never really acquired and I'm afraid I'm passing that on to my kids, so we made a vegetable paella.  I'm not sure of the origin of the dish but it's delicious and I'm sure if you like seafood that version is good too.
For the recipe you will need:

  • 1/4 - 1/3 c olive oil (I was out -used canola)
  • 1 c spanish rice or Italian arborio (could only find arborio)
  • 2 - 2 1/2 c hot water
  • 2 medium zucchini cut in small wedges
  • 1 onion cut into teeny-tiny bits so my hubby wouldn't see
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1/3 c chopped italian parsley
  • handful of cherry tomatoes or one large cut up
  • sm. pinch saffron ground with a little salt
  • 1 t pimenton- look in the spice section, it's there. Spanish paprika- I had pimenton ahumado which is smoked -yum!
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/4 c roasted red pepper, piquillo peppers or pimentoes
1.  In a heavy skillet or paella pan, add oil and onions and cook until onions are soft.  Add squash, tomatoes, garlic and most of parsley.  Cook 5 mins or so.
2.  Add rice and stir well to get rice coated with the oil.  Let the rice cook a few minutes then add pimenton (careful it burns easily)
3.  Add 2 cups of hot water, saffron and salt.  Stir, let come to a boil and turn down heat to Medium.  Let rice simmer 20 minutes stirring occassionally.  Check to see that it's not burning on bottom (add more water if needed).
4.  Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes. Apparently this is an important step!  Garnish with a little parsley and some peppers.  
 This was really, really good :) My husband even ate it and it had 2 ingredients he hates = onions and peppers!  The kids tried it but didn't really like it too much (they prefer soy sauce on their rice).  I think with some chorizo cooked into it it would be a great one-dish meal...I'm keeping this recipe nearby because as the next picture will show - it was a hit!!
Scraped Clean!!