CATALAN FOOD: Culture and Flavors from the Mediterranean
Daniel Olivella, Caroline Wright
September 4, 2018
Daniel Olivella, Caroline Wright
September 4, 2018
Daniel Olivella is a chef with 38 years of experience cooking Spanish food for the American palate. He opened his first restaurant, B44, a Catalan Bistro in San Francisco, in 1999 to critical acclaim. Considered an authority on Spanish cuisine, Olivella has acted as an ambassador for the Texas-based luxury grocer Central Market in their Passport to Spain program. His most recent restaurant endeavor, Barlata, is a tapas restaurant in Austin.
Caroline Wright is a cookbook author living in Seattle, Washington, with her family. She has written two cookbooks, and her recipes and writing have appeared in Food Network Magazine, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Southern Living, and Better Homes & Gardens.
In proud, vibrant Catalonia, food is what brings people together—whether neighbors, family, or visitors. By the sea, over a glass of chilled vermouth and the din of happily shared, homemade Pica Pica (tapas) is where you’ll find the most authentic Catalonia. The region is known for its wildly diverse indigenous ingredients, from seafood to jamon Ibérico to strains of rice, and richly flavored cuisine that has remained uniquely Catalan throughout its complex and fraught history.
In CATALAN FOOD, the recipes are intended to be cooked leisurely and with love—the Catalan way. Featuring traditional dishes like Paella Barcelonata (Seafood Paella) and Llom de Porc Canari (Slow-roasted Pork Loin), as well as inventive takes on classics like Tiradito amb Escalivada (Spanish Sashimi with Roasted Vegetable Purees) and Amanida de Tomàquet amb Formatge de Cabra (Texas Peach and Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese), Catalan Food brings heritage into any home cook’s kitchen, where Catalonia’s cuisine was born. To know a culture, you must taste it; none is more rich and stunningly delicious than Catalonia’s.
Serves 4 to 6
Pa amb tomàquet is the foundation of every sandwich in Catalonia. If the smear of tomato is missing, it gets sent back to the kitchen. Though it can be topped with a variety of tasty sausages or tinned fish, the basic recipe is difficult to improve. Look for ripe and soft tomatoes that have been stored only at room temperature. The proper bread will have a crisp crust. You also don’t want the loaf to be too tall (about 2 inches tall at most) because you will halve the entire loaf horizontally so the crust is on either side. If you’re making this recipe for a crowd, grate the pulp from halved tomatoes, then use a spoon to spread it onto the toasts. It goes faster that way and the bread won’t be soggy by the time you’re ready to serve it.
Slice the bread in half horizontally, as if for a sandwich. Cut the bread halves crosswise into rectangles or squares, 4 to 5 inches in diameter, and toast them in a toaster or toaster oven until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes . You can also toast them under the broiler or on a grill for 1 to 2 minutes per side.
Gently rub the cut sides of the garlic cloves all over the crispy sides of the toast. Then rub the cut sides of the tomatoes over the toast until the tomato pulp falls apart and seeps into the nooks and crannies. When the tomato halves have given up all their pulp and are completely spent, discard the remaining tomato skins and cores. Be sure the tomato pulp is spread evenly to all corners of the bread.
Drizzle the toast with a generous amount of olive oil, then sprinkle with salt. Sometimes I like to press the oily sides of the toasts together to help squeeze the oil deep into the toast. You can also cut each toast square on a diagonal to make triangles.
Serves 8 as a first course
Catalans consume an array of seafood and shellfish, and this dish represents that variety, along with more common American flavors such as ketchup and hot sauce. This is bar food at its finest, the kind that Catalans would eat while drinking vermouth on a Sunday with friends (see page 72). It makes the perfect party dish, or you could serve it as a first course alongside a cold beer.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over high heat. Season the scallops with salt. When the oil is shimmering, add the scallops and sear until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes total. Remove the scallops to a plate and refrigerate until cold, at least 15 minutes or u p to 1 hour.
Meanwhile, prepare a medium bowl of ice and water. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil and add the bay leaves and peppercorns. Drop in the shrimp and simmer until bright pink, about 1½ minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to the ice bath. Let stand until cold, about 5 minutes, then remove and pat dry.
Chill eight small serving bowls. In a large bowl, combine the ketchup, lemon juice, hot sauce, the remaining ¹/³ cup olive oil, and a few generous pinches each of salt and pepper.
Just before serving, add the shrimp, octopus, tomato, onion, and cilantro to the sauce and toss to coat. The mixture should dress the seafood loosely, which depends on the juiciness of the tomato. Add more oil if necessary.
Divide the seafood salad among chilled bowls and top with the scallops, avocado slices, and cilantro leaves. Serve cold with crackers and lime wedges.
These recipes may be reproduced with the following credit:
Recipes from CATALAN FOOD: Culture and Flavors from the Mediterranean by Daniel Olivella and Caroline Wright. (Clarkson Potter; September 4, 2018; $30/Hardcover, ISBN: 978-0451495884).
Contact: Natasha Martin