Spain

Greek Grilled Octopus

Imagine yourself at a beautiful two person mosaic tiled table, in a Greek cafe, leaning back against the cool of the white washed plaster wall, in the shade, away from the blazing sun. There is a glass of ice cold crisp local white wine in your hand, or maybe some tangy ouzo… and across from you is the love of your life. You turn slightly and look out at the turquoise blue sea, the briny air penetrating and clean… carrying the scent of the wild thyme and mint on the hillsides. The waiter with the white apron brings two plates of the house specialty, octopus marinated in red wine vinegar, olive oil lemons, garlic and oregano… and then grilled on searing hot charcoal.  And on the side, marinated gigantes beans and seared arugula. Sometimes life is perfect.

Clay Baked Chicken or Duck

For years we have returned again and again to this simple savory feast… it’s like an old trusted friend.  We just tossed this chubby duck inside the clay pot along with tons of veggies, stuck it a cold oven, set it to 475 degrees and got back to the family fun.  An hour later, time to feast.  It’s that simple.  

Greek Shrimp with Lemons and Peppers

Imagine yourself at a beautiful two person mosaic tiled table, in a Greek cafe, leaning back against the cool of the white washed plaster wall, in the shade, away from the blazing sun. There is a glass of ice cold crisp local white wine in your hand, or maybe some tangy ouzo… and across from you is the love of your life. You turn slightly and look out at the turquoise blue sea, the briny air penetrating and clean… carrying the scent of the wild thyme and mint on the hillsides. The waiter with the white apron brings two plates of the house specialty, Greek Shrimp, fresh from the sea. And on the side, marinated gigantes beans and seared arugula. Sometimes life is perfect.

Basque Braised Chicken Thighs with Peppers and Chorizo

I have always been fascinated by the Basque people, not just for their unique soulful cuisine, but also for the fact that no one really knows for sure where they come from or even where their language originates. Whenever folks go looking for the Basque origins, it turns out they were right there in their Basque Country homeland in the Pyrenees mountains all along, bordering both Spain and France, long before the French or the Spanish even existed.

Paella

Paella is the signature meal of Spain, a national pride, and yet almost no one fully agrees on what it is or how is should be made. It is a controversial meal for many reasons… starting with the simple fact that it is a huge shallow pan loaded down with complex and expensive ingredients which completely vary from home to home, town to town, restaurant to restaurant, and from region to region in Spain. Paella in Madrid is very different from that in Seville. But at the same time, like Bouillabaisse from France, Paella is a classic meal so identified with the soul of the country that it naturally comes laden with emotion, memory, tradition, pride, and a sensory longing for the authenticity of the time and place of one’s upbringing.

Clams and Monkfish with Spanish Chorizo and Saffron Fennel Broth

I grew up in a time and a place where the possibility of experiencing exotic or umami infused cuisine was just about zero.  The little town in Illinois I come from had 500 residents, a couple of coffee shops, one family restaurant specializing in deep fried food, and was more than an hour from the closest big city.   But when I still a little kid, I began to realize with a kind of bewilderment, that other people didn’t seem to be amazed by food quite the way that I was.