Thursday, November 29, 2018

Ode to Barcelona: Escalivada, Gambas al Ajillo, Sangria Roja

The following recipes are a lot less complicated and less time consuming than the bombas I shared in my previous post, so I decided to share them all in a single post. They make up the bulk of my Ode to Barcelona tapas menu.

Escalivada, sometimes called escalibada, is a Catalan roasted vegetable dish featuring eggplant and red bell peppers, and sometimes onions and/or tomatoes. One of our surprise dishes off the confusing menu at Vinitus was escalivada with goat cheese. It was delicious and unexpected.

This version is more of the traditional approach, and less refined and structured than the goat cheese-topped version at Vinitus. It's so very lightly dressed, and I used some cava vinegar I purchased in Barcelona as the acidic element. Although it appears to be incredibly simple (and it is), the flavors are great. This is a very nice vegetable dish to add to a tapas menu.

I also included gambas al ajillo, or garlic shrimp. I've made a different recipe in the past, but this one is more garlicky and the winner of the two versions in my opinion. It reminds me a bit of a Spanish shrimp scampi.

Finally, I'll share a recipe for my beloved sangria. You hardly need a recipe for this crowd-pleasing drink, as there are so many different ways to make it truly unique. In this particular case I was inspired by some of the fruits that were featured in various sangrias we drank in Barcelona (mainly citrus fruits and some green apples), and in particular the usage of cinnamon. One evening our sangria was topped with ground cinnamon, and yet another day it was garnished with an entire cinnamon stick in the glass.

I infused the sangria with a couple broken cinnamon sticks. The flavor really comes through, especially since I chilled my sangria for a full 8 hours before serving. The cinnamon along with the apples and citrus really shine with the flavors of fall and winter. Berries are another traditional element in sangria, but use whatever fruits you like.

Escalivada (Catalan Roasted Vegetables)
Serves 6 to 8

2 eggplants
2 red bell peppers
3 small onions, unpeeled
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for coating vegetables
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or cava vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Lightly rub the eggplants, bell peppers, and onions with olive oil and set them on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast until the skin is blistered and blackened and flesh is tender when pierced with a knife, rotating the vegetables once or twice partway through cooking.

Remove vegetables from the pan as they are done, the eggplants and peppers will roast for about 30 to 40 minutes, and the onions will likely take an additional 10 minutes or so depending on their size.

Put the eggplants and red peppers into a plastic bag, seal and let them rest for about 10 minutes. This will loosen the skins. Carefully peel the skins off the vegetables and remove the stems. Gently scoop out the seeds from within the eggplant and peppers, and tear or cut the flesh into strips. Slice the peeled onions with a knife.

Whisk together the 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper, and dress the vegetables, lightly tossing to help incorporate the flavors. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Arrange the vegetables in a serving dish and top with chopped parsley. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to develop. Serve cold or at room temperature, preferably with crusty bread.

Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp)
Serves 6

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I used garlic oil leftover from making allioli)
1/4 cup thinly sliced garlic
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons dry sherry
Zest of 1 lemon
Chili flakes, to taste
Kosher salt

Heat the oil over medium-low heat in a large non-stick or cast iron pan, and add the garlic. Gently cook the garlic, stirring regularly to allow it to infuse the oil and become fragrant and golden. About 5 to 8 minutes.

Add the shrimp and continue to cook, stirring to ensure it cooks evenly, until shrimp is mostly pink throughout, another 5 minutes or so. Add the parsley, sherry, lemon zest, chili flakes, and salt to taste. Cook another few minutes to absorb flavors and finish cooking the shrimp. Serve immediately with crusty bread.

Sangria Roja
Serves 6 to 8 (but really in my family only about 4!)

2 (750 ml) bottles Spanish red wine
6 ounces (3/4 cup) brandy (I used apricot brandy)
6 ounces berries (I used blackberries)
1 orange, thinly sliced into rounds
1 lemon, thinly sliced into rounds
1 granny smith apple, cored and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half

Combine all the ingredients in a pitcher. Refrigerate for at least an hour, but preferably longer to really infuse the flavors. Aim for 8 hours or overnight.

*Note* Many sangria recipes use some sweetener, such as simple syrup or even fruit juice. This is a matter of personal preference. You can sweeten this sangria more if you'd like, although my family enjoyed it just as is.


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