Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Summer of Spain

Food inspiration can come from anywhere in the world...

And this summer has been officially dubbed the Summer of Spain! That means experimenting with fresh, fresh tomatoes, piles of olive-poached tuna, spicy chorizo, and simmering skillets of saffron-scented paella, of course!

Tapas, in its many guises, has become a commonplace style of eating at many restaurants in Atlanta. Over the years, the concept of tapas has extended well-beyond all things Spanish and it seems like a small portion of ANY dish can somehow become "tapas" at restaurants.

So, we suggest you go back to the homeland, Espagna itself, for inspiration for a tapas and paella party!

To have a Spanish fiesta a la casa, Atlantans can take advantage of some of the great ingredients that are available locally:

*Consider heading deep into Dekalb County to wander through the vast aisles of the international pantry that is the Dekalb Farmers Market to get some authentic tastes of Spain, such as Ferrer romesco sauce and saffron.
*Scour the Saturday green market at Studioplex from 9 AM until 1-ish for some freshest off-the vine, heirloom tomatoes around from local organic farmers and Nigerian goat herders, Joaquin and Jessica Lara of Above & Beyond Farms in Canton, GA. Then, head to the stand of Candler Park bakers and sandwich-makers, The Mercantile, who have also set up shop at Studioplex to sell crusty loaves of French bread that are perfect for making your own heirloom tomato sandwich on the spot! Bring your own salt shaker-- and you've got the ingredients for a perfect summer sandwich.

*If you need to stay intown, you can still stock up on jars of Ortiz Spanish tuna in olive oil and grab some vacuum-packed artichokes at the Whole Foods Market off Ponce to get some authentic flair without having to poach a single thistle.
(And trust us-- Chicken-of-the-Sea just WILL NOT do if you're trying for an authentic transatlantic experience!)
* A thick wedge of Manchego cheese, among others, and some thinly-sliced charcuterie will go a
long way to round out your tapas fest AND will keep your friends smiling while the saffron is simmering...

*For those paella perfectionists out there- splurge a little and go to Star Provisions to worship at the altar of chorizo. We think it has the perfect subtle smoky paprika aroma that comes out when you allow it to sizzle and burn a little in the paella pan before adding the liquid to the rice. Notably, the gourmet deluxe storefront for all things for foodstuffs is another creation of our biggest chef-couple crush ever, Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison-- which directly connects to their original, superluxe restaurant, Bacchanalia.

Those who are wise to the ways of tapas know to sip and nibble on the snacks but save some space for the paella. We like having a classic combination of chorizo, littleneck clams, and prawns (preferably the head-on kind, baby!)!
Also, there is no doubt that paella is meant to be eaten immediately!!! If you're not hearing gasps of "Hot! Good! Ouch!" while it is being consumed- you have either waited too long to serve it or you have invited the wrong people!

So, pour yourself a refreshing glass of sangria, maybe made from some red table wine from the Penedes region of Spain, peruse our pics, and find your own inspiration!
Recipes are coming, but really... you know how to halve a tomato and top it with tuna, right? So feel free to get started and don't forget to share some of your own recipes! Hasta luego, amigos!