There is nothing like a trip to Europe without a passport and jet lag. Not that I wouldn't want to hop aboard a plane bound for Barcelona or Madrid right now, but I was lucky enough to get a taste of el estilo de vida Español when a bevy of foodie friends descended upon Chez Vamp for a Spanish feast that was nothing short of exquisite.
There was Paella, of course -- in this case, graced with wild Patagonia Shrimp, Monkfish Cheeks and Littleneck Oysters. Admittedly, that was the low point of the Spanish groaning board. (What can I say? It may look beautiful above, but my socarrat skills are sorely lacking.)
My pals were really the ones that made this dinner sing, with an array of tapas and pinxtos that would make a Catalan proud. Heck, we even indulged in a jar of Banderillas -- little plastic swords balancing tiny sour pickles, slivers of sweet red pepper, olives and pickled onions. Downed in one briny, mouthpuckering bite, we moved on to attack the rest of the Barcelonean banquet.
Thankfully, there was more to come. Much more.
Vegetables took centerstage long enough for us to pretend that maybe we were eating healthy. (Didn't I hear something about the Mediterranean Diet being great for your waistline?) There were Grilled Artichoke Hearts with brightening splash of fresh lemon juice, a hearty Tortilla Espanol and Steamed Broccoli with the traditional red pepper Romesco Sauce, warmed with toasted hazelnuts.
Then, bringing us back to the sea, we oohed and ahhed over a gorgeous plate of Razor Clam shells stuffed with diced clam meat along with chopped eggs, a garlic aioli and fennel fronds...
And, yes, there was dessert too. Pears poached in Sherry, served with Turron Ice Cream and topped with toasted almonds and dried cherries.
It was all quite splendid. The recipe most requested at the evening's end? No surprise: my Sangria.
Didn't I mention that I stirred up a pitcher at the night's onset? No? Well, perhaps that's because it was gone even quicker than the platter of Spanish ham.
So, here it is. May it quench your thirst and put a bit of Flamenco in your footstep all summer long...
1 bottle Spanish red wine
1/2 cup brandy
3/4 cup triple sec
1 cup orange juice
1/2 Granny Smith apple
Pour wine, brandy, triple sec and orange juice into a larger pitcher. Stir. Add a cup of ice and the fruit cut into bite-sized chunks. Allow to chill the fridge for at least an hour, so the fruit gets soaked through with the Sangria mixture. Serve in glassed filled with ice.