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Monday, July 06, 2009

Summer Menú del Día

Of course by “lunch” here in Spain we don’t mean lunch but the big midday meal they eat no earlier than 2 o’clock and as late as five or six on the hottest days of summer. And “lunch” is also being redundant as Menu del Día always refers to the midday meal. In most small Spanish restaurants they have what is called a Menu del Día which is a fixed price lunch where you have several choices between the three courses you are served, along with beer or wine and coffee. I have some very good friends visiting today so I am planning our Menu del Día.

As much as I like booze I don’t like to drink alcohol during the day. If I’m forced to drink anything I prefer it to be something light—maybe a glass of white wine sangría which will go well with this menu.

Papas Aliñas (Andalucía Potato Salad)

This has instantly become my favorite dish: potatoes marinated in olive oil and vinegar. This recipe comes from Andalucía as you may recognize by the way it is written. Up north we call potatoes “patatas” but in Andalucía—as well as everywhere in the Americas—Spanish speakers call them “papas.” You start by boiling small new potatoes in salted water until they are very tender. Before they cool completely peel of the skin with your fingers. While the potatoes are still warm pour on a bit of olive oil and then refrigerate. Hard boil a few eggs and refrigerate. Slice an onion thinly, marinate in wine vinegar and chill. Mix these three ingredients while adding more oil and vinegar. Add fresh, chopped parsley. What you are left with is a very satisfying potato salad.

Insalata Caprese (Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil Salad)

I like to stack the these three ingredients on top of each other like pancakes and then serve with a balsamic vinaigrette thickened with corn syrup. I don’t remember where I learned how to do it this way but it sort of dresses up this simple classic. Nota very Spanish dish but at least its Mediterranean. Any excuse to use all of the great tomatoes I have is welcomed.

Pollo al Ajillo (Garlic Chicken)

Heat olive oil and add a couple of crushed, unpeeled cloves of garlic. When the garlic has browned add skinless chicken and cook on both sides but not too thoroughly. Remove chicken and reduce the heat. Add 3-4 cloves of finely chopped or pressed garlic to the oil and place the chicken pieces back in the pan. Make sure there is not too much oil in the pan (a couple of table spoons is about right). Add a cup of red wine to the pan and simmer. I like to serve this dish at about room temperature in the summer.