In Barcelona, good food = good times

EAT’S EASY - Ernest Reynoso Gala () - October 14, 2010 - 12:00am

The kitchen is a country in which there are always discoveries to be made. — Grimod de la Reyniere, 1758-1838

Laughter is brightest where food is best for the chef, cook, pastry chef, or person who loves cooking, eating or dining. Good food equals good times. — Irish proverb

Eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures, where taste reigns supreme in a foodie’s consciousness. In kitchens and on tables, dishes from foreign countries have appeared that were unfamiliar a few years ago, tapping a market that is adventurous and willing to discover something new in terms of dining experience. Media has fed our senses and opened our imaginations, bridging the gap to other countries’ traditions and heritage, as cuisine has become a medium to other people’s culture. The more we travel and eat, the more we extend our range and refine our skills as chefs or food enthusiasts, bringing flavors from distant lands and allowing us the freedom to concoct or replicate what we have learned.

My trip to Barcelona was a revelation. Spain’s second largest city, was host to the 1992 summer Olympics, and it’s where Gaudi’s world-famous church is found. For football fans it’s the home of soccer giant Barcelona FC. Situated on the Iberian

Affordable and yummy: A crispy white lavash for only P90 at Lartizan

Peninsula facing the Mediterranean Sea, its vast coastline has made it a major trading port and abundant source of seafood. Vibrant, this city’s atmosphere is faster-paced compared to Madrid, and so are its mouthwatering delicacies. Fish is a fundamental part of the diet, with dishes like marmitako (fish stew with vegetables) and bacalao (dry, salted fish served with roasted potatoes to balance the saltiness of the dish) popular among locals and tourists. Cured meats like Jamon Serrano, Jamon de Jabugo, and garlic chorizo are often sold on side streets and butcher shops. In more traditional restaurants, the caldero is still used for stewing, or what is known as the caldereta style of cooking.

Like all other cities, the eating periods of the Spaniards lasts for hours, as gastronomic tradition calls for each meal to be savored and enjoyed. My favorite part of the day is eating tapas or small dishes served in between lunch and dinner, consisting of an array of various finger foods like chorizo, manchego cheese, gambas or chili shrimps, potato omelet, and bread, which are set either on a long table or bar counter.

For flavoring, garlic is the main ingredient, with whole pieces found in dishes like favada made from fava (white) beans and sausage. Another popular soup aside from Sopa de Ajo (or garlic soup made from very rich broth with plenty of garlic, cubed bread, and freshly cracked egg) is gazpacho, made from tomato mixed with herbs and vinegar to give it a “bite,” and served cold. Other items like pimientos, dried chili, and paprika are added for taste and give it a red color.

The most expensive spice in the world is the red-thread saffron, handpicked and manually separated and added for its aroma and yellow coloring, often seen in dishes like paella. The use of laurel leaves and shallots in various dishes has influenced many Latin nations as well as local dishes here in the Philippines. Jerez (pronounced with an “h”) or sherry wine is traditionally added to salty dishes or desserts to sweeten the palate.

Barcelona has established itself as something of a food capital, with its Mediterranean climate and huge variety of ingredients and methods of cooking attracting gourmets and gourmands alike. With rich local produce and tradition, this hugely popular city is a gourmet destination that can’t be missed.

Gambas Al Ajillo (Shrimps In Garlic Sauce)

A) 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup crushed garlic, 1/2kilo peeled, deveined, medium-size shrimps (leave 1 part of tail intact), 1 tbsp. Spanish Paminton (available at Terry’s Selection, Podium, ADB Avenue, Mandaluyong; or La Tienda, P. Burgos, Makati Avenue), 1 tsp. rock salt and liquid seasoning, 1/2 tsp. pepper.

B) In an 8-inch cast-iron pan, add oil and garlic. When garlic is brown, add remaining ingredients and cook until shrimps turn pink. Put bread slices all around the inside of the pan, top with parsley. Serve.

Truly French: Whole-wheat baguettes at P98 each

C) Note: For Champignones Al Ajillo, use 1/2 kilo button or oyster mushrooms in place of shrimps. Cook until mushrooms shrink a bit, about 5 minutes.

D) If Spanish Paminton is unavailable, use 1 tbsp. tomato paste and 1 tsp. sugar.

Mussels In Garlic Sauce (Tahong or Clams)

A) 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup garlic, 1/4 cup onion, 1 kilo soaked, de-bearded mussels (drained), 1 cup dry white wine (Sta. Elena), 1 laurel or bay leaf, 1/2 tsp. pepper, 1/2 cup chopped parsley or 1/4 cup chopped spring onions for garnish.

B) Procedure: Heat a deep soup pan with the oil and chopped garlic. When garlic is brown, add the onions and cook until transparent. Add mussels/clams, laurel leaf, pepper and wine. Let boil 2 minutes. Cover and simmer over low fire 10 minutes or until shells open. Discard unopened shells. Top with parsley and spring onions. Transfer to a deep bowl.

C) Note: Or use 2 cups water in place of wine. Parsley will be 1 cup.

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For recipes and class schedule visit www.sylviareynosogala.com.

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