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Archive for October, 2010

paella party

My friend Sharyn, of Still Life with Whisk, had been turning over the idea attempting the perfect paella, until it became a passion.  (ok, why is alliteration so tempting with the letter p?) So, we decided to get together and make a big Spanish-themed feast.  While Sharyn went shellfish shopping, I went to the wine store for a nice bottle of cava, some Albariño, (and some Tempranillo in case anyone wanted red).  Gus also popped a bottle of this dessert wine in my box, explaining that he was giving them away because “it’s an odd little wine.” We all thought it went pretty well with the tart orange olive oil cake I made for the occasion.

Wine and appetizer shopping done, I proceeded to make the cake, with Jack’s help.  Traditionally, this cake is made with preserved oranges, but the Saveur recipe provides a great shortcut for this ingredient that most American pantries lack: successive boilings.

The cake came out beautifully.  It’s meant to have an orange-syrup glaze, and a sprinkling of chunky sea salt.  We didn’t have confectioner’s sugar, and went without the added sweetness, which resulted in a restrained, fruit-dense crumb with a delicate breadiness.  I’ll make it again.

We started with tapas: manchego with slices of dried Turkish figs, marinated white asparagus and peppers, thinly sliced cured ham that deepened in flavor when smooshed into bread, and lupini tossed in harissa and lemon juice.  Not all Spanish, but all uncommon and delicious.

Eventually, we got started on the paella, cooking it with ambition on the grill.

The final picture doesn’t do it justice, taken as it was in a dark kitchen, but the meal was delicious. Saffron and seafood, sausage and spices, and plenty of riso, riso, and vino.

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It takes a long time, because day-to-day life doesn’t stop and wait for you to finish.  Gradually, though, we’re making this place comfy inside and out.  While Peter’s been off winning prizes and giving readings these past two weekends, Jack and I have been giving our yard some love.  We’ve raked pine needles into big heaps that his dump truck then unloads under bushes and trees.  We’ve bought pumpkins and goofy gourds and mums for the front stoop. We’ve swept the deck and hung up a hummingbird feeder. And we planted a little garden.  It looks like dirt surrounded by stones, but if you look very, very closely, you’ll see a hint of green: lettuce, cilantro, and thyme seedlings along with some still-young basil and rosemary.

The streak of 90-degree days and 70-degree nights finally broke, and I actually had to break out the down comforter.  I love fall.  Suddenly, some activities I enjoy are now tolerable again: baking, puttering around outside, riding my bike to campus, sipping a glass of wine on the deck before dinner.

I think I’ll make calzones.  It’s nice to have a moment in the middle of the day to sink my hands into a tub of flour and for a few minutes just stare, and knead.

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