Thank you, Penelope Casas

Photo courtesy Elisa Casas.

Photo courtesy Elisa Casas.

My introduction to tapas was not by visiting Spain but by a book given to me one Christmas, Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain, by Penelope Casas. I pored over the recipes and pictures, and have referred to it many time over the years. My first success was Casas’ recipe for sauteed chickpeas – it was easy and really delicious.

I hosted a tapas party once and had an ambitious menu using recipes from this cookbook. I made creamed blue cheese with brandy, spicy olives, sauteed mushrooms, stuffed dates, patatas bravas (not a success), fried salted almonds, an omelet, cauliflower salad, and shrimp in garlic sauce. We had toasted bread rubbed with garlic and tomato, of course. I enjoyed the process of cooking though it was too much for one person. My friends Colleen and Luisa saved the day by finishing up the sangria and cutting up endless loaves of bread.

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I finally made it to Spain and tasted tapas in their element – what a treat! Ms. Casas’ book gave me a good idea of what to expect, and I enjoyed going to a couple of tapas bars to try new things. I have read her other books on Spanish cooking but I will always treasure my copy of The Little Dishes of Spain.

Sadly Penelope Casas died last week at the age of 70. She introduced the American public to Spanish foods, and was considered the authority on the subject. Her obituary was published in the New York Times. Thank you for enriching my culinary life, Ms. Casas.

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Tinto Lena Red 2011

Photo from Bodegas Vinos de León

Interior of Bodegas Vinos de León; photo from their website

Winery – Bodegas Vinos de León
Appellation – Castilla y León
Color – purple
Aroma – chocolate, berries
Finish – perfect balance of acidity and tannins with a bit of mineral taste

I really enjoyed drinking this Spanish wine with a ragu bolognese I made for dinner. It stands up well to a red meat sauce but is also good with a nibble of cheddar. I like the salty (minerally!) aftertaste and the slight tannic and acidic finish. At $10 per liter, it’s a very good everyday table wine.

Food markets

One of the delights of traveling for me is checking out the local food markets. The smells, the colors, the visual displays and the tastes are amazing. It’s fun to see the variety of different fruits and prepared snacks in each country. Most of these photos were taken by Todd Mecklem.

Fruit display in Barcelona

Fruit display in Barcelona

Fruits and vegetables in a Paris market

Fruits and vegetables in a Paris market

Marzipan

Amazingly detailed marzipan fruit in Mexico City

Campo de Fiore market, Rome

Campo de Fiore market, Rome

Spice Market in Istanbul

Spice Market in Istanbul

Display of cabbage at a market

Cabbage display in a Hong Kong market

Colorful veggies from Portland's Farmers' Market

Colorful veggies from Portland's Farmers' Market

Condesa de Sarabella

Wine Name: Condesa de Sarabella

Condesa de Sarabella

Condesa de Sarabella

Origin: Spain (Calatayud)

Grapes: not listed on label

Cost: $5.00 (Trader Joe’s)

My thoughts: This wine was a deep claret color. The aroma was fruity but not strong. The taste was very subtle fruit, with a short finish. I think this wine was a bit boring but it works as a light red wine to drink on a summer’s day. I wonder if it’d be good chilled?