Camino de Santiago and Spanish Culinary Delights
It’s a brand new year—time to reflect on enriching our lives. A group of IFWTWA writers (International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association) were invited to one of my favorite venues, The Wine Artist, to learn about a meaningful trek walked by many for a myriad of reasons.
The Wine Artist, owned by the energetic MJ Hong, is a venue where you can use interactive cooking lessons for corporate team building, have a great time with a group for a bridal shower, treat someone special to a birthday party, or even let your children have fun with their friends by picking up some cooking skills. The Wine Artist is located at 21064 Bake Parkway, Lake Forest, California, 45 minutes from the Riverside area or about 15-30 minutes from most of Orange County.
Tammy Marine was our guest speaker who shared a book by Stacey Wittig, author of Spiritual and Walking Guide, a daily companion for your pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago from Leon to Santiago de Compostela.
Tammy told us of her journey and explained the reason for her pilgrimage was the passing of her son and her need to get away from daily life to find time to reflect and mourn his death. She was accompanied by three friends who traveled on this pilgrimage for very different reasons.
The Camino de Santiago is the name of any of the pilgrimage routes to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia (northwestern Spain.) While the entire route is 450 miles long, if you walk at least 62 miles (100 kilometers), you will receive a Certificate of Completion, a cherished memento.
Individuals take this route for many reasons. Tammy emphasized that whatever your reason for walking this ancient trail across Spain, whether it be to lose weight, to reflect and heal spiritually, to mourn a loved one, or simply to prove you can complete this arduous journey, you need to have a purpose and a focus so that you will achieve your goal. Many take along symbols to memorialize loved ones such as a rock with the loved one’s name on it or a scallop shell, the symbol of the Camino de Santiago.
Tammy suggested several books to read for those interested in this pilgrimage. The premiere book that describes the experience in detail is A Million Steps by Kurt Koontz. A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago: St. Jean – Roncesvalles – Santiago by John Brierley provides an essential guide to be used frequently in planning.
Since this was a day of getting a taste of Spain, we were indeed preparing and eating traditional Spanish food. As we sliced and diced, we learned just how easy and quick these dishes were to create. Of course, sampling the rich and intense fruitiness of the Campo Viejo Tempranillo made light work of our time putting together MJ’s recipes.
Gazpacho, a cold and very flavorful soup, was our first item to be prepared. Not only is this a healthy soup for the new year, but the color and nuances of different vegetables along with the garlic, olive oil and red wine vinegar, made this a delicious and light first course. A food processor makes preparation light work, and topping each bowl with a medley of chopped tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers enhanced its already rich, colorful appearance.
Empanadas were the special appetizer on our list, a traditional Spanish appetizer, but made with a twist of using puff pastry for the crust. We filled our empanadas with chopped spinach, sautéed onion and garlic, and a cheese of our choice. The puff pastry was easy to make into 24 attractive appetizers by using the two sheets of puff pastry that come in a box. I loved these appetizers so much that I purchased puff pastry once I returned home to make a batch to store in my freezer for the next time I need to bring an appetizer to someone’s home.
Next on our agenda were two pans of paella. MJ explained that we didn’t need to buy the most expensive paella pan we could find but that having a broad-bottomed surface cooking is essential for paella because paella is all about the rice. The crispy rice that forms on the bottom of the pan is a delicacy, hence the need for a large surface. In fact, the way to know the paella is done is by the crackling sound from the rice on the bottom of the pan. Small-grained or medium-grained rice is always used to prepare paella because it comes out crisper. Our two paellas consisted of one made with chorizo, mussels, and shrimp, and another of chicken with New Zealand mussels atop the dish for eye appeal.
Since we were having a Spanish meal, we were given three pitchers of wine to prepare Sangria—a red, a white, and a sweet white—along with a wide variety of fruits, such as pineapple, cantaloupe, mango, lemons, limes, oranges, watermelon, strawberries, pears, and apples.
MJ suggested adding a small amount of Cointreau or Triple Sec to the wine to create a more complex flavor. In addition, she includes one to two cups of soda at the end to give the Sangria a bubbly taste. She adds very little sugar to the red and white Sangrias and no sugar to the sweet wine which I appreciated because it eliminated any cloying sweet taste.
Below is the recipe for the paella we prepared at The Wine Artist.
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 4 oz. boneless chicken, cubed into small pieces
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 4 oz. chorizo sausage, crumbled and with casing removed
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 bell peppers, cut into cubes or strips
- 3 tomatoes, seeded, and chopped (can use diced tomatoes in can)
- 4 cups chicken broth
- ¼ teaspoon saffron
- 2 cups short or medium grain rice (uncooked)
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 8 oz. uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined (optional)
- 6-8 New Zealand mussels on the half shell (optional)
- Chopped parsley
- Lemon wedges, to serve
Heat oil in paella pan. Cook chicken until browned.
Add chorizo and onions and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add garlic, bell peppers, and tomatoes; stir fry for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, heat chicken broth in a saucepan and add saffron once heated.
Stir in rice to paella pan and sauté for 5 minutes. Pour in the broth, turmeric, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper. Add shrimp and mussels on top and simmer for about 15 minutes until liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Be careful not to overcook the seafood. Top with parsley.
Garnish with lemon wedges and serve.
Recipe courtesy of The Wine Artist: www.TheWineArtist.com
Photos by Linda Stewart