Monthly Archives: November 2014

Pizza Española With Chorizo and Manchego Cheese

Pizza Española
Pizza Española

I’ll be honest with you. There’s no Spanish pizza in Spain. Really. This recipe is stolen from a Latin American pizza restaurant I visited years ago, but it was so good that we still do it every now and then.

We’ve learned that it really doesn’t matter what you’ll have on your pizza as long as your dough and sauce are perfect. Not just perfect, the best! You can serve a used kitchen towel with a pizza sauce as long as the pizza sauce works. Making your own sauce is not that big a thing. It’s basically a tomato sauce which you can use for

  • pasta (add basil)
  • pizza (add oregano)
  • to make ketchup (add vinegar and a bit more sugar)

Since we were making pizza, our choice of spice was oregano. We would have preferred fresh oregano, but it wasn’t available. So we settled for dried oregano.

When you’re making a tomato sauce there are only four ingredients that are needed for the base: onion, garlic, tomato and sugar. Yes, sugar. When you’re dealing with tomatoes you’ll need some sugar (or honey) to cut the bitterness of tomatoes. When the balance is right between bitterness and sweetness, season the sauce with proper sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. You’ll get it right by adding little by little more salt and pepper, stirring and tasting. When everything is about right, add the oregano to the taste (or vinegar or basil depending what you using the sauce for).

Even though (as your might have already noticed) we are not fond of canned ingredients a canned tomato paste works quite nicely for this sauce. At least here in Spain it’s quite simple: it’s only tomato sauce without any seasoning which is heavily reduced. It brings nice flavor and color to the sauce. But it’s not necessary. The flavor of the sauce is works, but color might be a bit pale without it.

Ingredients for The Pizza Dough

  • 700 g (25 oz) of all-purporse flour – harina de trigo
  • 3,5 dl (1.5 cups) of hand-warm water – agua
  • 1 pack of dried yeast – levadura
  • 2 teaspoons of sea salt – sal marina
  • 0,5 dl (1/4 cups) of olive oil – aceite de oliva

Mix the handö-warm water with dried yeast. Add olive oil and salt. Put the mixture into kitchen robot (or do it by hand, it doesn’t matter) and start adding flour little by little. Kneed for about 10 minutes. Cover the pot with kitchen towel and let it rest at least for 20 minutes.

Ingredients for Pizza Española

  • 1 onion – cebolla
  • 4 cloves of garlic – dientes de ajo
  • 3 big tomatoes (or 4 small ones) – tomates
  • 1 dl (0.5 cups) of tomato paste – tomate doble concentrado
  •  1 tablespoon of sugar (or honey) – azucar
  • sea salt – sal marina
  • ground black pepper – pimienta negra
  • 1 tablespoon of dried oregano – orégano
  • splash of olive oil – aceite olive
  • 3 chorizo sausages – chorizo
  • Grated Manchego cheese – queso manchego rallado
  • Green olives – aceitunas verdes
  • 1/2 of green paprika – pimientas verdes

Soften the diced onions and garlic in olive olive oil. Add cubed tomatoes. Remove the skin from the tomatoes, if you will. Leave one tomato for the slicing on top of the pi5 zza. Let the sauce simmer for about 10 minutes while stirring every now and then. The liquid from the tomatoes separates making the sauce. Add the tomato paste, sugar, salt, pepper and oregano. Cook for additional 20 minutes more while preparing the dough and frying chorizo (if needed).

If the chorizo is fresh and uncooked, slice it into 5 mm (1/5″) slices and fry from both sides until golden brown. This removes the excess grease from the sausage. Grate some Manchego cheese ready and slice the green paprika into sticks.

Preheat the oven to 225 ºC (450 ºF).

Flatten the dough to a baking tray which is covered with baking paper. Spread the tomato sauce on top. Place the toppings in the following order (refer to the pictures below):

  1. Tomato sauce
  2. Manchego cheese
  3. Tomato slices
  4. Chorizo
  5. Olives

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes until the edges of the pizza begin to brown.

¡Buen provecho!

Spanish Oxtail Stew Meets Greek Stifado Meets Italian Ragú

Stew ready for oven
Stew ready for oven

Slow cooked meat stews have always been our favorites. They can be used with pasta, rice, potatoes or simply with freshly baked bread. For us the first encounter with these a Southern European dishes came in Greek years ago. There were two parts in a small beachside village: one for tourists with not-so-fancy-but-expensive-restaurants and one for locals. Of course we headed to a local restaurant with plastic table cloths and cheap chairs. What they served there was slow cooked beef stifado, Greek beef stew with fist size beef cubes, shallots and tomato in the sauce. The stew must have been cooking for the whole day because the meat was so tender. And they served it with fresh and crunchy country style bread!

Spanish oxtail stew was the next one that we tasted. And we have made it several times at home with the traditional Spanish oxtail stew recipe. Then a Finnish blogger Sivumaku published Italian ragú recipe which to became one of our favorites, too. In all these three recipes the basic structure is the same: cheap cuts of beef and/or pork, red wine and a lot of time in mild temperature. What if we combined the best parts from all of these?

We ordered an oxtail from a local butcher shop along with some Ibérian pig cheeks. We have done pig cheeks in white wine before, but since they need a lot of low-and-slow cooking not to be chewy, we reckoned they would fit nicely into our special stew. Our stew turned out to be excellent, but it requires 8 hours of cooking. And it’s worth it. Make a largest batch you possibly can, because you can freeze it and reheat it and it only gets better! And since only cheap ingredients are used, one serving costs only about 1-2 €, 2-3 USD.

Ingredients for Oxtail Stifado Ragú for 10 Servings

  • 1 whole oxtail – rabo de toro
  • 1 kg (2 lbs.) of pork cheeks or other cheap cuts of pork – carilleras de cerdo
  • 2 big onions – cebolla grande
  • 10 shallots or french onions – chalotas o cebolla francesa
  • 6 big tomatoes – tomates
  • 1 bottle of cheap red wine – vino tinto
  • 7 dl (3 cups) of beef stock – caldo de vacuno
  • A bunch of fresh thyme – tomillo
  • 10 bay leaves – hojas de laurel
  • Sea salt –  sal marina
  • 20 whole black peppers – pimienta negra
  • 2 chilies – pimiento picante
  • A splash of olive oil – aceite de oliva

Trim excess fat from the oxtail knobs. Remove the membranes from both sides of the pork cheeks. Splash some olive oil on large cast iron pot and put it on high heat on a stove. Brown the meats from all sides in batches. When done, add some olive oil, if needed, and add diced onions. Lower the heat and let the onion get soft. Add shallots when the onion cubes are about ready.

Preheat the oven to 120 ºC (250 ºF).

Stack the meats on top of the onions and then add beef stock and red wine and raise the heat to high so the stew begins to boil. Remove the skins from the tomatoes. You can do it traditional way of boiling them for a few seconds or, like we like to do, just use a sharp knife, slice the tomatoes into 4 pieces and carefully remove the skin with the knife. Add the tomatoes, sprigs of thyme, bay leaves, a pinch of salt and the peppers and chilies. Don’t over season with salt, because the sauce reduces during cooking. When the stew begins to boil, cover with lid and place in the oven.

Check the level of liquid once an hour and add water, beef stock or red wine, if needed. The meats should be covered with liquid during the whole time. Stir the stew, too. After 8 hours the bones from the oxtail should be clean and the meat fully separated. Check the seasoning and add salt, if needed. Let it cool a bit and serve with pasta, rice or simply with fresh bread.

¡Buen provecho!

Rao’s Meatballs with Marinara Sauce

Rao's meatballs in marinara sauce
Rao’s meatballs in marinara sauce

Rao’s Restaurant in Manhattan, New York, is one the famous Italian restaurants in the world. It’s so small (about 10 tables) and popular that it’s virtually impossible to get a table there. So what’s so special about this place? Their food. Honest, Italian food. The place was established 1896 so you can imagine they are doing something right.

Italian food at its best is very simple and made of fresh ingredients. That’s what this recipe is all about. Original Rao’s meatball recipe is public knowledge since they have it even on their website. The marinara sauce recipe, however, is secret. This is our version of Rao’s Marinara which we have tested and fine tuned over the years. And like the meatballs, the marinara sauce doesn’t contain any readymade ingredients except Italian canned tomatoes. Sometimes we replace those with fresh ones, but the canned tomato brings its special flavor to the sauce.

Ingredients for Rao’s Marinara Sauce for 4 Servings

  • 800 g (28 ounces) of Italian canned tomatoes – lata de tomate entero pelado
  • 3-5 fresh tomatoes – tomates
  • 0,5 dl (1/4 cup) of olive oil – aceite de oliva
  • 1 minced onion – cebolla
  • 4 cloves garlic – dientes de ajo
  • Sea salt – sal marina
  • Ground black pepper – pimienta negra
  • 2 tablespoons of honey – miel
  • bunch of fresh basil – albahaca

Place a sauce pan on medium heat and add olive oil. When the oil is hot soften minced onions and garlics for 2-3 minutes. Add canned tomatoes to the pan. Remove the skins of fresh tomatoes and add them as well. Bring to boil and lower the heat so that the mixture slowly simmers. Let it simmer without a lid for 45 minutes and stir every 10 minutes so that the tomatoes begin to break and about half of the liquid is vaporized. Add honey and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add torn basil leaves just before serving.

Ingredients for Rao’s Frankie’s Meatballs for 4 Servings

  • 1 kg (2 lbs) of ground beef – vacuno pidaco
    (or as the original recipe says 500 g (1 lbs) of ground beef, 250 g (0.5 lbs) of ground veal and 250 g (0.5 lbs) of ground pork)
  • 2 cloves garlic – dientes de ajo
  • 2 large eggs – huevos
  • 2 dl (1 cup) freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese – queso Pecorino Romano
  • Bunch of chopped fresh parsley – perejil
  • Sea salt – sal marina
  • Ground black pepper – pimienta negra
  • 4 dl (2 cups) of plain dry bread crumbs – pan rallado
  • 4 dl (2 cups) of water – agua
  • 2 dl (1 cup) of olive or sunflower oil for frying – aceite para fréier

Mix all the ingredients except the oil with the ground meat. Make the meatball mixture nice and even with your hands. If you are using only beef (as we did) you can safely check the seasoning and add salt and pepper, if needed. The mixture should be fluffy and very moist. Roll 8 large meatballs with wet hands.

Pour the oil into a large sauce pan and bring it to 150 ºC (300 ºC). Put the meatballs in the oil. The oil level should go to the middle of the meatballs. Fry the meatballs from one side for about 10 minutes (the reason why the oil is not very hot is that the interior of the big meatballs cook properly without burning them). Turn the other side and cook for another 10 minutes.

Make some pasta (check out our previous post for instructions how to make fresh pasta from scratch) and serve the meatballs with the marinara sauce.

¡Buen provecho!