Gomera, Canary Islands
Spanish Table Seattle Newsletter October 30, 2009
Traveling as wine specialists aboard the National Geographic vessel Explorer for the past 2 ½ weeks, we’ve been following the route of Christopher Columbus and Charles Darwin. Our voyage began in Lisbon and ended in Salvador Brazil, with stops in some of our favorite places: Madeira, The Canary Islands, and Cape Verde. We just got home last night and are still wobbling about on sea legs.
Seattle-based Lindblad Expeditions (http://www.expeditions.com/) invited us to choose wines for the voyage and then come along to educate guests about them. Lindblad has a superb on-board staff of naturalists, historians and professional photographers that speak about history, culture, the natural world and how best to photograph it. Their trips cover the Antarctic, the Arctic, and everything in between.
A week ago we were photographing schools of whales and cavorting dolphins near La Palma, Canary Islands. The Canaries are a group of seven islands less than 100 miles off the coast of Morocco. Just as Cuban refugees flee to Miami, so the Canary Islands attract thousands of desperate Africans each year. The lure of the European Community with all of its opportunities is irrestible, especially when it’s just a stone’s throw away.
Aside from the immigration issue, life in the Canaries moves slowly and residents have a deep appreciation for the islands’ spectacular beauty. One memorable day began in the mist forest of Parque Nacional de Garajonay on the island of Gomera. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the forest sits on a 3300 foot high ridge and divides the island’s wet side from the dry. Two hours of hiking took us through laurel forests, past villages growing bananas on terraced hillsides, and a spectacular cliff-side trail shrouded in mist.
Our guide recommended dining at Restaurant La Placeta in Santa Cruz de la Palma which was excellent. Being Sunday night in the off season, the proprietor had plenty of time to talk about the local wines, how he ended up in the Canary Islands, and the thriving rabbit population in La Palma. We tucked into a terrific rabbit pate as we talked, which was served with a sweet but not cloying tomato jam. What a fantastic combination! The main course was grilled fish and papas arrugadas with mojo sauces, a Canary Island traditional dish, served with El Nispero Tinto Barrica, a local red wine from La Palma.
Now that we’re home, we’ll be getting back into kitchen to recreate some of the tasty dishes we had along the road. Here’s a traditional recipe from the Canary Islands:
Papas Arrugadas (Serves four)
Warning: This recipe uses the traditional amount of salt, which may be overwhelming to American palates used to low sodium. Feel free to adjust to your taste!
8-10 Small New Potatoes
Sea Salt to taste
Add the potatoes to a pot of very salty water (in the past the Canarians used sea-water).
The potatoes should float in the salty-water, if they don’t you need to add more salt.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
Now drain most of the water from the pot and cover the potatoes with a layer of salt.
Turn down the heat and gently shake the pot so that salt crystalizes on the potatoes.
Finally, turn off the heat and cover the pot with a tea-towel for 5 minutes (so that the potatoes turn ‘wrinkly’). Serve with one or both of the Mojo sauces below.
Mojo Picon Sauce
5 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
3 small dried nora peppers, rehydrated in boiling water and drained
1/2 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar to taste
5 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Using a mortar and pestle, mash cumin, garlic, and peppers with salt until well mixed. Add paprika, vinegar and oil, and continue to blend. If necessary, add water until desired consistency is reached. This is delicious served with boiled potatoes, with or on fried fish.
Mojo Verde Sauce
3 cloves garlic, peeled
½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 teaspoons Sherry Vinegar
½ cup chopped fresh coriander leaves
½ teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
Water as needed
Process the cumin, garlic, cilantro and salt in a food processor or blender to create a paste. While blending, drizzle in olive oil gradually. Add small amounts of water until the sauce is a thin paste. Add 1-2 tsp vinegar or more, according to your taste. Drizzle over potatoes or fish and serve.
Being on board a ship for 13 nights gave us the chance to revisit some of our favorite, inexpensive wines from Spain and Portugal. These wines were all-around big hits with the guests on board, some of whom have placed case orders!
2008 Protos Verdejo, Rueda ($10.99) Protos Verdejo has just the right combination of grapefruit flavors and zesty acidity to pair with fish in buttery citrus sauces.
2007 Diamante, Rioja ($10.99) Classic Diamante is a unique wine. Semi sweet, it is made from a blend of Malvasia and Viura grapes. Round and full on the palate, the addition of Viura gives it a crisp, clean finish.
2003 Esporao Alicante Bouschet, Alentejo ($13.99) Balanced and full bodied, this Portuguese red was phenomenal with beef tenderloin.
2005 Evel, Douro ($15.99) One of our perennial favorites, Evel is a blend of the same grapes port grapes. Great with flavorful chicken dishes, it has lift and elegance.
2005 Altos de Luzon, Jumilla ($14.99) 50% Monastrell, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Tempranillo, this hearty red goes down all too easily on a cold, wet night with a plate of grilled lamb chops.
Our new shop features French cheeses and wine, and other foods with a French mood. It’s located 1/4 block south of Spanish Table at 1418 Western Avenue. It’s currently open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 AM to 6 PM.
A Casinca is a classical goat’s milk cheese from the Casinca region of Corsica, where the climate is gentle. Herbaceous, tart, and slightly salty, this cheese has a semi-soft texture that offers a balanced, satisfying finish on the palate.
Tome d’Aquitaine: This aged goat’s milk cheese gets the benefit of washings in Sauternes in the caves of famous affineur Jean d’Alos. The snow-white interior has a dense texture and a delicately balanced, sweet and fruity flavor.
Brebirousse d’Argental: This pasteurized sheep’s milk cheese from Lyon has a creamy, brie-like texture and a faintly sweet finish on the palate. Hints of meadow and hay lend a bit of complexity.
Le Grain d’Orge: From the Basse-Normandie region, this pasteurized cow’s milk cheese is soaked in Calvados according to Norman traditions. A soft-textured, washed rind cheese. Delightfully fruity and milky with hints of mushroom and apple.
We have a new shipment of D’Artagnan charcuterie, including foie gras, pates, frozen (uncooked) sausages, merguez, puff pastry and many other specialty French shelf groceries. We also now have baguettes from Macrina Bakery, delivered daily Tuesday through Saturday.
Please come on in to one or both of our shops and pick up some wonderful cheeses and fall wines. Best wishes for a great weekend!
Sharon Baden and Steve Winston, Owners
The Spanish Table, 1426 Western Avenue, Seattle WA 98101 phone# 206.682.2827
Paris Grocery, 1418 Western Avenue, Seattle WA 98101 phone# 206.682.0679