A tribute to Penelope Casas

Penelope Casas & Steve Winston at The Spanish Table

Penelope Casas & Steve Winston at The Spanish Table

When Penelope Casas passed away earlier this month it marked the end of an era. She and I were almost the same age and shared an enthusiasm for Spanish cooking, then almost unknown. Before The Spanish Table was even a year old, before we had any customers, Penelope published her fourth book, ¡Delicioso! and came to our store one evening for a signing. She was gracious, lovely and enthusiastic about our new business. For us it was an exciting night that recharged our entrepreneurial batteries. We miss her. ~ Steve Winston, Founder, The Spanish Table

Penelope’s first cookbook The Foods & Wines of Spain completely transformed the way we cook.   Her recipes were authentic, coming from Spain’s local cooks and restaurants, revealing the secrets behind  Spain’s dazzling cuisine.    This book was also a great travel guide, as naturally Casas credited each restaurant for their recipes.  We compiled a list of “Penelope” restaurants and always sought them out on our travels, often driving miles out of our way to eat at these establishments.  ~ Sharon Baden

We have three books in stock by Penelope Casas:

The Foods & Wines of Spain ($37.50)
The first, and one of the very best around, ever. Some would say it’s all you need.
Paella! Spectacular Rice Dishes from Spain ($35.00)
Some of these recipes are not traditional paellas, but every dish  I’ve tried has been fantastic!  One of our absolute go-to’s.
Tapas: Revised Edition ($30.00)
The original 1985 version of this book was one of our first tapas cookbooks. Our tattered, stained and crumpled copy has delighted many part guests at our house.  It’s the ultimate book for making small plates – many recipes only have a few ingredients.
Black Fire Rice
Arroz negro al fuego

Inspired by a recipe in Penelope Casas’ paella cookbook, here is our take on her arroz negro. A superb and striking paella, black as midnight and infused with deep sea flavors, arroz negro gets its pitch black color and wonderful depth of flavor from squid ink. Spiked with red chili peppers and spicy pimentón, this version has a kick to it, lifting the marine flavors to new heights. The spectacle of a dish of black rice creeping with tentacles is exciting and mildly alarming, making it the perfect Halloween or Day of the Dead feast.  Serve with aioli.

Ingredients:
2 oz black cod or halibut
¼ to ½ lb cleaned squid, tubes and tentacles
2 large shrimp
sea salt
olive oil, enough to coat pan
1 cup clam juice
5 threads saffron
¼ onion, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
¼ bell pepper, finely chopped
½ red chili pepper, finely chopped
½ small tomato
a splash of Madeira
½ cup Valencia or ⅓ cup Bomba rice
1 tsp spicy pimentón
1 x 4 gram packet squid ink
1 artichoke heart, quartered
1 piquillo pepper, sliced, to garnish
1 tsp chopped parsley, to garnish
a lemon wedge, to serve

Cut the black cod or halibut into bite sized chunks. Slice the squid tubes into ½ inch rings, leave tentacles whole. Sprinkle all the seafood with a little salt.  Heat your paella pan over medium high and coat lightly with olive oil. Sauté the seafood for a minute or two until they release some juice. Dump contents of pan into a bowl and reserve.

Pour clam juice into a pot and bring to a quick boil. Lower heat to keep warm. In a skillet briefly toast the saffron until aromatic, a minute or two. Then crumble into clam juice. Keep warm and covered.

Place paella pan over medium-low heat and coat generously with olive oil. Add your sofrito (onions, garlic, bell peppers, and chili peppers) and sweat gently until soft, about 15-20 minutes. Grate in the tomato halves over the pan and discard skin; this is easy as it will naturally remain in your hand as you grate. Stir well and cook down the mixture until almost jammy, about 10 minutes.

Add a splash of Madeira and stir until evaporated. Add rice and stir well to coat. Add pimentón and stir. Add clam juice and squid ink; stir for a minute or two. Return seafood to pan along with artichoke hearts and distribute evenly. Cook paella for about 15 minutes , without stirring, and then test rice for doneness. Cook a few minutes more if necessary, erring on the side of underdone rice. Allow to rest for 10 minutes then serve or return the pan to the heat for five minutes or so to make the crust (socarrat) . Garnish with piquillo pepper strips and parsley; serve with lemon wedges and aioli. ~ Rachel Adams

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Filed under Books, Paella, Pinchos, Spain, tapas, Travel, Uncategorized

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