Pintxos––The Backbone of San Sebastian’s Culinary Landscape

Just returned from a journey that I cobbled together with a close friend. Like myself, she’s a food and travel-junky.

We meandered through the Basque region of Spain and France, finishing the trip in Fes, the heart and gastronomic capital of Morocco.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking in San Sebastian, Spain, sharing with you our exploration of their pinxto culture, one bite at a time.

San Sebastian––heck, the Basque region, in general—is a food lover’s dream date, pintxos being the elaborate crown jewels of the city.

Canapé/tapas/appetizer-styled morsals––Picassos on a plate–– they’re the staple of the local food culture here, as well as all across the Basque landscape. Wherever you turn, that elusive perfect bite awaits.

Eating pinxtos is what one does—tourists and locals alike––in San Sebastian, and the art of composing and consuming these delectables is serious sport.

Bars are continuously trying to outdo their competition with the spoils delighting the consumer. On several occasions, my friend and I went on pinxto crawls through the old town  eating a pintxo or two before moving on to the next bar.

Pintxo is the Basque take of the Spanish word, pincho, derived from the verb ‘pinchar’, which means to pierce.

These succulent treats are traditionally pieced with a cocktail skewer but as Basque food has evolved, the bites are not necessarily pierced or composed atop a bread slice.

It’s forgiveable to confuse pintxos with tapas and the differences depends on where you’re travelling in Spain and the custom of how they’re served.

In the Basque country, the  bites are NEVER called tapas as their Andalusian brothers, skewer or no skewer. As well, a pintxos doesn’t necessarily have to be served on a piece of bread. Witness the above pic of this beautifully wrapped piece of cod–my idea of the perfect holiday gift (-:

Some of the more common toppings on bread slices are the best salt and vinegar-cured anchovies you’ve ever tasted; fluffy, sweet crab meat; delicious local beef; seared cod; suckling pig and the list goes on and on. Acorn-fed, black-hoofed Iberian ham has to be the most ubiquitous of the toppings and, to this writer, the finest ham on the planet. Pictured left is me getting a lesson from San Sebastian’s Master Iberian Ham Carver. Could be a novel in the making (-:

Stacked Shrimp & Avocado Tapas

Stacked Shrimp & Avocado Tapas

Several years ago I wrote a blog christening the recipe:  “Stacked Shrimp and Avocado Tapas“.

Back then, I’d never known pinxtos were a thing. Now I know better. Note the skewer: a name change is clearly in order.

I’d like to continue sharing our culinary adventures in Fes, Morocco with you, but with Thanksgiving around the bend, let me direct your attention to  my Holiday Cookbook on the Gold Ball icon up and on your right. Perhaps you can create your own towering cathedral of texture and flavor as a starter for your feast.

Eat well, my friends. Safe holidays!

 

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Turmeric Pasta with a Roasted Cauliflower-Lentil Ragu

Must pasta insist we default to basil and oregano when seasoning the accompanying sauce? Does Indian cuisine demand we pay homage to  proteins with basmati rice, potatoes or Naan?

Break free the chains! Particularly now since Al Dente’s latest line of Piccola Pastas have hit market shelves to switch things up.

My last post, Pastazanella, was  inspired by local tomatoes and Al Dente’s new Bonneti Pasta. The duo created a tantalizing riff on a classic Panzanella substituting  pasta for bread.

Lentils are substituted for grinds in this not-so-typical Ragu.

Today’s blog substitutes their new Turmeric Pinchetti Pasta for the starches used in traditional Indian food. I substituted, as well, lentils for the expected meaty grinds typically used in classic Italian ragus.

The switch-a-roos make for a lovely October plate–– especially nice when we want to warm up to the heat and spice of sub-continent food and use cauliflower in the peak of  her crowning glory.

The recipe accommodates six healthy appetites––leftovers always a bonus.

I can’t sign off without alerting those interested that my publisher slashed the price of THE PROMISE KITCHEN to only $6.99 through October.

It may be a good way to share your love ~not to mention cross an early gift off the list~ with great food fiction accompanied by a slew of well-tested recipes.

“… what a story! You will WANT to read this.”

[Five Stars, Goodreads]

Recipe: Turmeric Pasta with a Roasted Cauliflower-Lentil Ragu

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups chopped white onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 (28-0unce can) whole Italian tomatoes
  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 1-2 cups vegetable, chicken stock or water
  • 1 small cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
  • 1 tablespoon ghee or butter (optional)
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, to taste
  • 4 cups Al Dente Turmeric Pasta

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add onions and sauté 2 minutes. Stir in ginger, garlic, curry, cumin and coriander and continue cooking an additional 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir tomatoes into seasoned onions; break up tomatoes with a fork. Simmer tomatoes an additional minute and then stir in lentils.
  4. Cook lentils in sauce until tender, about 35-45 minutes, stirring in 1/2 cup stock or water as needed to insure lentils don’t stick to pan, as you would do when making a risotto.
  5. While lentils are simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Toss cauliflower florets with remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and arrange on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  6. Roast cauliflower on middle-rack of oven 6-8 minutes or until florets are tender and golden brown. When lentils are tender, stir roasted cauliflower into the pan. For extra richness, if desired, stir ghee or butter into ragu. Season with cilantro and pepper flakes.
  7. Boil pasta for five minutes, according to package instructions, and drain. Serve with Lentil-Roasted Cauliflower Ragu.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: apx, 40 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 6-8 (leftover ragu keeps, refrigerated, several days

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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Pasta Salad Preview: Pastazanella (First in a 3-part series)

Panzanella (Italian Tomato-Cucumber Salad)

Panzanella (Italian Tomato-Cucumber-Bread Salad)

You’ve heard of panzanella, right? That oh so delicious  salad celebrating tomatoes when they’re bursting on the vines–even more handy to have in your recipe repertoire  when you’ve a loaf of slightly stale Artisan bread that’s begging to be utilized? But what about Pastazanella?

I just made a big batch, and I’m pretty sure you’ve never heard of that. Pastazanella is a recipe that has–up until this moment–never been recorded,  a dish even unknown to the ubiquitous  Google-bots. It’s like discovering a new star in the solar system!

These three new small pasta shapes are ideal for entertaining.

Wish I could lay fame to the pasta, as well, but credit goes to Al Dente Pasta, which has a new line of 3 Piccolo Pastas. The Bonnetti (little bonnets) is what I substituted for the bread in my Pastazanella that yields absolutely delicious results.

Cut tomatoes and cucumbers into pieces roughly the size of the “bonnets”.

Traditional panzanella is delish hot off the press. But after it sits around, the bread–even with a prior toasting– gets a bit mushy for my palate. It reminds me of the milk toast  forced down me when I had a tummy ache as a tot. Not so Bonnetti, the perfect choice for Pastazanella after cooking the pasta five minutes to perfection.

Today requests a salad for a family reunion that will serve as a side for smoked chickens, and  thrive under an August sun. The Bonnetti will soak up those yummy tomato juices and the acidity (and lack of mayo)  keeps it “safe” insuring even the weeist of  toddlers won’t suffer.

This new line of Piccola Pasta makes for attractive, toothsome salads that are easy for guests to scoop from the bowl. (So annoying  when  those dangling slivers of fettuccines and spaghettis find their way to the floor, instead of the plate.)

Disclosure: Monique and hubby Denny (the owners of Al Dente) have been friends of mine for decades. We got into the pasta business at the same time. In fact, the EXACT same time–1981. She was rolling out sheets of dough uptown at the same time I was extruding them downtown from a pasta machine the size of a Fiat I purchased from Florence. (That’s Florence, Italy, not Alabama). I can vouch that Al Dente Pasta is a delicate yet toothsome pasta like no other on the market–I use it all the time.

I sold my pasta machine along with my business in 2001 (I needed to sit down) and started writing about food–making up characters who were  having even crazier times in the food business than myself. Besides. I was not nearly as successful as the Al Dente folks, whose pastas can be found in groceries and markets across the planet. An additional disclosure– I don’t get paid for writing  food endorsements  I don’t even allow ads and those annoying pop-ups to come near these pages. I just like writing about good food and the good people who enjoy eating it.

Note: After reading this blog my son said a better name for this recipe would be Paztenella. Alas. I just checked and Google  laid stakes into Pastazenella, claiming it as her own.

Have a safe and joyous Labor Day!       Peggy

Recipe: Pastazanella

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (uncooked) Al Dente Bonnetti Pasta
  •  2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1  teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 3 heaping cups of 1/2-inch pieces ripe tomato (1-2 large tomatoes)
  • 2 cups of 1/2-inch pieces seeded cucumber (1 cucumber)
  • 1 (packed) cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup diced red onion
  • Freshly grated Parmesan, as desired
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, as desired
  • 2 tablespoon capers

Instructions

  1. In rapidly boiling, salted water, cook pasta for 5 minutes. Drain and toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
  2. Whisk remaining olive oil, vinegar and garlic together.
  3. Toss pasta into vinaigrette and stir in tomato, cucumbers, basil and onion. Season to taste with Parmesan, salt and pepper. Let pasta salad sit 30 minutes, or so, for the flavors to combine. Sprinkle capers over top before serving.

Cooking & Prep time: 30 minutes (plus time to let the pasta sit)

Number of servings (yield): 4-6 servings (8 packed cups)

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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