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¡España! (March 2, 2006)

What is Spanish food anyway? The Iberian Peninsula has been inhabited by Celts, Romans, Jews and Phoenicians, not to mention eight hundred or so years of occupation by the Moors. All of these cultures left their mark in the evolution of one of the greatest and most mosaic-like of all food histories. So, when Spanish cooks arrived in the new world, their recipe books were already bulging with history.

Picture one of the new arrivals... a skilled cook in his old country, discovering for the first time tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, chocolate, corn, coffee, avocados, vanilla, squash and beans! Fortuitously, native people of the Americas taught the Spaniards how to use these ingredients, and the result is eclectic regional cuisines that spread from the American Southwest and California to the tip of Chile.

One of the great spots in North America is Santa Fe. It's an old, charming and beautiful place, and while we love Santa Fe for so many reasons, one is most definitely the food! Last trip we were delighted to get a table at Santa Fe's venerable restaurant and cantina El Farol, which has served artists, locals and travelers since 1835. It was a wonderful experience all round. El Farol is one of the city's finest restaurants, serving award-winning traditional and contemporary Spanish cuisine by Executive Chef James Campbell Caruso.

What pleasure, then, to have the memories of great food and now the eponymous cookbook, El Farol: Tapas and Spanish Cuisine by Chef James Campbell Caruso. What a culinary adventure this turns out to be! We spent hours just cruising this sumptuous book, and had a difficult time deciding on just a few recipes. Would it be Santa Fe's "Best Appetizer, 2000" Chef James' Lobster-Chorizo Cannelloni, or Sautéed Garlic Shrimp with Lime and Madeira, or the deceptively simple Alachofas, Grilled Artichokes in Saffron Butter? Or one of the three Paella dishes... Oh my, it was such fun choosing...

El Farol: Tapas and Spanish Cuisine has it all; with the talent of Chef Caruso leading the kitchen and putting it all in a book just for us, you are in for a real treat! Better start planning that trip to Santa Fe now!

On today's menu:

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Shrimp Escabeche with Black Olives and Mint

This dish is so pretty and exciting all at the same time. While it's traditionally a warmer weather dish, we think it's good all year. The "pickling" spices plus the fresh mint topping makes a tangy, delicious taste combo; serve with warm peasant bread on the side. Seconds, please?

Makes 8 tapa servings

  • 3 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp whole cloves
  • Juice from 2 oranges
  • Zest from 2 orange
  • 1 Tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 2 Tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp ancho chile powder
  • ½ white onion
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • ½ cup sliced black olives, with ½ cup of brine
  • 2 red onions, julienned
  • ½ cup chopped fresh mint

Put all ingredients except the shrimp, olives, red onions and mint into a large saucepan and bring the reserved liquid to a boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Strain out flavorings; bring the reserved liquid to a boil again. Add shrimp and cook until just cooked through (about 2 to 3 minutes). Remove shrimp from liquid and allow shrimp to cool.

Put red onions and olives in a bowl. Pour the hot cooking liquid over the red onions and olives. Marinate at room temperature for 1 hour. Add the shrimp to the onion mixture and refrigerate. When chilled, serve topped with fresh mint.

Tony's wine recommendation:
chilled fino or manzanilla sherry, Sercial Madeira


Roasted Duck with Moroccan Carrot Sauce

We're always looking for another duck recipe, and we fell in love with this one. The sweetness of cooked carrots with aromas of cumin and cinnamon cause this dish to get rave reviews every time, and the couscous is a perfect side dish.

Makes 4 entrée servings

  • 1 whole duckling
    For marinade:
  • 2 whole oranges, cut into fourths
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 white onion
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 whole jalapeño pepper, stem removed

Put all ingredients for the marinade in a food processor and puree well. Rub on the duck. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Preheat oven to 400°F and roast duck for 1 hour in an uncovered roasting pan. Serve with warm Moroccan Carrot Sauce (recipe below) and Mediterranean Couscous Salad. (recipe below)

Moroccan Carrot Sauce

Chef Caruso says, "Sweet and savoury flavours of Morocco are an important aspect of Spanish cuisine. They satisfy our hunger in Santa Fe for exotic flavours combinations. We serve this sauce with roasted duck breast, chicken and quail."

Makes 8 cups

  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 10 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1 can orange juice concentrate
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp chile piquin (crushed red pepper)
  • Salt and pepper

Sauté onion and garlic in a skillet. Add spices and carrots. Stir. Add remaining ingredients and boil until carrots are soft. Puree in a blender and strain through a wire mesh. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

Couscous is formed by grating a ball of pasta dough into fine, tiny pieces. This salad is made with Israeli couscous, which is large, pearl-shaped pasta that is toasted after it is formed and dried. Look for it in any natural grocery or Middle Eastern shop.

Makes 6 tapa or side servings

  • 2 cups toasted Israeli couscous
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • ¼ cup black olives, pitted and halved
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp chopped pepperoncini or other picked peppers
  • 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cook couscous in boiling salted water for about 8 minutes or until soft. Drain and rinse. Toss with all other ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature as a tapa or side dish, or nestle these little babies next to the warm duck... oh my.

Tony's wine recommendation:
California Zinfandel, Amarone, Châteauneuf-du-Pape



Hidos y Datiles
Mascarpone-Stuffed Figs and Dates

This rich dish is served at El Farol as both a cheese course and a dessert. These basic Mediterranean ingredients – mascarpone, figs and dates with pistachios, oranges, and Pedro Ximenez Caramel Sauce – make a near-perfect flavour combination when taken together in one bite. Better make a second batch...

Makes 4 servings

  • 12 large dried figs
  • 12 large pitted dates
    ½ cup Mascarpone cheese
  • 20 orange sections
  • ½ cup shelled pistachios, lightly toasted and crushed
  • ½ cup Pedro Ximenez Caramel Sauce (recipe follows)

Slice each fig and date lengthwise without cutting all the way through and press them open. Fill each fig and date with Mascarpone cheese. Arrange 3 filled figs and 3 filled dates on each plate. Top with orange sections and pistachios; drizzle with caramel sauce.

Pedro Ximenez Caramel Sauce

Pedro Ximenez is a sweet and figgy sherry from Spain. Other sweet sherries may be used as a substitute. Pour over gelato, ice cream, crepes or fried bananas... or our figs and dates!

Makes 1 cup

  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup Pedro Ximenez sherry

Cut butter into small pieces and melt in a saucepan. Stir in sugar and cream. Cook over low heat, whisking until everything is melted and blended, about 2 minutes. Stir in the sherry. Serve warm.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Pedro Ximenez Sherry, Samos Muscat, Bual

We wish to thank Raincoast Books, Vancouver, BC, and Gibbs Smith, Publisher, Layton, Utah for permission to publish material and photographs from El Farol: Tapas and Spanish Cuisine by Chef James Campbell Caruso. Text © 2004 James Campbell Caruso. Photographs: Roasted Duck © Eliza Wells-Smith; Shrimp Escabeche and Hidos y Datiles © John Yost.


Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

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