January 21st, 2009
The Andaluz village of Montefrío rises above olive fields. © Jeff Koehler
Earlier this winter I went down to Andalucía to visit a couple of the world’s finest olive oil producers. The olive harvest was in full swing – but so was hunting for perdiz roja, the succulent red-legged partridge found around Spain but especially in the center and south of the country.
In the space of a handful of days, I ate perdiz shredded and stuffed in canelones with local black truffles; in croquettes with cured ham (prepared by the legendary oil producers’ Nuñez de Prado’s family chef); wrapped in fatty bacon, roasted, and eaten with grapes; and, on three different occasions, as paté. The best paté de perdiz was in Zuheros at a lovely 19th century cortijo that’s just been converted to an inn, Hacienda Minerva, where it came covered with just-pressed, unfiltered extra-virgin olive oil and matchsticks of fresh acidic apple. Sublime.
Elsewhere in the country I could have had perdiz stewed in chocolate; stuffed; cooked in cider or with chestnuts or cabbage or white beans; grilled and served with sardines; preserved in escabeche and eaten with the fingers, cooked in vinegar and eaten warm…
The glut of the season means the glut of eating in season. In my local market it often feels like feast and famine regarding cherries and figs, tiny mid-June pears no bigger than a fig, asparagus and artichokes, wild mushrooms, certain fish, game birds. But such seasonality coerces the widest variety of preparations. And in there lies the pleasure – for cook as well as diner.
A handful of olives at Columela in Santaella. © Jeff Koehler
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January 6th, 2009
A piece on Madrid I wrote for the slick and glossy Virtuoso Life magazine has just come out in the January/February issue. Not an exclusive Virtuoso member? Then check out the digital edition here. Photos are by the stellar Quentin Bacon. Enjoy.
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January 5th, 2009
Alba breakfasting on a bikini and orange juice in the market. © Jeff Koehler
We returned home yesterday after a few weeks away and the first order of business this morning was to go to the market.
Maia was still sleeping so I took just Alba. We browsed the stalls to get an idea of what looked good and then ate bikinis (essentially toasted ham and cheese sandwiches) in the market’s café for breakfast. While we ate we talked about what sounded good for the next couple of meals. Then taking our time, and chatting with the stall owners, we bought the makings of a good soup for lunch plus, for dinner, a half dozen croquetas de bacalao (salt cod croquettes) made this morning by the old woman who sells salt cod. We bought some acelgas (chard) to sauté with chickpeas to go with the the croquetas, some pears, and a few kilos of clementinas, and then a dozen items to restock the larder – almonds, pine nuts, chorizo, cured jamón, a wedge of aged, nutty Manchego cheese, and the like. I have a weakness for olives and Alba kept me to just three varieties —vivid green ones from Campo Real, small arbequinas from Les Garrigues, and tender, almond shaped black ones from Aragón.
Strolling home in the cold winter sun, we talked about what we bought, but also what we forgot. Those items we missed don’t matter. We’ll be back in the market within a day or two.
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