Prawn and Bacon Brochettes

Beef with confit of Piquillo Peppers

Potato Bravas with Aioli and Chile Sauce

Ajillo Mushrooms

Green Beans with Garlic, Vinegar and Paprika

Chocolate Orange Cinnamon Ice Ctream


This was my menu for Project Food Blog round 3 which I didn’t advance to, but had a great time making nonetheless.  I did start out with a completely different menu. I wrote my grocery list, and then completely changed my mind. A luxury dinner is what was requested, but to me every dinner is a luxury. Not everybody has a choice in what they eat, or don’t have access to healthy, affordable food. I didn’t pull out “special” dishes, all my dishes are special and I use them all, or serve escargot. I made dinner.

I made dinner like I always make dinner for friends, and when it’s just us for that matter.  Organic, and/or local ingredients, hopefully a good flavor profile, and wine, or beer. Flowers, if I can afford them that week, if not, roses and greens from my backyard. If the bush isn’t plentiful, some wine corks from the bounty I keep in a fish bowl. I try to use things from nature that are free and go back to the earth. Pine cones, acorns, leaves, twigs, and anything else I find on a walk. And people, wash a napkin. Save the paper for barbecue, or coloring.

I do not plan in ridiculous advance. I do plan a menu, but if  I was planning on making pork, and when at the market there are some gorgeous little lamb chops telling me to take them home, plans might change. I usually shop the day before, and try to get as much done before guests arrive, which usually ends up with me finishing  while people are here. I know some people frown upon cooking and being away from your guests, but my table is in my kitchen so I can skirt this. I also don’t mind a lick when I am the guest and someone else is cooking. I don’t feel ignored. I love to watch people cook. I don’t mind if their attention is on what I am going to be eating that night.  There will be plenty of time for conversation while we eat and after our bellies are full.

The one thing I think is important, is that it is better to have too much than not enough. Food and drink. Other than that, put on some music and start up a conversation. You are not planning a wedding. You are creating enjoyment. Enjoy it! I have seen people with detailed to-do-lists. Crazy. Managing most of it in your head is what makes you good or bad at it. Reminder lists are fine, but if it’s more than one page, it becomes a chore, not a pleasure. The more structure there is, the less artistry and imagination going into it.  Stay in tune with your food, not a schedule. Set dishes you are using on the table so you can grab them when needed. Work with the space you have. I have a small vintage kitchen table that fits 4. Eat in the living room if you need more room. I love casual eating on the floor. It’s a picnic inside. Assuming you have vacuumed of course. I have a big board game collection, and I am not above building a table out of Parcheesi and throwing a tablecloth over it. Keep the temperature in the room accordingly. Warm in the fall and winter. Cool in the spring and summer. And everyone knows to not light scented candles. Let your food be the fragrance.


  • Lemons — 3 to 5
  • Cold water — 6 cups
  • Sugar — 1/2-3/4 cup

Squeeze lemons into a 2 quart pitcher, add some lemon zest, cold water and sugar. Mix. Chill. * Try a slice of preserved lemon in place of a lemon slice.


Serrano and Manchego.

Prawn and Bacon Brochettes

Brochetas de Gambas y Bacon

This combination of prawns and bacon is very popular, and can be found at most Tapas bar, as well as in many banquets and receptions.


  • 5 oz serrano ham or thinly sliced bacon
  • 24 medium to large uncooked, headless prawns, peeled
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 lemons, quartered


Cut the bacon (or serrano, if using it) into pieces which will wrap generously round the prawns. Place the wrapped prawns down flat on a board and skewer them through the fattest part and the tail, making sure the meat is firmly fixed. Season generously and drizzle with the oil.

On a high heat, griddle, grill or barbecue the prawn and bacon brochettes for 2-3 minutes on each side, so the bacon crisps up. Alternatively , roast in a hot oven (425*) on an oiled baking tray for 8-10 minutes. Squeeze over the juice of the lemon wedges and serve immediately.

Beef with a confit of piquillo peppers
Lomo de buey con pimientos del piquillo confitados

Piquillo peppers, cooked in this way, are a very traditional garnish in the steakhouses of northern Spain. You will find extra olive oil left in the casserole after cooking the peppers. This oil will be infused with the flavors of the piquillos and can be used for dressings or for sautéing another dish later.

Yield: Serves 4

20 piquillo peppers (Spanish wood-roasted sweet peppers), or one 13-ounce jar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 clove garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
Salt to taste
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
2 8-ounce flat iron steaks, trimmed of fat

Pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees. Place 8 of the peppers in a large cup along with the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water. Using a hand blender, puree the peppers.

In a small casserole, lay half the remaining peppers in a single layer, taking care not to overlap the peppers. Spoon half of the pepper puree on top of the peppers and smooth it out with the back of the spoon. Slice garlic. Scatter the garlic over the puree and season to taste with salt. Make another layer of peppers, cover with the remaining puree and season again with salt.

Cover the peppers with one cup of the olive oil. Bake in the oven for 1 1/2 hours, until the peppers are completely tender. Remove from the oven, set aside and keep warm.

Increase the oven to 450 degrees. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil in an ovenproof sauté pan over high heat. When the pan begins to slightly smoke, add the steak and sear on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the pan with the steaks to the oven and roast for 6 minutes or until medium rare. Transfer to chopping board and let rest for 5 minutes.

To serve, spread the peppers and puree on a serving tray. Slice the steak into 1/2-inch thick slices and place them on top of the peppers. Drizzle the medallions with extra olive oil from the peppers and sprinkle with salt.

Patatas Bravas (Fried Ppotatoes)

1⁄2 cup crushed tomatoes
9 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil,
plus more for frying
1 1⁄2 tsp. red wine
1 tsp. hot smoked paprika
1⁄4 tsp. sugar
1 serrano chile, minced
Kosher salt, to taste
1 egg yolk
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. milk
4 russet potatoes, peeled
1. Make the brava sauce: Purée tomatoes, 1 tbsp. oil, wine, paprika, sugar, and chile in a blender. Season with salt, transfer to a bowl, and set aside. Make the allioli: Vigorously whisk egg yolk and garlic. While whisking, add 1 tbsp. oil in a thin stream until mixture thickens. Continue whisking, adding 7 tbsp. oil in a thin stream. Add lemon juice and milk, and season with salt; chill.
2. Pour oil into a 5-qt. pot to a depth of 1 1⁄2″; heat over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 220°. Meanwhile, halve potatoes crosswise. Using a small knife, shape each potato half into a 1 3⁄4″ x 1″ football shape. Transfer potatoes to oil and cook, turning occasionally, until tender and pale golden, 15–20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to paper towels; chill. Remove pot from heat; reserve.
3. Heat the reserved oil over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 350°. Add potatoes; cook until golden brown, 3–5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels; season with salt. Serve potatoes with the reserved brava sauce and allioli.

Me in a blur of serving. I am constantly moving before dinner so most pictures of me are blurry.

I am not posting the mushroom recipe which, while looking delicious, were very sherrylicious. Not good. I’ll try them again and post if I can fix them, but until then they will remain little sherry ghost sponges. Blehk.
I also didn’t end up making the green beans. We had enough food, and I was enjoying my company. No more stove time for me.
Below is why we ended up not having dessert. I completely forgot. We finished with liquid dessert instead.
The three above I served. The two below were brought and delicious.
If debauchery is scarce, you aren’t really having a dinner party. Do it up.

“Forget regret, or life is yours to miss.”- Jonathan Larson

What we did miss is this ice cream. And the churros. Boo. Completely slipped my mind. It happens. Wine and talk happens.

Chocolate Orange Cinnamon Ice Cream

Yield: 1 quart
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
6 egg yolks
6 oz. dark chocolate
1 tablespoon freshly-grated orange zest (plus extra for garnish)
Combine milk, cream, sugar, and cinnamon in a saucepan over medium heat and stir. In a separate bowl, whip egg yolks. Just before the milk begins to simmer, add about half the mixture to the bowl of egg yolks half a cup at a time, stirring constantly. Gradually pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan. Continue to stir until liquid thickens into a custard and coats the back of a spoon. Add broken up bits of chocolate to a large bowl. Pout the hot custard over the chocolate and stir until it melts and is fully incorporated. It may help to use an electric hand mixer to blend it together. Chill the custard using an ice bath or refrigeration. Stir in freshly-grated orange zest. Pour custard into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Garnish with orange zest.
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 to 4-1/4 cups sunflower oil
  • Confectioner’s sugar for dredging
  • Salt

Pour 1-1/2 cups water into a pan, add a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil.  Pour in the flour all at once and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan.  Remove the pan from he heat and let cool.  Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or deep skillet to 350-375°F or until a cube of day-old bread browns in 30 seconds.  Put the cooled mixture into a churrera and make the churros, cutting them to the required length with a sharp knife as the dough is pushed out, and adding them immediately to the hot oil.  Alternatively, spoon the cooled mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe directly into the hot oil, cutting the churros to the required length with a sharp knife and working in batches if necessary.  When the strips of fried dough are golden brown all over, carefully remove them with a slotted spoon, drain well, dredge with confectioner’s sugar, and serve immediately while hot.

Makes about 25.

from 1080 Recipes by Simone and Inés Ortega