Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Our Family Tree

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to participate in Foodbuzz’s 24, 24, 24 event for February: 24 meals, 24 hours, 24 blogs.  Cooking all day and sharing an evening with friends, with someone else footing the bill would certainly be my dream job – so thanks Foodbuzz!

I decided to do a “Family Tree” event to incorporate some of my favorite foods with our family history. My husband’s mother is from Spain and his father is from Ecuador. My grandparents emigrated from Italy. Thus, we hosted a dinner party where the menu would incorporate traditional dishes from Spain, Ecuador, and Italy.  The event started with tapas and Sangria, which are Spanish cultural staples.  Tapas are basically little plates of food – like an appetizer or snack.  My understanding is that tapas originated in Spanish taverns as a practical measure – small plates of snacks were placed over drinks to prevent flies.  Tapar in Spanish means “to cover.”

Below you will find the recipes for both red and white wine sangria, and a non-alcoholic version.  I highly recommend preparing sangria at least several hours before you plan to serve. You can even do it the night before – it needs time to marinate and become sweeter. Sangria has a few basic ingredients and you can really add any sort of fruit and/or spices your like. I add club soda, but some recipes keep it out or add ginger ale, which makes it sweeter.

For tapas, I served marinated olives, croccantini (an Italian cracker), Spanish Manchego cheese, Italian Montasio cheese, and fig preserves.

Red Wine Sangria

•    1 bottle red wine (I used Espelt 2007 Sauló from Spain)
•    2 oranges
•    2 lemons
•    2 limes
•    2-3 shots brandy
•    3 tbsp. sugar
•    1 cup club soda
•    Ice

1.    Slice your fruit into thin round slices – I cut the ends off and squeeze the juice into the pitcher, discard, and place the slices into the pitcher.
2.    Add your wine, brandy, and sugar. Stir and let marinate for at least a few hours or overnight.
3.    Before serving, add the club soda and ice.

White Wine Sangria

•    1 bottle white wine (I used Burgáns 2008 Albariño from Spain)
•    2 oranges
•    2 lemons
•    2 limes
•    2 shots spiced rum (or brandy or gin)
•    3 tbsp. sugar
•    1 cup club soda
•    Ice

Non-alcoholic Sangria

•    ½ gallon apple cider (if you can find “honeycrisp” apple cider, it’s amazing)
•    1 orange
•    1 lemon
•    1 lime
•    1 can frozen lemonade concentrate
•    1 cup club soda
•    Ice

1.    Follow same instructions for sangria except you add the frozen lemonade instead of wine and brandy. Add club soda and ice just before serving. You can also add some maraschino cherries for more color if you wish.

After tapas, everyone made their own Catalan Tomato Bread – also known as pan con tomate or pa amb Tomáquet in Catalan. The Catalan region of Spain, where my husband’s mother is from, has its own culinary history, as well as its own language, politics, etc.  I highly recommend Colman Andrews’ book Catalan Cuisine. He states that the earliest written reference to tomato bread is 1884. Often in the Catalan region you will be served bread with half a tomato and a cruet of olive oil – the simple ingredients for tomato bread. We add garlic too and you can top with anchovies or Serrano ham which is typical of the region.

To make your own, you simply slice a loaf of bread in half (French, Italian works great) and toast in the oven. You then rub the garlic and tomato on the bread. In Catalan, they often cover both sides. The bread becomes deliciously moist and then you can sprinkle some olive oil and salt if you like on top.  A wonderfully easy and delicious way to eat bread.

The main course hailed from Ecuador – a traditional dish called Churrasco. This is known in other Latin American countries as simply grilled steak. In Ecuador, however, it refers to an entire plate of food: grilled steak, fried egg, French fries, rice, plantains and salad.  Certainly not a light meal! A few hours before eating you’ll want to marinate your steaks – You can use any thin beef steak, I like a thin cut top round steak but flank/skirt steaks work well too. I used a large baking dish and layered the steaks to marinate – each steak was seasoned with S/P, cumin, olive oil, and crushed garlic cloves (I used about 20 total).

To prepare the rice, I use long grain white rice and ½ finely chopped white onion. Heat a dash of olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan and cook the onions for about a minute, add the rice and stir to coat. Add 2.5 cups water, bring to a boil and cook for a minute, cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook about 20 minutes until water is reduced.

For the plantains, simply cut diagonally and fry in canola oil – they cook really fast, so cook on medium and be careful not to let them burn. You can drain them on a paper towel when done. Some people like to sprinkle sugar or cheese over them, so you can serve them with a variety of toppings if you choose.

I grilled the steak on a flat-top grill – you can pan-fry, or grill anyway you choose but they cook really fast because they are so thin so keep that in mind.

The Finished Plate! I also served with homemade hot sauce (but forgot a picture!) – in a food processor or blender mix 4 serrano or jalapeno peppers (seeds and membranes removed),  1/2 cup water, dash oil, salt, and a bunch of cilantro.

Lastly, for dessert we enjoyed tiramisu. This was my first time making tiramisu and I was excited to make it myself because I usually don’t like it in restaurants. There are two reasons – I usually find the alcohol and/or espresso components too strong and bitter and I don’t like soggy ladyfingers.  While the history isn’t exactly clear, tiramisu is a recent creation in terms of culinary history – it was probably invented sometime in the 1980s. My recipe is below – I went for a simple version (no egg yolks) and instead of soaking the ladyfingers I brushed them with espresso. I also used a small amount of spiced rum.  I refrigerated all day and the result was delicious. If you like strong alcohol/espresso flavors you will want to adjust my recipe.

•    1 pd mascarpone cheese
•    1 cup heavy whipping cream
•    Enough ladyfingers to fill an 8×8 pan twice (I used 30 because they were fairly small)
•    ½ cup sugar
•    2 tbsp rum
•    1 shot espresso
•    Cocoa powder

1.    Chill your espresso. Whisk the whipping cream until stiff peaks form.
2.    Combine cheese, sugar, and rum into a medium bowl and stir until combined.
3.    Fold (use a spatula to pick up the cheese from below and fold over cream, one side at a time) in the whipped cream.
4.    Place your first layer of ladyfingers in your dish and brush with espresso. I coated but did not soak the cookies.
5.    Put half the cheese mixture on the ladyfingers and smooth with your spatula.
6.    Sift cocoa powder on top.
7.    Repeat another layer of cookies, brush with espress, spread cheese and finish with a sifting of cocoa.
8.    Chill at least a few hours and you can serve with fresh cocoa powder or chocolate shavings if you want.


3 thoughts on “Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Our Family Tree

  1. Joan Nova March 1, 2010 / 6:59 PM

    Congrats on 24, 24, 24. Looks like a great dinner. We have similar backgrounds. My grandparents came from Spain and Italy.

  2. Cooking Rookie March 10, 2010 / 2:52 AM

    Such beautiful, bright pictures! Love your color choices 🙂

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