For New Year’s Eve 2007, Greg and I were on our honeymoon in Barcelona. We were drinking champagne in a sea of thousands of people in Plaza Catalunya as the countdown started and the fireworks exploded. Here we learned of the Spanish NYE tradition: at each of the twelve strokes of midnight, pop a grape in your mouth as a symbol of good luck for the new year.
This year, at home in LA, we went for an equally deluxe alternative…staying in and eating well. The indulgent NYE meal has become an American tradition, with caviar, lobster, and steak on many holiday tables . For our menu, I recreated some of our favorite tapas from our trip to Spain… and of course our mouths were full of grapes at midnight.
Salmorejo is a tomato and bread dip (or soup) from Spain’s Southern region of Andalusia. It is served cold, and garnished with hard-boiled egg and Spain’s celebrated Iberico Ham. It has a beautiful pink-orange color and is absolutely delicioso. I combined several recipes to make mine.
You’ve probably tried Gambas al Ajillo at your favorite tapas spot. They are fried garlic shrimp, finished with a dash of sherry vinegar and fresh parsley. I followed the tips provided by America’s Test Kitchen to maximize the garlic flavor: marinating the shrimp in minced garlic, infusing the cooking oil with crushed whole cloves of garlic, and frying thin slices of garlic with the shrimp as they cook.
Stay tuned for the next course, Mussels with Chorizo, and Spinach with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts.
1 lb ripe tomatoes (about 5 medium sized)
1 5-inch piece of baguette, crust discarded
1 garlic clove
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/2 cup extra-vigin olive oil
1 tsp good quality sherry vinegar (or to taste)
1 hard boiled egg
2 paper-thin slices of Iberico ham (or prosciutto), julienned
1. Score the bottom of each tomato with a small X. Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen the skins. Immediately dunk them in an ice water bath. Drain and peel off the skins. Core and quarter each tomato.
2. Soak the bread in warm water for one minute, then squeeze out the water with your fingertips. Discard the water. Mash the garlic and the salt to form a paste with the back of your knife. Blend garlic paste and bread in a food processor until combined. Slowly add the olive oil as the machine is running, blending until thick and smooth. Add tomatoes and sherry vinegar and blend until as smooth as possible, about 1 minute. Force soup through a sieve into your serving bowl, discarding the solids.
3. Cover and chill until cold and the flavors meld, 2 – 3 hours. Garnish with hard boiled egg and Iberico ham. Serve with sliced baguette to dip.
Gambas al Ajillo
2 appetizer portions
12 large shrimp, cleaned & deveined, shelled, with tail on
about 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 garlic cloves, left whole, slightly crushed
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
salt and fresh pepper
2 tblsp sherry vinegar
1 tblsp fresh Italian parsely, chopped
1. Marinate the shrimp for 15 minutes in the minced garlic with a few tablespoons of olive oil and well-seasoned with salt and pepper.
2. Heat 1 inch of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Toss in the whole garlic cloves and let them sizzle until they turn golden brown. Remove and discard.
3. Add the sliced garlic to the skillet, then the shrimp in one single layer. Use tongs to flip the shrimp when they curl and turn pink on the first side, about 1 1/2 minutes. Cook until pink on both sides and opaque, 3 to 4 minutes total. Finish the dish with sherry vinegar and fresh parsley. Plate and season with salt and pepper to taste.