Tag Archives: Spanish Cuisine

A Jazzy Meal from Down South

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Cajun cuisine is one of the most diverse types of cuisine in the world of food today. Several of its dishes are arranged like a symphony of world influence, compiled of flavors found in African, Caribbean, French and Spanish dishes. There is no better way to introduce this medley of flavors than throwing them all into one Cajun dish, and that dish, would be gumbo.

Originally from Louisiana, gumbo is a thick stew or soup, that emerged in the 1700s. Gumbo was a cheap way to make a large quantity of food at one time, using minimal amounts of meat. Since a multitude of nationalities lived together in the south, gumbo was a proactive way to share cultural differences through the food they created.

Cajun gumbo (as opposed to Creole gumbo) is heavier with French influence and is often darker and spicier. A typical Cajun gumbo is made with roux, which is a cooked wheat and flour mixture. Roux is what gives gumbo its stew-like consistency.

Upon adding any type of shellfish or meat (andouille sausage, catfish, shrimp) and vegetables (bell peppers, celery, onions) the heat factor is a necessity, and Cajun gumbo is widely known for its spicy quality. What gives this dish its heat is the liberal amounts of cayenne pepper used in each batch. A nice way to balance out the assortment of flavors and spices, is pouring the gumbo over rice.

As you may have already inferred, gumbo is a perfectly hearty meal made to serve many. So, at your next gathering, why not break out the trumpet that’s been hiding in the attic? Turn your home into its very own French Quarter and share a gumbo recipe or two with friends and family.

Bon appétit!

– Gabrielle Castillo

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Spanish Tapas: Not Your Typical Afternoon Snack

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During the hours between lunch and dinner, it is common to go searching for a snack to sustain one’s appetite for four to five hours.  Sometimes we satisfy our cravings with simple foods such as milk and cookies, fruit, or popcorn.

Albondigas (flickr.com/latasca)

In Spain, the hours between lunch and dinner are usually far longer, but the midday hunger is welcomed by several small dishes known as tapas.

Tapas are small appetizers in Spanish cuisine that can range from something as simple as aceitunas (olives with a red pepper filling) to something as distinct as chopitos (small squid, battered and fried).  Tapas serve the purpose of satisfying midday hunger and as food to enjoy while wine tasting or bar-hopping (a typical activity between work and dinner).

Last year, I made a trip to a Spanish restaurant in Fullerton, California, called Lizarran.  At Lizarran, I was able to have a unique food experience in learning that this was no typical afternoon snack.  While I was there, I sampled a few tapas, and my favorite was the Albondigas con Tomate (Spanish-style meatballs in tomato sauce).  It wasn’t the most adventurous of choices, but the Spanish-style meatballs introduced a flavor different from the typical Italian meatball.

However, I do encourage going out on a limb and trying the tapas that leave your mouth watering, or make you cringe just by the description.

The pulpo a la gallega graciously awaits your arrival.

¡Disfrute!

– Gabrielle Castillo