Summer has arrived in Seattle. You can feel the excitement as weather becomes the topic of conversation and everyone speaks of outdoor meals and sunsets.
My friend, and eternally-inspiring, Jenn Elliott-Blake and I created a Spanish dinner that you can enjoy at any time of the year but suits summer entertaining perfectly. West Elm supplied the essentials from paella pans, sangria pitchers, ocean-blue dinner plates and even outdoor dining chairs.
These recipes should please a crowd.
Jenn created a beautiful table for our dinner, hanging driftwood swing included. Genius. She procured the driftwood at the beach and laced it all with hand-knotted rope. We hung chervil, chives and thyme over the center of the table. Such a simple and clever idea.
We started with sangria, which I mixed with txakoli and blood orange soda. But really, this can be made with any wine and fruit that you like. This is all about personal preference. And then… Serve it cold.
The recipes are inspired by the meals I enjoyed most as a kid growing up in the Basque Country. I continue to make them for my family here. Tortilla is probably the greatest-hits of my repertoire as friends continue to ask me to make it for them after all these years. Olive oil, onions, potatoes, eggs and salt. Simplicity.
This paella is loaded with seafood and will give you the basic technique of how to make it with any other addition, such as chicken and chorizo, or plain vegetarian. Use bomba rice for best results but arborio will work. And if you are like me, you will make sure you have a nice layer of burned or “stuck” rice at the bottom of the pan called socarrat.
And since West Elm shared so many of their summer essentials with us, here is a shout-out to the ones I loved.
Outdoor chairs that now live in my garden,
I love this blue dinnerware collection,
what would I do without a sangria pitcher,
and of course, the paella pan.
Sangría with txakoli and blood orange
Txakoli is a dry, lightly sparking, white wine from the Basque Country. It is usually served as aperitif and it is best consumed within the year of production. You can use any other white wine that you like.
1 bottle (750 ml) Txakoli
1/2 cup Aperol or other orange liqueur (more can be added depending on taste)
1 11-ounce can blood orange sparkling water (such as Pellegrino)
1 blood orange, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
1 orange, sliced
Mix all ingredients in a pitcher, stir and refrigerate until cold. Serve chilled (do not add ice).
Tortilla de patatas
Tortilla is the quintessential Spanish food that is often times served as a tapa or pintxo, inside baguettes (for bocadillo) or quick dinner. It is our comfort food. The classic way doesn’t include any herbs inside but I love chervil and it’s fennel-like flavor so I added some, but you can certainly leave it out or add another herb you like.
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, medium diced
4 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and medium diced
7 large eggs
1/4 cup finely chopped chervil (optional)
Heat a 10-inch nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and lower heat to medium. Add the onions and cook them for 2 minutes or until a bit soft but not brown. Add the diced potatoes and pinch of salt. Keep the heat in medium for about 2 minutes and then lower it lo medium low for about another 15 minutes. The point here is that the potatoes must poach in the olive oil not really fry. We don’t want crispy potatoes inside the tortilla. Towards the end, I even take a fork and gently mash them a bit so the olive oil gets inside the potato as well.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and another pinch of salt. Add the chervil (optional).
With a slotted spoon, remove the potatoes from the oil. Let the excess oil drip and add the potatoes to the eggs. It’s ok if they are hot and the eggs scramble a bit.
Remove most of the oil from the pan. Leave about 1 tsp of oil. Turn the heat back to medium. Add the egg mixture and using a wooden spoon, stir the center so the egg starts to cook. When the center starts to scramble, let it be and don’t stir anymore. Tuck in the edges nicely with the spatula and cook for about 2 minutes.
Flip the tortilla with the help of a plate and finish cooking the other side. Some people like the center a bit runny, others all the way cooked. Let the tortilla rest for 5 minutes before cutting.
Paella is another classic Spanish dish that is so versatile and great to serve for crowds. There are many varieties and most of them include chorizo sausage, chicken or rabbit. This one is seafood only although you could certainly add chorizo or any other meat you would like.
It is best to cook it over a flame – a gas stove or even a campground fire. Bits of rice will burn on the bottom of the pan and that is exactly what you want as that is the most delicious part – the socarrat.
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, medium diced
2 ramp stalks or cloves garlic
1/2 red bell pepper, medium diced
2 ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups Bomba or Arborio rice
8 ounces mussels
8 ounces littleneck clams
8 ounces shrimp
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 medium lemons, sliced
Place the chicken stock and saffron threads in a pot and heat to a simmer. We want the broth warm when we add it to the rice.
Heat a 12-inch paella pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, onion, ramps or garlic and red bell pepper. Cook for 5 minutes until soft but not brown. Add the diced tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes until soft.
Add the rice and cook for a minute while stirring. We want the rice to be coated with the oil and vegetable flavor. Add the warm broth, stir and bring to a light boil. Taste the broth and add salt if needed. Do not stir the rice once the liquid is simmering. Cook the rice uncovered for 10 minutes. Then add the mussels, clams and shrimp, cover the pan with aluminum foil and cook for another 15 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the rice rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Sprinkle the top with parsley and serve with lemon slices.