Best Beach Tapas!

“Food Tastes Better with Sand Between Your Toes”. Anthony Bourdain

I was raised between Chicago and Arizona so beach was not really a part of my life growing up unless you count shivering with blue lips in Lake Michigan or tubing down the Salt River. So, when I first moved to Granada (25 years ago) and was able to be on the Mediterranean in 45 minutes I found a whole new world. Not like I had not been to a beach before, I had been to many. But, the coast of Granada is a big swimming pool. Most beaches are pebbly or rocky for that matter but in three steps you can no longer stand and are free to swim for as long and as far as your body will take you. I’m pretty sure the only reason I ever got out of the water my first year in Granada was that I realized I could have a cold beer and a free tapa and jump back in. And then repeat. Thank you to whoever opened that first beach bar in Sitges, Catalonia. The Chringuito is a way of life in Spain. The word comes from Cuba, a place where people who worked on the sugar plantations would rest in the shade to have their café.

Fresh, local shrimp on the coast of Granada

I remember thinking to myself how absolutely delicious every tapa tasted to me with my feet buried in the sand, my hair and skin salty from the sea. I couldn’t imagine enjoying food more than at a Chiringuito. Tired from swimming and looking out at the sea. As a student, I could easily survive on the tapas. Fresh shrimp or some fried fish. It was all perfect, and still is.

Mussels with Pipirrana

Every once in a while you might get a tapa of ham or cheese or russian potato salad. But, for the most part the tapas go with the atmosphere. Clams lightly sauteed in a parsley sauce or mussels fresh from the sea. Sometimes they serve the mussels with pipiranna which is a light salad of tomato, onion, cucumber and bell pepper. We also eat a lot of fried fish in Southern Spain. It was never common for people to have ovens in their homes so frying was an easy and quick way to prepare certain proteins and vegetables. Some might even say it is healthy! In Granada, fried fish is commonly served with a raw cabbage salad marinated with olive oil, vinegar and garlic. Anchovies are one of the best fried fish you can find!

Fried anchovies with cabbage salad

The Phoenicians founded the city of Cádíz in 1104 BC and established small towns such as Almuñecar along the Mediterranean coast of Spain. They elaborated Mojama, a salt dried tuna. Although the name comes from Arabic, the process began under the Phoenicians. Mojama is still prepared and consumed all along the Atlantic Coast of Spain as well as along the Mediterranean Coast. This tecnique is also used in Portugal, Morocco and Italy. Mojama is served like a slice of ham; alone, on a piece of toast, in a salad or to flavor other dishes.

A simple tapa of Mojama, salt cured tuna.

The coast of Granada is full of surprises and history. These are just the “tapas” which will open your palate for the rest of a wonderful meal on the coast. Buen Provecho!!

needing some warmth………..

Winters in Granada are not as horrible as they can be other places I realize, but nonetheless I get tired very easily of the cold.  I prefer heat, hot sun, sand on my body and a cool drink in my hand.  So, after all too many days of battling a nasty winter flu I have been dreaming of summer.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, sweet and enjoyable summer.  I have many food and cultural posts still for winter but today I need to feel the hot sun on my skin. If only through a blog.  So, my dreams take me back to Asturias where we enjoy spending a bit of each summer vacation.  Hard cider, great food, and a sunny day on a pristine beach are what brings us back year after year.  The sunny day can be a give or take since Asturias tends to be fairly rainy.  But, we usually luck out with sun for 90 percent of the time. 

  Each year we return to the same rural hotel (another post) where we always feel welcome and have a chance to decompress between campground and campground.  From this beautiful home there are hiking trails that will take you to different towns, beaches, restaurants, and the breathtaking look out at  Cabo Penas.  One of our favorite beaches to walk to is Verdicio.  First we stop at a nearby restaurant along the national highway and then we make our way down to the beach area which kindly offers a small hut serving hard cider whenever you feel the need. 

We had a fantastic meal at a cider house,  La Fustariega before heading down for a swim.  French fries ( or chips) smothered in a sauce made with the best cheese in Spain, Cabrales.  Cabrales in its pure form will make your eyes water, nose run and your stinky tennis shoes smell like roses.  It is delicous.  A raw milk cheese that is cured in an extremely humid cave in the high Picos de Europa Mountains until it is covered in mold and  striped with lucious blue veins.  Asturias is famous for its cheese and Cabrales is one that is honored in competitions each year. 

The other typical dish that we devoured before ordering desserts was Pastel de Cabracho.  According to gastronomical history this dish was first prepared by the famous Basque Chef, Juan Mari Arzak.   The fish (black scorpian fish) is boiled first in a stock, deboned and then mixed with a mixture of tomato, heavy cream and sometimes leek and carrot.  It is formed into a pudding and cooked in a double boiler.  It is normally served as an appetizer with homemade mayonnaise.  When it is prepared well, Pastel de Cabracho is not to be missed. 

We ended our meal with two mouth watering desserts.  Simple and delightful.  A creamy rice pudding topped with cinnamon and a typical Asturian cheesecake.  It was the perfect meal to fuel us for our short walk down to the beach where the sun and a cold bottle of hard cider awaited us.