mooninspain

Food, Travel , Life and more Food in Spain

Archive for the tag “Granada”

The Madroño, it’s not just a legend…..

Everyone who has visited Madrid has seen, photographed or met up with friends at the famous Bear and Madroño Statue.  A cute little bear trying with his paw to grab a bit of this unusual and fairly unknown fruit.  This symbol, along with the seven stars that have been known to represent either the Ursa Major Constellation or seven castles that used to surround Madrid, make up the Coat of Arms of this capital city. There are many different versions about why the bear and tree also became part of the Coat of Arms. Some say it is the symbol of possession and power.  My favorite interpretation so far was one that my sister Denise was given late one night in a bar in Madrid.  Something about bears molesting trees. Anyhow, I would imagine that for most visitors this statue in the Puerta del Sol is their first and last contact with a Madroño Tree. But, they can be found all over the country.

The other day we went for a walk with friends near the Alhambra.  We eventually found ourselves wandering through the Carmen de los Martires.  “Carmenes” in Granada are typical homes with beautiful garden areas.  Sometimes Granada is referred to as The City of Carmenes.  This particular Carmen is  very large and open to the public at certain hours during the day. There are beautiful views of the city, extravagant gardens and even peacocks.  It is the perfect place to enjoy peace and quiet or read a book.  With three kids in tow we had less peace and quiet but we did enjoy the views and had fun tasting the funny fruit off the Madroño trees.  I heard once that if you eat too much of this fruit it can actually intoxicate you.  We didn’t have time for that but it was fun to taste.


mmmmmm………..olive oil!!!

Tomato with garlic and liquid gold!!!  Is that too much for you Chef Ramsey???

too much oil isn’t always a nightmare………

We don’t use the television in our house unless there is an emergency of some sort.  But, my new friend, influenza, and I have become quite bored during our required resting period.  So, I took the advice of a dear friend and watched an episode of Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsey.  Just by chance, the episode that showed up first was titled Spanish Pavilion.  On Chef Ramsey’s first visit to the restaurant he ordered the garlic chicken or pollo al ajillo, a very well-known dish here in Spain.

The name of the dish first brought up a fond memory in a bar years ago when I was still a tried and true vegetarian.  My friend Cristi, also a vegetarian at the time, and I were out with a group of random people.  We ended up in a conversation with a woman who was completely dumbfounded by the mere thought of us not participating in any carnal consumption.  She went on and on for an extremely long time with every possible proposal to convince us to change our ways.  My friend and I nodded and smiled politely for as long as we could.  But when the woman, disheartened, expressed her true sadness that we would never try her “pollo al ajillo” we lost it and continued on laughing about it throughout the night and for the next five to six years.  Actually, we still laugh about it.

Back to the Nightmares. When Chef Ramsey tasted his garlic chicken at the Spanish Pavilion, he lifted up a wing and unveiled  about two cups of olive oil on his plate.  I almost spit my chamomile at the screen.  I was immediately taken to one of my favorite towns near Granada, Guejar Sierra.  The amount of olive oil on Chef Ramsey’s plate didn’t even compare to the amount of olive oil in the majority of the typical dishes in Guejar.  Pollo al ajillo being one of those.  The food is delicious in the town but my husband and I often giggle about the amount of oil used.   And one afternoon having lunch with my Mother along the river near Guejar we calculated 1 cup and a half of olive oil per dish that we ordered.  We have no shortage of olive oil here.  I need to take Ramsey to Guejar.

breaking the fast…..!

Breakfast has always been my favorite meal.  I have many memories connected with morning delights.  Watching the snow fall accompanied by a latte and an almond cream cheese danish at Macy’s, the best coffee shop in Flagstaff, Arizona , a comforting sweet roll and omelet at Lou Mitchell’s in Chicago with my sister George the morning after I witnessed the birth of my first niece, a toasted ham and cheese sandwich on the train from Granada to Madrid with my daughter (her favorite),  cinnamon coffee with a side of refried beans, a side of tortillas and salsa before class at Kathy’s diner in Flagstaff , a simple baguette with laughing cow cheese and marmalade at many group hotels in Paris, and the amazing and unforgettable Chilaquiles with green sauce at Martan’s in Flagstaff followed by a hike up the San Francisco peaks,  to mention only a few of the best.

Here in Spain, breakfast is delicious and unique.  In Granada and Southern Spain in general the norm is a nice toast topped with what pleases you most; paté, butter and jam, cured ham with tomato and olive oil, or my personal favorite of tomato, olive oil and salt.  You can always opt for a croissant that will remind you that you aren’t in Paris or a big plate of churros and a cup of warm chocolate, but the majority order a toast.  “Café con leche y una tostada con tomate por favor.”  Whole wheat is even readily available these days.

When on tour one of my favorite stops for a great toast is on the way from Sevilla to Gibraltar in the Cork Tree National Park.  In December we stopped for an early morning toast on our long drive to Salamanca and I actually remembered to take a picture.  The enormous toasts are served with a bottle of  grated fresh tomato,  two huge bottles of local olive oil (one with garlic) and salt.  You can dress it up as you desire.  Washed down with a Spanish coffee with milk it is the perfect Andalusian breakfast.


In other parts of Spain, breakfast takes on a whole new air.  In Madrid and most of Castilla Leòn y  Castilla La Mancha morning fare tends to be much heartier. The weather tends is harsher and people bulk up with extra girth and fat.  Our first morning in Salamanca we went to a nice classic place for a “light” breakfast.  A delicious tortilla española with chorizo  (spanish potato omelet) and a plate of churros.  For those who are low carbing it, you can go for the very typical chicharrones (fried pork rinds) and torreznos (fried slices of pork fat) which my husband chose to order for day two breakfast.  As they say in Spanish, “Sobre gustos, colores” or “there are as many tastes as there are colors”.  To each his own.  Either way, I’ll stick with the tortilla which is an artform in Salamanca, tall and juicy and filled with all kinds of treats.  It was perfect to battle the bitter cold that waited for us outside that day.

my #1 for traditional food in Granada……..CAYAO

If there is one place in Granada that has never let me down, it is Cayao.  We were lucky enough to stumble upon this gem when we moved into our second to last neighborhood.  It was love at first sight and we continue to be faithful through the years.  The tapas and  specialty dishes are based on local cuisine, homemade, and always delightful.  The owner and son of a bullfighter, Mariano, treats his clients like close family.  I’ve brought groups, family and many friends here and everyone has always enjoyed every minute and morsel.

It is best to arrive early to Cayao to enjoy a tapa of their fantastic rice with alioli.  But if you don’t the replacements are just as good if not better.  On my last trip before Christmas with my partner in crime we were lucky enough to be in time for the rice.  Our palates were also blessed with the best Tortilla Española in Granada slathered in Salmorejo ( a thick tomato, garlic puree) and accompanied by a cabbage salad dressed with oil, vinegar and pomegranate seeds. Our last tapas surprise were small sauteed potato cakes topped with spinach with raisins and pine nuts and served with a perfect Manchego cheese.  Thanks Mariano.


The regular menu at Cayao is filled with wonderful options that include Salt Cod with fried garlic, fondue, and Iberian pork cheeks in a Pedro Jimenez sauce that is out of this world.  One of our standard favorites is their special Pisto (vegetable stew) which they prepare heavy on the zucchini and garnished with fried slices of bread or “picatostes”.  It is pretty much impossible to go wrong.  They also offer a different daily dish which varies from lentils to a Gypsy stew made of white beans, garbanzos and many pork surprises.

PISTO

For me Cayao is a mixture bar/museum.  I love to wander around and look at the bullfighting posters, newspaper articles and amazing artifacts that are hanging on the walls.  One of my favorites is a menu from 1957 that posts the prices for Tapas in pesetas.  They prices range from 4 to 20 pesetas which nowadays works out to approximately 2 – 12 cents.  Wow.

Cayao is a must visit in Granada.  If there is a Cheers for me in Spain, this is it.  Happy New Year!!!

classic, friendly and packed with people………

Spotting a great tapas bar in Spain is not that difficult if you know what to look out for.  Number one  is the “Spanish Servilleta”.  This is basically a very small, see through, and non absorbent excuse for a napkin.  However, it is key to spotting a good bar.  While enjoying tapas one may go through 50 of these napkins to clean their fingers, and then proceed to toss them one by one onto the floor.  The floor in  any popular tapas bar in Spain is completely covered by napkins, toothpicks, shrimp heads and tails and olive pits.  The cigarette butt is now excluded from the list.  Number two is to look for places that are crammed packed with people to the point that many are spilling out of the front door and windows.  Within the bar you will find many groups of friends and family balancing their drinks along with a plate of communal tapas. When we go out as a group in Spain we almost always collect a “fondo” or collection of money that one person is in charge of throughout the afternoon or evening.

early afternoon

early afternoon

There are some old yet unchanging tapas bars in Granada that I love to visit every once in a while.  A place like “Diamantes” is one of them for me.  It started as one very narrow bar that is constantly filled to the brim with a mostly local crowd enjoying their perfect and light fried fish.  There is now a “Diamantes 2” as shown above with a bit more elbow room.  Both of the bars are incredibly efficient, friendly and filled with local flavor.  The most frequent tapas that are included with your drinks are fried eggplant, shrimp in garlic sauce, fried dogfish and fried shrimp.  There is nothing better than a midday “tapeo” starting at Los Diamantes.


moon in Granada……..

As I walked home this evening with the sun going down I looked up and saw this beautiful moon shining over the city………..another reason to love Granada.

The Friar’s Garden

It has been raining for the past four days and we have been enjoying the fireplace, playtime and a great variety of home cooked food.  Finally,  there was a break in the clouds and we decided to go for a stroll up the river.  Walking about 2 1/2 miles along the river from our house we have a couple of great restaurants.  Today we chose one called La Huerta del Fraile, The Friar’s Garden.  Across the street from the restaurant there is a huge pumpkin patch along with many vegetable gardens and orchards. The rain started up again as soon as we walked in, so we tucked in next to their fireplace.  We had planned on having one tapita and then moving on but we were so relaxed and the first tapa was delicious and unique.  So we stayed for a bit.

The first tapa was a surprisingly scrumptious  version of one dish in Spain that I have always disliked.  It is called San Jacobo (Saint Jacob).  Usually it is a slice of chicken wrapped around ham and cheese then breaded and fried.  Basically, the Spanish version of Cordon Bleu.   Most of the Saint Jacobs that I have met have been in low cost hotel buffets where basically everything is disgusting. Needless to say,  I had never once enjoyed a San Jacobo in all of my years in Spain until La Huerta del Fraile’s version.  It was made with cheddar cheese, eggplant, mushrooms and ham and then covered in a crunchy coating.  Tapa number two was also the best version I’ve ever had of a very typical dish, Migas.  Literally, migas de pan are the soft breadcrumbs from fresh bread.  The preparation of the dish known as Migas can vary depending on the region of Spain that you are in.  In Granada they are the breadcrumbs or leftover bread sauteed in olive oil with garlic, green peppers and a variety of pork products.  On the coast they are also served with sardines (see toes in the sand, shrimp in my hand).  These definitely ranked the best that I have had.  Usually Migas are prepared on an open fire out in the country.  A typical dish prepared for hard workers.

Off the regular menu we ordered a salad with tomato and goat cheese and a plate of fried berenjenas (aubergine or eggplant) with sugar cane honey.  Fried eggplant deserves a post all to itself.  My 5 year old daughter wants to dedicate an entire blog to this favorite dish of hers.  They are typical in Cordoba but here in Granada we have also found some amazing ones.  For me they are a mixture of dessert and pancakes.  A light fluffy batter, eggplants, and sweet dark honey.  Another fried delicacy here in Spain.

introducing the croqueta…………

Sundays invite adventure and escaping from the city center.  Even though we all laugh and criticize the “domingueros” or “Sunday drivers”, we end up being one many times during the year.  So, today we went up just a bit into the mountains to breathe some fresh air and see what the day would bring.  Basically it is hard to go wrong around here on a weekend.  As long as you have good company and some open space for the kids to play, the day is pretty much set.  Lucky for me I have friends who also have a damn good sense of humor which makes the day just that much brighter.  Even with the clouds.  We ordered some food to share and then just as I was mourning the lack of homemade croquetas on the menu, this tapa appeared on the table.  It was as if they had read my mind.  My friend Annette and I both have a bit of an obsession with ordering homemade croquetas when available.  I think we are trying to find the best.  There is a lot to know about the “croqueta” in Spain.  Croquetas can be real crap sometimes.  Frozen and produced by a machine.  Or just plain bland, boring, and disgusting.  But,  when you find a good croqueta, it is like a delicious bit of fried love.

I was truly blessed to live with an amazing woman here in Granada.  Carmen taught me a great part of what I know about this city.  She hated to cook.  But her croquetas were seriously the best I have ever had.  I would hang over her as she made the bechamel, added the leftover meat from the stew cooked the day before and toss them in the egg and flour.  I watched the patience and love she put into those delicious rolls.  When they were ready we would all line up to taste as she fried them one by one.  I would always get back in line for seconds.  And with that bit of energy we would be off to go out for the night.

The croquetas today were homemade and fresh.  They weren’t as good as Carmen’s, nor where they as good as the one I will put in my next post, but they did hit the spot.  The company was even better…….a bit crazy……..but good.

tastes like a kiss

walnuts....mandarin oranges...quince...pomegranate

walnuts...mandarin oranges..quince...pomegranate

One of my favorite sayings in Spanish is  “uvas con queso saben a beso” or “grapes with cheese taste like a kiss”.  My daughter even learned this in her Pre-school at snack time.  The combination of grapes and cheese really do bring to the mouth the taste of a (nice) kiss.  But in reality, here in Spain there is another flavor that is most typically combined with a nice cured Manchego cheese.  Dulce de Membrillo. Quince turned into a firm jelly brick.  Sounds strange I know, and even I thought it was pretty odd the first timed I was offered a piece. The truth is that a chunk of quince paste with a slice of cured cheese accompanied by a glass of Ribera del Duero is an absolute delicacy.

I was just finishing my Part 2 on Toledo when I was completely distracted by gifts of fall fruits.  Luna and I helped an older gentleman, Miguel, with his car the other day and so he showed us his gratitude with a bag of walnuts and pomegranates.  Then, my friend Ofelia handed me a huge bag of quince last night as I left her house.  Luna sat happily at the table and attempted to crack nuts while I cleaned and cored the quince hoping for some possible chance of producing  “dulce de membrillo”.  And so I cut and I peeled without losing a finger and then I boiled and cooled and rinsed and boiled again forever and ever with sugar, lemon, and vanilla.  And now it is supposed to harden a bit.  I left it chunkier than it is supposed to be because I thought it might be nice that way.  We will see. Tomorrow I will have a bit with some cheese and wine.  It hasn’t hardened quite yet but the flavor is amazing!!!!

Dulce de Membrillo

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