Since COVID-19 has put a temporary halt to this year’s travel plans I’ve been bringing our favorite travel destinations to our home by making the foods we’ve always enjoyed during our travels.
I know that travel restrictions have been eased and many countries are avidly awaiting the return of tourists. But right now our family isn’t quite yet ready to resume our regular travel routines which in the summer usually includes several weeks visiting our daughter in Italy and a cruise around the Med. So until we are ready to resume our normal traveling lifestyle we’ll just have to make do with enjoying homemade dishes from the countries we love to visit.
Recently I’ve had a hankering for Spanish cuisine, it reminds me of fun filled days spent wandering Barcelona or exploring sunny Ibiza and the Canary Islands. So I’ve been putting together some of my favorite Tapas and other Spanish dishes to enjoy with my pitcher of Cava Sangria.
One of our favorites is Spanish Chicken and Rice. It’s pretty easy to make, you use just 1 skillet! I love the taste and smell of the spices used to create this simple dish. I make a seasoning mix to use in this dish, I usually make a jar and keep it on hand to use on other dishes we love. I hope you’ll love it too!
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Spanish Chicken & Rice
6 Chicken thighs – remove the skin
3 Tbs. Olive OIl
1 Cup long grain white rice
2 1/4 cup chicken broth
Spanish Seasoning Mix (recipe below)
Make 1 recipe of Spanish Seasoning Mix
2 Tsp. Smoked Paprika
2 Tsp. Garlic Powder
1 Tbs. Salt
1 Tsp. Ground Cumin
1 Tsp. Chili Powder
1 Tsp. Ground Coriander
1/2 Tsp. Italian Seasoning
Place chicken thighs in a bowl and toss in 2 Tbs. Olive Oil until well coated.
Rub 1/2 of the Spanish Seasoning Mix on the chicken. Be sure you rub it on all sides of the chicken thighs.
Heat remaining Olive Oil in a skillet. Cook chicken about 3 minutes on each side until browned. Remove from heat and set aside. Chicken will not be cooked at this point.
Add rice, chicken broth, and other half of seasoning mix to the skillet. Squeeze 1/2 of the lemon over all and combine well. Place chicken thighs on top of the rice and cover.
Cook for 25 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender and chicken is fully cooked.
Garnish with slices of the remaining lemon half and chopped cilantro. Serve hot.
- Instead of long grain rice I sometimes use frozen cauliflower rice. When I do this I reduce the chicken broth to 1 1/4 cups and cook until the chicken is fully done. If it is too watery I remove the lid and cook until the liquid has evaporated.
Ready, sweet tomatoes and a garlicky slammed aubergine purée make this an incredible summer’s night dish
Mackerel must be my preferred fish for cooking outside over an open fire. Its skin crisps flawlessly while underneath the slick substance remains sodden and delicate. The fresher the mackerel, the more sensitive and heavenly its flavor will be, so select fish with decent brilliant eyes and energetic, bright skin.
4 good-sized, super-fresh mackerel, gutted and cleaned
2 tbsp olive oil
4 sprigs of rosemary
250g large, ripe tomatoes, halved
2 medium aubergines
2 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
1 tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
A pinch of dried chilli flakes
A handful of basil leaves, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Prepare your fire; you want to be cooking over glowing embers. When the fire is hot, set a grill over it, making sure it’s clean so your fish is less likely to stick to the bars. You’ll know the temperature is right when you can hover your hand above the grill for a maximum of 3 seconds.
Lay the fish on a board and, using a sharp knife, cut several shallow slash marks on both sides. Trickle 1 tbsp olive oil over the fish, sprinkle with salt and pepper and rub in, getting right into the slash marks. Place a couple of rosemary sprigs in each fish cavity. Set the fish on the grill. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper and place, cut side up, next to the fish. Place the aubergines (uncut) on the grill too.
Turn the aubergines every few minutes, to ensure they cook evenly. The fish will take 6–8 minutes on each side, depending on size. Don’t worry if the skin tears; the fish will still taste amazing. Once the mackerel are cooked, remove them from the grill and keep warm. Turn the tomatoes after 10–15 minutes and keep cooking them until they are soft and caramelised, then remove them to a plate.
When the aubergines are soft (this will take about 20 minutes), slit open and scoop the soft flesh out into a bowl. Add the garlic, tahini, chilli flakes, basil, extra virgin olive oil and some salt and pepper. Mix and mash the aubergine with the seasonings.
Divide the aubergine purée between 4 plates. Add the tomatoes and fish and serve.
Fire-broil mackerel with aubergine and tomatoes
In recent years we’ve been constant visitors to Italy. We’ve always loved the country and have been vacationing there at least once a year, but since my daughter and her family have taken up residence in Vicenza, a small town in Northern Italy, we’ve been going more often. And when we do go we spend lots of time sampling the local cuisine in and around town, it’s a different experience when you dine where the locals dine and by pass the touristy restaurants that serve substandard fare at very high prices.
One of our favorite local restaurants in town is called Regina’s. Its a tiny place with seating for less than 20 people. But the service if friendly and the food delicious! My favorite dish is Spaghetti ai Frutti de Mare or Seafood Spaghetti. I know when you think spaghetti you think red sauce and meatballs. That’s good too, but if you’re hungry for Seafood or just want something a bit more sophisticated then this dish is just what you need.
Spaghetti ai Frutti de Mare is a pasta dish made with all types of seafood including clams, squid, shrimp, and muscles. It can have a tomato based sauce like Arrabiata or a white sauce like a pesto or Alfredo.
I personally love a lighter sauce made with white wine, lemon juice, and butter. That’s the recipe I’ll share today. I normally make it with shrimp, clams, mussels, and lobster if I can find some. You can use whatever seafood you prefer. It’s good with pretty much any type of seafood.
Here’s the recipe!
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1 Lb. Clams
1 Lb. Mussels
1 Lb. Shrimp – peeled and deveined but leave tail on
2-3 Small Lobster Tails – cut into 1 1/5″ pieces with shell on
1 Tbs. Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Butter
2-3 Cloves Garlic thinly sliced
1 Tsp. Italian Seasoning
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Cup White Wine
2 Cups Chicken Broth
1/2 Cup Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
1/4 Cup Sundried Tomatoes
1 Lb. Cooked Spaghetti
Shredded Parmesan Cheese
In a large pan melt butter in olive oil.
Saute garlic in butter mixture until it starts to cook, be careful not to burn.
Add seasoning, salt, and pepper. Mix well.
Add wine and chicken stock.
Add clams and mussels. Cook until shells open.
Add lobster pieces and cook until shell starts to turn red and meat starts to turn white.
Add shrimp. Cook until shrimp turns pink and lobster is fully cooked.
Lower heat and stir in lemon juice and sundried tomatoes.
Remove from heat and serve over cooked pasta. Garnish with shredded cheese.
Spaghetti ai Frutti de Mare - Seafood Spaghetti
Spaghetti ai Frutti de Mare - Seafood Spaghetti
Lobster tails are my favorite! I love lobsters specially grilled lobster tails.
Recently it seems that frozen lobster tails are showing up in many supermarkets, I’ve even seen them at Walmart! And they’ve become very inexpensive; my local supermarket recently had them on sale for $5.99 per tail weighing between 4-5 oz. I purchased slightly larger tails from Whole Foods for less than $10 each; very reasonable!
The availability of affordable frozen lobster tails has made brought them to our dinner table instead of being a restaurant treat on special occasions. It’s even gained a spot on our Sunday barbecues with or without company!
Lobsters or lobster tails can be steamed, boiled, baked, broiled, or grilled. I prefer tails that are grilled; whole lobsters I like boiled. Lobsters when cooked properly are incredible. The key word being properly! It’s so easy to over cook lobsters making the meat dry, rubbery, and tasteless.
In my opinion the best way to bake, broil, or grill lobster tails is to parboil them first. This partially cooks the tails so that they will bake, broil, or grill nicely and not over cooked. So here are some tips on how to grill the perfect lobster tails!
- If your tails are frozen thaw them out in the fridge until the tails can be wiggled back and forth.
- Make sure the thawed lobster tails are not spoiled. If they have a strong ammonia smell they are SPOILED and should not be consumed. (You may not be able to smell the ammonia until the tails are thawed so it’s important to check them before cooking). If you’re using fresh lobster tails you should still make sure they don’t smell like ammonia just to be safe.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Then reduce heat and place the thawed or fresh tails into the hot water. Let is simmer in the pot for 2-3 minutes for 4-5 oz. tails. The shell should start turning red and the meat should start to turn white on the surface.
- Have a bowl of ice water ready. Remove the partially cooked tails from the hot water and immediately place them in the bowl of ice water. This stops the cooking process.
5. Place tails on a cutting board, red shell up, and cut the tail lengthwise from the top to the beginning of the fan end. If you want the tail in one piece do not cut thru to the opposite side. If you want the halves separated cut tail all the way thru and you will have 2 halves.
6. If you are grilling tails whole with just the slit in the middle you may want to thread the tail from the fan end to the top on a metal skewer, this will keep the tail from curling when you grill them. You can do this to halves as well, but I find that halves don’t curly as much while grilling.
If you are grilling tails right away then proceed to the next step, otherwise you can drain the water from the bowl, cover the bowl and place it in the fridge to grill later. Follow the next step when you’re ready to grill.
7. Melt a stick of butter. Stir in juice from 1/2 a lemon and some garlic powder. Brush the lobster meat with the mixture. Carefully run your finger between the shell and the meat so you can brush the mixture on the meat.
8. Place the tails on the grill and cook each side about 2-3 minutes. You’ll know it’s fully cooked then the lobster meat is white not opaque or gray, and the shell is bright red.
9. Serve lobster with a lemon wedge and a small bowl of melted garlic butter for dipping.
Are you mostly at home this summer with a bunch of kids who always seem to be hungry? Are you looking for something different to make for lunch or dinner? Something filling, tasty, and easy to make? Maybe even something you can make ahead and heat up when ready to serve? I think this Italian Beef Drip Sandwich may be just the thing to keep everyone full and happy!
Italian Beef Drip Sandwiches are pretty much like French Dip Sandwiches. Mainly they’re beef sandwiches that you dip in beef broth. Now I love a Roast Beef French Dip Sandwich, specially one with onions and cheese, but sometimes you need a bit of spice and these Italian Beef Drip Sandwiches do just that! They add a bit of spice or more than a bit if you like it hotter, to your meal.
They’re easy to make and can even be made a head of time and stored in the fridge until you need them. I usually keep some on hand in the freezer during the summer, you never know when you need to make yummy sandwiches. You can make the beef in your Crockpot, on your stove, or in your Instant Pot (if making in an instant pot adjust the liquids so you will have dipping broth); the idea is to cook the meat until it’s falling apart and easily shredded.
Once you have the meat filling, and the broth which is from slow cooking the meat, all you need is some nice crusty bread (I prefer hoagie rolls) and provolone cheese. You slap them together, toast until the cheese melts, and serve with hot broth for dipping. I love to serve them with my homemade potato chips! It’s hearty enough to make a filling dinner for the whole family!
1 Chuck Roast about 3 lbs. or more if you want to freeze some for later
1 Tbl. Salt
1/2 Tbl. Ground Black Pepper
2 Tbl. Italian Seasoning
2 Tbl. Minced Garlic
1/2 Jar of Whole Peperoncini
1/2 Jar of Roasted Red Peppers
1/2 Jar of Pimiento Peppers
2 Tbs. Sliced Jalapeno Peppers – adjust this to taste
1 Box Beef Broth – use more if making in an instant pot
Provolone Cheese Slices
Crusty Bread Rolls
Place all ingredients except bread and cheese into your Crockpot, stock pot, or Instant Pot.
If using Crockpot cook on low heat for 8 hours. If using Instant Pot cook on stew setting. If cooking on the stove top simmer it in a covered pot until the meat is falling apart, this should take at least 4-5 hours.
Remove cooked beef from pot and shred using two forks. If using right away then following steps to make sandwich. If storing for later use place in sealed container with peppers and liquid from the pot and refrigerate up to 2 days or freeze.
To make sandwiches cut bread in half and lightly toast in the oven.
Fill with bread with shredded meat and peppers, top with cheese.
Bake in 350 degree oven until cheese melts and the edges of the bread are toasted a bit more.
Serve with a small bowl of the hot broth.
To make later just reheat the meat, peppers, and broth in the microwave oven before putting sandwich together.
Instant Pot Italian Drip Sandwhiches