Kitchen Trip: Take your sweetie on a journey to Spain

An occasional series on fresh recipes from faraway lands.

I felt like my heart really skipped a beat when I opened the mail and discovered the new cookbook by Jose Pizarro.

His first, "Seasonal Spanish Food" (Kyle, $32.95), was my favorite cookbook of 2010 and went on to be a finalist for the IACP Julia Child Award for First Cookbook.

The chef physically works and lives in London -- his two restaurants are Jose and Pizarro -- but his heart and soul remain in his native Spain.

With this book, "Spanish Flavors," he and photographer Emma Lee give readers and cooks a tour around the beautiful country, with recipes grouped in chapters titled "The North," "The East," "The Center, "The South" and "The Islands."

It's an idea he had on a visit back to San Sebastian while enjoying a glass of local white wine called txacoli. Make that two glasses.

I've gotten only tastes of Spain, with one long visit to the Canary Islands and a shorter one to Barcelona, but I really fell in love with the way the Spanish cook and eat and drink.

I really like Chef Pizarro's sensibilities, too. As he writes, "This is not just about Spanish cuisines, but about Spanish ingredients and my interpretation."

With many recipes for seafood and for game, this book probably is a little less practical for Pittsburghers than his first one, but still fun to read and stomach-growl over, and there are many recipes that I look forward to making and making again.

It just so happens that the book is coming out now, but I happen to think it is a perfect one for Valentine's Day. There's something very romantic about simple Spanish food, and about Jose Pizarro.

Check out his website,, and you, like me, might well wish that you were having your Valentine's dinner at Pizarro.

While there's not still time to get there, you could make a Pizarro dinner yourself. Here are three excellent recipes.

Roasted red pepper and anchovy salad on roasted garlic toasts

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Jose Pizarro writes, "The red peppers in Spain are outstanding and there is almost nothing better than peppers roasted in a proper wood-fired oven, a service that during my childhood was provided by the village baker. I'll always remember the aroma that filled the house when my mother returned from the baker's bearing a large tray of these wonderful vegetables. The combination of sweet roasted red peppers and salty anchovies is always a winner. This can be served as a tapas, as the larger Basque-style pintxos or even as a light lunch with a dressed green salad and a poached egg. If you're in a hurry, instead of roasting the red peppers, use a jar/can of piquillo peppers, which are already roasted and skinned, and have a great smoky flavor."

That's what I did, with a jar of piquillos, which I grow in season, from Salonika Imports in the Strip District, a good source of Spanish ingredients.

-- Bob Batz Jr.

  • 2 large heads of garlic, unpeeled, plus 1 fat clove, finely chopped

  • 4 large thyme sprigs

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 4 large red bell peppers

  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

  • 8 small slices of rustic white bread, about 1/2-inch thick

  • 16 good-quality anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained

  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the outer papery skin from each head of garlic and take a thin slice off the top of each one to expose the cloves.

Tear off a large square of foil, place the heads of garlic in the center, add 2 of the thyme sprigs, drizzle each head with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, and sprinkle with a little salt. Wrap securely in the foil, place in a small roasting pan along with the peppers, and roast on the top shelf of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, turning the peppers once or twice until the skins have blackened in places. Remove the peppers from the pan, drop them into a plastic bag and leave until cool enough to handle. Return the garlic parcels to the oven and roast for another 35 minutes, or until the cloves feel very soft when pressed.

Meanwhile, slit open the peppers, working over a bowl so that you catch all the juices, and remove and discard the stalks, seeds and skin. Tear the flesh into 1/2-inch-wide strips, and add to the bowl of juices with the chopped garlic clove, vinegar, the remaining thyme leaves, and the rest of the olive oil. Stir well together.

Remove the garlic from the oven and set the parcel aside. Toast the slices of bread. (I like to put mine on the bars of a preheated cast-iron ridged griddle long enough to give the bread a slightly smoky taste, then finish it off in the toaster.) Unwrap the roasted garlic, squeeze some of the puree from each clove and spread it onto the toast while both are still hot.

Sprinkle with a few sea salt flakes and some black pepper. Season the pepper strips with a little salt to taste and spoon onto the garlic toast. Garnish each slice with the anchovy fillets, drizzle over some of the pepper juices, and serve while the toast is still crisp.

Serves 4.

-- "Spanish Flavors: Stunning Dishes Inspired by the Regional Ingredients of Spain" by Jose Pizarro (Kyle, 2013, $29.95)

Chocolate and hazelnut tart

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Jose Pizarro writes, "This is one of the best tarts I have ever eaten ... Once I start to eat it, I cannot stop." It really is delicious. He advises, "Try to serve it shortly after it comes out of the oven -- still slightly puffed up and warm, but you can serve it cold if you like, and even a few days later. This is lovely served warm with cream or ice cream, but is just as good cold with a cup of coffee."

-- Bob Batz Jr.

For the filling

  • 2 heaping cups shelled hazelnuts

  • 3/4 cup good-quality dark chocolate, broken up (at least 70-percent cocoa solids)

  • 3/4 stick soft butter

  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar

  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 tablespoon flour

  • 3 tablespoons sweet sherry, such as Oloroso

For the pastry

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

  • Pinch of salt

  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

  • 1 stick chilled butter, cut into small pieces

  • 1 large egg yolk

  • 5 teaspoons sweet sherry, such as Oloroso

For the pastry, sift the flour, salt, and confectioners' sugar into a food processor. Add the butter and process briefly until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix the egg yolk with the sherry. Pour the crumbed mixture into a bowl, stir in the egg yolk and sherry mixture, and bring the dough together into a ball. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead briefly until smooth. Shape into a flat disc, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 15 minutes.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll it out thinly on a lightly floured surface. Use to line a 10-by- 1/2-inch-deep loose-based tart pan. Refrigerate again for 20 minutes.

Put a baking sheet on the middle shelf of the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees. Line the pastry with foil and a thin layer of baking beans, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and beans, and bake for another 4 to 5 minutes until crisp and golden brown. Remove and set aside. Spread the hazelnuts onto a baking sheet and roast for about 8 minutes until richly golden. Remove and allow to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

For the filling, grind the hazelnuts finely in a food processor until they resemble coarse breadcrumbs, but leave some of them a little chunky.

Put the chocolate into a small heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Take the pan off the heat and leave until the chocolate has melted, then lift the bowl off the pan, and allow the chocolate to cool.

Beat the butter, sugar, and orange zest together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a little of the flour with the second egg to stop the mixture from curdling. Fold in the remaining flour, the ground hazelnuts, melted chocolate, and lastly, the sherry. Spoon the mixture into the pastry and bake for 30 minutes, by which time it should be slightly risen, and feel firm to the touch in the center. Remove and leave to cool slightly before serving, and dust with confectioners' sugar, if desired.

Serves 10 to 12.

-- "Spanish Flavors: Stunning Dishes Inspired by the Regional Ingredients of Spain" by Jose Pizarro(Kyle, 2013, $29.95)

Braised IbErico pork with tomatoes, chorizo, thyme and black olives

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"Pork shoulder is the perfect cut for braising and it's a good value for the money," writes Jose Pizarro. "This is another recipe that showcases beautiful ingredients from the central area of Spain and how well they combine to create earthy, flavorsome dishes." He suggest serving this with Patatas Fritas, or fried potatoes, from his book; I served it with baked fennel-seed potato wedges.

I used American pork shoulder from Giant Eagle Market District and, local Parma Spanish chorizo. The Pizarro move of reducing the sweetened sherry vinegar before adding it to the stew is a masterful one that I plan to try with some other recipes. It really added a depth to the flavors of this one.

-- Bob Batz Jr.

  • 2 1/4 pounds boned shoulder of pork, ideally Iberico, cut into 1 1/4-inch chunks

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

  • 2/3 cup red wine

  • 2 medium onions, chopped

  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 7 ounces chorizo sausage, skinned and chopped

  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 14 ounces skinned, chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned

  • 1 1/4 cups chicken stock

  • Leaves from 3 large thyme sprigs

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram or oregano

  • 4 fresh bay leaves

  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar

  • 2 teaspoons superfine sugar

  • 3 1/2 ounces good-quality pitted black olives

  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large, flameproof casserole, and sear the pork in batches until nicely browned. Set aside in a bowl. Add the wine to the pan, and as the liquid bubbles up, scrape the base of the pan with a wooden spoon to release all the caramelized juices. Pour over the pork.

Add the remaining oil to the pan with the onions, cover and fry gently for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are very soft and lightly browned. Add the garlic and chorizo, and fry for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in the paprika and cook for 1 minute, then add the tomato paste, tomatoes, chicken stock, thyme leaves, marjoram or oregano, and the bay leaves. Stir in the pork and all the juices, season with salt and pepper, cover, and simmer gently for 1 hour until the pork is almost tender.

Put the sherry vinegar and superfine sugar into a small pan, and boil until reduced to about 1 teaspoon. Stir it into the casserole with the olives and simmer, uncovered, for another 20 to 30 minutes until the sauce is nicely reduced and the pork is tender. Adjust the seasoning to taste, and serve with the patatas fritas [the recipe is in the book].

Serves 4 to 6.

-- "Spanish Flavors: Stunning Dishes Inspired by the Regional Ingredients of Spain" by Jose Pizarro (Kyle, 2013, $29.95)

Bob Batz Jr.: or 412-263-1930.


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