Like I mentioned before, being so close to the sea, the food of northern and northeastern Spain tends towards the light, fresh and fishy (in a good way). One common method of cooking is “a la plancha,” which literally means “on a plate.” A flat, metal plate to be more exact. The food, lightly seasoned, is seared quickly on each side and then simply drizzled with lemon juice.
In Spain, a special plate is used to create a searing effect without imparting metal taste into the food. I, shockingly enough, do not have an authentic “plancha,” so a cast iron skillet was my ready substitute. Heated really hot and without any sort of fat, the fish, in this instance, cod, cooked in no time. I prepared some orange peppers the same way, and once I added the lemon juice, along with some parsley, the natural flavors of the food were able to shine. As the Spanish show us, why mess with Mother Nature’s good thing? This recipe is pretty sparse, but it’s more about the method today than the food.
- Fish or meat, of your choosing
- Peppers, of your choosing
- Seasonings, salt and pepper, smoked paprika is a good choice.
- Lemon juice
- Parsley, to garnish
- Heat a cast iron skillet on high. Season the food with your spices of choice.
- Without adding any fat to the pan, sear the meat, 2-4 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness until cooked through.
- Remove, sprinkle with lemon juice, garnish with parsley.
- This is more about the method rather than the specific ingredients, so get creative!
Despite being completely satisfied with the dish as described above, I took all that extra time I allotted for cooking dinner (the grilling itself took all of about…10 minutes) and made some alioli. Originating in Cataluna, the very northeastern part of Spain that encompasses Barcelona, it has two main ingredients, garlic and oil. It is quick, easy and a common accompaniment to just about anything. It’s basically a garlic mayonnaise. Because I’d never made a mayonnaise before, this was my chance. It was easier than I imagined, thanks to my food processor and actually whipped up to a somewhat thick sauce. I had my doubts, but…success!
Thick and creamy!
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 whole egg
- 1/2 -1 cup good olive oil
- juice of half a lemon
- salt, pepper, and my favorite, smoked paprika
- Toss the garlic, eggs and seasonings into the food processor.
- While the processor is on, slowly pour in the olive oil in a thin, steady stream until a creamy sauce forms.
- Add the lemon juice at the end, while keeping the processor on to ensure that the sauce stays smooth.