Paella – Lena’s Version

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Paella

Growing up in Portugal everything we did revolved around food, and wine! The love of cooking started at an early age. Spent many evenings watching the women in my family cooking those great meals for family holidays and events. I also learned to cook, the fishermen’s way, from my dad. I always felt cooking was more than just food or substance. It was a treasured time spent with family and friends, enjoying wonderful meals with great wine, listening to family stories and passing down traditions. Great memories were created around the kitchen table.

Fast forward to present times and a new country, and I still try to keep up those same traditions I enjoyed growing up.

A few weeks ago, celebrating our wedding anniversary, I made my version of paella. I’ve had this recipe since I was 14 years old; I started collecting recipes at a young age. Several friends have asked for the recipe, so here it is. If you get to make it, hope you enjoy it. Let me know if you made adjustments and how it turned out. Bom apetito!!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 spanish chorizo sausage, thickly sliced
  • 1 medium sized spanish onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 can (15 oz) of diced tomatoes or whole, hand-crushed
  • 1 Tbsp of ginger (I use the paste version)
  • 2 cups of short grain Spanish rice
  • 4 cups of fish stock, or warm water
  • 2 generous pinches of saffron threads (you can use less, depends on taste)
  • 1/2 lbs of squid, cut thin slices
  • 6 littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 1/2 lbs of mussels, scrubbed
  • 4 scallops
  • 1/2 lbs of jumbo shrimp ( I use raw and unpeeled for the flavor, but you can buy peeled and deveined)
  • 2 lobster tails
  • 1/2 cup of sweet peas, frozen and thawed
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  • flat-leaf parsley, chopped for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste ( I taste as I go along) start with a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper.

1 Heat oil in a paella pan over medium-high heat. Saute the chorizo until browned, remove and reserve. Meanwhile, cook the lobster tails, in a large pot of salted (1 Tbsp) of water, for about 3 to 5 minutes or until they start to turn orange and curl. Remove from water and let them cool.

2 In the paella pan, make a sofrito by sauteing the onions, garlic, and ginger. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes on a medium heat. Add the squid and cook for a couple of minutes. Then, add tomatoes and cook until the mixture caramelizes a bit and the flavors meld. Fold in the rice and stir-fry to coat the grains. Pour in fish stock or water and simmer for 10 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid. (I like to add half the liquid and see how it cooks and add more if necessary – I’m cooking at altitude) Add the chorizo, and saffron. Add the mussels, scallops, clams and shrimp, tucking them into the rice. The shrimp will take about 8 minutes to cook. Give the paella a good shake and let it simmer, without stirring, until the rice is al dente, for about 15 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, when the rice is filling the pan, add the lobster tails. When the paella is cooked and the rice looks fluffy and moist, turn the heat up for 40 seconds until you can smell the rice toast at the bottom, then it’s perfect.

3 Remove from the heat and let it rest for 5 minutes. Garnish with peas, parsley and lemon wedges.

Vacationing in Portugal

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Typical house façade in Alentejo

Portugal is home, more specifically, Algarve. We don’t visit as often as we would like, but try to go at least every two or three years to visit family and friends. The last time we visited was in 2016. Time to start looking at flights!

Portugal had remained the lesser known of the european countries, until about ten or so years ago, when Portugal was highlighted on several american travel publications. These articles went on to list Portugal on the Top 10 Best Places to Retire and Visit. Of course, it’s been the vacation hot-spot for british citizens for many years, as well as other european nationals. But now we have noticed more american tourists, especially in the larger cities like Lisbon and Porto.

Algarve has over 100 miles of coastline with wonderful sandy beaches, small fishing villages, and many golf resorts. The weather is mild in the winter months. Temperatures start to warm up in March, but July and August are the peak summer months. My favorite months are May and September, before and after the crowds.

But, there is more to Portugal than the beaches. I love to visit the Alentejo region everytime we travel to Portugal. To me personally, it has the best wines. The terrain is hot and dry; perfect for those earthy dry red wines that we favor. The cuisine of Alentejo is rustic and delicious. Pork and lamb are abundant in the area. Should you stop at any of the roadside restaurants, you are greeted by the warm and friendly locals, and great regional dishes. I especially like to stop in the “tascas”; small snack-bars.

Of the many wineries we have visited, we keep going back to our favorites: Esporao, Rocim and Ervideira are just a few. Esporao and Ervideira are close to each other just outside Reguengos, Rocim is a bit more south, a couple of miles from the town of Cuba. This area is rich in history, dating back to the roman times. Well worth visiting.

It seems that two weeks just isn’t enough to do everything we want to do. I think we need to retire so we can travel more. Work gets in the way…

We try to sneak to our neighbors in Spain if time permits. On our last trip, we visited Jerez de La Frontera, were we enjoyed the local sherry and the spanish hospitality. Had a great time golfing at a small golf resort just outside of town. After a few days, we drove down to the coast for some beach time along the mediterranean sea. Stopped in the small town of Estepona, were we enjoyed great sangria and paella; I like to try it in different places to see who makes it the best. (Best sangria: bartender at the beach shack @ Playa de Isla Canela) On our way back to the Algarve, we drove over to Marbella for a quick stop, knowing it would be busy; it’s always busy. It is the place to be and be seen! Next trip over the pond, we want to spend more time in Spain. Trying to plan something in the Basque region. Maybe plan it around the Vuelta!

Spanish countryside outside Jerez de La Frontera

Having grown up in the Algarve, there are many different places I consider “my favorites”. If you are travelling to the area, drop a line. I’ll be happy to share some of my many favorites spots. When is your next trip to Europe?

In the end, what’s really important…

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Thanksgiving is this coming Thursday. Like many american families, it’s a day for us to gather with family and friends, enjoy the tradition of turkey, too many side dishes and football. I forgot the pie; must have pie, or three!! On this day we slow down our busy lives, and give thanks for all that we hold dear and remember those no longer with us.

Since the holiday is not celebrated in Portugal, the first few years of being in America its meaning was not apparent to me. But like any good portuguese, any holiday that revolves around food, is my kind of holiday. I soon found myself researching its history, the why, the when and how.  As shocking as it may be to some, my first turkey was not memorable. Or maybe it was! I still recall it being semi-frozen the morning of since I didn’t realize it takes a week to defrost the dang thing; I might of forgotten the “bag” in the cavity too. I’ve since evolved! Fast forward to current times, I now take the holiday serious. I spend weeks planning the menu, table arrangements and the wine… Always the wine!

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The wine takes center stage at our house, since it’s an opportunity to blend american traditions with my portuguese ones. This year, Rocim Amphora is my choice for the big day. Rocim is among the fine wine producers in Alentejo. We have visited the estate twice in past visits to Portugal and love all their wines. The red Amphora blend includes AragonezTrincadeiraMoreto and Tinta Grossa varieties. Everytime I open a bottle, it brings back memories of Alentejo. I’m very partial to Alentejo wines; not that I say no to any wine, but wines from the Alentejo region are my favorite!

So, in the end the important thing about Thanksgiving is being Thankful. Thankful for what we have. Thankful for our health, for the friends and family around us.  I’m thankful for all the opportunities I’ve been given. Mostly I’m thankful for my wonderful husband, for our sons and their significant others, for our wonderful family, and the amazing friends we call family!

Wishing you all the happiest of Thanksgivings. Cheers! Or as we say in the old country, Saude!

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“Without new experiences something inside us sleep. The sleeper must awaken.”

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Our first trip of 2018 was this past weekend. We finally left our little valley for some fun in the sun. Our destination… Santa Fe, New Mexico.

As with most trips taken before June in the Rockies, there is a high probability you will be driving through a blizzard. Sure enough, after a quick stop for dinner in Leadville, CO (my new fav Mexican Restaurant – Casa Sanchez), we walked out of the restaurant and it’s snowing. I mean hard snow, as it’s coming down fast. Still, we drove to our hotel, some 25 miles south, with little to no visibility. We were thankful for a dude in a pick-up truck that drove in front for the first 10 miles or so.

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The next morning, the Collegiate Peaks looked like they were dusted with powder sugar.

After a 3-hour drive, our home away from home, was the Buffalo Thunder Resort. We’ve stayed here before and enjoyed both the golf and the casino. It’s a nice Hilton Hotel with a southwest motif. They have a few dining options. Our favorite is Red Sage. Great food and with exceptional service. But, the main reason we like to stay here is because we love to have the golf steps away. This time we played the Pinon and Boulder’s nine; our 1st golf of the 2018 season. I didn’t suck as much as I normally do. Yay, me.

Our first night on the town, we had reservations at El Farol; hailed as Santa Fe’s most historic and iconic restaurant and bar. On our previous trip we had gone to El Meson, but their flamenco night didn’t coincide with our stay this time around, so we decided to try El Farol, which has the flamenco show every Saturday night. I’ll start with the staff. Everyone at El Farol were very nice; service was excellent. Our waiter Brian was wonderful. The food was good. We enjoyed Paella as our main dish with a few appetizers (gambas and calamari).  Everything was done well, but I have to say the paella at El Meson was better. This of course can be just a personal preference. Don’t take me wrong, all the food was good. I think I like it better when they serve the paella on the dish they cooked it in, versus transfering to another dish to serve. But on another note, their “limon” tart was divine.

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The flamenco show was wonderful. The singer, Vicente Griego, had a beautiful voice. We really enjoyed the show. The performers are part of the National Institute of Flamenco. Bravo!

We were hoping to do some hiking while in Santa Fe. While searching on the web, came across the  Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument , which I never had heard about before. The cone-shaped rock formations looked very interesting. I wanted to go! I didn’t read the fine print on the BLM site. When we arrived, around 11 a.m., we had to wait about 30 minutes before we were able to enter the monument. They were only allowing people to drive in after others left the park. I’m glad we didn’t turn around like some did. It was well worth the wait.

 

The Canyon Trail, one of two trails, is a 1.5-mile, one-way trek into a narrow canyon with a steep (630-ft) climb to the mesa top; about 2 hour hike round trip. Once you reach the top, you have excellent views of the Sangre de Cristo, Jemez, Sandia mountains and the Rio Grande valley. I personally wouldn’t recommend this trail for small children (under 8 yrs. old or if you aren’t an adult in shape, but that didn’t stop half of the people on the trail). While the length of the trail isn’t much, the terrain is uneven, rocky and difficult at times. With my short legs, it was hard to climb up to some of the boulders on the trail; a hiking partner is recommended, tall preferably. If you are in the area, take the detour. Worth it!! Beautiful scenery.

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I’m a huge fan of Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives. I had seen the Santa Fe episode a year or so ago and decided we needed to try a couple of the places on the list. While traveling we normally avoid chain-type restaurants and love to try the local places instead. For breakfast we went to the Tune-Up Cafe and for dinner we tried Casa Chimayo. Will save some of the others for our next trip.

Tune-Up Cafe was a great locals-breakfast place. Food was good. You order at the counter and they bring your food to the table. Small house with an outside patio and two areas inside for diners. It’s basic-meets-homey!

Casa Chimayo did not disappoint. Homemade chips, great margaritas and the carne adovada (pork) was so good; you could taste the red chili marinade. Worth the stop in. Just a few blocks away from the main square on Water St.

 

A trip to Santa Fe is never complete without a stop by the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi and a stroll through the plaza.

On the way out, before check-out, I tested my luck, one last time, on the slot machines. Managed to turn $10 into $43; I have super powers!!

For now we say Adios to Santa Fe. Until we meet again, and we will meet again.