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?

Southern California: Golf, Wine & Dine

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Discovering Southern California one winery at a time! I know this is hard work, but we are totally up to the task. Recently, we were introduced to the Temecula Valley Wine Country. Who knew there were fabulous wines in California outside of Sonoma/Napa region?! Well, we kinda did already (Paso Robles, Lodi, Grass Valley), but Temecula was a surprise and added bonus to our trip!

While visiting family in Southern California, we had the opportunity to explore Ramona and Temecula areas. Our home-base was the San Vicente Golf Resort. A golf resort just a few miles outside Ramona. We got to play a couple of rounds of golf; probably the earliest golf season start for us. The course was decent, but could benefit from some maintenance, which we heard they will be doing spring/summer of 2019. But, still can’t beat the fact that you run out of your guest room and get on a golf cart in less than 5 minutes. The weather was cold, for California standards, but for us, 60 degrees felt amazing. The resort had a great restaurant/bar; it’s a happening spot on Friday nights! Staff were friendly and food was very good; loved their fish tacos. In case you are considering a stay, the rooms are large, clean and comfortable with a balcony facing the course. It’s an older property, but nice.

San Vicente Number Nine
San Vicente Golf Course – Ramona, California

Temecula Valley is Southern California’s Wine Country. I’m told there are over 30 wineries in the region’s rolling hills and sprawling valleys. They produce a variety of wines, including award-winning and artisan Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. On this trip we visited three wineries; Vitagliano, South Coast and Miramonte; 27+ more to go!!

My favorite wine tasting was at South Coast. I was surprised to find wines with some of my favorite portuguese grapes: Touriga National, Tinto Cao, and Alicante Bouschet. Loved the Boulder Red 2.0. A wonderful, rich and balanced red blend. Another one of my favorites was their 2015 Petit Verdot; smooth and easy to drink.

Looking out at Miramonte

Further down the road, our next stop was Miramonte Winery. A lovely property with a great outside patio overlooking the vineyards. As you walk up to the patio you are greeted with the most amazing smells of garlic and bread that make your mouth water before you even hit the tasting room. The staff were welcoming and accommodating. You can choose to enjoy your wine in the tasting room or take it outside to the patio and enjoy the views while complementing their wines with the fabulous small plates on the menu. What a great spot to spend a couple of hours with friends or family while enjoying wine tasting and delicious food. Is there anything better? Good food and wine are among my favorite experiences to share. If you are in the area, stop by. Definitely worth it. Favorite dish: Tomato Fromage / Favorite wine: Touriga National

Our last full day was to be spent in San Diego with a trip to the beach. Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate and we had to adjust. We checked in to the Hilton Harbor Island for the night, since we wanted to be closer to the airport for our return flight the following morning. This property fit the bill; modern, bright, very clean and just a couple of miles from the car rental terminal. Check-in was a breeze and staff were awesome. We got a nice higher floor, with a view overlooking the marina and city skyline. Due to inclement weather, our only choice was to check out the bar, so, being the troopers that we are, to the bar we went. They had a nice, cozy bar facing the marina. We enjoyed the views, while enjoying our cocktails. The afternoon did not suck!

Marina View San Diego
Marina View – Downtown San Diego

Dinner was at a great mexican restaurant in Old Town San Diego. We had a wonderful spread at Miguel’s Cocina. Great margaritas, I’ll start with that; not super sweet, and with the right amount of liquor. The food was wonderful also, as was the service; attentive, pleasant and quick. We asked for the queso recipe since everyone enjoyed it so much. Waiter actually did share the ingredients with us, but a little google search later and found the complete recipe online. Will be making it for the next gathering. This was a great dinner choice for us on our last night in San Diego.

Overall, a wonderful trip. Hoping we will come back soon so we can actually visit the beaches in the area. But then, you do have to leave something to do the “next time”… Until we meet again!!