My first trip to the Mediterranean was 52 years ago. I was an 19-year old engine cadet on a break-bulk freighter. I recall being struck by the marvelous flavors of food and wine at the time, but I had no idea how big an imprint they would make on my memory.
Most blogs are chronological. This one is not. I want to tell you about tonight’s dinner first, and then work backwards to the last two weeks of gustatory thrills.
Tonight was another reminder of the fact that, although I’ve been fortunate to sample many of the great cuisines of the world, home for me is “the Med”. Much of the cooking I love best is from Italy, France and Spain. For variety, we throw in some Greek, Moroccan, and Portuguese as well. Tonight’s meal was a Castilian Spinach and Chickpea Soup, certainly redolent with overtones of the Moorish influence, and it came out very well. One of my favorite cookbooks is Claudia Roden’s remarkable The Food of Spain.
As the Spanish often do, her recipe is enriched with eggs, but I chose to make it vegan tonight. My version took another half hour of simmering in my own cazuela, to get it thick enough, but it came out just fine. On the off-chance that Barbara would want some too, I cut the spices in half. That was unnecessary, but not unfortunate. Interestingly, I used a large can of Indian chickpeas I bought a couple of days ago, and they were very good. Oh, yes, I also had some leftover onions, so I chopped them up, sautéed slowly in olive oil and salt, and added them to the soup, too.
It was all accompanied by a few slices of my own semolina bread with sesame and fennel seeds (not Spanish), pan-toasted in olive oil. I was happy with the results.
I could have chosen a Spanish wine, but I already had an excellent organic Cotes du Rhone open — Domaine Richaud Terre de Galets — and it was a very good match.