Cookbook Review: Made In Spain

By José Andrés with Richard Wolffe

Cookbook Review: Made In Spain

By José Andrés with Richard Wolffe

The cover of Made in Spain (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, $35.00 hardcover, with color and black and white photographs) is a picture of a sandwich.  It's not a photo of the author wearing a toque or a suit.  It's not a glamour shot of expensive ingredients set against a spare kitchen set.  It's a sandwich.

But what a sandwich:  grilled hunks of coarse bread have been rubbed with cut ripe tomatoes until the flesh has melted into the crusty surface, the juices creating a soft/hard contrast.  On top are thin, almost translucent slices of a nutty goat cheese from Catalonia and a drizzle of Spanish olive oil pulls it all together.  You want to lick the cover of the book.

Beginning with this sandwich José Andrés introduces us to the food of Spain in all its simplicity, bold ingredients and swagger. 

Chef Andrés is from northern Spain and began his career as a protégé of Ferran Adrià of El Bulli where techno-cuisine originated (think "foam").  But his Washington, D.C. restaurants have given him his own passionate following for his authentic yet refined Spanish cuisine.  If you have watched him in interviews or his PBS series, Made in Spain, for which this is the companion book, you'll know that he is charming and enthusiastic.  You wish you could hang at his elbow as he cooks and talks about his passion for the irresistible food of his native land.

A couple of years ago Chef Andrés debuted his first book, Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America.  Tapas made sense for a first subject since so many of us first experienced Spanish cuisine through these small dishes.

But now he and author Richard Wolffe, a respected Washington Newsweek correspondent and MSNBC analyst, have brought us the whole package:  an overview of the food of this food crazy country that eats from its regions.  The book has been written to make us fall in love with the food of Spain -- and now we can cook it in our own kitchens.

At the moment Spain seems to be like the new France.  There are other new Spanish cookbooks plus a food/travelogue/celebrity PBS program with Mario Batali, Mark Bittman and Gwyneth Paltrow, a program that may make you want to take a road trip in a nice car, but I don't think it will make you want to cook.

But Chef Andrés's book does just that and based on my working with this welcoming volume, you will begin to put authentic Spanish flavors and dishes into your everyday cooking.

Its 256 pages are organized into 13 short chapters, each of which serves a dual purpose of organizing recipes plus showcasing Spain's geography in a country whose food is more artisanal than haute.

 

The recipes range from the simple (salads) to the complex (paella) but everything is within reach for the home cook.  Some recipes require no cooking at all and are simply the selective combination of raw ingredients.  Here are some examples:

 

The authors have generously let us publish one of their recipes, "Pepper, Onion, Cucumber, and Tomato Salad With Cured Tuna Loin."  I substitute thin slices of smoked tuna for the tuna loin and it's already become a favorite. 

The hard-covered book is beautifully designed with full-page color photographs of almost every single dish.  There are also color snapshots of Spaniards and countryside, plus a few black and white photos of Chef Andrés that suggest the man's concentration and big personality.

Some of the 98 recipes call for ingredients that can be an effort to find.  For example, Garrotxa cheese (goat cheese), mojama (salt-cured tuna loin), and piquillo peppers.  But substitutions and variations are always suggested, plus the back of the book has a list of on-line sources for all these special ingredients.  For those of us in New York it's not a problem because we have Spanish food merchant Despaña at 408 Broome Street in SoHo (they also sell online).

If you are unfamiliar with Spanish food but are curious, this is the ideal book to get you started.  If you have traveled to Spain and have never lost the craving for almonds, pimento, seafood, rice, raw vegetables, and big clear flavors, this book will take you back.

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