I have become completely fascinated by Spanish cuisine lately and was very excited when I received a copy of Spain: Recipes and Traditions from the Verdant Hills of the Basque Country to the Coastal Waters of Andalucía by Jeff Koehler. Jeff Koehler is an American who met his Catalan wife while in graduate school in London and followed her to Spain over fifteen years ago. He now resides in Barcelona with her and their two daughters. He is also the author of Morocco: A Culinary Journey with Recipes from the Spice-Scented Markets of Marrakech to the Date-Filled Oasis of Zagora and La Paella: Deliciously Authentic Rice Dishes from Spain’s Mediterranean Coast. Spain is filled with 200 recipes divided into the following chapters: Soups, Broths, Stews, Creams, and Pulses; Salads, Cold Soups, and Gazpachos; Tapas and Appetizers; Vegetables; Eggs; Rice, Pasta, and Migas; Fish; Shellfish; Poultry and Rabbit; Game and Snails; Meats; Innards and Extremities; Desserts, Sweets, and Fruits; Drinks; and Sweet and Savory Homemade Conserves. The photography is gorgeous and made me want to make everything (warning- don’t look through while you are hungry). There is a good balance to the recipes. Some take as little as 10 minutes, while others are a bit more labor intensive.
In addition to the recipes, he also offers an introduction to the regions of Spain and the variations of cooking in each one based on the landscape. I particularly enjoyed the cultural tidbits sprinkled throughout the chapters on various topics such as the paella pan, Spanish ingredients, and Lenten traditions.
I had a difficult time decided which recipes to try first, but I am sharing with you the one that immediately caught my eye during the first flipping through the book- Pan con Chocolate, Aceite de Oliva Virgen Extra y Escamas de Sal Marina (Toasted Bread with Chocolate, Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, and Sea Salt Flakes). In addition to the Pan con Chocolate, I also made Filloas de Leche con Nata Montada y Miel (Galician Crepes with Fresh Whipped Cream and Honey), Arroz de Montaña (Mountain Style Rice with Chicken and Fresh Sausage), Macarrones Gratinados (Penne Pasta with Tomatoes and Fresh Sausage Au Gratin), and Papas Aliñás (Cádiz Style Potatoes in Vinaigrette). All the recipes were well written and easy to follow. I made no substitutions, followed the recipes exactly, and so far they have all turned out delicious.
This Pan con Chocolate only has 4 ingredients, so quality really matters. Use flaky sea salt if it is available, along with the best quality chocolate and olive oil you can find. I would love to try this with Spanish chocolate.
It is a popular afternoon snack for children and comes together in less than 10 minutes. Evan especially loved sharing a slice with me. This is my new go-to snack whenever I have a baguette and bar of chocolate lying around.
Pan con Chocolate (Spanish Chocolate with Bread)
Adapted from Spain: Recipes and Traditions from the Verdant Hills of the Basque Country to the Coastal Waters of Andalucía
12 slices baguette (2 inch by 2 inch squares)
12 thin squares of high quality chocolate
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Sea salt to taste
Arrange the baguette slices in a single layer on a large baking sheet, cut side up. Place under the broiler and toast just until golden, about 2 minutes. Turn if needed to brown the slices evenly. Remove and turn off the broiler, but keep the oven door closed to keep it warm.
Place a square of chocolate on each baguette slice. Place the baking sheet back in the still warm oven just until the edges are softened. The center should still be solid. Remove from the oven immediately.
Serve immediately drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt.
Disclaimer and Disclosure: I was given a copy of Spain for review. All opinions are my own.