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Cynthia Glover and Spain

August 9, 2016 - Cynthia Glover and Spain - Radio Kitchen

When we travel abroad, inevitably we come back with new ideas about what we can do in the kitchen.  So when I learned that one of my friends was traveling on El Camino de Santiago de Campostella in Spain, I had to hear what she ate that impressed her.  Cynthia Glover is a good friend of ours, and one of the most knowledgeable food and travel writers we know.  She also owns Smart Works, a marketing  communications company that caters primarily to culinary clients.       

The trek along the Camino is long and arduous, but pilgrims can pick and choose the stretches that most appeal to them.  Cynthia chose the route that runs through northern Spain, not far from Rioja and right through Basque country.

One of the most appealing categories of Spanish food that Cynthia encountered is the "pintxo" (pronounced "pinch-o") and you might be forgiven for assuming this name describes a little pinch of food.  Actually, the verb "pinchar," meaning to skewer or pierce is the root of the word... quite appropriate because a little toothpick is used to hold all these little dishes together. 

The deal is this:  you walk into town after a long day's trekking, you settle into your hostel, then hit the streets looking for the little taverns and restaurants that specialize in pintxos.  You get a couple here and a couple there, you get a bottle of Rioja and before you know it, you've had a great meal.

As Cynthia said, to name a pintxo is to declare the recipe; they are that simple.  Here's a list that includes many ingredients readily available to us in Maryland.  To build a good pintxo, you'll need some long toothpicks, or short skewers, and lots of thin slices of baguette.

The classic “Gilda” pintxo: pickled guindilla peppers interleaved on the skewer with an anchovy and capped by a stuffed Spanish olive

·         a pile of shaved Iberico ham

·         top-quality canned tuna, with a slice of avocado and a spoonful of fresh tomato pulp, capped with an anchovy

·         a slice of blood sausage or any cooked or cured sausage on a nest of piperade (sautéed julienne of red and yellow peppers and onion)

·         a folded slice of deli ham with a dollop of aioli, topped with a poached shrimp and a cherry tomato

·         a grilled ribbon of zucchini with grated manchego cheese, skewered with grilled green pepper and a grilled cherry tomato

·         egg salad topped with an anchovy or a strip of roasted red pepper

·         roasted button mushrooms stacked atop a slice of roasted red pepper and draped with melted cheese

·         large shrimp or prawn wrapped in bacon, griddled or grilled

·         smoked salmon over a grilled Padron pepper, with a dab of crème fraiche and a few morsels of salmon caviar

·         piquillo pepper stuffed with paprika-spiked tuna or egg salad

·         manchego cheese garnished with a dab of quince paste

And if you’re feeling fancy…

·         a chunk of cooked foie gras over roasted red pepper confit, topped with chopped fried almonds and a drizzle of port reduction

·        a  hunk of cooked bacalao (salt cod) garnished with caramelized onion

·         sautéed greens topped with a fried quail egg

·         beef cheek on a slab of roasted red pepper drizzled with red wine reduction

·         smear of crème fraiche topped with a sea urchin and a dollop of salmon roe or caviar

Needless to say, if you were to whip up, say, a dozen of these little treats you would have a very nice dinner party to offer.  Salud!  

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.