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Spanish Home Cooking

Cocina Casera
By Miriam Kelen

Spanish Home Cooking: Cocina Casera

Who would think that an extensive, exhaustive, glorious encyclopedia of Spanish home cooking would have started with a single Nacho. But Nacho Jimenez Uroz, a "muse" (in the words of author Miriam Kelen) from Barcelona who befriended Minnesotan Kelen over the Internet is, in fact, the first piece of the tortilla when it comes to this terrific tome.

Kelen, a modest sort, whose writing, gorgeous photography and book publishing skills (the beautiful hardcover seems to be self-published) best 99 percent of the crowd who have been doing this for big bucks for years, writes that when she was new to the Internet, she, on a whim, put her name on a list of people who wanted to exchange letters in Spanish over the Internet. She ended up "making some amazing and enduring friendships. It was on line, during a discussion of recipes, that Nacho from Barcelona suggested we get together and write a cookbook."

This was the start of an adventure of enormous proportions. Kelen made several long trips to Spain, first meeting with a group of cooks Uroz lined up and then branching out in ever impressive ways from there.

Her goal was always to "introduce people to real Spanish home cooking, the kinds of traditional foods that moms fix with love, that grandmothers know best, that sisters-in-law are famous for, that men concoct when they have the time."

She succeeded on every level. These are simple, beautiful recipes that sing with authenticity (most of the cooks' photographs appear along with their recipe and a lovely photograph of the finished dish; grabbing scenic photos also are part of the mix). Even if you have never been to Spain or tasted the country's cuisine, just reading the recipes will probably inspire you to try them at home.

You are in for treats of exceptional ease. Tapa de Otono is baguette slices topped with cheese such as Manchego or queso blanco, apple or pumpkin butter and whole walnuts. Cumin-Scented Spinach with Garbanzos is as flavorful as it sounds. Valencia Orange Chicken, which utilizes 2 cups of freshly squeezed orange juice cooked with potatoes and garlic-accented chicken, will undoubtedly become a family favorite. Fried Milk, which is sweet and crispy and made with bread crumbs, cinnamon and lemon, is beyond tempting. Scores of other recipes are equally impressive.

Valencia Orange Chicken

(Updated: 12/30/08 SB)

Book Recipes Gayot Cookbooks: Spanish Homecooking - Cocina Casera

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