Caldo Gallego is a tradition. It was born in the rural, northwestern Spanish province of Galicia. Bringing together dried white beans, potatoes, fatty bits of cured pork, and hearty greens, it is a beautiful arrangement of the area’s harvest and the farmer’s prescient attitude of using as much as that harvest as possible.
Each autumn, I prepare Caldo Gallego and freeze it through the winter. While I have thawed and eaten it in the spring or summer, it is never as satisfying as eating it on a cold night next to a fire’s flame. It is heavy, warming and full of flavor.
Native people of the Pacific Northwest sometimes paired salmonberries with fish during feasts. That the fruit is even named “salmonberry” seems obvious when considering its homonym. Salmon berries, or salmon eggs, are not only similar in size, but in color and texture too.
This dish is my way of saying hello to the summer and good-bye to the spring. The last texture in this dish is the salmon egg, which reminds me of the birth of the berry this year. It lingers momentarily as the cool and tangy gazpacho provides one last taste of the Pacific Northwest’s first fruiting berry.
Only days after the summer solstice, on June 23, people all across Spain gather for La Noche de San Juan, St. John’s Eve. For those living near the sea, this is a vivacious event at the beach, a jubilant celebration of the summer to come, a time to clean one’s humanness of past debris.
In Galicia, the northwest Spanish province right above Portugal, the sands erupt in bonfires at night. People jump over them, symbolically passing into a new stage of life. Later, for many, a wash in the sea ensures a proper cleansing of corpa e alma, the body and soul.
There is dancing and music and, of course, lots and lots of eating. The typical and most popular dish is grilled sardines. Often, they are served alongside tapas and bread. So beloved is the sardine in Galicia during San Juan that La Voz de Galicia, a Galician newspaper, reporting on the market scarcity of sardines, said, “Without a doubt, tomorrow night it will reign at the barbecues.”
These are very popular tapas served in bars along the northern coast of Spain. Usually they are stuffed with either ham or shrimp or, simply, the mussels themselves. Even for those poor people who are adamant about disliking mussels will find these little things delicious.
This dish, like so many of my dishes, is inspired by the verdant and bewitched land of Galicia, the northwest province of Spain. The streets of coastal Galicia, from cities, like A Coruña and Santiago de Compostela, to small towns, like Ribadeo, are filled with pulperías, or octopus restaurants. These cephalopods are caught in the rías, the canals that flow through the land into the Cantabrian Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
Here in Seattle, octopus isn’t as popular. Even though our own ocean-connected water, the Puget Sound, harbors some of the largest octopuses in the world, they are only really served at the Asian restaurants and, occasionally, at more mainstream restaurants like Coastal Kitchen or Golden Beetle. Commercial octopuses here come from Japan, the Philippines or China. Only by accident do fishmongers have Puget Sound octopus. Because they are a protected species, they can only legally be sold if caught by accident; that is, if they get mixed up with other fish being caught. But that is so rare.
Cherimoyas–at least up here in the Pacific Northwest–are beginning to leave the shelves. For the last few years, since I discovered it, this tropical fruit has been part of my warm transition into the spring. Most people have never heard of them, not in my encounters. And those who have face difficulty in figuring out how to use them.
The flavor of cherimoya reminds me of mango, banana, apple and pears all at once. In other words, the cherimoya isn’t simply sweet. It is a symphony of different flavors: sugar with a hint of piquancy, a creamy and mellow tartness and an almost winey clarity. Thus, this dense and moist cake has a flavor profile way beyond its simpler cousin, the Galician cake, Tarta de Santiago.
Thinly sliced sorrel stem on the rhubarb.
My friend’s brother-in-law, grateful for my friend’s help, gave him the liver of one of his sheep. In turn, my friend passed the liver onto me. So, I wanted to do something different from the traditional liver with onions. (Sorry, Mom.)
I found the recipe for calf’s liver with sorrel sauce in one of my favorite Spanish cookbooks, The Foods & Wines of Spain, by Penelope Casas. Casas mentions that this dish, originating in Segovia, was traditionally made with rhubarb leaves. Rhubarb leaves, despite being toxic, have a very pleasant citrus taste. (I had to take a pinch just to see.) However, due to their known poisonous properties, Casas uses sorrel, instead. Since they are in the same plant family–Polygonaceae–and very closely related, they share similar qualities, including that illuminating tartness from all the oxalic acid.
I did make a few modifications to the recipe.