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Seafood Paella

In Fish & Shellfish, Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On October 3, 2014 0 Comments

Paella, a rice dish, was born in Valencia, on the Eastern coast of Spain. The original regional dish, known as Paella Valenciana is made with rice, green vegetables, beans, chicken and/or rabbit, snails and saffron. Seafood paella is a variation that replaces land animals and vegetables with seafood. Paella is made in a paellera or paella skillet with an attached gas heating element or, alternatively, over a barbecue grill. I’ve tried making paella on a grill, but the heating was uneven. This resulted in patches of crunchy or raw rice.

Here I am trying not to look frazzled over my first attempt at making Paella Valenciana:

You can cook paella in a paellera (just like the one you see in the above photograph); in a 14-inch, nonstick skillet on a stovetop; or in a nonstick, 16-inch electric skillet. After attempting all three cooking methods, I opted for the latter.

Cooking paella in an electric skillet is hassle-free because every time you add ingredients, you set a timer and walk away. Since the paella cooks itself, you can sit, have a glass of wine and converse with your guests. Look at how successful my paella turned out (BTW, this was my third attempt):

Finally, I can relax while making dinner for friends! Here’s the Seafood Paella recipe that I brought back from Spain!

Prep time: 50 to 60 minutes (preparing all ingredients)
Cook time: 50 to 60 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6


4 to 4-1/2 cups homemade chicken broth
.37 grams ground saffron (to turn the rice bright yellow, use 3 envelopes saffron, each weighing 0.125 grams)
1 cup dry white wine
1 large red onion, finely chopped
12 live mussels, in-shell
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 vine-ripened tomato, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped Spanish chorizo (this resembles Italian pepperoni sausage)
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2-1/2 cups Dacsa® rice (this rice brand is from Valencia, Spain and is a key ingredient)
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
Dash ground black pepper
4 ounces Spanish pimientos, rinsed and cut into 1-inch strips
1/3 cup frozen peas
15 to 18 fresh, medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and rinsed (wild shrimp is preferable, since it has more flavor than the farm-raised variety)
1/2 pound fresh sea scallops, rinsed
4 calamari bodies, cut into 1/4-inch thick circles and then rinsed
8 to 10 calamari tentacles, rinsed
3/4 pound wild salmon, skin discarded and fillet cut into 4-inch pieces (this is an optional ingredient)

Prepare the Broth & Mussels:
1. In a 2-quart sauce pot, heat the chicken broth to just boiling.

2. Stir the saffron into the hot broth; set aside, covered.

3. In a 1-quart sauce pot, bring the wine and half of the chopped red onion to a boil. Reserve the remaining onion for the paella later.

4. Rinse the mussels under cold, running water and then transfer them to the boiling wine mixture.

5. Cook the mussels in the wine mixture, on medium heat, for 5 minutes.

6. After 5 minutes, remove the mussels from the wine mixture and set them aside in a glass or metal bowl, covered with aluminum foil.

7. Strain the wine mixture, discard the onion and reserve the liquid. Set aside.

Start the Paella:
1. In a nonstick skillet (stovetop or electric), heat the olive oil.

2. When the olive oil is hot and shimmering, stir in the remaining chopped red onion, crushed garlic and chopped bell pepper.

3. Stir-fry the mixture over medium-high heat until the onion is translucent, about 2 to 4 minutes.

4. After 2 to 4 minutes, stir in the chopped tomato and Spanish chorizo.

5. Stir-fry the mixture over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes (do not let the chorizo burn).

6. After 2 minutes, add the reserved wine liquid, the cayenne pepper and the rice.

7. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir once.

8. After stirring, carefully pour 4 cups of chicken broth into skillet.

9. Season the rice mixture with salt and black pepper.

10. Cover the rice mixture and cook on medium-low heat (325°F for electric skillet) for 15 minutes – DO NOT STIR THE RICE.

Add Pimientos, Peas & Seafood to the Paella:
1. After 15 minutes, check the rice by inserting a spoon in center of skillet.

2. If the rice is dry and there is no liquid, add the remaining 1/2 cup broth.

3. If the rice is simmering with liquid, do not add the broth.

4. Scatter the pimientos and the rice over top of paella.

5. Next, scatter the shrimp over paella and press it gently into the rice.

6. Repeat this method with the scallops, calamari bodies and tentacles and the salmon pieces.

7. Cover and cook the paella on medium-low heat (325°F for electric skillet) for 10 minutes.

8. After 10 minutes, taste the rice to check doneness – it should be crunchy-tender.

9. If rice is done, cover the paella and remove the skillet from heat. Let it rest for 5 minutes.

10. After 5 minutes, serve the paella in individual dinner plates with a green salad. Alternatively, serve the paella and salad as a buffet and ask guests to help themselves.

*NOTE: One day ahead, prepare the following ingredients:

1. Prepare the chicken broth: in a 3-quart sauce pot, cover 2 chicken thighs, 2 chicken legs and 1 white or brown onion with cold water and bring it to a boil. Cook chicken broth for 40 minutes & add salt, to taste. Transfer chicken to a plate and use for another purpose. Strain the broth and store it in a glass or porcelain bowl, covered & refrigerated.

2. Buy the seafood a day ahead: rinse all raw seafood. Peel and devein the shrimp; cut the calamari bodies into rings. Cut the salmon into 4-inch pieces.

3. Store each seafood variety in separate glass jars or disposable plastic containers, covered & refrigerated, until ready to use.

*NOTE: On the day of making the paella, prepare the following ingredients:

1. Chop the onion; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.
2. Crush the garlic; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.
3. Chop the red bell pepper; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.
4. Chop the tomato; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.
5. Chop the chorizo; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.
6. Rinse and cut the Spanish pimientos; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.

Wine Pairing: Chilled white wine from the Rioja region of Spain; Chardonnay; or Pinot Grigio.
Text and All Photographs ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real

Trips & Tips: The Bilbao Adventure (Guggenheim Museum & Batzokia Restaurant)

In Nancy's Articles On June 17, 2014 0 Comments

My recent trip to Spain (from April to May, 2014) lasted one glorious month. Traveling from north to south, every day in Spain proved to be adventurous and educational.

On April 7th, my husband and I began our adventure in the Basque country (Northern Spain). We rented an apartment in San Sebastian and went on day trips from there.

As an art historian, I couldn’t wait to get to the city of Bilbao, home to the Guggenheim Museum which opened in 1997. Architect Frank Gehry designed the structure which is made of titanium, glass and limestone. It was hailed the most important building of its time. Although it was a gray day when we arrived, the museum’s curvilinear exterior was dynamic, as though it were a living, breathing organism.

As we walked around, we were pleasantly surprised by Jeff Koons’ colorful Tulips in Bilbao sculpture. Tulips was created by the artist and permanently installed at the Guggenheim Bilbao in July 2006. Isn’t it delightful? Koons is well-known for his balloon animals, made of stainless steel, with a mirror-like finish. He also designed the cover for Lady Gaga’s third album, ARTPOP, released in 2013.


Architecture is a work of art (the art of making buildings). As such, it is best viewed from different perspectives. Walking further around the museum, we discovered a sculpture, Maman, created by Louise Bourgeois in 1999. This monumental spider is made of bronze, marble and stainless steel. The artist made this as a tribute to her mother, a weaver. While spiders are predators, they weave cocoons and can thus be seen as maternal symbols.

When standing directly below Maman, you can look up and see the spider’s belly, consisting of a black net containing eggs. I think it’s so cool to look up and see those large white eggs!


The exhibitions and objects from the permanent collection of the Guggenheim Museum are organized by the Guggenheim Foundation and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

Once you enter the museum, you should first view Richard Serra’s The Matter of Time (see image below). Here’s a tip: take the elevator up to the next floor and get a birds’ eye view of this mind-boggling installation. It is composed of rolled sheets of steel which are curved along the horizontal and vertical axes, as though made of tin. The solid sheets are 2 inches thick, up to 50 feet long and 14 feet high. Due to their excessive weight, the only rolling mill in the world that could handle them was the mill at Siegen, Germany.

Notice the spaces between those sheets. As you walk through the spaces, you are at once inside the art object as well as a part of it. You can talk or shout – listen to your echo.


As I walked inside these immense steel walls, I found myself disconnecting from the world around me, losing sense of  reality or time. It was so awesome! The photo below was taken as I stood between Serra’s steel units.


As soon as I walked into the galleries and saw this painting, I said, “Mmmm, the bodies are missing. I wonder who made this?” The artist is José Manuel Bellester, from Madrid. His masterpiece is called Raft of the Medusa, a photographic print on canvas, 2010.  

Bellester looks at the works of past masters. He then removes the characters but keeps the background. These magnificent pieces are a result of combining digital photography and painting. While contemplating  this object, you could almost imagine yourself stepping onto the raft.


Here’s the image that inspired Bellester –  Raft of the Medusa, an oil painting by Théodore Géricault, made 1818-1819, The Louvre.


Next up, we saw The Body That Carries Me, by Ernesto Nieto, a native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The works of this artist are designed to be walked through, inhabited, smelled and felt. By going through the art object, the viewer (in this case, the participant) experiences his or her own body, mind and senses. Nieto debates the plight of humanity –  the temperature, movement and language of things we come into contact with are the essence of our existence.


I observed school groups interacting with The Body That Carries Me. I heard students shouting with glee as they sank into soft materials, holding onto the seemingly fragile netting. Were these children experiencing the insides of their own bodies? Was it warm or cold? Did they feel free or trapped? Just as the students try grabbing onto whatever they can to stabilize themselves and run forward, I feel that this is what we do every day of our lives.

Like children, we were overtaken by hunger pangs and desperately needed to eat. We found Batzokia, a restaurant located at Tenderia, 17 Bajo. From the moment we walked in and were seated, it felt as though our hosts had been waiting for us (this was an impromptu discovery, btw). We chose the menu de el dia (menu of the day). It cost 20 euros per person, including wine.


I ordered white and my husband ordered red wine. The wine was excellent, dry with a smooth finish – this is how I like it. I was shocked to learn that both bottles would be left on the table throughout our meal – thank God we traveled by bus that day!


For the appetizer, I ordered a potato salad. If this isn’t art on a plate, I don’t know what is! All ingredients in the foods prepared at Batzokia are locally grown, in the Basque region of Northern Spain. The potatoes tasted earthy; the shrimp was wild and sweet (unlike the bland flavors of farm-raised shrimp).


Victor (my husband) ordered seafood chowder – the flavors were subtle, fresh and robust.


The main dish consisted of filet of codfish. It had that melt-in-your-mouth freshness. Practically jumping out of the ocean and onto our plates, the baccala was not “fresh frozen” as in most restaurants.


Finally – the part I die for – DESSERT! It consisted of puff pastry with homemade chocolate gelato and Chantilly cream. How’s that for a grand finale?


The ambiance at Batzokia is casual, cool and trendy. The servers are extremely professional with their attention to detail and their warm personalities. Based on your preferences, you hear their true opinions on what dish might be best for you.


 I enjoyed Bilbao so much that I would hop on a plane and fly back there just for the day!

For info on Guggenheim Bilbao, go to: http://www.guggenheim-bilbao.es/
For info on Batzokia Restaurant, go to: http://www.baibatzokia.com

Text and Photographs ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real
Exception: Photograph of Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault is in the public domain of the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.


Spinach-Stuffed Calamari

In Fish & Shellfish On July 26, 2013 0 Comments

For seafood lovers, here is a classic Mediterranean calamari dish. And no, they’re not fried. Inspired from recipes of Ancient Greece, the calamari are stuffed with spinach and cooked in wine. I’d say, it can’t get any better than this!

Prep time: 50 to 60 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

1 pound clean squid (calamari), about 8 whole bodies and 6 tentacles
2 cups cooked, drained and finely minced spinach (2 fresh bunches or 1 pound, frozen)
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon breadcrumbs
¼ cup raisins
1 large egg, slightly beaten with a fork
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic
¾ cup white wine
½ cup chicken broth
Chopped, flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Lemon wedges, for garnish

1.Finely chop the squid tentacles, but leave the bodies whole.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped tentacles, spinach, walnuts, breadcrumbs, raisins, the egg, ½ teaspoon salt and a dash of pepper.

3. Using a teaspoon, fill the squid bodies about three-quarters full with the spinach mixture. Close the ends with a toothpick. DO NOT OVERSTUFF, AS THE SQUID MAY BREAK OPEN DURING COOKING.

4. In a 6 to 8-quart saucepot, heat the oil. Add the squid and garlic.

5. Season the squid with salt and pepper. Turn the squid with thongs and cook until they are light golden, about 3 minutes.

6. Pour the wine over the squid and cook about 2 minutes.

7. Stir in the broth, cover skillet and simmer on low heat for about 25 to 30 minutes. Turn the squid once or twice during cooking.

8. If broth dries out too much, add ½ cup more – there should always be one-inch high liquid in saucepot.

9. After about 30 minutes, transfer the squid to a platter. Remove toothpicks and serve immediately.

10. If desired, cut each squid in half.

Serve with a side dish of rice and/or garden salad.

Text and Photograph ©2013 Nancy DeLucia Real

Salmon Torta (Torta di salmone)

In Fish & Shellfish On March 21, 2013 0 Comments

Many Roman Catholics are presently observing Lent (a period of fasting that takes place 40 days prior to Easter). This means they’re staying away from meat, dairy products and/or sugar. For my fellow Italians as well as people of other cultures, fish replaces meat.

Here’s a fantastic recipe that I’ve taught in my recent culinary courses – Salmon Torta. Btw, “salmon en croute” is an Italian invention called “torta di salmone”.

Enjoy this Torta di salmone not just on Good Friday, but anytime you wish to make a great impression on someone. The flavors of dried cherries, nutmeg, cinnamon and mint in the salmon stuffing will astound them all!

Prep time: 25 minutes (pastry); 25 minutes (salmon)
Bake time: 25 to 30 minutes
Serves: 6


1-1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash ground black pepper
1 large egg, beaten with 1/3 cup cold water in a small bowl

1. In a 2-quart mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and pepper.

2. Make a well in center of flour mixture. Add the beaten egg mixture to the well.

3. Using a fork, gradually (a little at a time) mix in the flour from sides of well until a soft dough forms.

4. With one hand holding the bowl, use the other hand to pick up the mound of dough and gently knead it inside the bowl, grabbing a little flour at a time.

5. When the dough is smooth and soft, set it aside on a floured surface, covered with an overturned bowl.

6. Pass the remaining flour in bowl through a sieve and set it aside (it will be used later to roll out the dough). MeanwhilE-


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound fresh salmon filets, cut into four pieces (each measuring about 4X3 inches)
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons minced yellow or white onion
1/3 cup minced fresh, Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup minced fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup dried, tart, pitted cherries, minced with shears
1 teaspoon salt
Dash each ground black pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon
2 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs

1. Line a 12X18-inch baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

2. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the oil. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the salmon filets and sear them on medium-high heat. DO NOT TOUCH THE FILETS FOR 60 TO 90 SECONDS.

3. After 60 to 90 seconds, using a spatula, GENTLY TURN OVER THE FILETS. DO NOT TOUCH THE FILETS FOR 60 TO 90 SECONDS.

4. After 60 to 90 seconds, transfer the skillet with salmon filets to a cold burner or surface; set aside.

5. In a 1-pint mixing bowl, combine the garlic, onion, parsley, mint leaves and cherries; set aside.


1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Holding the pastry dough between both hands, flatten it to a 6-inch roundish rectangle. Lay it on a flat, lightly floured surface.

2. Lightly flouring the top of the flattened pastry dough, begin rolling it out. After every 2 to 3 rolls, CAREFULLY FLIP PASTRY CIRCLE OVER AND ONTO THE LIGHTLY FLOURED SURFACE.

3. Continue rolling out the pastry circle UNTIL IT BECOMES A RECTANGLE, measuring 16X10 inches.

4. Carefully transfer the rolled-out pastry rectangle onto the parchment-lined baking sheet; set aside.

5. Prepare a bed for the fish filets by placing half of the onion-herb mixture in the center of the pastry rectangle, forming a horizontal row (across).

6. Place the seared salmon filets over the row of onion-herb mixture.

7. Sprinkle the salt, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg evenly over the salmon filets.

8. Distribute the breadcrumbs evenly over the spices covering the filets.

9. Spread the remaining onion-herb mixture over the row of filets.

10. Close one long side of the pastry over the stuffed filets. Fold over the other pastry flap.

11. Turn the short sides of the pastry underneath the salmon torta; set aside. If desired, using a sharp, pointed knife, cut out leaf shapes from scraps of dough and place them on top of salmon torta.


1 large egg
1 teaspoon cold water

1. Crack the egg over a small bowl, discarding egg white. Using a fork, mix the egg yolk with 1 teaspoon cold water and set it aside.

2. With a sharp knife, cut 4 to 5 slits on pastry top of the salmon torta. Brush top of salmon torta with the egg wash.

3. Place baking sheet with the salmon torta on a rack positioned in center of preheated oven.

4. Bake the salmon torta for 25 to 30 minutes. After 25 minutes, check to see if pastry has turned light golden brown. If it is still pale, bake the salmon torta for an additional 5 to 8 minutes.

5. Immediately transfer the salmon torta in baking sheet to a counter; let it cool for 6 to 8 minutes before cutting.

6. Cut six 3-inch slices, placing each one on a dinner plate, accompanied by A Side of Carrots and Green Beans (previously published on this blog). Alternatively, serve with other types of vegetables.

White wine pairing suggestion: chilled Pinot Grigio.

Text and Photograph ©2013 Nancy DeLucia Real