The summer solstice has occurred and the northern hemisphere is in the throes of summer. Truth be told, I am not the biggest fan of this season. Having grown up in Florida where humidity and temperatures regularly reach the mid-to-high 90’s, I am forever scarred from truly enjoying the milder summers of San Diego. Summer tends to bring out the unique in just about every place in the world, and Spain is certainly no exception. So, what is my favorite part of summer? As any true Hispanophile, my favorite summer pastimes are those which are quintessentially Spanish. Over the years from living and visiting Spain, I have come to crave four distinctly Spanish things that I just cannot live without during this time of the year: padrón peppers, salmorejo, tinto verano, and vinos rosados.
PIMIENTOS DE PADRÓN (Padrón Peppers)
The small village of Padrón (located in the southwestern Galician province of A Coruña) has become world famous for the tiny peppers which bear its name. The peppers were originally cultivated in the 16th century in the village of Herbón by Franciscan monks who brought them back from the Spanish colonies in South America. These two-to-three inch small green peppers are affectionately termed the culinary “Russian Roulette” pepper because normally about one in ten packs a hot and spicy punch. Do not let this deter you, however, because the vast majority are sweet and mild with a delicate skin. According to the locals, “Os pementos de Padrón, uns pican e outros non” (Galician for “Padrón peppers, some hot and some are not.”) Padróns could not be easier to prepare. Heat a small amount of extra virgin olive oil in a pan and drop in a couple of handfuls of the peppers. Blister them on both sides and the place on a place and sprinkle some kosher salt on top. As an additional treat, stuff the peppers with some of the local Galician cheese (Tetilla) before frying. ¡Buen Provecho!
Gazpacho’s much lesser known and creamier cousin is also one of my favorite summer indulgences. Although the origin of salmorejo is a bit uncertain it is agreed that this dish finds it beginnings in Córdoba, Andalusia in southern Spain. The only certainty is that the version we enjoy today is a result of Christopher Columbus bringing the tomato back from the Americas. As is true for many of the most incredible (and simplest) dishes in Spain, salmorejo started as a peasant dish. Containing only a handful of ingredients the recipes for this dish vary from family to family as they have been passed down for generations. As far as I can gather this is about as traditional as the recipe gets:
1 day-old loaf of French bread (crust discarded) – cut into large cubes
2 cloves garlic
½ cup extra virgin olive oil (Andalusian is obviously best)
1 tablespoon salt
1-2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar (optional)
Hard-boiled eggs – chopped (for garnish)
Jamón Serrano/Ibérico – chopped (for garnish)
Place tomatoes, bread, garlic, and salt (and vinegar, if using) into a food processor or blender and blend until combined. Now slowly add the olive oil. Refrigerate for two to three hours. Serve chilled and topped with egg and jamón.
A few ingredients vary from family to family as do the toppings for this thick and creamy soup. Regardless, salmorejo will transport you to the sun-drenched streets of southern Spain and keep you holding your bowl out for just one more serving.
TINTO DE VERANO
How can a list of the most summer libations not include one which carries its name? Tinto de verano (“red wine of summer”) is a wine-based cold drink with close ties to sangria. It is popular all over Spain, particularly along the Costa del Sol and other southern (warmer) regions, where it is served at parties, festivals, and bars. With only four ingredients it is quicker to make than sangria and can be consumed immediately (and usually is in larger quantities due to the considerably lower alcohol content).
½ cup red wine
½ cup gaseosa/lemon-lime soda (Fanta Limón is the preferred soda)
Ice (3-4 cubes)
Slice of lemon
Place ice in a tall glass and add red wine and soda. Garnish with a lemon slice.
One important note: If you would not drink the wine you are using by itself (varietal is unimportant) then do not use it in your cocktail. One very common variation found predominantly in Pais Vasco (Basque Country) is the kalimotxo: replace the gaseosa/lemon-lime soda with cola and ditch the lemon (you can, however, add a slice of lime).
White Zinfandel has virtually ruined most American’s perceptions of what a real rosé (rosado) wine should taste (and even look) like. Very few countries around the world produce more pink wine than the Spanish (probably only the French can compete), and they have created a fairly unique and varied taste experience in these wines. Virtually every region in the country produces rosado and use local (and sometimes indigenous) varietals. Rosados are meant to be enjoyed young as they are bright, fresh, and fruity yet still maintain a distinct dryness. They are very versatile with food and, best of all, will not break the bank. Over the years I have come to appreciate and crave rosados during this (warm) time of year. Below are 11 wines (one sparkling and ten still) which provide a window into the array of rosados the country has to offer (along with the varietals and the region from which it comes). Drink up!
- NV Raventos i Blanc Cava Brut Rosé de Nit (Macabeo/Xarel.lo/Parellada/Monstrell) – produced in Methode Champenoise; pale pink, clean, pure, and elegant. Penedes.
- 2012 Ameztoi “Rubentis” (Hondarribi Zuri/Hodarribi Beltza) – classic txakoli; bright, slightly fizzy, low-alcohol. Getariako Txakolina.
- 2012 Raventos i Blanc “La Rosa” (Pinot Noir) – tangy fruit flavors, dry, refreshing. Penedes.
- 2012 Bodegas Muga (Tempranillo/Garnacha/Viura) – lighter rosado, crisp, tangy, very dry; light oak aging. Rioja.
- 2012 Luis Alegre (Tempranillo/Viura) – fresh, light, lingering acidity, well-structured finish. Rioja.
- 2012 Tres Ojos (Garnacha/Tempranillo) – fresh, fruity, dry. Calatayud.
- 2012 Xavier Clua “El Sola d’en Pol” (Garnacha/Syrah) – juicy, fruity, dry finish. Terra Alta.
- 2012 Monte Aman (Tempranillo) – fresh, clean, balanced acidity, dry; all stainless steel. Ribera del Arlanza.
- 2011 Campos de Luz (Garnacha) – fruity, full, refreshing; no oak aging. Cariñena.
- 2012 Bodegas Olivares (Monastrell/Syrah) – rich, fresh, and fruity; no wood aging. Jumilla.
- 2012 Rubus (Prieto Picudo) – semi-sparkling, traditional wine of the region, fresh, strong, tangy. Tierra de León.
What would summer be without a great selection of food and wine to fill the table? The bounty of Spain never ceases to amaze nor does it ever disappoint. There is always something unique for your table and/or your glass. Fill up and enjoy! ¡Buen Provecho!
Life is short. Drink Spanish wine!