After a little over a week living in Estepona, things are starting to make sense. We’ve had to adjust our New York rhythms to southern Spain’s mañana philosophy—but we’re getting there. In fact, we spent the entire first week just riding our bikes, hanging out on the beach, going to the market and enjoying the sunsets. Of course, being the people we are, there has been some great food and wine too. The first day we sat at a Chiringuita (the restaurants on the beach) with our toes in the sand and ate arroz negro—black rice with choco—the little tiny squid-like creatures with squid ink flavoring the rice—incredible! Obviously, in this fishing port we’ve been able to get great fish and seafood, and are cooking the way the Spanish do—fresh ingredients prepared simply. We filleted a fresh dorado (sea bream), dredged it in flower seasoned with sea salt and pimento and sautéed it in olive oil. Finished with some fresh lemon, what could be better? Perhaps the tiny little roast potatoes and green beans from the farmers market we had on the side.
The other day we cooked coquinas—little tiny clams about the size of a thumbnail. This was our late dinner—we’re trying to adjust to having our main meal at 2 or 3 pm and eating something light for the evening meal, or just having tapas and a glass of wine. We used a great spice mixture that we found in the farmer’s market—the spice selections are fantastic. I wish I could buy them all but tried to exercise restraint. The spice seller called this “gambas a la plancha” mixture. Meaning these are the seasonings used for grilled prawns. It was made up of dehydrated garlic slices, dehydrated parsley leaves and small dried red chiles. Since both the spice mix and the coquinas might not be available in many places, I’ve translated the very simple recipe for more common ingredients. Fresh parsley is so much better anyway—but I must say the spice mixture was fantastic for an “instant”appetizer-sized dish for two:
- One pound small clams
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced very thin
- 2 small red chiles, such as thai or bird chiles, or substitute ½ tsp chile flakes
- 6 ounces white wine
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil, plus more for finishing
- 3 Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
In a pot with a tight-fitting lid, place the garlic, chiles, olive oil and white wine. Bring to a boil for one minute, covered, and turn off the heat while you wash the clams. The liquid will take on more flavor as it sits. Bring the liquid back to the simmer, add the clams and cover the pot. Shake it back and forth on the hot burner until the clams open. The clams should have added their juices to the liquid in the pot—if not, add a few Tablespoons of water, or more wine—you want enough liquid for dunking the bread. Add the parsley, stir it through, and ladle into bowls. Drizzle with a few more drops of olive oil, and serve with crusty bread. So very simple and absolutely delicious.