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THE REIGN OF SPAIN NEW COOKBOOKS BRING DRAMATIC FLAMENCO FLAVOR INTO YOUR KITCHEN.

Byline: Natalie Haughton Food Editor

Spanish cuisine, an explosion of sizzling, colorful innovative fare, is all the rage not only in its native country but in this country too.

Daring preparations by a generation of innovative chefs has made the cuisine hot, chic and casual - from small tapas and regional dishes to modern concoctions that can be easily duplicated in American home kitchens.

Three recently released cookbooks can help the American cook bring it home.

"Spain has really arrived," says Anya von Bremzen, author of the recently released "The New Spanish Table" (Workman Publishing; $22.95), her fifth cookbook, adding that "people have lost interest in French cooking, Italian has become too commonplace, and everyone loves Mediterranean."

"Spanish cuisine is very simple, very minimalist and direct - but very striking and dramatic," adds von Bremzen, from her home in New York. Spain has a wealth of great ingredients, and among the cuisine's hallmarks are "lots of smoky flavors, lots of Spanish olive oil, lots of almonds, garlic, parsley, paprika, saffron, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, lamb, a ton of fish (due to one of the longest coast lines in Europe) - lots of clams, shrimp, whole baked fish (like sea bass, turbot), beans, rice and potatoes." Sausages and ham are also popular, as are olives (mostly green) as appetizers.

"Spain in the last 10 years has become the most interesting place in the world to eat because of all the new wave creative chefs who use a lot of science and theory and creative design in their dishes," says von Bremzen.

With chefs from other countries flocking to Spain because of Ferran Adria (El Bulli's Catalan chef, the Salvador Dali of the culinary world who was awarded his third Michelin star in 1997 and is responsible for edible foams and bubbly airs, working with liquid nitrogen, hot ice creams, etc.), it has become a mecca for exciting, creative cuisine. Its new cooking methods and interesting juxtapositions of ingredients break traditional boundaries. It adds a sense of play, fun and whimsy.

In her book, von Bremzen aims to deliver 300 tempting, practical, accessible recipes without sacrificing authenticity and excitement. The dishes (and ideas) come from an extraordinary wealth of sources - chefs, tapas bars, market vendors, taxi drivers, Spanish food writers, restaurant critics, cheese makers and so on.

The volume revolves around her personal travels to the different regions of Spain - from Mallorca to Galicia to Extremadura. It celebrates the creative fusion of old and new - the melting pot of ultramodern cuisine and deep-rooted traditional dishes, notes the 42-year- old Russian-born food writer, who emigrated to Philadelphia in the '70s when she was 12 and settled in New York in the '80s.

A concert pianist who has her master's degree from Juilliard, von Bremzen was forced to switch careers in her 20s because of a hand injury. "I was always fascinated by food," she notes.

Tapas are an important movement in Spain and America because people want to nibble, sample different tastes and drink - and the concept fits into today's lifestyle, points out von Bremzen. "Tapas are old but new again - a lot of traditional tapas chefs are doing more creative things."

One chef who presents tapas with new flavors and flair is Jose Andres, author of "Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America" (Clarkson Potter/Publishers; $35) written with Richard Wolffe.

"Tapas are a way of eating and a way of living," says Andres, who grew up in Santa Coloma de Cervello in Spain, trained with Adria and arrived in this country more than 12 years ago.

"Over the last 20 or 30 years, a tradition that started in Southern Spain has spread across every region of the country and, ultimately, around the world," he adds.

Tapas, a part of Mediterranean culture, are fresh, fun and designed to share with family and friends.

"There are no rigid rules. ... Almost anything can be served in small portions."

Andres, the chef-owner of seven Spanish restaurants serving tapas in the Washington, D.C., area, considers himself a unique hybrid, melding traditional Spanish cooking and dishes with the bounty of local ingredients in this country. His book, with its tempting recipes and organized by ingredients, is geared to home cooks - and doesn't require special expertise. If you're looking for more traditional fare like that served in Spanish homes, Teresa Barrenechea, a Basque native, showcases the country's culinary heritage, pleasures and landscapes in her "The Cuisines of Spain: Exploring Regional Home Cooking," (Ten Speed Press; $40). The book is filled with more than 250 recipes, among them are classics like paellas, vegetable stews, gazpachos, bean soups and stews, empanadas, fish creations, tomatoes and peppers, sangria and much more.

Natalie Haughton, (818) 713-3692

natalie.haughton(at)dailynews.com

Chiringuito Seafood Paella

Feel free to play with the seafood assortment here, substituting mussels for the clams and small scallops for the monkfish but keeping the proportions pretty much constant.

About 5 cups shrimp shell stock OR 3 1/2 cups clam juice diluted with 1 1/2 cups water (more if using bomba rice, an heirloom variety that absorbs more than three times its weight in liquid)

1 large pinch saffron, pulverized in a mortar

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 pound monkfish OR other firm-fleshed fish, cut into 1-inch chunks

Coarse salt (kosher OR sea)

4 to 6 ounces cleaned squid, bodies and tentacles cut into 1-inch pieces

10 medium-size garlic cloves; 8 crushed with a garlic press, 2 minced

2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut in half and grated on a box grater, skins discarded

1 1/2 teaspoons sweet (not smoked) paprika

1 3/4 cups short- to medium-grain rice

1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

12 small littleneck clams, scrubbed

12 jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined

2 lemons, cut into wedges, for serving

Mock Allioli, for serving

Place shrimp stock in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add saffron and keep stock at a simmer until ready to use.

Place 3 tablespoons olive oil in a 15- or 16-inch paella pan set over a single burner and heat on medium until it starts to smoke. Add monkfish and cook until barely seared, about 1 minute, seasoning it lightly with salt. Using a slotted spoon, transfer fish to a bowl. Cook squid, stirring, until just seared, about 2 minutes, seasoning it with salt.

Push squid to edge of paella pan, where it's not as hot. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to center of pan. Add crushed garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes to center of pan, reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring tomatoes several times, until thickened and reduced, 5 to 7 minutes. Using two wooden spoons, push squid toward center of pan and mix it up with tomatoes. Add paprika and stir for a few seconds.

Add rice to paella pan and stir gently to coat with pan mixture. Pour in 3 1/2 cups of simmering stock (5 cups if you are using bomba rice), keeping remaining stock simmering in case it is needed later. Set paella pan over two burners, stir in parsley, and shake pan gently to distribute rice evenly. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes. Periodically move and rotate pan so liquid boils evenly.

Press clams and monkfish into top of rice and cook until cooking liquid is almost level with rice but rice is still rather soupy, another 2 to 3 minutes. If liquid is absorbed too fast and the rice still seems too raw, sprinkle on some more stock.

Transfer paella pan to oven. Bake in a preheated 425-degree oven about 15 minutes, until clams open and rice is tender but still a little al dente. Check paella a few times and sprinkle more stock over rice if it seems too al dente. Remove paella from oven and discard any clams that have not opened. Cover pan with foil and let stand 5 minutes. Uncover pan and let stand another 5 minutes (the rice gets better as it stands).

While the rice is standing, heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat. Stir-fry shrimp, a few at a time, adding some of minced garlic to each batch, until shrimp are bright pink and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per batch. Transfer shrimp to a bowl and keep warm.

To serve, arrange lemon wedges around edge of the paella and decorate top with shrimp. Serve paella straight from pan, along with Mock Allioli, for stirring into rice.

Makes 6 first-course servings or 4 main-course servings.

MOCK ALLIOLI: Put 1 cup store-bought mayonnaise in a bowl. Whisk in 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice; 4 large garlic cloves, crushed in a garlic press; 3 tablespoons fruity extra- virgin olive oil; and coarse salt (kosher OR sea) to taste. Let stand for at least 2 hours for flavors to develop. Makes just over 1 cup.

From "The New Spanish Table," by Anya von Bremzen.

SIZZLING GARLIC SHRIMP

1 1/4 pounds small shrimp, peeled and deveined

Coarse salt (kosher OR sea)

1 cup fragrant extra-virgin olive oil

6 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 small dry red chile, such as arbol, crumbled

2 to 3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Country bread, for serving

Pat shrimp dry with paper towels, then sprinkle salt over them.

Place olive oil and garlic in a 10- to 11-inch earthenware cazuela or deep skillet and heat over medium-low heat until oil shimmers and garlic begins to sizzle gently. Cook until garlic is very fragrant but not colored, 2 to 3 minutes, reducing heat if necessary. Add chile and stir a few seconds. Add shrimp and cook, stirring, until they just begin to turn pink, about 3 minutes.

Season with salt to taste, stir in parsley, and cook for a few seconds longer. Serve shrimp in the cazuela with plenty of bread alongside.

VARIATIONS: This dish can be made with large shrimp, in which case it's best to cook them in their shells to preserve their texture. You can also prepare mushrooms, clams or small pieces of chicken the same way.

From "The New Spanish Table," by Anya von Bremzen.

Makes 4 or 5 tapa servings OR 2 or 3 light main course servings

GREEN OLIVES FILLED WITH PIQUILLO PEPPERS AND ANCHOVY

There is no better tapa than a good stuffed olive.

8 extra-large green olives, unpitted

4 anchovy fillets (oil-packed)

2 piquillo peppers (Spanish wood-roasted sweet peppers available in jars at specialty markets)1 garlic clove, unpeeled

3 tablespoons Spanish extra-virgin olive oil

Grated zest of 1/2 orange

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Sea salt to taste

Using the flat side of a knife, press each olive until pit pops out, being careful not to split the olive in half. Cut the anchovy fillets lengthwise to create 8 long slices, and cut the piquillo peppers into 8 (1/2-inch-wide) strips.

Place 1 anchovy slice and 1 pepper strip in each olive. You can be generous with the filling, allowing the anchovy and pepper to spill out of the olive.

Split open garlic clove by placing it on a chopping board and pressing down hard with the base of your hand or with the flat side of a knife.

In a small bowl, mix garlic, olive oil, orange zest and vinegar. Place stuffed olives in dressing and allow to marinate for 30 minutes. Then sprinkle with a little sea salt and arrange on a plate, with toothpicks for serving.

From "Tapas, A Taste of Spain in America," by Jose Andres with Richard Wolffe.

Makes 4 servings

RUSTIC BREAD WITH DARK CHOCOLATE, OLIVE OIL AND SALT

4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices rustic bread (country bread with a thick crust and a light interior, full of holes NOT a dense sourdough)

4 ounces dark chocolate

4 tablespoons Spanish extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Toast bread slices in a toaster until brown. Using a knife, break chocolate into small pieces. Scatter over toasted bread, and place in a preheated 200-degree oven until chocolate melts, about 5 minutes.

Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle a little salt on top, and serve.

From "Tapas, A Taste of Spain in America," by Jose Andres with Richard Wolffe.

Makes 4 servings

Fava Beans With Jamon Serrano And Hard-Boiled Eggs

This classic dish from Ronda the enchanting Andalusian town is a marvelous use of fresh fava beans. Once you shell the beans, you need to boil them to remove their tough outer skin. The process it time-consuming, but enlist someone to help you to make the time pass more quickly. If you instead use dried fava beans, buy the split ones available in Middle Eastern markets; they are already skinned and they cook faster than whole dried beans.

2 teaspoons salt

3 pounds fresh fava beans in the shell, OR 1 1/2 pounds dried split fava beans

1/4 cup olive oil

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 (1/4-inch thick) slice jamon serrano OR other dry-cured ham, about 3 ounces, finely diced

3 hard-cooked eggs, peeled

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add salt and beans and boil 15 minutes if using fresh favas and 30 minutes if using dried favas. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking water. Peel fresh beans to uncover their sparkling green color.

In a saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes, or until onion is soft and lightly caramelized. Add jamon serrano and saute 2 minutes, or until its fat turns shiny. Add beans and reserved cooking liquid, cover, decrease heat to medium-low, and cook 15 minutes or until beans are tender.

Cut each egg lengthwise into 8 wedges or chop eggs coarsely. Add eggs to beans and mix well. Serve hot, garnished with parsley.

From "The Cuisines of Spain: Exploring Regional Home Cooking," by Teresa Barrenechea."

Makes 6 servings

CAPTION(S):

4 photos

Photo:

(1 -- cover -- color) Cook with Spanish flair

(2 -- color) SIZZING GARLIC SHRIMP

Photo by Susan Goldman, from ``The New Spanish Table,'' Workman Publishing

(3 -- color) GREEN OLIVES FILLED WITH PIQUILLO PEPPERS AND ANCHOVY

Photo by Francesc Guillamet from ``Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America,'' Clarkson Potter/Publishers

(4 -- color) FAVA BEANS WITH JAMON SERRANO AND HARD-BOILED EGGS

Photo by Christopher Hirsheimer, from ``The Cuisines of Spain,'' Ten Speed Press
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Mar 21, 2006
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