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El Farol: Tapas and Spanish Cuisine    by Chef James Campbell Caruso order for
El Farol
by James Campbell Caruso
Order:  USA  Can
Gibbs Smith, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The cover photo makes me want to open a bottle of Rioja, invite friends over, and begin sipping, snacking and chatting ... but I need to make some tapas first, and El Farol tells me how to do it. The cookbook is divided into sections on Basics, Soups and Stews, Cold and Hot Tapas, Main Courses, Desserts, and Drinks. There's an introduction to Spanish wines and sherries at the back, a list of recommended Pantry Items (including Spanish cheeses and Smoked Paprika), and online sources for Spanish food products. The color photographs will make you hungry.

The book's foreword is written by the owner of the Santa Fe El Farol restaurant, David Salazar. He introduces the restaurant's current 'superb chef', James Campbell Caruso. The chef tells us that his recipes are not 'basic cooking 101', but rather involve 'complex flavor combinations'. This intrigued me right away. Caruso goes on to talk of the evolution of Spanish cuisine in the new world, and invites his readers to experiment. His Basics section covers starters used in many recipes, including tomato and garlic based Sofrito, Aiolis, Butters, Pestos, Vinaigrettes, Sauces and Stocks (will definitely try the Pesto Moro, Moroccan Olive Pesto and Cabrales Butter, based on a blue cheese). Next comes spicy Soups and Stews, Sopas y Caldos. Marmitako (a fresh tuna and potato stew) sounds simple and appetizing, as does Sopa de Almendras (Chilled Almond Garlic Soup), and of course Gazpacho.

On to the Tapas, the Spanish version of dim sum. They begin with Betebeles (Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese Dressing), and move on to ham-wrapped watermelon, chilled mussels (love 'em but am allergic), different versions of Ceviche, marinated olives, and much, much more. Moroccan Eggplant gets my vote, as does Gambas al Ajillo (sautéed shrimp with Madeira - 'have some Madeira, m'dear'). There are sherry-simmered mushrooms, stuffed figs, many different ways to serve shrimps, mussels and clams, all kinds of Empanadas (another of my favorites), and even grilled octopus (Pulpo Asado). I will try the marinated pork tenderloin, something we eat often, and definitely the Calamari, which I first sampled in Morocco. Aguacate (Fried Avocado) intrigues me, as does Rosemary-Yogurt Flatbread.

In Main Dishes, the author introduces enticing paellas (some without seafood) for a paella party. I have fond memories of excellent seafood in Spain, and the recipes here make fish exciting and tasty. There's also Roasted Duck with Moroccan Carrot Sauce, or how about Grilled Lobster with Chipotle-Mustard Vinaigrette? Desserts (which I enjoy too much) next. Think the kids might like Chocolate al Vapor (individual steamed chocolate cakes) and know I'll enjoy Lemon-Rosemary Flan (once spent a summer in Europe, sampling flans in every country). Raspado de Sangria (an ice granita) sounds like fun, and who can go wrong with Torta de Chocolate (Double Chocolate-Espresso Flourless Torte)? Finish with Drinks - a fruity Tequila concoction called Nectar de los Dioses (Nectar of the Gods) and several Sangrias (I still like the classic red one best).

I'm inspired by El Farol to enjoy a Spanish summer - lots of tapas and sangrias, cold soups, new techniques with seafood, and definitely that paella party!

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