By José Pizarro
Photographs by Emma Lee
Ten Speed Press 2010
Buy it on Amazon
What makes a standout cookbook, at least for me, is cracking it open and being so tempted by everything that you don't know what to make first. The book never makes it to the coffee table because you can't get it out of the kitchen. In record time, it's spattered and dog-eared. Seasonal Spanish Food is just that kind of book.
But it's more than just recipes. I found myself standing in the kitchen, mid stir, reading Pizarro's recipe stories. It's the whole package, the real deal. There's charm and enticement throughout.
See what we tested and whether it's worth buying after the jump.
Takeaway tips: You don't have to search far to bring this food to your table. Many Spanish ingredients like piquillo peppers are as close as your nearest Trader Joe's. The book contains a fantastic source guide for what you might not find locally, but you'd be amazed at the accessibility of most.
Quality of pictures: Emma Lee's photos are as seductive and beautiful as the food. Whether it's a location, a recipe or an ingredient shot, it reels you in. I couldn't help but be jealous of all the good things she must have tasted. I bet it's good to be Emma Lee.
What we tested: I must confess that I haven't traveled to Spain yet. But London's Tapas Brindisa, where Pizarro presides, is one of my favorite, favorite destinations. So good, in fact, that I might have accidentally transported some Spanish culinary contraband in my suitcase on more than one occasion... I am a moth to his chorizo flame.
Unorthodox perhaps, but I had to start with a dessert. There was something about that custardy Spanish apple pie that had me at first glance -- apples mingled with a generous tender custard and topped with a light delicate crust. It's not exactly no fuss but it's no hair puller either. The directions are clear and concise so it's very can-do. My only regret is that penny-wise thinking led me to buy the smallest bottle of dark rum I could find (the crust has a magical 2 tablespoons) and now I'm going to be making this over and over again.
Next I tried the navy bean soup with clams. I chose this for two reasons: One, it's cold outside, and two, Pizarro says it's one of his favorites (again, the moth...). He uses fish stock, but you'll have to supply your own recipe since there isn't one in the book (don't be dismayed; it's the easiest, fastest stock to make). Just in time for dinner, without breaking a sweat, I had this sexy, rustic dish. Thankfully, after my lack of foresight on the pie, I made extra stock and have it in my freezer for all the next times.
Worth the investment: I want to make all 125 recipes in this book. OK, well maybe not the pig's ears. But after I taste something, well, then I want it again, so I don't know how I'll ever get though the book. I do know it's a keeper and one that I'll be giving as a gift as well.