Cookbooks I Love: Rustica A Return to Spanish Home Cooking

Rustica: A Return to Spanish Home Cooking by Frank Camorra and Richard Cornish
( Chronicle Books, 2011).

Simply put, I love everything about this book. The cover makes me swoon, and the artwork, layout and design, the feel of the paper, the stories, the recipe selections, the photographs, and the tone of the overall content gets my blood racing.

Do I know the authors? No, but I wish I did.

Have I been to Spain? No, but I am ready.Co-author Frank Camorra wrote the cookbook MoVida, which I also own. I like that book and the style is similar, but something about the design and the presentation is a little too blunt for me.

In  Rustica: A Return to Spanish Home Cooking  Frank’s food is simple and the tone of the book is confident. Vignettes about culture, stories and information about ingredients and foodstuffs, and lush, dreamy photographs (kudos to photographer Alan Benson ) of Spanish life that roam time and place add to the appeal. The book captures the essence of food and place in a charming, warm way. And it comes neatly wrapped in a down-to-earth yet seductive volume that is hard to put down.

I like the idea behind the book, too. Frank journeyed through his native land and found more than 120 savory and sweet recipes from people in villages across Spain. He tailored these recipes which showcase the everyday foods that Spanish people eat. Not the fancy cutting edge foods that have become world-famous, but the dishes that are the foundations of Spanish food, the bedrock of traditions on which Spanish cooking is based.

The recipes feature centuries-old traditions,  super-spicy and divinely mellow dishes, charcoal-fired meats, vegetables dishes, seafood and fish specialties and simple sweet desserts in chapters titled:  In the Kitchen Garden; Sherry, Salt & Fish; The Jamon Phenomenon; Red Food; Preserving Food; Catalan Traditions; The Green Coast; The Basque Kitchen; Cooking with Fire; and Andalusia – The Moors Great Legacy

In the introduction Frank writes: ” …...this is probably why the food in this book is the simplest form of  Spanish food – food that was particularly popular at a time when Spain was poor and had to be prepared in a manner determined by poverty. But poverty meant resourcefulness in feeding the family. …….I also wanted to make a note of the ‘ old school’ techniques used across the nation.”

In an era of foams and molecular gastronomy, this is a return to the past and the roots of the cuisine. Co-author Richard Cornish is a television producer and food writer. Perhaps it is his influence that tamed the MoVida beast and gave it charm and charisma. His bio on the back of the book says this about him: “ He writes about the connection between the land, producer, chef and consumer and its significance to food diversity and taste.”

Amen. Together, these authors have created a humble tone, with a human element, and delicious recipes, which is compelling stuff. The cover design is printed on the book itself; there is no additional dust jacket to come between the hands of the cook and the book.

Adobo De Pollo / Chicken Skewers Marinated with Smoked Paprika and Oregano

This recipe features smoked paprika and is inspired by the skewers of grilled meat served at summer agricultural fairs – ferrias.

  • 2 & 1/2 lbs skinless chicken thigh meat, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, roasted and ground
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

2. Thread the chicken meat onto 12 metal skewers. Heat a charcoal grill or grill pan to high. Cook the chicken skewers for 5 minutes, or until cooked through, turning regularly. Allow to cool slightly, then serve.

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