Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

Sangria is the best antidote for a hot summer afternoon.  My recipe has never let me down and is always a great success when I prepare for my guests. Easy, refreshing, not overly sweet and mild alcohol content.  This drink can be served in a pitcher, punchbowl or a classic beverage dispenser with spigot.  I usually make it in large quantities because in Puerto Rico, Sangria is a very popular drink and people would drink Sangria over beer or hard liquor anytime.  Here, most informal family restaurants offer Sangria as part of their menu. The important thing is to make it fresh! If you choose to make it ahead of time, prepare the mixture and leave out the lemon soda and ice until the moment you are going to serve.  For best results choose a young, fruity, unoaked, inexpensive wine. Most of the time, I buy and inexpensive wine from the Rioja region in Spain made from Tempranillo grapes, but you may use a French boujolais, Italian dolcetto or lambrusco.  My suggestion is that you serve over ice instead of adding the ice to the mixture so that it doesn’t become diluted.

This wine punch typical of Spain has been popularized in many countries in the Caribbean and Latin America.  A similar version known as Sangaree can be found in the West Indies.  There is also a simpler variant of Sangria called “Tinto de verano” ( red wine of summer or wine spritzer) which is part wine, part “gaseosoa” (a mixture of carbonated water and lemon juice) garnished with lemon slice.  I like to make this version when I am on the boat because it is so simple to make and you know that boat kitchens have limited space.  There are hundreds of recipes depending on the regions, the ingredients at hand and the preferences and creativity of the person preparing the Sangria.  However, what makes a Sangria a Sangria is that it has all of the following:  young fruity red wine, chopped or sliced fruit, fruit juice,  sweetener and a small amount of liqueur like brandy or Cointreau.  In addition, most Sangria recipes add carbonated lemon soda.  Here is my version of Sangria!




1 bottle of young, dry, inexpensive red wine (750 ml)

1 1/2 cups of orange juice

1/4 cup sugar

4 tbsp Cointreau, Grand Manier, Brandy or Rum

1 can of Lemon Sierra Mist, Sprite or 7-up, 11.27 ounces (If you don’t have any of these make a mixture of “gaseosa”, made with sparking water and fresh lemon juice)

1/2 red apple (diced and diced)

1/2 orange (thinly sliced and halved)

1/2 half a yellow lemon (thinly sliced and halved)



1.  With a large spoon, mix all ingredients in a large pitcher, punchbowl or beverage dispenser with spigot a few hours before serving to allow flavors to settle.  If you are going to make it ahead of time, leave out lemon soda and add just before your serving.  Serve Sangria over ice.

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In a few weeks I will be attending a family reunion of the Arbona side of the family. My great-grandfather came to Puerto Rico from Mallorca, in the Balearic Islands (Spain) in the late 1800’s.  In short, he went back, got married, had his children and they returned to Puerto Rico due to the Spanish Civil War during the 1930’s.  We are a large group! (one of my great-uncles had 10 children, they all had children and their children have children, etc.).  In honor of this gathering,  I got inspired to publish my recipe for Ensaimada Mallorquina.

To give you a little background, Ensaimada is a typical sweet bread from the island of Mallorca .  They are usually large (about 12 inches in diameter) and sometimes filled with fruit preserves, “angel hair” (pumpkin confit), sobreasada, almond puree, cream or apricots.  For hundreds of years, like many countries in South America, Puerto Rico had a large group of immigrants that came from different parts of Spain (including the beautiful island of Mallorca) looking for work, fortune and a better quality of life. My grandfather, Papi Bartolo was one of them. Therefore, Puertorican culture is highly influenced by the traditions of many different regions of Spain.

In Puerto Rico there is a version of Ensaimada called “mallorca”, like the island of its origin. It is usually the size the palm of my hand, so no wonder as a little girl, I was in awe of the size of Ensaimadas on my visits to Mallorca.  Also, they can be found in every bakery shop in Puerto Rico and even American fast food restaurants have incorporated it in their breakfast menus to adapt to the tastes of the locals. However, although they have a similar shape, they are not rolled up twice like traditional ensaimadas and its dough is more similar in texture to “brioche” (flaky french bread) or challah bread, depending on the place where you buy them.  The most popular mallorcas in Puerto Rico are the ones from La Bombonera in Old San Juan (to me the closest texture to ensaimada in PR) and from Panaderia Pepin (absolutely delicious, but not similar in texture) in Guaynabo and San Juan.

The name ensaimada comes from the arabic word “saim”, which means pork lard.  The first accounts of ensaimadas are from 17th century writings.  There were not written recipes to make ensaimadas. However, there was a method.  According to Mallorcan Web,  ” to explain how ensaimadas were made 200 years ago and nowadays is one and the same thing. The process is completely artisan and can take up to 24 hours to complete. To make the dough old measures are still used: almudes and ounces. To get some idea, in Mallorca an almud of dough contains a kilo of sugar, a dozen eggs, a liter of water and all the ‘strong’ flour it can take (thereby is the secret, no measurement for the flour!). To these ingredients yeast is added which can be either natural yeast or in powder form, and the kneading starts. In former times this was done by hand. Although nowadays machines are used, to do so by hand the dough is placed in a bowl and kneaded until it is soft. After more or less half an hour, it is smooth.” This dough is kneaded and rolled very thinly, then rolled and spiraled to form the traditional shape of an ensaimada which is like the house of a snail.  Lately, I’ve been told that for some reason the ensaimadas that are sold in large boxes at the airport of Palma de Mallorca are not allowed to fly with you on the plane, you have to put it in your suit case and send it through cargo.

Ensaimadas can be served warm or at room temperature for breakfast, as dessert, with coffee or tea or as a snack. They are a bit crusty on the outside and flaky on the inside. Also, you may heat ensaimada that is a few days old in the griddle with butter or ham and cheese like a panini. I had never found a recipe that I felt confident I could follow, but over a year ago I found this recipe in a german website (germans flock to the island of Mallorca in large groups throughout the year) and adapted it.  It is fairly easy to make, just takes time because of the wait to let dough rise.  Remember the oven must be very hot and to use common sense since ovens vary.  I like to let them rise overnight and bake them on a weekend morning for my family to enjoy. Here is my version of Ensaimada de Mallorca.


Ensaimada de Mallorca

Recipe adapted by:  Aleida L. Arbona from www.deliciousdays.com who adapted it from www.kuechengoetter.de


5 cups bread flour or unbleached all purpose flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1 packet dry yeast(2 1/4 tsp) (1 cube fresh yeast)

1 cup warm milk (add a little over one cup)

2 eggs

approx. 2/3 cup pork lard or vegetable shortening

powdered sugar for dusting


1.  Mix flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.  Make well in the center and add 1 packet of dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp) or 1- 40 gram block of fresh yeast (crumbled) , a large pinch of sugar and enough warm milk until the yeast is covered.  Stir the yeast and milk a bit with a fork.  Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let rest for about 15 minutes or until the yeast has bubbles.

2.  Add other ingredients and knead by hand or with your dough hook in your electric stand-up mixing machine.   If the dough is too sticky add a bit more flour.  Cover the bowl again  and let rest in a warm place for at least 30 minutes or until dough has doubled.

3.  Punch it down softly, and place the dough on a well floured surface.  Cut into 10 equal portions and form into neat balls before letting them rest.  Sprinkle with flour and cover with kitchen towel  for at least 30 minutes.

4.  To shape the ensaimadas, flatten dough ball and roll out with a rolling pin (use flour as needed) until you get a thin disc. Brush it generously with lard or vegetable shortening.  Roll up cautiously and set aside on lined baking sheets (either with parchment paper or silicone mats).

5.  Coil up each piece of dough until it resembles the house of a snail tucking the outer end under (some people pull the rolled up dough a bit to make it longer and thiner, but that’s optional). Do so loosely because the spaces will fill up as the dough keeps rising.  Place 5 ensaimadas in a baking sheet, leaving space between them. Lightly brush with lard or shortening and cover up again.  This is the final rise which is done from 4 hours to overnight (you choose, I do it overnight).

6.  To bake, preheat oven 390ºf and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden (do not let brown too much).  Let cook in a wire rack for a few minutes.

7.  Generously dust with powdered sugar

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We inherited flans from many cultural influences.  Back in Roman times people would make savory flans from the surplus of eggs and other ingredients in their “pantry” (spices, spinach, honey, eel, etc.).  Centuries later in Spain and France, sweet flans started to flourish with caramel syrup as well as with other spices and nuts like almonds that the Moors (north africans, muslims and arabs) brought with them to the Iberian peninsula. Now flans are popular desserts in Latin American countries and are known worldwide.  I dare to say that some sort of flan is offered in the dessert menu of almost every restaurant in Puerto Rico!

Note:  The detachable baking dish used for making quiche is called a “flan tin” because in England open pastries filled with savory fillings are also called flans.

This recipe for simple Vanilla Flan is the basis for many variations. There is cheese flan, coconut flan, pumpkin flan, pear flan, guava flan, basil flan, strawberry flan and the list keeps going on and on like Bubba (inside joke for those of you who have seen the movie Forest Gump).  Anyway, it is a simple dessert to make and a crowd pleaser. Of course, flan is always made in bain-marie to successfully make the custard.  FYI, the bain-marie allows the flan to cook evenly in the center without creating a crust on the outside.  I use a 9 inch round metal mold with a hole in the middle, but you may also use an 8- 9 inch round crystal Pyrex or metal mold or double the recipe and make a large rectangular crystal mold.  Serve with mint, berries, ice cream, whipped cream or alone. Sometimes I over beat mixture and the vanilla flan has small holes inside, but it won’t alter the taste just the texture.  The flans I make that include mascarpone or cream cheese are always creamier (like cheesecake) and also delicious (will post recipes in the near future).

About 5 years ago, we rented a house in Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic for a summer vacation.  Our beautiful house had great accommodations, a beautiful view and a great cook.  One day Josefina made vanilla flan for our group and, you know me, always looking to learn new things in the kitchen, saw that she splashed dark rum and lemon zest in the vanilla flan mixture. That detail elevated the flan from good to outstanding giving it a lovely after taste!  She made it almost everyday after that.  We returned back to Puerto Rico rested, relaxed and with about 2-3 more pounds!

Here is my recipe for Vanilla Flan (Flan de Vainilla).  Enjoy!

Vanilla Flan (Flan de Vainilla)


1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

5 eggs

1 14 oz. can condensed milk

1 12 fl. oz can evaporated milk

1/2 cup fresh milk

1 tsp dark rum

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

dash of salt


1.  Preheat oven 350º F.

2.  To make caramel put sugar in a sauce pan (I melt it directly in my metal mold in the stove top) and heat (med) until sugar starts to melt and turns light-medium brown in color. About 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Then pour into baking mold immediately making sure the bottom and sides of the mold are covered with some caramel.  Let rest for a few minutes to harden a bit.  Note:  make sure you are not distracted or have children running around in the kitchen while you are making caramel, it is very hot and can cause serious burns on the skin.

3. In a bowl, beat eggs with a whisk or electric mixer with whisk attachment.  Add milks, vanilla, salt and rum and beat until fully incorporated.  (DO NOT OVER BEAT SO THAT  YOU DON’T GET AIR BUBBLES INSIDE THE FLAN). Pass mixture through a strainer.  Add lemon zest and lightly mix with a fork or spoon into mixture.

4.  Pour mixture over caramel in baking mold.  Place mold in lower portion of broiler pan or roast pan and fill with hot water that comes almost half way up the sides of the baking pan to create a bain-marie or “baño de maría”.

5.  Bake for 45-50 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a knife in the middle. It should come out clean.

6.  Let cool on your counter top a bit before you cover with foil paper and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

7.  To serve, take out of refrigerator and let rest for about 15 minutes. With a knife or spatula carefully separate flan from sides of the pan (inside as well if using pan with a hole in the middle). You will notice caramel will come up the sides once it is separated and ready to turn over.

8.  Place serving dish on top of baking pan and turn over quickly.  Scrape remaining caramel with a spatula and pour over flan. Serve chilled.  (If you are going to put it in the refrigerator, cover so that it doesn’t become dry or hard).

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According to Foodimentary @ Twitter, April 8 was the National Empanada Day.  So immediately I took out the recipe journal my Aunt Toñita gave me as a present a few weeks ago with her favorite recipes in which she included my grandmother’s Empanada Gallega recipe and got busy in the kitchen.

Empanada means to coat or wrap in bread.  Immigrants form Galicia and Portugal brought this recipe to America. You can find many variations. This dish is a hybrid between a pie and sandwich.   My version is more like a sandwich because the dough is thick like bread, but I have seen thiner empanadas like a pie. You may substitute the meat filling with stir-fry veggies or with a tuna, pork loin or chicken filling.  It is nice to have for lunch or to take on a picnic because it is best eaten at room temperature. Olé!

Buen Provecho!

Empanada Gallega



1/2 cup warm water

1 tbsp granulated sugar

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)

1/2 tsp salt

3 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour

5 tbs softened butter

2 eggs

egg wash


2  1/2 cups of  “picadillo” recipe


1.  To activate yeast for dough, mix warm water, sugar and yeast and let it rest until bubbles form on top (about 15 minutes). I do it in my Kitchen Aid stand up mixer bowl.

2.  Meanwhile, in another bowl mix the salt with the flour.

3.  Beat eggs and butter with yeast mixture.

4.  Add flour to liquids and mix with dough hook or by hand to make a soft dough ball that is not sticky (add more flour if it is too sticky).

5.  Knead by hand for a few minutes.

6.  Let dough rise in a bowl big enough for it to double in size.  I drizzle a bit of olive oil in the bowl so that the dough doesn’t stick.  Cover with a kitchen towel and place in a warm, dry, draft free area for 1-1 1/2 hour.

7.  Pre heat oven 375º f.  Punch down and knead the dough for about a minute. Split the dough into two, one piece for the bottom and one for the top or “lid” of the empanada.

8.  Shape each piece of dough into the shape of the baking mold with your knuckles (for a more rustic look) or a rolling pin.  I use an 11×8 inches rectangular pyrex crystal pan.

9.  Place the lower portion of the dough in the mold.

10.  Add ground beef picadillo (at room temperature) and spread evenly with a spoon.

11.  Place top portion of the dough.  Push rim down with a fork and make a hole in the middle to let out steam while it bakes.

12.  Let empanada rest for about 15 minutes before going into oven.

13.  Just before putting in the oven, brush the top with egg wash.

14.  Bake in middle rack until golden brown.

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For this family recipe I had to travel a long way to get it. One of those dishes that is one person’s trademark and she makes it without a written recipe. When you ask for the recipe he/she lists the ingredients but cannot tell you the exact amounts…  what a nightmare! Ja, ja!

Nieves showing me how to make her traditional lemon bread Summer 1998

It is a simple lemon bread that reminds me of frequent trips to Spain during my childhood. In the summer of 1997 my younger brothers, in their teens at the time, spent about 3 weeks visiting relatives in Spain in which they asked Nieves (my great-grandmother’s housekeeper, family-nanny, cook and companion for over 60 years and whom we consider to be part of our family) everyday to make the lemon bread for them . I only had the chance to join them for about 1 week and a half because of work, but it a was a summer I will never forget.  We got a chance to spend time with our Spanish cousins, listen to family stories and get to know the Spanish countryside.  In addition, our group of about 15 family members travelled throughout the region in a bus and stayed in “turismo rural” or country homes from former well to do families that had been renovated with government money and turned into bed and breakfasts.  It was a well planned family trip full of history and natural beauty.

Monastery on the Galician countryside Summer 1997

When I got back to Puerto Rico, I met my husband Emilio and by next summer we were already married. So, for part of our honeymoon, we decided to go to Spain since my husband had not visited the country.  One afternoon, upon arrival to our beautiful historic hotel, Hostal de los Reyes Católicos in Santiago de Compostela, Nieves called and invited us for a late lunch.  I said I would go but with the condition that she taught me how to make her world famous lemon bread (I could not return to America without the recipe because my brother Joaco would kill me!). She accepted and in June 1998 she showed me (Emilio recorded the event) how to make it.  It was in a tiny kitchen in the third floor of my great-grandmother’s house on Marina Street in Villagarcia with a small gas oven and in a beaten cake pan with a hole in the middle that wobbled.  She took the sugar, flour, salt, vegetable oil and baking powder from her pantry and eggs, lemon and yogurt (her secret ingredient) from the small fridge.  She did not use measuring cups or spoons. Instead, she used the same cup in which the yogurt came in to measure all ingredients and a soup spoon to measure the baking powder. She used a lot of baking powder in relation to the amount of flour used which for some reason (I will be researching that soon!) makes it more rustic and crumbly, like the texture of corn bread but moist at the same time I guess because of the oil and yogurt (which is why I call it lemon bread instead of cake). I have tried using a lot less baking powder and the result is a delicious smooth fluffy lemon cake, but that’s another recipe. Anyway, she mixed all ingredients with a hand mixer and was very specific about not over mixing and first cooking the cake at approximately 400º f for the first 15 minutes and 350ºf for the remaining 30 minutes to get that golden brown finish.  Once I got back home, I converted the measurements and created a recipe that could be measured in cups and teaspoons and the results were very similar to the original according to my “tasters”.  Great for breakfast on a weekend morning (my kids love it!) or as a snack with coffee or tea.  Also, good with a glass of milk or a scoop of vanilla ice cream for desert…yummy!

Here is my version of Nieves’ Lemon Bread.

PS:  As many of you know, I was in the hospital last week for 4 days, I have no words to thank my family and friends for their company, support and words of encouragement during tough times.  However, I can show them by making this lemon bread for some of them to tell them how grateful I am that they are in my life.


Nieves’ Lemon Bread


4 eggs

250 g of lemon or vanilla yogurt

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tbsp baking powder

pinch of salt

zest of one yellow lemon

1 tbsp butter for greasing pan (approximately)


1.    Turn oven on 400ºf.  Butter standard loaf pan (approx. 10 x5)

2     In a bowl put flour, baking powder and salt and mix well.

3.  In another bowl, beat eggs. Then add sugar, vegetable oil and yogurt and continue to mix with a whisk or mixer until all ingredients are incorporated for about 2 minutes.

4.  Add flour, salt and baking powder mixture in batches of three. Do not over mix.

5.  Add lemon zest and mix by hand with a spatula or whisk.

6.  Bake at 400º f for 15 minutes and lower to 350ºf for the remaining 30 minutes in middle rack. Do not open oven at any time until finished baking.  Ovens vary so pay attention the first time you make it to make any adjustments.

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Caldo Gallego

One of my grandmothers is from Galicia, Spain so we grew up eating a lot of Caldo Gallego!  This soup has restorative properties when you get sick, have been partying too hard,  need to boost your iron or just want a savory hot meal in the cold weather.  Some ingredients are not easy to find outside of Spain. “Lacon”, “unto”, “judias blancas” are the ingredients that give Caldo Gallego its characteristic taste.  In Puerto Rico, I buy them at Panaderia La Ceiba, a spanish bakery in San Juan.  However, I will provide alternatives for those of you that don’t have a Spanish specialty food store nearby. I usually don’t add salt because the broth has enough salt for my taste, but add salt if needed at the end.

I like to make Caldo Gallego in large quantities because it freezes wonderfully!!!! My aunt and uncle, Lilly and Kas, who live in Houston, Texas know what I’m talking about. Ja!  For many years, after Mami Chelo became a widow, she would spend part of the year with them in Texas.  From what I’ve been told, she would set up a “cooking marathon” before she came back to PR and cook large quantities of Caldo Gallego for them to freeze.  Kas is now an expert making this dish.

Here is my version of Caldo Gallego.


Caldo Gallego


2 cups of dried “judias blancas” or navy beans (sometimes called white haricot beans)

8 cups of water

1 lacon (boiled shoulder pork or ham hock)

4 chorizos (about 4 inches each)

slice of  “unto” (cured salt pork) you may substitute with few slices of pancetta

1/4 of a head of cabbage (chopped)

2 baking potatoes peeled and cubed

1.5 pounds of collard greens ( frozen)


1.  Place the beans in a bowl and cover with about two inches of  water. Place in the refrigerator  overnight  so that they start to become soft. Thaw collard greens overnight in fridge.

2.   In a heavy deep saucepan pour 8 cups of water with “lacon” and whole chorizos to make the broth. Once the water comes to a boil put “unto” or pancetta in and take out what is left after 15 minutes and discard. Cover and allow to boil for almost 1 hour.

3.  After 1 hour add white beans, cover again and boil for about 30-40 minutes until beans are almost done and tender.

4.  Meanwhile, chop cabbage and peel and cube potatoes and add them to the soup after step 3.  Check if you need to add more water.

5.  Take chorizos out of pot and slice them and put back in.  Take “lacon” out of pot shred meat and take away bone. Put meat back into pot.

6.  Once potatoes are done (aprox. 20 min) add collard greens until fully cooked.  Add salt to taste if needed.

7.  Serve with crusty bread.

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