Posts Tagged ‘spain’

A Recipe for Harira that Brings You Straight to Spain

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Dianne Konz has taught Spanish literature, language and civilization at the University of Texas at Austin and at George Washington University. She has also lectured and published studies on Spanish and Latin American literature, and Spanish culture.

Recently, Dianne and a group of Smithsonian Journeys travelers explored the Paradores and Pousadas of the Iberian Peninsula.

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One of the highlights of Paradores and Pousadas was a visit to Don Diego’s olive farm near Ronda. Upon arrival, we were greeted by our charming, witty, and knowledgeable host and invited into his home for a tapas lunch.  But in addition to the various tapas, Don Diego offered us a delicious Sephardic soup of Moroccan origin called harira. I loved the blend of flavors—exotic spices, earthy legumes, fresh herbs, small bits of meat.  Here at home, I’ve been researching recipes for harira and experimenting in my own kitchen. The recipe that follows is a close as I’ve come—for now—to replicating Don Diego’s dish.

This zesty, satisfying soup is good anytime, including in warm weather. It is hearty, but not heavy. The fragrant spices are lightened by the fresh cilantro and a touch of lemon juice. Harira has traditional roles as well: as a Moroccan soup of Muslim tradition, it is frequently served in the evening during Ramadan to break the fast, or in the early morning hours prior to a day of fasting. In the Sephardic tradition, harira is often served to break the fast after Yom Kippur.

Harira. Photo by author

Harira

Ingredients:
4 oz. dried chickpeas (garbanzos) soaked overnight, OR, 1 ½ cups canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained (15 oz. can)
¾  to 1 lb. lean beef, such as good quality stew meat, OR, ¾ to 1 lb. coarsely ground lean beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
¾ – 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, chopped small (1 ½ cups)
2 stalks celery, chopped small (1 cup)
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground turmeric, or 1 teaspoon saffron threads, ground in mortar and pestle
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes with juices
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus 4 or 5 whole sprigs of cilantro
¼ cup broad-leaf parsley (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 oz. dried green or brown lentils
½ cup long grain rice
1 ½ quarts rich chicken stock.  If using boxed, use low-sodium, and simmer two 32 oz. cartons until they are reduced to about 6 or 7 cups.

Preparation:
Bring the chicken stock to a boil, then lower heat to medium and reduce it while you prepare the other ingredients.

Pick through the lentils to remove any stones, rinse them and set aside.

Cut the stew meat into small cubes and toss with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot, such as a Dutch oven. When oil is almost smoking, add about 1/3 of the meat and brown over medium-high heat, stirring, until cubes are well-browned and meat juice is evaporated. Remove to a covered dish and continue cooking the meat in batches, adding a little more oil if necessary. Set the meat aside.

Add chopped onions and celery to the pan and cook, stirring, until they are softened but not browned. Reduce heat to medium and add cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, nutmeg, and cumin, stirring continually for about 1 minute.  Do not overheat the spices, as it can make them bitter.

Return the meat to the pan and mix well with the vegetables and spices. Add tomatoes with their juices, stirring well over medium-high heat. Throw in 4 or 5 whole sprigs of cilantro. (These will be removed at the end.)

Stir in the chicken stock, the chickpeas, and half of the lentils and bring just to a boil. Cover pot. Reduce heat to medium-low or low, to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook 1 ½ hours. Meat cubes must be very tender and chickpeas cooked, but whole.

Remove the whole cilantro sprigs. Add the rice and the remaining lentils, the lemon juice, and about ¼ cup chopped cilantro. Return soup to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes.

When the rice and the lentils are cooked, remove lid and adjust seasonings. If you like, refresh the flavors with a little more chopped cilantro, cinnamon, cumin, pepper and parsley, if you are using it. Heat uncovered for a few minutes, and serve!

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Read more about Smithsonian Journeys’ Paradores and Pousadas tour here

Elegant, Intimate Úbeda

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Dianne Konz has taught Spanish literature, language, and civilization at the University of Texas at Austin and at George Washington University. She has also lectured and published studies on Spanish and Latin American literature, and Spanish culture.

Recently, Dianne and a group of Smithsonian Journeys travelers explored the Paradores and Pousadas of the Iberian Peninsula.

***

Stepping out of the gorgeous 16th-century palace—our home in Ubeda—onto the plaza ringed by golden brown Renaissance stone, it is hard not to feel the presence of the past. The tranquil elegance of the beautiful square is undisturbed by the occasional passing of locals headed toward the church at one end, or the breathtaking overlook just down the street. To the right, perhaps the most beautiful plaza in Spain, anchored by a majestic and serene Renaissance palace—today’s city hall. A passing shower has left the smooth, timeless stones of the plaza glistening beneath our feet. It is refreshingly cool this afternoon, and the air is fragrant with the scent of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. We are off to get our bearings and discover the town.

Interior courtyard of the Úbeda Parador. Photo courtesy of Flickr user david_jones

Ubeda is a quiet city where single sounds emerge—church bells, lively conversations, children playing, a car passing. As we amble down the narrow streets, we pass palaces that were once homes to wealthy and powerful figures in the 16th-century Spanish court. Elegant coats of arms carved in stone, like silverwork, adorn the surface of some façades, giving quiet witness to the families that lived there. Today, these palaces are the backdrops for thoroughly modern and vibrant—yet traditional—Spanish life. Our street gives way to another beautiful square with a bandstand in the center. It is nearly the end of the school day and boys kick a soccer ball across a sandy playground. The elegant palace ahead with the Italian-style loggia is now the local music school.  As we pass, I ask a teenager which instrument he studies. He smiles, pats the case, and says with a wink, “Saxophone.”

Ubeda plaza

The renaissance architecture of Úbeda. Photo courtesy of Flickr user martinvarsavsky

Down the way, we spot a ceramic store. Beautiful earthenware glistens in the window and fills the entryway.   Warm browns and deep greens are the predominant local colors. A unique cut-out style graces many pieces.  As we enter the store, the rich aroma of burning wood draws us to a fireplace along the sidewall. The crackling fire casts a glow on the ceramics all around. We approach to say hello to the owner’s wife, an attractive, dignified woman seated beside the fire. She greets us warmly and gestures for us to come nearer to admire her three-week old granddaughter in the pram beside her. A lively toddler—big sister—pulls up a small bentwood rocker to join them, singing quietly to herself.

Ceramic of Triana

Ceramic of Triana, Seville. Photo by Annual (own work), via Wikimedia Commons

We wander to the back of the showroom, where the owner is deftly throwing a beautiful botijo—a traditional clay water jug—on a potter’s wheelI ask him about the distinctive cut-out patterns in some of his pieces. It is called calado –“calao” in the softened Andalusian speech—a style introduced by Moorish craftsmen centuries ago. He explains that the tall vases with the intriguing open work were used to burn aromatics—mint, rosemary, myrtle, and more—to “give atmosphere” to the room. Rather suddenly, the store fills with a large number of lively local teenagers, here on an excursion to view the potter’s craft. As they circle around this outgoing artisan, he gives them his full attention, explaining his technique and answering questions. They move down the narrow aisles, examining pieces, snapping photos on cell phones, and talking animatedly.  Amazingly, nothing hits the floor. As they file out, the potter waves to them and returns to his wheel. Once again, I am grateful for an up-close and personal view of modern Spaniards—of all ages—in this ancient and traditional urban landscape.

Read more about Smithsonian Journeys’ Paradores and Pousadas tour here.

Exploring a Spanish Olive Farm with Smithsonian

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

A Smithsonian Study Leader since 1992, Dianne Konz  has taught Spanish literature, language, and civilization at the University of Texas at Austin and at the George Washington University. Here, she shares her impressions of a day at a Spanish olive farm with the charismatic Don Diego, one of many special experiences on our Paradores and Pousadas tour.

Don Diego gives a lesson

Don Diego gives a lesson.

Stepping from the bus onto the white gravel road, we were wrapped in the dry warmth of the Spanish sun. A soft breeze rustled the slender grey-green leaves of the olive trees that stretched as far as the eye could see, in every direction. The gnarled trunks of the trees—some ancient—suggested the depth of Iberian history, a story which steadily had been unfolding with each stop on our journey and every turn of the road. The group was unusually quiet, as if each were taking in the expanse –and the moment—on his own terms.

A crisp, cheerful “Hello!” drew our attention down the road a bit. Don Diego was striding toward us—white moustache, dapper straw hat, loose linen shirt—a gentleman inviting us to come in and rest for a while. As we approached his lovely white-washed farmhouse with wrought iron and bougainvillea—the essence of Andalusian architecture—we felt instantly at home.

We entered the large main room to find tables set with linens and laden with artisan cheeses, the finest cured Iberian ham, grilled local sausages, rustic bread, cool wine—and, of course, olive oil and olives of several shades and distinctive flavors. Don Diego and his nephew had prepared for us a feast for the senses.

 

Don Diego and his olive trees.

Don Diego and his olive trees.

When we had eaten our fill, Don Diego led us outside, where we strolled around as he pointed out distinctive features of the trees, answered more questions, and told us about his farm and life in this part of Spain. A lawyer and scholar prior to olive farming, Don Diego was widely informative, and his warm personality and wry sense of humor were endearing.

We left feeling as though we had spent the afternoon in the home of a good friend. How nice that we would meet Don Diego again the next morning for our walking tour of Ronda, and an intimate look at a captivating town!

Want to experience the hospitality of people like Don Diego? Click here to learn more about our Paradores and Pousadas tour through Spain and Portugal.

Photo: Life in a Medieval Walled City

Monday, December 28th, 2009
Students in the medieval town of Ávila

Students in the medieval town of Ávila

How often does an American high school student get to explore a medieval walled city? Ávila, Spain – one of our new Smithsonian Studies Abroad programs – is home to huge brown granite walls built in 1090AD to protect the Spanish territory from the invading Moors. These walls are known throughout Europe as having eighty-two semicircular towers, nine gateways, and for being in excellent condition. They are so unique in their well-preserved state that they became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985. Within the walls of the city is the Gothic cathedral, built between the 12th and 14th centuries, which was used not only as a religious site but as a military fortress as well.

Even though it had to protect itself from invaders back then, today the Ávila’s motto is “Una ciudad para todos…” – A city for everyone.

Learn more about our new Smithsonian Studies Abroad experiences for high school students in Spain, Italy and China!

Where would you like to study abroad?  

Travel Hit List: Spain

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009
Jeff Koons' "Tulips" outside the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain. Photo: Jessica Engler

Jeff Koons’ “Tulips” outside the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain. Photo: Jessica Engler

We love traveling to Spain, any chance we get. Not only do we get the opportunity to brush up on our rusty high-school Spanish, we take in the paella, the architecture, the modern art, and the cool cafe culture. Get your virtual Spanish fix with today’s travel hit list.

Read: A brief history of Spanish coins, courtesy of the folks at the Smithsonian National Numismatic Collection.

Hear: The Flamenco music of Andalusia, thanks to Smithsonian Folkways.

Watch: Smithsonian Magazine’s video on the history of chocolate, which made its way to Europe after the Spanish conquest of the Americas.

Eat and Drink: Art makes its way to the table courtesy of Spanish chef and innovator Ferrán Adriá and his fellow artists.

Check out: how historian Dana Bleichmar is changing assumptions about the Spanish conquest of the Americas, based on the drawings that naturalists and artists working for the Spanish crown made of the things they found in the new world.

Go: Now is a great time to book a journey to Spain, including our new Study Abroad programs for High School Students.

Join: Smithsonian Journeys is on Facebook. Become a fan today.