Credit Melina Hammer for The New York Times. Paella, pure and simply delicious with couscous or with saffron rice! – http://www.tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

My friends Eric and Eduardo are spending six weeks in Barcelona this summer. To say that I am envious is something I must confess I am. Eric and I have been corresponding and the first thing that charged to the forefront of my brainbox was Paella! If the Spanish had no other delicacy in their vast gourmet repertoire besides Paella, I would not be morose. Paella I could eat every day and be sated. The mélange of saffron rice, shellfish, white wine, vegetables, and wedges of lemon make my culinary heart skip a beat. There are meat versions of Paella with chicken, pork, and rabbit, but my Paella loyalties lie with the seafood version. The following link is to Mark Bittman of the New York Times’ Magazine and Dining section for his Paella Master Recipe.

Variations on Paella abound up and down and across Spain, much like the variations on a theme of France’s Cassoulet. It depends on the region, the available ingredients, and on the cook. Recipes are open to additions and deletions on the primary recipe offer the cook an array of possibilities. Eating Paella on a sultry summer night, drinking a crisp white wine, and listening to the soft strains of guitar music make me happy.

   Don Quijote is an exquisite Spanish restaurant in Valparaiso, Indiana. The chef creates a true Paella I yearn for and for which I am willing to drive the distance to partake of its splendor. Since I am a casserole aficionado, Paella appeals to me greatly. The seafood version takes me back to the warm beaches of Spain on starry nights, as I slowly ate and drank with friends. With each bite, may Paella transport you too, to the seductive rhythms of Spain.

Ciao for now.

Fowl Views

I feel certain my father is laughing uncontrollably as he rolls over in his grave.  When I peered at the webpage, I howled with laughter. The cause of this jocular reaction was Williams-Sonoma.  For years I have been fan of its emporium.  Happily I leaf through its catalogues of innovative kitchen and house wares. However, in perusing its web page, I was caught up short by what I saw:  chicken coops.


My father always maintained a dozen hens, plus one rooster, that resided in a white ranch-style chicken coop my grandfather built.  Inside the coop, stood a wall of metal chicken cubbies in which “the girls”could roost and lay their eggs in private.  Fresh hay filled each cubby for the comfort of the laying hens.  Family photographs verify that Daddy preferred the snowy white Leghorn, though in later years he often had Rhode Island Reds.  The Leghorn roosters, particularly impressive as they strutted with their lipstick red cowls, cock-a-doodle-doo-d without fail at sunrise    Most Italians living in the countryside  around my hometown kept chickens.  The chickens served a two-fold purpose:  they provided fresh eggs, and later, served up as dinner.  Our chickens had much space in which to scratch and run since the fenced in chicken park was within our one-acre cyclone-fenced orchard.

Today high-priced chicken coops are for sale.  I admit these coops look nice and likely accommodate two to three chickens.  The price tag on these is hilarious because the Italians I knew built their own coops at little cost.  However, in this day of eco-friendly, organic food, yet another Italian staple has been appropriated.  It was bad enough when the upper-middle class “discovered” biscotti, which Italians had been baking for millennia.  Of course, these yuppie-doodles mispronounced the Italian biscotti [they say “bis-cah-ti”, instead of “bis-cote-ti”].  In their self-aggrandizing world, maybe they pronounce, “chicken coop” as “chicken copa”, as if Ricky Ricardo were playing a gig amongst the fowl.

I am clucking with laughter.

Ciao for now.