Griddled Aubergines with Salsa Verde and Tomatoes

Our recent month in Spain was less of a holiday and more of a race to get through a list of household chores and maintenance, family visits and dealing with banks, bills and bureaucracy. Still, it had to be done, and there were of course a few special times of relaxation and fun with family and friends. Sometimes, though, it was nice just to have a couple of hours at our little cortijo (that’s a house in the country in Spain) and relax with a meal and a bottle of wine.

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The weather was all rather unpredictable going from an initial 40 degrees which knocked us sideways, to down below 20 degrees.  Then it jumped around from lovely to grey and cloudy, rainy and windy, then back to lovely. Honestly, we could have been in England! When we did have a comfortably warm day, we fired up the barbecue and cooked and ate outside. Some days we ate meat, but after a few weeks of a meat heavy diet, we craved vegetables. Luckily we were gifted an awful lot of salad so made a local gazpacho. Sounds weird but it works, trust me!

Big Man is not a fan of aubergines, but he did give this dish a go and grudgingly agreed that it was “comestible” – that’s Spanish for edible! Luckily we also had salmorejo (another variation of the more traditional gazpacho) my very favourite summer soup, to save him from fading away and I feasted on most of the absolutely delicious aubergine.

Ingredients (to serve 2 as a main course)

  • 1 large aubergine sliced into ½ cm slices lengthways and brushed lightly with olive oil on both sides
  • Some salsa verde (Spanish style) or just make up a mix of fresh olive oil with some finely chopped garlic, herbs and a pinch of salt
  • A large tomato, finely chopped
  • A finely chopped chilli (optional)

Fire up the barbecue if the weather permits or heat up a griddle pan. I never salt my aubergines as I really don’t find them bitter. Feel free to do this if you like, but don’t, of course, brush them with oil until you’ve rinsed them.

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Grill lightly on both sides and drizzle over some salsa verde. Cover tightly with foil or cling film so that they sweat slightly, and absorb the dressing at they cool down. Serve at room temperature with the tomato and chilli sprinkled over. That’s it, easy eh?!

For another grilled aubergine dish, take a look here.

Squid with Garlic, Lemon and Parsley and a “How To”

We´re very lucky Up The Mountain to be able to get hold of fresh fish, even though we live 45km from the coast.  Having said that, I do keep fish in my freezer and cleaned squid is one of those things that keeps well and seems to suffer no ill effects from freezing. We don´t get a visit from Fish Man on Mondays, becuase there is no fishing on Sundays, but this morning he drove up, and this is what we bought.

One of the effects of little Alfi´s run in (literally) with Fish Man´s van is that when he hears him approaching and bipping his horn, he runs and hides under the nearest table, shaking and looking very sorry for himself.  Whilst I don´t like to see him frightened, at least I know he has learned a very important lesson as far as cars and dogs go.

Today I´m going to give you a super easy way of cooking squid, which I know can be quite scary looking. I´m also going to tell you how to clean them if you ever do get lucky enough to get hold of fresh squid for either cooking that day or freezing for another day.

Feeling brave?  Come on then, get those kitchen gloves on and let´s get cracking.

First of all you need to grab hold of that squid like you mean business.

Now pull the legs and anything that comes with them out and put to one side for the moment.

Now pull out the spine which looks like a sliver of clear plastic. Sorry this is a bit blurred – Big Man was in charge of photos and was excited about eating squid!

Rinse the body (including the inside) and go back to the legs which you will pull or snip away from any mucky bits in the middle just below the “eyes”. Still blurry, still excited!

From the centre of the legs (which are really tentacles!) pull out the hard centre core (or beak).

Rinse the legs and contemplate your bowl of lovely clean squid. Well done!

Now you can either cut the squid up or leave it whole.  For battered squid rings (covered in flour and deep fried)  “A La Romana”, you´ll need to slice. Today we´re just going to keep it very simple.

Sprinkle with salt and olive oil and put onto a hot griddle or into a frying pan (no oil needed as you have already put some on the squid). Keep the heat high, they´ll need a couple of minutes on each side depending on their size.  When the flesh is no longer opaque but a good white colour, turn and continue to cook.

Remove from the heat when done and either drizzle with salsa verde and lemon juice, or add some finely chopped parsley, garlic and lemon juice.  Serve with plenty of delicious crusty bread to mop up those amazing juices.

And if you can´t get hold of fresh squid, oriental stores often sell packets of squid tubes frozen which are very good!

Salsa Verde Spanish Style

Shake before serving...

Well, it´s not exactly Italian salsa verde in that there are no capers or anchovies…but, it´s a green sauce so that most definitely makes it a salsa verde!

Restaurants round where I live have good, simple food.  It can sometimes get a little repetitive, and often there´s no menu as they all serve pretty much the same selection of grilled meats (usually pork cuts) and some grilled or fried fish.  What you get though is fresh, well cooked and tasty food.  Often the meat or fish will come drizzled with a delicious garlic and parsley mixture blended with olive oil.

One of our regular local restaurants moves everything outside onto the “summer terrace” during the hot months.  This includes the cooking, so you can sit at your table and almost within an arm´s reach you have Luis at the bar, his partner Sonia in the kitchen area and the mountain views.  I noticed that Sonia makes her sauce up and keeps it in a squeezy bottle which she then uses to dispense the delicious mixture over the cooked food as it leaves the kitchen and is delivered to us by Luis.

All she does is finely chop parsley and garlic and blend with a season of salt and local extra virgin olive oil.  I make mine up in the food processor or in a small jug using the hand stick blender.  I have now taken to keeping a bottle of this in my fridge.  Sometimes I add the zest of a lemon, and squirt it over simple grilled dishes (including vegetables) to liven them up.

Sadly, no waiter service at home, so we dished up ourselves!

Do give it a go, it´s handy to have around and apart from looking pretty, tastes wonderful. Probably best not to eat it if you´re going out on a hot first date though!