December 31, 2013 By Shauqeen Mizaj

Venir … unirse a la fiesta!!

fiesta 2I took a sip of my coffee and gazed out of the windowpane at the white, warm and welcoming clouds that resembled soft cotton swirls. The drink was rejuvenating and stimulating, and I felt good. I had long waited for this journey to meet my best friend at one of my favorite destinations. I was on the flight to Madrid zealously waiting to land. And there I was in Spain, once again, getting a chance to relish the mesmerizing landscapes. Zara was waiting for me and she had promised an evening at the Museo del Prado, the largest art gallery in the world. The national art museum is one of the major tourist attractions that houses more than eight thousand paintings, exhibiting only less than 2000 due to lack of space. It was when we were strolling through the hallways admiring the artistic riches that my phone screamed. I woke up from the slumber finding myself still on bed realizing that all of it was a part of a beautiful dream. Spain is like that. It is captivating.

It is always pleasure to think of Spain and all at once glimpses of crowded beaches, bullfights, flamenco and El Encierro (Running of the bulls) flash through our memory. We have seen the encierro in Spanish movies as well as in a recent Bollywood movie “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara”. Spain has always fascinated people with its rich cultural attractions, vibrant cities, magnificent monuments and castles, fantastic beaches and delicious cuisine. The exquisite white villages of Andalusia, the architectural spectacle of Madrid, Salamanca or “the golden city” popular for its architectural, religious and gastronomic culture and the Al Hambra palace in the city of Granada are a few of the abundant magnetisms. The views from the top of the Giralda tower is something you can’t afford to miss. As the title signifies (In Spanish it means come… join the party!!) it’s always a fiesta when we are in Spain.

Located on Iberian Peninsula in Western Europe, at the base of France and surrounded on three sides by water, Spain’s culture and tradition is widely influenced by the geography, climate and many other cultures of those who invaded and visited the region over centuries. The same applies for its cuisine; it is diverse and differs from region to region.

Traditional Spanish cooking is simple, full of flavor with a lot of variety and uses ingredients grown locally and easily available. It consists mainly of fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and so much sea food (Spaniards love sea food!!) with olive oil and garlic being the two basic and sometimes the only ingredients in the cuisine. Parsley, also known as the world’s most popular herb, is used so much in abundance that it is said that butchers in Spain gives it away. Spaniards mainly stew their food. They also roast, fry, sauté and occasionally grill. Despite the cultural and culinary diversity, certain customs remain the same like drinking wine (vino) during meals, consumption of Salads (ensalada) especially during summer and serving bread (pan) with majority of meals. If you are out to try something new for your palettes then go for Spanish food. Following are two popular Spanish dishes, a main course and a salad, both delectable and full of flavor. So as they say in Spain, Buen provecho (Happy eating)!!

Arroz con pollo( Chicken and Rice)


·         1 small chicken (or 10 pieces chicken), cut into small pieces

·         1 ripe tomato, diced

·         1 yellow onion, chopped

·         1 red pepper(red bell pepper), sliced into long strips

·         2-3 cups medium grain rice

·         4 cups chicken stock

·         1/2 tsp. turmeric (optional – for yellow coloring)

·         4-5 Tbsp. extra virgin Spanish olive oil

In a large frying pan, sauté tomato, onion and pepper in olive oil. When onion is done, add the chicken and cook for a few minutes. Add rice to pan, mix well until all ingredients are combined. Add chicken broth and turmeric, if desired. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered until the rice is cooked.

Ensalada de Naranja y Aguacate (Spanish orange and avocado salad)


·         3 oranges (medium to large)

·         1 1/2 avocados

·         20-25 pitted black olives

·         5-6 thin slices red onion

·         vinegar

·         extra virgin olive oil


The fruits are available year round, everywhere including the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent. Navel and Valencia oranges are two common varieties that are best suited for salads. Blood oranges are common in Spain and easily available. They add color to the dish due to their red flesh coming from a pigment called anthocyanin.

·         Peel the oranges, avocado and onion and slice them. Arrange the fruits one on top of the other on a plate.

·         Place the olives on top.  Lightly sprinkle vinegar and extra virgin olive oil on top. The salad is ready to serve.

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