pickled, prepped and pintxo’ed

My friends and I recently discovered the magic of Basque food at Coqueta, Michael Chiarello’s new, hotly-anticipated restaurant. There, we were served platters of pintxos: bite-sized, individually portioned, skewered appetizers that looked like jewels and tasted like heaven. Obviously, after we recovered from our rapturous dinner, we had to recreate them at home.

Pintxos are a pinch to make (sorry). It requires only basic, simply-treated ingredients, many of which can be storebought. C cut up a dazzling array of fruit; K sliced up some Spanish chorizo, cheeses, and pickled goodies. A bit of prepwork and assemblage later, and we had ourselves a delectable display of toothpick’ed treats.

Don’t be mistaken, though — pintxos are not just about tasty components. In their region of origin, they’re inextricably woven into the cultural fabric. Pintxos are the centerpoint of social gatherings, meant to be shared and enjoyed amongst company. They’re unfussy finger foods for friends — comfortable, casual, convivial, communal. (I’ll stop with the alliteration now, promise!)

While it’s undeniably fun to eat a pintxo (or five), you are, of course, free to augment your meal with more substantial dishes. I cooked up other share-able plates for our spread, including roasted vegetables and soyrizo-stuffed mini sweet peppers.

Feeling ambitious, I even attempted an almond cake: gateau Basque, in keeping with the theme. I did, though, put a twist on it by using spelt flour, nixing the filling, and serving it seasonally, with macerated peaches and ice cream.

No meal is complete in our eyes without cocktails. A concocted a totally refreshing melon and white-wine sangria — meant for sipping, but I’ll admit I threw mine back with relish. Cheers!

Roasted vegetables

I have no doubt that there are other, likely better ways to roast these vegetables! However, below I’ve included my own process. I cooked my corn by roasting it whole in the oven (alongside the roasting pan); I then let it cool, shucked it, halved it, and sliced off the kernels before adding them to the rest of the vegetables. You can definitely play with the ingredients and exact method here. As long as you keep an eye on the veggies and the temperature relatively high, these should turn out well!

Ingredients

  • 2 portobello mushroom caps, cleaned
  • 1/2 cup of corn kernels, cooked
  • 2 large carrots, washed and peeled
  • 1 tablespoons of parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Water, as needed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss the carrots and mushrooms in parsley, garlic, and olive oil. I recommend using your hands to make sure you evenly cover everything.
  3. Place vegetables in a roasting pan and roast in the oven until golden (about 30 minutes). Deglaze the pan when necessary (if the olive oil and garlic began to blacken and stick to the bottom) by adding small amounts of water.
  4. Remove the roasting pan from the oven when the carrots and mushrooms are fully cooked.
  5. Cut the carrot and mushrooms into 1″ pieces and return to roasting pan, allowing them to soak up the juices in the pan. Add the corn and salt and pepper to taste.

Soyrizo-stuffed mini sweet peppers

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food

I wanted to roast my peppers and the above vegetable dish simultaneously, so I didn’t broil them as the recipe indicated — but I still wanted that delightful “blistered and browned” surface. Unfortunately, while I got great color on the peppers, they lost quite a bit of crunch. Next time, I’ll follow Martha’s advice and blast the heat.

Ingredients

  • 1 tube (17.5 ounces) of soyrizo – I used El Burrito, but Trader Joe’s makes an excellent one, too!
  • 16 mini sweet peppers

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Make a long slit down the length of each pepper, leaving the stem intact. Remove the seeds in each pepper.
  3. Spoon a small amount of soyrizo (about 2 tablespoons, or enough to fill each crevice) in each sweet pepper. Use your best judgment to distribute the soyrizo evenly between all the peppers.
  4. Roast peppers until golden brown (about 20 minutes).

Gateau Basque (Bastardized)

Adapted from Zen Can Cook — bastardized by me. I clearly made a nontraditional gateau Basque, but am sharing my recipe here. After all, with that much butter and sugar, the end product is certain to be good!

David’s Table provides excellent additional technical guidance — namely, keep that butter as cold as possible throughout the process! Nonetheless, my gateau Basque still came out quite dense and crumbly, likely due to the substitution of refined flour with spelt and my slightly overshot cooking time. I’d describe the result as being more a mix of a shortbread, tart, and crumble than a cake. It was still delicious, although a bit hard when cooled. When sprinkled with a bit of water and reheated in the microwave, however, each slice moistened up quickly for a nice treat.

You’ll also notice I don’t include a filling in my recipe. Instead of adding the traditional pastry cream and/or black cherry preserve, I opted to bake the gateau Basque plain and top it in a seasonally appropriate manner: with macerated peaches and vanilla ice cream. I can’t be sure, but I can’t imagine that any Basquaise would’ve been opposed to my spin.

Ingredients

  • 8 3/4 ounces (250 g) spelt flour
  • 4 1/2 ounces (125 g) white sugar
  • one 4 oz. stick (125 g) unsalted butter, kept as cold as possible
  • 1 ounce (25 g) almond meal
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 lemon zest

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, add the flour, sugar, butter, baking powder, almond flour, and lemon zest. Mix until it looks like coarse sand (I used a hand mixer).
  2. Add the egg and vanilla extract. Mix until the dough comes together; do not overmix.
  3. Wrap the dough in foil and let it rest in freezer. I stored mine overnight in the freezer.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8 inch (20 cm) cake pan or pastry dish.
  5. Remove the dough from the freezer. If necessary, let it thaw in the refrigerator until it becomes pliant. Line the cake pan with the dough and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. Be careful not to overbake (as I did)!
  6. Let cool, slice, and enjoy.
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