If Spain was a feeling, I’d describe it as romantic. Why, you ask? The language, architecture, history, and people…just to name a few things. I could gush for hours why each of these play a part in making Spain the romantic place that it is, but for the sake of brevity, Spanish culture is an inexplicable feeling best explained by food. If you can’t hop on a plane to experience the awe of Gaudí’s Sagrada Família, or stroll down Las Ramblas to speak with locals about their favorite tapas, then the next best thing is to try and recreate the experience at home.
José Pizarro does just this by translating the romance of Spanish culture in his new cookbook, Catalonia. Named after the northeastern part of Spain, Catalonia blends traditional and contemporary cuisine into recipes that anyone can make at home (with the right ingredients, of course).
From a first glance, you’ll notice that the cover of Catalonia is decorated like an abstract piece of art, reminiscent of the work of Picasso (another Spanish artist). The book is fairly straightforward in nature. Meat is the first “chapter,” followed by: Fish, Vegetables, and Desserts.
The recipes themselves are fantastic (as you’ll see if you keep reading to my “recipe tests”), but something really unique about this cookbook that I was *pleasantly* surprised to find was the author’s input on how to integrate these recipes into an authentic Catalonian feast! On p. 232, you’ll find four different menu arrangements that vary in party size, either for a party of 4 or 6. Each menu includes different dishes, describes what kind of preparation is required two days/one day/and day of. I thought it was really considerate of the author to do something like this, because sometimes when cooking recipes from a foreign country, it can be difficult to pair mains and sides you’ve never tried into one cohesive meal.
I should also note that the photography in this cookbook is brilliant. It’s vibrant, makes the dishes look mouth-watering good, and above all, feels like José Pizarro is taking you on a private tour of Catalonia. I’m a sucker for a good food photo (mainly because I like to have guidance when working through a recipe), but these photos are more than that. They tell a story and focus on exquisite details, like the striations of a clementine just cut to make sorbet (p. 178), or the grandeur of a roasted cauliflower atop a bed of fresh banana shallots and tomatoes (p. 112).
Now for the recipes!
RECIPE TASTE TESTS
Warm Duck, Pumpkin, & Pardina Lentil Salad (p. 43): This is a recipe from the “meat” section. I was a bit apprehensive about this dish, as it mixes a vinaigrette with duck and pumpkin. Much to my surprise, I really loved the composition of flavors in this dish, so much so, I’ve made it three times since this recipe test! If you’re not a fan of duck, fear not, this recipe can be subbed out with chicken, tofu, or another protein. What I liked most about this dish is that it has so many flavors, but doesn’t require much prep time.
Bermondsey Bomb (p. 48): If you’re looking for a new appetizer to serve at a party, try these! The best way to describe these “bombs” is that they’re a mix of a meatball and a potato pancake. The interior of the ball has meat (which again, you can substitute for another ingredient if you’re allergic or don’t eat pork), which is then rolled in potatoes and dusted with breadcrumbs. I tried the pork version of these, but made ground beef ones for my family members that are allergic to pork. Both were a hit & I have to say, the sauce was aaamazing. These would be great to stand alone as an appetizer, on spoons as a tapa, or even served with something else, like a mix up of spaghetti and meatballs?!
Personally, I enjoyed these just by themselves with the sauce and mustard in the picture.
Chickpeas With St. George’s Mushrooms (p. 161): This recipe is no yolk (egg pun), delicious. My egg decided to get naked for the picture, but if you poach an egg correctly, it should have the egg white on the outside (oops, technical error). Regardless of how my egg photographed, it tasted so good mixed in with the chickpeas, watercress, and mushrooms. The egg provided creaminess without adding any milk, which was a really nice way to bring all of the ingredients together.
This dish would be a great breakfast option, side dish, or even appetizer. It’s featured in the “vegetables” section of the book, but could really be a versatile recipe for a dinner (or breakfast) party.
Crema Catalana (p. 184): Last but certainly not least, a dessert! I wanted to try this one because it looked very similar to a crème brûlée (which I love, in small quantities). In comparison, I’d say the Crema Catalana is a little less sweet and more savory with notes of cinnamon, orange, and lemon. I was able to use my crème brûlée torch to crisp up this dessert (I told you, I love to make/eat crème brûlées…). If you don’t have a torch, you can also try setting the dish under a grill or broiler…but the torch is much faster, so I’d suggest investing in one if you’re going to make these or other brûléed dishes in the future.
Overall, I’d say that this is a beautiful book that takes readers on a culinary adventure. You’ll visit the bustling city of Barcelona, the secluded beaches of Costa Brava, and everywhere in between. You’ll learn to make some of the most popular dishes served throughout the Catalonian region, dishes that you could then use to impress a significant other for a date night (or even a first date!).
I received this book complimentary on behalf of the publisher, but all thoughts and opinions in this post are my own. All photography featured in this post is my own unless noted otherwise; please seek permission before copying or reproducing the images.
Score Card: Cover Art 5/5 | Content 5/5 | Ease of Read 5/5
Book Stats: Catalonia by José Pizarro
Page Count- 253
Binding- Hardcover with color photographs