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Time for another couple of recipes in our "A Taste of Europe" project! The kids had been looking forward to these two snacks from Spain for a long time, and we finally got it together so that we could enjoy them within a couple of days.
Spain is the largest country on the Iberian Peninsula, and the Mediterranean coastal regions enjoy a mild subtropical climate with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers. The capital city of Madrid is on a high plateau, and is very hot in summer, but freezing cold in winter. In fact, the Spanish government actually relocates to a cooler location during the month of August! Most of interior Spain is on a large rocky plateau, most of which supports only small shrubs and flowering plants. Extreme temperatures and poor soil make farming difficult. The Pyrenees Mountains lie to the north and the Sierra Morena and Sierra Nevada to the south. The fertile basins of Spain's major rivers support most of the country's agriculture, which includes olives, rice, almonds, grapes, and many fruits and vegetables.
Spain's main provinces were united in 1469, when the queen of Castile married the king of Aragon. Ferdinand and Isabella were very influential rulers, and the Spanish Empire grew under them and through the powerful kings that came after them. In 1936, the country experienced a bloody civil war when the military revolted against a newly formed Republican government. The victor was fascist dictator Francisco Franco, who ruled until 1973. After his death, Juan Franco became the king of Spain and pushed democratic reforms. Spain joined the EU in 1986. Most Spaniards are Roman Catholic, and Castilian Spanish is the primary language for business and government.
Because Spain was a leader in exploration and colonization, the country's language, religion, and culture spread throughout the world, and especially to south and central America. Some of the foods that we associate with South American or Central American countries have their origin in Spain.
In recent years, tapas bars and restaurants have become increasingly popular in the US, so this part of Spanish culture is becoming more familiar to us. Even if you've never eaten at a tapas bar, you may be familiar with the foods. Tapas are simply appetizers or snacks. They may be served cold or hot. In Spain, patrons of tapas bars can order a combination of the dishes to make up an entire meal, and it's a part of the night life in the cities. The serving of tapas is intended to encourage conversation, since people are eating only small portions instead of a huge meal, and it is also customary to eat tapas while standing up and even moving about the room and greeting other diners. Queso Frito is a simple and mild tapa, many of the more common tapas are spicier, and include seafood, vegetables, or meat.
Queso Frito (Fried Cheese)
2 beaten eggs
2 tbsp water
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
12 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into "sticks"
OR use string cheese, which is already in the right shape!
Mix eggs and water in a shallow bowl. Put bread crumbs in another shallow bowl. Coat each piece of cheese twice: dip it in egg mixture, then crumbs, then repeat. Lay the coated cheese sticks on a baking sheet and put it in the freezer for about an hour.
Heat oil in a deep fryer or large skillet to about 350 degrees. Fry the cheese a few pieces at a time, just until browned. Ours were done in about one minute in a deep fryer. Remove from oil using a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately with a tapas assortment, or as an appetizer.
1/2 cup butter
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup water
1 cup flour
Put butter, sugar, and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the flour all at once, and stir with a wooden spoon for about a minute, until it's smooth and sticks together in sort of a ball. Remove from heat and beat in the eggs one at a time. By this time it should be just warm so you can handle it. Pack the dough into a pastry bag with a huge star tip (like a 1M piping tip) OR into a large ziploc bag with the corner cut off so you can use it like a pastry bag. (I cut my corner a bit too big, so my churros were rather fat.)
Heat oil in a fryer or a large saucepan to 350 degrees. Pipe the dough into the hot oil and cook until golden, turning once halfway through. Depending on how fat your churros are, it should be about 8 minutes total.
Drain on paper towels, then coat with cinnamon sugar (1/2 cup sugar with about 1 tbsp cinnamon) if you want to. Enjoy!
This post is linked at Try a New Recipe Tuesday, hosted by Lisa at Home to 4 Kiddos
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