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. . . A Menu From Spain

June 18, 1987|ANNE WILLAN

How good the Spaniards are at summer cooking. Think of the iced soups and chilled sangria red wine punch. Think of little dishes of olives, marinated shrimp and other tapas and of Paella fragrantly steaming on an outdoor grill. What is more, many such dishes need almost no cooking. Often they can be made ahead.

The following iced cucumber soup is a version of the gazpacho that I found, not in Spain, but just over the border in France, with its sizable Arab population from Algeria. The soup is flavored and thickened, Arab-style, with yogurt, but Spanish influence had added a generous amount of garlic.

Paella is an ideal dish for the outdoor grill because it smells as good as it looks. It comes in many guises, with a huge variety of ingredients added to the basic rice. My recipe includes just about everything, so it is up to you to mix and match as you please.

Seafood adds to the glamour, but also to the expense, so plain fish and squid are the economical choice. Chicken can be omitted altogether, if desired. However, the rice, onion, peppers, chorizo, saffron and some kind of fish are indispensable, with an alluring crown of mussels or clams on top.

Lemon-Almond Tart is one of those deceptively simple recipes that always turns out perfectly. The tart can be baked ahead and, like so many recipes with nuts, it matures if kept a day or two.

Sangria should be made with a hearty dry Spanish red wine, fresh orange juice, orange liqueur and a minimum of fruit slices.

SPANISH DINNER OUTDOORS FOR 10

Iced Cucumber Soup With Chives or Mint

Paella

Lemon-Almond Tart

Suggested drink: Sangria or Spanish red or white Rioja wine

ICED CUCUMBER SOUP WITH CHIVES OR MINT

1 quart plain yogurt

6 cucumbers

Salt, pepper

5 tablespoons walnut pieces

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons wine vinegar

3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives or mint

1/4 cup olive oil

3/4 cup ice water

10 ice cubes

1 tablespoon or more chopped chives or 10 sprigs mint

Place yogurt in strainer lined with cheesecloth. Leave overnight to drain in refrigerator.

Wipe cucumbers. Peel if they are waxed. Halve lengthwise. Scoop out seeds with teaspoon. Slice. Sprinkle with salt. Leave 30 minutes to draw out juices. Drain. Rinse thoroughly.

Puree cucumbers, a little at a time, in blender or food processor with walnuts, garlic, vinegar and yogurt. Puree briefly or more thoroughly depending on whether you desire coarse or fine-textured soup.

Place puree in bowl. Stir in 3 tablespoons chives and olive oil. Taste to adjust for seasonings. Cover and chill at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours. Thin soup with ice water to consistency preferred. Serve very cold, adding ice cube to each bowl. Top with remaining chives. Makes 10 servings.

Note: Deep green shiny skin on a cucumber shows it has been waxed.

PAELLA

3 pounds mussels or clams

3/4 cup olive oil

3 pounds chicken thighs or legs

3 onions, chopped

1 green pepper, cored, seeded and cut into strips

1 sweet red pepper, cored, seeded and cut into strips

1 chile, cored, seeded and chopped, optional

4 cups rice

1 1/2 quarts chicken stock or water

Dash saffron, soaked in 3 to 4 tablespoons boiling water

Salt, pepper

1 pound cleaned squid

1 pound raw smoked ham, cut into strips

1 pound Spanish-style chorizo, thinly sliced

1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 pound cod or haddock fillets, cut into strips

1 1/2 pounds unpeeled raw shrimp

Wash mussels under cold running water. Discard any open ones that do not close when tapped. Heat half of oil in 20-inch paella pan or shallow flame-proof casserole. Add chicken pieces. Brown on all sides over medium heat 10 to 12 minutes so chicken is only half cooked.

Remove chicken. Add remaining oil. Cook onions, peppers and chile until tender but not brown. Add rice to pan. Cook, stirring, until grains are transparent and oil is absorbed. Add stock, saffron and salt and pepper to taste. Let stock cool if you plan to refrigerate Paella.

Add remaining ingredients in following order, pushing well down into rice: browned chicken, squid, smoked ham, chorizo, tomatoes, fish and shrimp. Paella can be refrigerated up to 2 hours if stock was cool when other ingredients were added.

To finish, bring liquid to boil. Boil fairly rapidly on top of stove or on outdoor grill 25 to 30 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed and rice is tender. Stir occasionally, especially when Paella starts cooking, and add more stock or water if liquid evaporates before rice is cooked. After 10 minutes of cooking, place mussels on top of Paella. Keep Paella warm over very low heat 5 to 10 minutes so flavors blend before serving. Makes 10 servings.

LEMON-ALMOND TART

3 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

Grated peel and juice of 2 lemons

2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 1/4 cups ground almonds

1 baked Sweet Pastry Tart Shell

1 lemon, cut in 10 very thin slices, including peel

Powdered sugar

Place oven rack on lowest setting in oven.

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