Tales From Spain – Part 3 – Paella Al Fresco


A slower paced day in Marbella allowed us the opportunity to share a cooking class with Rashida Reidel learning to make a traditional Spanish paella. We began the day at the Marbella market, perusing wonderful produce…


…and really amazing seafood. Fresh from the sea that day, we gathered up some boney fish for our fish stock as well as shrimp, squid, the crawfish like crustaceans at the top of this photo, known as cigalas and brillantes, two kinds of clams and some mussels. Soon we were in the taxi heading to Rashida's lovely seaside home overlooking the Mediterranean for an afternoon of cooking.


Rashida has converted a side patio at her house into an al fresco cooking kitchen, which was all set up for us.


Before we got started chopping and cleaning and sauteeing, our gracious hostess set out some traditional Moroccan green tea with fresh mint, served in those beautiful gold encircled glasses.


We started out making dessert first, my kind of cooking class! We made a mascarpone & almond mousse with stawberry coulis, light and delicious and no cooking required. 


One of my kitchen duties was to clean and trim the seafood. For a Colorado girl, this was a true education.


For the base of our paella we sauteed peppers, garlic, onions and rice…sizzling and fragrant.


A little tapas of the most amazing anchovies, "cooked" ceviche style with lemon juice, then drizzled with Spanish olive oil, salt, minced garlic, fresh ground pepper and chopped parsley. Yum! Really amazing. Fresh anchovies are nothing like the canned variety that get tossed on cesar salads and pizza here in the States. A little Iberian ham (similar to prosciutto) and a lovely Spanish cheese…


…accompanied our deeply hued Sangria – look at the colors! It tasted as delicious as it looks.


While my husband was busy playing up to the fact that he was surrounded by adoring women in the kitchen, happy to have a man cooking, I kept sneaking off to catch glimpse of the Mediterranean sea, shining and beckoning. 


Our spectacular paella finished cooking with all the glorious seafood we had gathered and cleaned – a truly magnificent array of color, fragrant with saffron.


We gathered at this lovely table, with the sea just beyond…


…our plates brimming with the fruits of our labor…


…followed by the beautiful dessert that we made first thing. It was a Spanish afternoon to remember. Convivial and slow paced, the perfect way to experience a taste of Spain.

Just before I left for Spain, a friend gave me a wonderful little book called, "The Sharper the Knife, The Less You Cry," by Kathleen Flinn about the author's year at the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. It's a very funny and charming book, full of great food and hilarious and touching antecdotes, the perfect airplane/travel read. The title refers to a lesson she learned in one of her first classes. When chopping onions, the sharper your knife the less the onion membranes are torn but sliced through cleanly. Less tearing, less "crying" – and so the title of the book.

After spending a slow afternoon cooking and talking and being present with so many great ingredients, and beautiful surroundings, I was especially touched by this passage from the book:

"As in cooking, living requires that you taste, taste, taste as you go along – you can't wait until the dish of life is done.  In my career, I always looked ahead to the place I wanted to go, the next rung on the ladder. It reminds me of "The Station" by Robert Hastings, a parable read at our wedding. The message is that while on a journey, we are sure the answer lies at the destination. But in reality, there is no station, no "place to arrive at once and for all. The joy of life is the trip, and the station is a dream that constantly outdistances us" 

How many tears did I cry because I didn't know what I wanted? "The sharper your knife," as Chef Savard had said, "the less you cry." For me, it also means to cut those things that get in the way of your passion and of living your life the way it's meant to be lived."  

A good reminder to live, at least sometimes, when we can, at a slower pace with no destination but the moment in mind.

6 Responses to Tales From Spain – Part 3 – Paella Al Fresco

  1. Stephanie says:

    oh Fran….the slow dance, cooking, savoring….enjoying the company. What a treat! EVERYTHING looks fresh and colorful and beautiful. What an experience to treasure and remember.


  2. Gwen says:

    I have loved all of your posts about Spain, but this one is the topper (so far). I love the quote you ended with, how perfect!

    BTW, the Colorado tour fell through, now we are going to Santa Fe and Taos on our own!! I am sooo excited!

  3. neva says:

    eat my heart out!! how gorgeous!! what an experience…..hmmmmm. sangria? coffee? both have their place!! you’ve shown that clearly. exquisite photos, write up. . .what a beautiful time you had, thanks for sharing.

  4. mary ann says:

    cooking with the mediterranean as your backdrop. beautiful & delicious anyway you slice it.

  5. Lisa Hoffman says:

    You will Teach me, Obi Wan Kenobi…
    is there a vegetarian version?…(and the masses gasp in horror).
    What would I do without your guidance in the kitchen? I totally support your going on these Dream Sojourns, picking up brilliance from all over the World. I’ll be here at home, waiting for your direction…
    Your photos make our eyes roll back into our heads. Keep it up!

  6. neva says:

    OKAY, just looked at these photos again. i’m OFFICIALLY JEALOUS now. x0, neva

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