Reliving Spanish nights with wine, tapas, sunsets and loved ones

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By: Rachel Shenk

As days lengthen and evenings stay light forever, I find myself eating later and spending those earlier hours outside in the yard or sitting quietly on the front porch. It is a time to slowly unwind from the work of the day, and little by little, enter into my own world. It is my favorite time of day. I like the way the setting sun colors my surroundings or the sound of the rain tapping on the roof as the sky turns from grey to black.

When I lived in Barcelona, Spain, early evening was when the city came alive. Along Las Ramblas, a wide pedestrian-only sidewalk in the middle of the busy boulevard, we joined the crowds strolling and talking as we slowly made our way home. But before reaching our final destination, we would stop at a cafe or tapas bar and have something to tide us over. In the old quarter, an area of the city that dates back to medieval times, we would walk along the tiny twisting streets back to a hidden square. On one side, a small cafe with tables spilling out onto the Plaça offered wine by the glass from big barrels behind the bar. Along its counter, a whole variety of small tidbits in bowls or on platters beckoned to the customer. We grabbed a plate and chose from a collection of tapas that included spicy potatoes, egg and potato tortillas, fried or pickled squid, mushrooms, red pepper tarts, snails, stuffed tomatoes, marinated cheese, sausage, ham, olives and almonds. Groups of friends or families gathered at tables and enjoyed food and drink, enough to carry us to our 9:30 p.m. supper time. For my friends and I, it was a time to discuss the day’s affairs: “How did this go? How is so and so doing? Did you see this movie? I just tried a new recipe.” Over a glass of wine, we shared some food and caught up with each other’s lives. And then headed home.

Once, a Spanish friend took me down a nondescript street until we came to an ordinary looking door. He knocked. The door opened and a face peeked out. A hand reached out and motioned us in. The door was locked behind us, and we found ourselves in a soft and plush environment. Benches covered in colorful pillows lined the walls. Several mismatched tables with chairs shared the space with the resident cat. Off to one side, an ageless, dark-haired man plucked a flamenco guitar. At the back, a curtain pulled aside revealed a kitchen. An old woman asked us what we wanted, and we pointed to our choices cooking on the stove. As we sat at one of the tables, she brought us wine and a plateful of tapas. We ate and drank, listened to the music and petted the cat, and were joined by others who had knocked on that door. After unwinding, we were ready to go back out into the streets of Barcelona, headed for my apartment on the fourth floor of a house at number 354 of Calle Valencia.

These days I often unwind by going walking or running at Ox Bow Park with Jim. But every now and then, I find a tidbit at home, and he and I sit on the front porch with a piece of cheese and some nuts and a glass of wine, and I remember the sun setting on that Plaza in Barcelona. Here is a tapas dish you can make that includes peas.

Spanish Flamenco Eggs

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 14 oz. can of chunky tomato sauce
  • 1 cup green peas
  • A pinch of saffron
  • One glug of wine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 eggs

In a small frying pan, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, then the garlic and fry until tender. Add the tomato sauce, wine, saffron and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer. Stir in the peas. Place in four individual oven proof dishes. Bake in 375 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and break an egg in the middle of each dish. Bake for another five minutes or until egg is set.

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