All Things Food: A Little Pimentón Anyone ?

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Pimentón – translation – Spanish Paprika

Getting an invite to joing a group of foodie bloggers for a short form visit to local resto shop Pimentón, brought the flavours to start this foodie traveller’s senses aflame. The décor of the lime green and hot tamale red walls entice you to feel a little caliente and ready to consume some Mediterranean and Spanish taste pleasures. One must give immediate thanks to Mary Luz Mejia and Sizzling Communications for the invitation to come and enjoy such an amazing experience on a blustery night in Toronto.

“Venezuelan-born Jose Arato started his professional career as an accountant. One bite (or two) of sumptuous pastries lead him to reconsider his career choice. Upon completely switching gears and diving head-first into the culinary world, Jose interned at the Fairmont Royal York, worked as a chef de partie the Park Hyatt Hotel in Toronto and created ethereal pastries at some of the best shops in Toronto including Rahier, All the Best Fine Foods and Dessert Trends. He later staged in a prestigious chocolate program with Chef Sander Koenen in Caracas, Venezuela allowing him to gain a wealth of experience in various pastry styles and techniques. Approximately one year ago, he took over the Pimenton business from friend and mentor Lola Csullog-Fernandez who left Jose with her coveted Spanish recipes that he makes today, proudly in her memory and with a lot of amor.” ~M.L. Mejia

Imagine the people gathered for the class were writers and bloggers – all who share a passion for food! Our teacher – Chef José Arato who actually became a chef by way of accounting, then the pastry route. Follow him at @PimentonTO or check out the website at www.pimenton.ca .

We started the class then with a demo of how to make our dessert, best things first but you don’t get to eat until last because of preparation time : Ice Cream Turrón. The base of the ice cream was a simple vanilla custard and Chef José, who has worked as a pastry chef, did something so obvious that it made most of us gasp at the simple brilliance of it. While he was scraping the vanilla pods, he did what you would normally do and then well here it comes – ahh the simplicity of it – to ensure all the little seeds were used, he agitated the pod with the same sugar that vanilla was going into. As part of the finale of the end of the night, the ice cream was served with a drizzle of Tuccioliva Olive Oil and Sal de Ibiza. Delicious beyond belief!

We all participated in some of the prep work for the Paella a la Valenciana. There was about eight of us were stationed at cutting boards with knives ready waiting on our instructions from Chef Jose. Some diced juicy red peppers while others chopped the tear-making onions. Inch by inch pieces chef instructed and I did so diligently but not everyone did exactly as chef asked throughout the prep time stuff but it all worked out in the end as we had 3 pans of Paella to be making and sorted sizes of peppers ,onions and chicken between them all.

Frequent dashes to the hand washing station to make sure we were food safe was a bit of a dance move in between sampling all of the yummy appetizers that had been made in anticipation of our arrival. When it came time to clean the squid it all had a bit of a sensual nature to it and perhaps reminded some of us of things better left until after a wonderful meal! Chef taught us to clean the squid tubes by turning it inside out  – a trick I need to ensure I tell my mother about for future reference when she gets a notion to try something new.

An unforgettable cooking tip from Chef: Soak the mussels in water with a little flour first while they are still fresh and alive. The mussels will eat the flour and excrete a lot of the sand they contain and this will prevent getting a lot of sand in your paella dish or anything else you are using mussels for.

When we moved into the kitchen and hovered around the range it became clear paella isn’t exact cooking science; you eyeball it and guesstimate when it comes to the Bomba rice. Watching with both the naked eye and behind the lens, we all followed Chef José showed us when to put liquid in the pan, how to agitate – not stir – and how to finish the dish with a slightly crispy bottom.

Bomba Rice: A Spanish short-grain rice that when cooked, expands in width, which differs from most rice varieties that expand in length. It is able to absorb three times its volume in liquid, so it is one of the best rice varieties for the preparation of popular Spanish paella recipes. When cooked, the grains remain separate and do not stick together. Bomba rice is expensive compared to other rice varieties due to the care required in cultivation and the length of time required for it to mature. It is most often available in specialty shops and through mail order and you can do either at Pimentón.

RECIPES:

Sofrito: A basic classic tomato sauce that is made all over Spain.

Ingredients:

Good quality Olive oil

1 onion chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1x 28-oz tin crushed tomatoes

2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

Directions: In a saucepan, heat olive oil, onion and garlic. Sauté for 6 minutes until fragrant . Add the crushed tomatoes, sugar and salt. Cook over medium heat until some of the liquid has evaporated. Purée with an immersion blender. This recipe freezes amazingly well.

Chicken and Seafood Paella (Paella a la Valenciana) by Chef José Arato (Serves: 6-8)

Ingredients:

2 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped coarsely
Pinch saffron, infused
4 chicken breasts cut up
2 squid, cleaned, cut into rings
16 small clams, soaked to remove sand
16 shrimp, shelled and deveined
Spanish Oil as needed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
Sofrito * see recipe above
3 cups Bomba rice
6 1/2 cup Chicken or Fish broth, hot
1 tablespoon salt (or more as needed)
1/2 cup green beans
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 lemon
2 sweet roasted red peppers
2 dozen mussels, steamed
Lemon wedges for garnish

Directions:

1. Place 1/2 cup of stock in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, and add the saffron and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside. This step is only necessary if your saffron is not dried enough.

2. In a mortar and pestle or small food processor, mash the garlic, parsley and some course salt to a paste. Set aside

3. Heat 6 tablespoons of oil in a paella pan and add the shrimp. Cook briefly and then add the clams and squid. Remove from paella pan. Add more oil if necessary, as dry paella can result if there isn’t enough oil. Add the onions, pepper and when these are soft but not brown. It’s time to add the sofrito, and the garlic/parsley & saffron mixtures. Add enough stock to come up the rivets of the paella pan. Bring to a boil. Squeeze the lemon and season the paella at this point. Add the rice in one line and then stir to mix with the stock. Allow to boil hard for 8 minutes.

4. After 8 minutes, add the green beans, peas and nestle the shrimp on top. DO NOT STIR, as this releases the starch in the rice. Continue cooking at a high roll for another 2-3 minutes or until the rice is no longer soupy but enough liquid remains to continue to cook the rice. Now, turn the heat to low. Place the mussels on the top of the rice and arrange strips of roasted red peppers on top of paella. If your paella bottom does not fit properly on the stove burner, continue cooking in a pre-heated 350F oven for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven when the rice still looks a bit wet. Cover with foil and let the paella rest for 5 minutes. Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley and serve from paella pan.

When all was said and done and we were all salivating, we were allowed to dig into our hard work – the Paella was amazing and Chef Arato prepared an Escalivada (grilled eggplant and pepper salad)  in advance and paired it all with a nice fruity Sangria, a squeeze of fresh lemon and all was set for a wonderful meal with new friends sharing a common bond in the kitchen.We finished off the meal with our amazing Ice Cream Turrón with a drizzle of Tuccioliva Olive Oil and Sal de Ibiza and Santiago Cake -Gluten Free Almond Cake – delish!

We all left with a little memory of leftovers and a sweet little gift from Chef to take home to get us started on our own versions of Paella.A huge thank you to Chef José for his patience and teachings with our group of eager learners in the kitchen!

Stop by for a visit to tantalize your tastebuds, share a little humour and enjoy the shopping experience to come home and create your own Spanish & Mediterranean themed food experiments at home. Or put together a group of friends, family or colleagues and take a cooking lesson on your own and learn the simple pleasures of the tasty meal we enjoyed on your own and know that you are in great hands with the staff at Pimentón. Look for an upcoming Sip N’ Learn session with AYA Life and Chef José soon! Learn about the wonders of Spain and the Mediterranean from a travel perspective while learning how to taste your way through a country.

Pimentón Spanish & Mediterranean Fine Food

681 Mount Pleasant Road

Toronto, ON

Tel: 647.343.4870

© Deborah Peniuk 2012

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