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A Spanish Paella Feast

by Lou Seibert Pappas

This springtime party meal flaunts a Spanish theme with fresh specialties of the season. Mango and smoky meats provide an intriguing appetizer. Bright pink shellfish, nestled in a bed of golden saffron rice, make a tantalizing entree with spokes of green asparagus. Chill the soup several hours ahead for flavors to mellow. A romaine salad has a tangy Parmesan cheese dressing.

For dessert, encircle a flan with fresh strawberries. Or for another option, offer fresh pineapple shells filled with orange liqueur-flavored ice cream and caramel sauce. For a centerpiece, utilize fruits and vegetables, such as an arrangmenet of red and gold peppers with mangoes interspersed with blossoms from the garden -- hibiscus, gardenias, or bougainvillea.

Sangria is an easy-to-serve, fun beverage for an apertif for a guest occasion. You might follow with a Spanish white recommended best buy from the "Wine Spectactor" -- a Bodegas Vilari“o Cambados Alba Vi“o Rias, a Bodegas Marques de Murrieta Rioja White, or an Echeverria Chardonnay Molin Reserve 1996 from Chile. Or try a California sauvignon blanc -- a Markham Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 1996 or a Mason Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 1996.

makes 8 to 10 servings

2 bottles (4/5 quart each) dry red wine
2 bottles (10 ounces each) bitter lemon soda
1 orange, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
Sugar to taste
Ice cubes
Mint sprigs or lemon balm sprigs

Combine in a large pitcher the wine, bitter lemon, and sliced orange and lemon. Add the sugar. Chill. To serve, pour over ice cubes in glasses and garnish with mint or lemon balm sprigs.

Mango and Smoked Meats
makes about 1 1/2 dozen appetizers

Peel and slice, then cut in 1 1/2 to 2-inch chunks 1 large mango. Or peel, halve, and seed 1 papaya and cut into 2-inch-long pieces. Wrap each piece of fruit in a paper-thin slice of prosciutto or a slice of Italian dry salami. Skewer with a toothpick.

Gazpacho Andalusian
makes 8 to 10 servings

1 large cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 sweet white onion, coarsely chopped
6 large tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped or 1 can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes
4 or 5 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (10 1/2 oz.) condensed beef broth
3 tablespoons each white wine vinegar and olive oil
2 slices sourdough French bread
1 small carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 cup water (approximately)
Salt and pepper to taste
Condiments: chopped green onions, croutons, diced avocado

Place in a blender container the cucumber, onion, tomatoes, garlic, broth, vinegar, oil, bread, and carrot and blend until almost smooth. Prepare in 2 batches if necessary. Thin to desired consistency with water and season with salt and pepper. Chill. Serve in bowls, passing condiments to be spooned into the soup.

Paella con Mollusks
makes 8 to 10 servings

1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large tomato, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1 /2 cups arborio rice
1/8 teaspoon saffron
1 bottle ( 8 ounces) clam juice
1 1/2 cups hot water
1/2 cup dry white wine
16 large prawns, unshelled
16 small butter, rock, or steamer clams, unshucked
1 crab, cooked and cracked, or 4 very small lobster tails, cooked and split
1 package (10 ounces) frozen petite peas, blanched for 2 minutes
1/2 pound asparagus tips, parboiled
1 jar (2 ounces) sliced pimiento
Lemon wedges

In a large frying pan or 4 quart casserole, saut» the onion, garlic, and tomato in oil until vegetables are glazed. Add the rice, saffron, clam juice, water, and wine. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Arrange the prawns and clams on top, cover, and steam until clam shells open. Transfer to a large paella pan or serving casserole. Add the crab, peas, asparagus, and pimiento. Heat through or keep warm in a low oven until serving time. Garnish with lemon wedges.

Note: Instead of the crab and lobster, you may use 8 to 16 mussels, adding them along with the prawns.

Romaine with Parmesan Dressing
makes 8 to 10 servings

2 slices sourdough French bread
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire
4 anchovy fillets, minced
2 heads romaine, inner leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

Cut the bread into 1/2 inch squares and saut» in 1 tablespoon oil with garlic until golden. Shake together the remaining oil, vinegars, salt, mustard, Worcestershire, and anchovy fillets. Tear the greens into bite-size pieces and pile in a salad bowl. Pour over the dressing and mix lightly. Toss with the lemon juice. Add the cheese and croutons and grind over the pepper.

Flan with Strawberries
makes 8 to 10 servings

Caramel-lined pan
3 1/2 cups milk
6 eggs
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups strawberries, hulled
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier or kirsch
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped, with sugar and liqueur to taste

Prepare the caramel-lined pan. Scald the milk. Beat together the eggs and egg yolks until blended and beat in the granulated sugar, vanilla, and hot milk. Pour into the caramel-lined pan. Place in a pan containing 1 inch of hot water and bake in the oven for 1 hour, or until the custard is set. Remove from the water bath, let cool, and chill. Loosen the custard with a knife and invert on a platter. Toss the berries with liqueur and powdered sugar and spoon in the center of the ring. Spoon the whipped cream in a bowl and serve alongside, if desired.

Caramel-lined Pan: Heat 1/3 cup sugar in a heavy saucepan until it melts, caramelizes, and turns amber. Immediately pour into a 1 1/2 quart ring mold, swirling the pan to coat.

Spanish Pineapple Surprise
makes 8 to 10 servings

1 tablespoon each butter and sugar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pistachio nuts or almonds
1 quart vanilla ice cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
5 tablespoons Cointreau or Grand Marnier
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 large pineapple
Caramel Sauce: follows

Place the butter and sugar in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until the butter starts to brown. Add pistachios and heat, stirring to coat them evenly. Cook just until lightly browned, then turn out onto a buttered sheet of foil. Let cool, then break up to separate the nuts.

Let the ice cream soften slightly. Whip the cream until stiff and beat in 3 tablespoons of the Cointreau and the powdered sugar. Turn the ice cream into a chilled bowl and quickly fold in the whipped cream and half the nut crunchy. Spoon into a freezer container, cover, and refreeze until firm, about 1 hour.

Cut the pineapple in half lengthwise, leaving the crown of leaves intact, and remove the fruit with a grapefruit knife; reserve the pineapple shells. Cut out the core and slice the fruit 1/4 inch thick. Place the fruit in a bowl and drizzle with the remaining Cointreau; cover and chill. To serve, spoon the pineapple into one pineapple shell and mound the ice cream in the other shell. Sprinkle the ice cream with the remaining nut crunch. Serve at once. Spoon into large dessert bowls and pass the Caramel Sauce.

Caramel Sauce: Place in a saucepan 1/3 cup heavy cream, 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons light corn syrup, and 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar. Bring to a boil and boil briskly for 3 minutes, stirring. Serve warm.
Makes about 1 cup.

Lou Seibert Pappas is a former food editor of the Palo Alto Times Tribune and a home economist with Sunset Magazine. She currently writes food, home, and travel-related articles for national magazines and newspapers and is the author of more than 30 books.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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