French Riviera - sweep of Mediterranean shoreline


European Dinner Parties for Spain

Welcome to Pilar Cabrera's Spanish Dinner

Pilar CabreraSpaniards love their food! In fact, the typical Spaniard probably eats more food than any one of us in the USA, but they take their time eating, spread their meals throughout the day, and walk between meals.

Many people think that cooking Spanish food must take a lot of time because they've been to Spain and had delicious three, four or five course meals. The truth is that most Spanish dishes are simple, not complicated - and do not take long to prepare.


Who said: "My mother said to me…If you're a soldier you will be a general. If you are a monk, you'll become the Pope. Instead, I was a painter and became….see below in the Spain Learning Experience

Pilar Cabrera's Spanish menu
Gambas Al Ajillo - Shrimp with garlic
Tortilla de Patata - Spanish omelet
Spanish Flan

(download printer-friendly recipes)

Appetizer: Gambas Al Ajillo - Shrimp with garlic

Gambas Al Ajillo - shrimp with garlicThis is usually served as a 'tapa' but also as an appetizer for a dinner party. The same dish can be made with squid (cut into rings) or scallops. Serve with lots of warm crusty bread to sop up the sauce.


1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 - 6 garlic cloves, minced (more if you are a garlic lover)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (to taste)
4 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

In a wide, shallow sauté pan over high heat, warm the olive oil and the butter. (Warm it, do not cook it)
Add the shrimp and garlic and sauté quickly for about 2-3 minutes.
Add the lemon juice, paprika, pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer to a warmed serving dish, sprinkle with the parsley and serve at once.

Main course: Tortilla de Patata - Spanish omelet

This is a traditional Spanish dish consisting of a thick egg omelet made with potatoes and fried in olive oil. (It's different from a Spanish omelet in the USA)

Ingredients: (4 or 5 large servings, 12 tapa servings)

3 medium large
5 eggs
1 medium onion,  finely chopped
½ bell pepper,  red or green,  chopped into ½-inch pieces
1/2 cup olive oil
¾ teaspoon salt

Peel the potatoes and cut them into pieces ¼-inch thick by ½-inch wide.
Over a medium-high flame, heat the olive oil in a 10-inch non-stick frying pan.
When the oil is hot add the potatoes and let them cook for two minutes.
Add the chopped onion and the bell pepper.
Stir the potatoes and onions until the potatoes are three-quarters cooked and they appear translucent, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Get out a bowl large enough to fit the eggs together with the potato mixture.
Beat the eggs and the salt in the bowl until they are well blended.
When the potatoes are ready, remove the pan from the heat and then strain the potatoes to remove the extra oil.
After straining the oil from the potatoes,  add the potato mixture to the eggs.
Wipe out the pan with a paper towel and add 1 tablespoon of oil back to the pan. Spread the oil around.

Heat the pan over a medium-high flame. When the oil is hot,  pour the potato and egg mixture into the frying pan and then turn down the heat to medium-low.
After about 10 minutes, you should see the egg starting to set up. If you stick a spatula under the tortilla and it holds together well,  then it’s ready to flip.

Place a plate over the frying pan. If you are right-handed,  hold the frying pan by the handle with the right hand and place your left hand on top of the plate.
Quickly flip the pan over 180°.
Now your left hand will be holding the plate from underneath. (Reverse the process if you are left-handed. Your left hand will hold the panhandle and the right hand will be on top of the plate,  and then you will flip the pan over.)
If the pan is dry add a little more oil and spread it around.
Slide the tortilla back into the pan and allow it to cook another seven to eight minutes.

Use a spatula to push down the sides so the edges become more rounded. If the top of the tortilla is uneven,  pat it with the spatula to even it out. (You don’t want a lumpy tortilla.)
When the tortilla is done, flip it out onto a serving platter.
(Many Spaniards flip the tortilla 2 to 3 times because the additional flips help to shape the tortilla.)

Dessert: Spanish Flan

Spanish FlanSee how easy it is to make a rich, traditional Spanish flan. Two types of canned milk combined with eggs and vanilla to make it creamy, and the sugar-syrup topping drenches it perfectly.


1 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt sugar until liquefied and golden in color.
Carefully pour hot syrup into a 9 inch round glass baking dish, turning the dish to evenly coat the bottom and sides. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat eggs. Beat in condensed milk, evaporated milk and vanilla until smooth.
Pour egg mixture into baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil.
Bake in preheated oven 60 minutes. Let cool completely.
To serve when completely cool, carefully invert on serving plate with edges.

Here are some extra tips for this great Spanish Flan:
Melt the sugar with a drop or two of lemon juice.
Do not stir the sugar while it's melting, just swirl in the pan occasionally.
If you are worried about the sugar hardening too fast, heat the pan under in water until ready to pour in sugar. Dry with a towel and pour. (A warm pan will give you a little more time to tilt and coat the bottom before the sugar hardens.)
When you pour the custard into the sugared pan, pour it through a sieve to strain the mixture

Bake the flan by placing the flan pan in another of warm water (bain marie.) It's not hard to do, and yields much better results.

Lastly, bake this dish a day ahead of time. Cover with wrap and let it sit overnight in the fridge before warming the pan's bottom in a 'bain marie.' To release invert on a plate. Much of the caramel will have liquefied and will run over the flan.

Watch the video for making a Spanish Flan. (Click watch video tips and tricks)

(download printer-friendly recipes)

Buen Provecho!
Tips for your friends with dietary restrictions by Shari Solomon, certified nutritionist and owner of Cocoa Plum Nutrition.

Just looking at the menu is making me hungry. I love tortillas del patata. And who can pass up shrimp and garlic. So how do we make this mouth-watering meal work for those that need alternatives? 

For those on a low-salt diet simply make the tortilla without the salt and let the guests sprinkle some salt on themselves.

Perhaps the same for the shrimp dish. For those watching their weight, may I suggest limiting the number of shrimp to 4 - 6; eliminating the bread; and just a small bite of dessert. The tortilla will have a good amount of carbs but I feel a comfortable walk after the meal would use up the calories with no worries.

For those who are on a low-fat diet simply limit the shrimp to 4 - 6 pieces but feel free to sop up the sauce with a couple of slices of bread. Also it would be a good idea to stick with that small bite of dessert. Even though there is plenty of protein in this meal, any host or hostess concerned about those on a special diet having enough to eat could perhaps serve a Spanish-influenced vegetable salad. Enjoy!

Wine and Food pairing suggestions for this meal by Jack Korpi, wine specialist at Berman's Fine Wines.

Shrimp and Garlic

2012 Martinez Lacuesta Rioja Bianco  $9.99
2011 Licia Alabarino - Rias Biaxas  $15.99
2012 Nisia Verdehjo - Rueda  $17.99

Tortilla de Patata

2009 Martinez Lacuesta Rioja Crianza
2012 Rio Madre Rioja - 100% Graciano varietal  $13.99
2011 Vina Aljibes - Castilla  Blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Garnacha, Petit Verdot - $12.99

Spanish Flan

2012 La Morandina Moscato d'Asti  $17.99
2008 Juve y Camps Cava  $17.99

The Spain Learning Experience and Travel Information
Spain Learning Experience

The goal of the Spain Learning Experience is to give you a better idea of the country and its people. Some items are listed on this page. Direct links offer more information. It's educational and fun.

Quotes from famous Spanish people

The quote "My mother said to me…If you're a soldier you will be a general. If you are a monk, you'll become the Pope. Instead, I was a painter and became Pablo Picasso."

Other Pablo Picasso quotes:

The purpose of art is washing away dust of daily life of our souls

I am always doing that what I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.

Painting is a blind man's profession. He paints not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen.

Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.

And here's one about Spanish foods from Penelope Cruz, an actress born close to Madrid.

I can cook a little. I can cook a few Spanish dishes. But, in movies, it looks like I cook much better than I cook.

For more quotes from famous Spanish people visit:

Spanish Proverbs

Try your Spanish right here…"A diario una manzana es cosa sana". Is has to do with food and health.

Look for more Spanish proverbs and sayings with their English equivalents.

Famous Spanish People

Some like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Jose Carreras are well known. Here are others you may not be familiar with.

Spanish Fairy Tales for children…and maybe adults as well…

They are probably not as known as the Brothers Grimm (Germany) and Hans Christian Andersen (Denmark) but here's a collection of Spanish Folktales from the Tales of Nuts and Grapes (a few are from Portugal.)

Customs and Traditions in Spain

Every traveler to Spain wants to try 'tapas', one of the best know Spanish traditions. A 'tapa' is not a type of food, it's a way of eating it. And "to go for tapas" does not mean ordering a lot of dishes in one restaurant (like most do in the USA), but to 'bar-hop', eating a different tapa in each bar…

For more information on other Spanish customs (like Flamenco, Siesta, Bullfighting), especially foreign travelers visit the "Top 10 Myths and Misconceptions about Spain."

Culture in Spain

You have probably heard about Cervantes (author of DonQuixote), El Greco and Velázquez' paintings and Carmen, one of the most frequently performed operas (set in Spain but written by French composer George Bizet - the "Toreador" song is among the best known of all operatic arias.)

For more details about Culture in Spain - painting, architecture, literature, cinema and more visit this Wikepedia site. (cut+paste in your browser)

And see here some very colorful Google images of culture in Spain.

Fun Facts about Spain

Here's a selection that you may not know about.

Planning to move to Spain? Here are experiences from expats in Spain

This is the "Expats in Spain Blogs" listing page at
It's entertaining and you probably learn a lot more...