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Archive | March 3rd, 2010

Cataplana – A Portuguese Dish and a Cookware Store in Castroville

Cataplana – A Portuguese Dish and a Cookware Store in Castroville

While driving back from Hondo Saturday, I saw a huge sign proclaiming Cataplana. I immediately turned the car around and headed back.

If you’ve ever been to southern Portugal, you might understand why.

Cataplana is a regional specialty made with clams, ham, sausage and all sorts of seasonings, from wine to parsley. I fell in love with it from the moment of my first taste. The word also refers to the clam-shaped dish in which it is cooked. It’s unique in that you turn it upside down halfway through the cooking process.

In this case, Cataplana turned out to be the name of a specialty kitchen supply store run by personal chef Cecelia Fetty.

She has plenty of kitchen gadgets and dishes with brands like Rösle, Viking and Emile Henry as well as Fiesta Dinnerware. And, yes, she has two sizes of cataplanas hanging in the front window. Tagines are more popular these days, however, she says, as the popularity of Moroccan and Middle Eastern foods continues to grow.

There are a few specialty foods, from vanilla paste to powdered egg whites, but the vast majority of items include pots, pans, scales, cookware and the popular six-sided Italian measuring jug that has side-by-side grams-to-ounces measurements for rice, sugar, flour and more.

I picked up a pair of elephant mugs with the trucks as handles.

The store has been open for six months now. In that time, Fetty’s special order business has taken off.

She also teaches a free monthly cooking class on the first Thursday of each month at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church, 12525 Farm-to-Market 1957, San Antonio. Call (210) 679-7800 for the time and to reserve a seat.

Cataplana
810 U.S. 90 E.
Castroville
(830) 538-9911
Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, Friday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday; and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday.

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WalkerSpeak: Salad Greens – To Wash or Not to Wash

WalkerSpeak: Salad Greens – To Wash or Not to Wash

When Consumer Reports recently reported that those bags of triple-washed salad greens are really not pristine, cooks find themselves split into two camps: Those who believed and didn’t wash and those who always felt that “triple washed” didn’t necessarily mean clean.

I’m not as fastidious in the kitchen as some, including a friend of mine. She uses a fork or spoon while cooking, then stops in mid-action to take the utensil to the sink, wash it with dish soap and put it into the dishwasher.  I feel this interrupts the creative flow.

But I do always wash those triple-washed salad greens. Not that I think the packer is lying, that the greens weren’t really washed three times — I just can’t imagine that washing and packing something as delicate as lettuces on such a major scale offers too many opportunities for the unwanted to happen.

The report didn’t find pathogens such as E. coli, listeria or salmonella. But other bad bugs turned up.

“Several industry experts we consulted suggested that for leafy greens, an unacceptable level of total coliforms or enterococcus is 10,000 or more colony forming units per gram (CFU/g) or a comparable estimate. In our tests, 39 percent of samples exceeded that level for total coliforms and 23 percent for enterococcus,” said the report.

I wash salad greens in a roomy, stainless steel colander, splashing them around in cool water and shaking them as dry as I can by hand. Some use a salad spinner and that’s fine. I like to shake as much water off as possible, then repackage the greens in a clean, zip-lock bag. The few drops of water remaining on the lettuces seem to help keep them crisper — at least when you use them in the first couple of days.

That brings us to one of the suggestions in Consumer Reports. In addition to washing the salad greens or spinach, you should look at the “use by” dates and pick up a box where that date is as far in the future as you can find. (I do this with dairy products, too, even though I always have the slightest feeling that I’m cheating by taking the containers further back on the shelf.)

Also, and this is just common sense, try to keep the greens away from raw meat, or unwashed counters or cutting boards. In fact, I’d say that where salad and raw meat are concerned, one might wish to be as meticulous as my friend.

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Combine Clams, Pork in Lively Cataplana

Combine Clams, Pork in Lively Cataplana

Cataplana hangs in the front window.

I first had this dish in the southern Alentejo region of Portugal. Though the traditional dish is a happy marriage of pork and clams, the recipe can be modified by using only seafood, such as mussels, scallops or cubes of fish in addition to the clams.  It could also be made with chicken added as well as numerous other vegetables in the sauce, including zucchini, celery and carrots. Serve this with a young, chilled Vinho Verde.

Cataplana

4 dozen clams
3 medium Spanish onions, diced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut in thin strips
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut in thin strips
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large bay leaf
1 (16-ounce) can tomatoes (do not drain)
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 pound smoked ham, cut into small dice
1/4 pound chouriço or mild Italian sausage, cut into small dice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
6 jumbo shrimp, peeled

Scrub and clean the clams. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Sauté the onions, garlic and peppers in the olive oil, 8 to 10 minutes until soft and golden. Add the bay leaf and tomatoes in their water. Cook slowly for 30 minutes; add the tomato sauce, prosciutto, smoked ham, and pepperoni, re-cover, and cook 30 minutes longer. 

To assemble the cataplana, spoon half the tomato mixture into the bottom of a very large cataplana (it should measure about 15 inches across) or into a large heavy Dutch-oven type of kettle, and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Adjust the heat so that the mixture barely boils, arrange the clams on top, spoon in the remaining tomato sauce, cover tight, and cook 10 minutes over moderately low heat — no peeking. Open the cataplana or kettle, pour in the wine, scatter the parsley evenly on top, then toss the clams lightly. Re-cover and cook slowly 15 to 20 minutes longer until the clams open — discard any that do not.

Carry the cataplana or kettle to the table, open, and toss in the shrimp. Let set for several minutes while the shrimp cook and the temperature comes down slightly. Serve in large soup plates. Serve with rough country bread. The top of the cataplana can be used for empty clam shells. If you are using a Dutch oven, have a bowl for the shells.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Adapted from “The Foods of Portugal” by Jean Anderson

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