cover image Catalan Food: Culture and Flavors from the Mediterranean

Catalan Food: Culture and Flavors from the Mediterranean

Daniel Olivella, with Caroline Wright. Clarkson Potter, $30 (272p) ISBN 978-0-451-49588-4

Olivella, chef of Austin’s Barlata tapas bar, explores the culture and cooking of his childhood home in this debut collection of 80 enticing Catalan recipes. Situated in the northeast corner of Spain, Catalonia is not only a land of farmers and fisherman, but a region with a rich culinary history shaped by “centuries of invasions, occupations, exploration and trading.” The opening chapter on pica-pica (little bites) is doused with plenty of the region’s extra-virgin olive oil in offerings like pickled anchovies, and shrimp in garlic oil. Surf and turf come together in a chicken and shrimp plate as well as in a favorite lunch dish, meatballs with cuttlefish. Paella is treated with reverence in a section that provides tips for preparing the perfect panful (e.g., use dark red saffron rather than yellow), along with instructions for five varieties, including a Valencian version with rabbit and chicken. Other rice dishes, known as arrossos, include smoked rice with pork belly and mushrooms. Olivella explores the traditions of the cuisine, including an appreciation of the region’s popular canned seafood. Surveying a region no larger than New Hampshire, Olivella unveils a vast and deep bounty of flavors in this heartfelt compendium. (Sept.)