A Spanish Tale

Chef Alfredo Lopez traveled a long and winding road to get from Andalusia, Spain, to Kansas City, and we’re glad he did

By contributing writer Alfredo Lopez - Photographed by Aaron Leimkuehler

Todos a la mesa! (Everyone to the table!) That’s what my mother used to say when dinner was ready. I began my culinary experience in Andalusia, Granada, Spain, a coastal province in south of Spain. At an early age, I would sit and watch my mother prepare our meals. (During the holidays, my aunts would get involved and it was a lovely chaos!) My mother often interlaced her cooking with old family stories. To this day, I think of cooking and family as two parts of a whole.

When my mother grew up in Spain, you cooked with what was available at that time of year. This was especially true in the countryside where her family had a farm and vineyard. My mother cooked as her mother taught her—and always with the ingredients at hand. A typical Sunday meal on my mother’s table would include a cocido (a pork and garbanzo bean stew with chorizo), a potato tortilla (not to be confused with the Mexican tortilla), lamb roasted over a spit, cheese (as dessert), bread, and of course, wine.

One day a man that owned a restaurant in town came to eat dinner at our house. He fell in love with my mother’s cooking. He asked her if she would give him the recipe of the cocido. Of course she refused. She did, however, tell him that I was able to prepare any of her recipes. She also mentioned that I needed a summer job. He took the hint. I had my first cooking job!

During my time at that restaurant and through the years cooking as a chef in other restaurants in Spain, I observed how other dishes were prepared. This was the start of my own style. My mother’s teaching but infused with new ideas.

In 1993 I moved to Miami with my wife, daughter, my dreams, all my recipes and notes and especially my passion for food. There I began my personal-chef company, teaching people how to eat amazing dishes without compromising your health.

Fast forward to 2010. My wife and I came to visit my brother, who had moved to Kansas City. It was love at first sight. Everything you need to live a full and happy life is here. I am still amazed at the friendliness and kindness of the people that make up this “hidden jewel” of a city.

It was during that trip that I decided to move here to be near my brother and start my personal-chef business. I am so happy I did. I love being able to offer the people of Kansas City a healthy Mediterranean diet—with my Spanish twist!


Tortilla Espanola de Papatas

A traditional Spanish potato tortilla made with potatoes, eggs and onions. Serves 6

CK_Tortilla_Espanola_de_Papatas

3 medium potatoes, peeled, cut in two and thinly sliced

4 medium onions, julienned

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

8 eggs

Salt to taste

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan just big enough for the onions and potatoes, add salt to taste. Cook the potatoes and onions at medium heat stirring occasionally until very soft. Beat the eggs and add a bit more salt in a bowl. Flatten the potatoes and onions with a spatula, turn the heat to low and pour the beaten eggs on top of the potatoes. With a fork poke around the egg and potatoes so the egg penetrates the mixture, at the same time shaking the pan until all the egg is absorbed. Cover the pan with a flat plate bigger than the pan and flip over. Slide the tortilla to the pan with the already cooked side facing up. Add the remaining egg and repeat the procedure until both sides of the potato tortilla are cooked and lightly browned. Place on a serving dish, slice and serve hot or at room temperature.


 

Mediterranean Seafood Paella

A deconstructed Spanish seafood paella made with scallops, shrimp, clams, mussels, cod, saffron and fresh herbs. Serves 8

CK_Mediterranean_Seafood_Paella

12 jumbo shrimp, peeled, tail on

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled

1 pound scallops

16 mussels in shells

16 clams, Little Neck or other small clams

1 pound cod fillet, cut into chunks

3 cups chopped chicken

1 red bell pepper, julienned

1 medium onion, chopped

½ cup canned tomato sauce

2 cups Calasparra rice

2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped

18-ounce can baby artichokes

½ cup frozen green peas

2 garlic cloves, minced

18-ounce can roasted red bell pepper in brine, julienned

Salt and pepper to taste

1 pinch dried thyme

1 teaspoon powdered saffron

8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a paella pan or in a wide shallow non-stick pan. On medium heat, sauté the garlic, onion and fresh red bell pepper until soft. Add tomato sauce and reduce for 2 more minutes. Add the saffron, salt, pepper and thyme, and stir. Add the broth and bring to boil. Add the rice and stir well occasionally until the rice begins to absorb the broth. When the broth begins to thicken, stir in the fish chunks. Add the medium shrimp and stir well. Add the clams and mussels on top of the paella. Place the jumbo shrimp, scallops and baby artichokes on top of the paella in a nice pattern. Sprinkle the frozen green peas and the julienned roasted red bell pepper on top. Cover tight with aluminum foil and adjust the heat to low. Cook until the rice is done al dente, turn off the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil, top with the chopped parsley and present in the paella pan.


 

Rib-eye Roast with Mediterranean Herbs

An homage to the all-American classic cut. Golden-brown, beef rib roast prepared in the Mediterranean style, marinated with thyme, rosemary, bay leaves and garlic. CK_Rib-eye_Roast_w_Mediterranean_HerbsServes 6

1 rib roast, rib-eye on the bone, 4 ribs long

Salt and pepper to taste

8 garlic cloves

4 large thyme sprigs, chopped

2 rosemary sprigs, stems removed

2 bay leaves

1 cup dry white wine

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Ask your butcher to cut the center meat out of the roast and tie it back with cooking twine. Place the rib-eye in a roasting pan and season with salt and pepper, set aside. In a food processor, add the garlic, bay leaves, thyme and rosemary leaves and process coarsely. In a bowl mix the processed herbs, the wine and the olive oil. Smother the rib-eye with the herb and wine mix, cover with wrapping plastic and let rest overnight in the refrigerator. When ready to roast, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Uncover the roasting pan and place it in the middle rack of the oven for about 45 minutes or until the center of the roast is medium rare or it has reached at least 145 degrees in the center (use a cooking thermometer for this). Baste the rib-eye every 15 minutes with its own juices. If the bottom of the pan gets dry, add a little water or low-sodium beef broth as needed. You don’t want the drippings to burn. When ready, take the roast out of the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes at room temperature. Transfer the roast to a cutting table, remove the cooking twine and slice the meat to desired thickness. Drizzle with its own juices and serve.


 

Cocido de Garbanzos

Perfect for fall and traditional from Spain, a garbanzo stew made with chickpeas, beef, pork shank, chorizo (Spanish cured sausage) and potatoes. Serves 6

CK_Cocido_de_Garbanzos

 

¾ 12 oz. package dry garbanzo beans

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

6 cups low-fat, reduced-sodium chicken broth or chicken stock

1 large onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

4 garlic cloves, smashed

Salt and pepper to taste

1 small pork shank, cut into 1-inch medallions

½ pound beef stew meat, cut into small chunks

½ pound Spanish (not Mexican) chorizo, sliced in ½-inch rounds

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon Spanish paprika

2 medium potatoes, large dice

Rinse the garbanzo beans with running water, place them in a large bowl, cover with cold water and set aside overnight. Heat olive oil  in a large potl. At medium heat, add the onion, garlic, red bell pepper and sauté until soft. Add strained garbanzo beans, beef, chorizo, bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste and cover with the chicken broth or chicken stock. Cover the pot, cook at medium heat and boil in a continuous soft rolling for 1 1/2 hour or until garbanzo beans are soft and tender, stirring the stew now and then and adding more broth as needed. Twenty minutes before it’s finished add the diced potatoes to the stew. At the end you’ll want a thick stew, so add just enough broth for that consistency.

 


Side Dish
After moving to the U.S., Lopez received his culinary degree from the Business Culinary Institute in New Mexico. He established his business as a personal chef in Miami, placing an emphasis on flavor and a healthy lifestyle, teaching his clients to enjoy great flavors without guilt. Lopez’s mission is to take care of people with no time to cook but who still care about the quality of the food they eat. That includes healthy home-cooked meals, meals for those on a diet or those with special dietary needs. His next project will include opening Studio 36 at Alejandro Home Design (Alejandro Lopez is his brother), which will include cooking classes, an event space and art gallery. You can find more about Lopez at chefalfredo.com.

 

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