Spanish cuisine is one of my favorites mainly for all its tapas and seafood dishes. And, what I like about Spain is that you don’t have to spend much to eat well. In fact, I studied in Spain during a summer season which seems a lifetime ago and while there I ate very well on a paltry student budget. I would have my main meal of the day as lunch where I would go to a neighborhood restaurant or cafes and order the "menú del día," a fixed price lunch option with a couple of choices of dishes that changed daily, all with drink and bread included. Then, at night I would share tapas with friends.
I think the tapas concept is really the best kind of meal, a small sampling of a large variety of dishes. When I moved to Chicago, I lived downtown within walking distance of Café Iberico where I became an habitué. There were a few tapas I would order all the time: Patatas Bravas, Pulpo a la Plancha, Salpicon de Marisco, and Champiñones a la Plancha, their version of the classic champiñones al ajillo. These days I don’t visit Iberico as often but once in a while you can still spot my husband, kids and me having a weekend tapas lunch while watching soccer at the old hangout.
Champiñones Al Ajillo
My version calls for a lot of garlic because I like it, but you can tone it down if you are not a big fan. I also don’t remember Iberico’s mushrooms being lemony or spicy at all, but I like mine that way so I add a bit of fresh lemon juice and red chili flakes to give it a kick, of course you can omit or add more to taste. Since Baby Portobello Mushrooms are quite cheap at Costco, that is what I use. You are free to use whatever works better for you.
About 1 ½ lb Baby Portobello Mushrooms
Freshly squeezed lemon juice from ½ lemon, more or less to taste
8 garlic cloves
About 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste
½ tsp red chili flakes, more or less to taste
Finely chopped parsley to taste
Crush five of the garlic cloves and thinly slice the other three. Set aside.
Wipe clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel and slice them. Pour freshly squeezed lemon juice on top of mushroom slices.
Heat oil and add the crushed garlic and chili flakes. Stirring, cook for about 10 seconds being careful not to burn the garlic.
Add the mushrooms and garlic slices. Add salt and stirring frequently cook until the mushrooms are tender. I slice them thin and they are ready in about 4 minutes.
Add parsley to taste, stir and cook for another minute or so. Serve hot with bread as an appetizer or as a side dish.