Even the simplest dishes in Spain’s culinary repertoire pack outsized flavor thanks to a few key ingredients. For our Spanish meal, a dry rub of ground cumin, coriander, and black pepper boldly spices pork tenderloin for pinchos morunos; a final touch of honey provides a balancing sweetness. On the side, nutty Manchego cheese amps up the flavor of pisto, the colorful combination of sautéed vegetables that is Spain’s answer to France’s ratatouille. And for dessert, almond flour yields an exceedingly moist cake in this tarta de Santiago, a simple Galician treat we sprinkle with chopped almonds and coarse raw sugar for a chewy-crisp crust.
Spanish Spice-Crusted Pork Tenderloin Bites (Pinchos Morunos)
Makes 4 servings
The key to this tapa is twofold: The meat is cut into small pieces, letting a powerful seasoning rub penetrate the pork in short order. We used a blend of smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, and black pepper to spice the tenderloin. We finish with a drizzle of honey, which works well with the pork and seasonings. The result is a speedy dish with bright yet smoky flavors. Serve it over rice, in lettuce cups, or with a pile of steamed or roasted vegetables.
Tenderloin cubes should be no smaller than 1 to 1½ inches or the meat will cook too quickly.
1½ teaspoons ground coriander
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1-pound pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1- to 1½-inch pieces
1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
1 tablespoon honey
1 large garlic clove, finely grated
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
In a medium bowl, combine the coriander, cumin, paprika, and ¾ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Add the pork and toss to coat evenly, massaging the spices into the meat until no dry rub remains. Let the pork sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. Meanwhile, in another bowl, combine the lemon juice, honey, and garlic. Set aside.
In a large skillet over high heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat until just smoking. Add the meat in a single layer and cook without moving until deeply browned on one side, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip the pork and cook, turning occasionally, until cooked through and browned all over, another 2 to 3 minutes. Off the heat, pour the lemon juice-garlic mixture over the meat and toss until evenly coated, then transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle the oregano over the pork and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Serve with lemon wedges.
Spanish Ratatouille (Pisto Manchego)
Makes 4 servings
As-is, pisto Manchego makes a wonderful side. When topped with a poached or fried egg, it’s a delicious main course. The flavorful tomato juices make crusty bread almost obligatory, but the dish would also pair wonderfully with rice or a baked potato. We like the effect of using one red and one yellow bell pepper, but you could use just one color. If you can’t find Japanese or Chinese eggplant, a pound of globe eggplant will do, but you may need to increase the covered cooking time by a few minutes.
Don’t use the seedy core of the zucchini, as it turns soft and mushy with cooking. And don’t skip the Manchego cheese; its buttery, grassy flavor is a key component.
1 12-ounce zucchini
2 8-ounce Chinese or Japanese eggplants, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 large yellow onion, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 medium bell peppers (see headnote), stemmed, seeded, and cut into ½-inch pieces
8 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 14½-ounce can diced tomatoes
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 ounces Manchego cheese, shaved
Trim off the ends of the zucchini, then slice lengthwise into planks, leaving behind and discarding the seedy core. Cut the zucchini planks into ½-inch cubes and set aside. In a medium bowl, toss the eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.
In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add 6 tablespoons of the oil and heat until shimmering. Add the eggplant in an even layer and cook, undisturbed, until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir, cover, and reduce to medium. Cook, stirring, until tender when pierced with a fork but not falling apart, another 3 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel-lined medium bowl and set aside.
To the same pot, add 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil and heat over medium-high until shimmering. Add the zucchini in an even layer and cook undisturbed until well browned, about 4 minutes. Cook, stirring, until browned on all sides and tender when pierced with a fork, another 1 to 2 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, transfer to the bowl with the eggplant.
To the same pot, add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and heat over medium-high until shimmering. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the bell peppers, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cover and cook, stirring, until the peppers soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cumin, and oregano, then cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice, then cover and simmer over medium heat until the flavors have melded, 5 to 7 minutes.
Reduce to low and stir in the eggplant-zucchini mixture. Cook until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the parsley, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a platter and top with the Manchego.
Spanish Almond Cake (Tarta de Santiago)
Makes 8 servings
This cake from Galicia, Spain, traditionally is leavened with whipped egg whites and flavored with citrus and/or cinnamon. We like it made more simply, with whole eggs beaten with a few additional whites and just a small measure of vanilla and almond extracts. A sprinkling of chopped almonds and coarse raw sugar on top of the batter gives the surface a chewy-crisp crust that contrasts wonderfully with the dense, plush crumb of the cake’s interior. Crème fraîche and fresh berries are perfect accompaniments. Allow the cake to cool to room temperature before serving.
Be sure to fully bake the cake; rather than using a skewer or toothpick to test the center for doneness, check the browning and crust development. The cake is ready when the surface is deeply browned and the crust feels firm when gently pressed with a finger.
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons
(240 grams) white sugar
3 large eggs, plus 3 large egg whites
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon almond extract
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
2½ cups (250 grams) blanched almond flour
3 tablespoons (35 grams) turbinado or demerara sugar
1/3 cup (37 grams) sliced almonds, chopped
Heat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Mist the bottom and sides of a 9-inch-round cake pan with cooking spray, line the bottom with a round of kitchen parchment, then mist the parchment.
In a large bowl, combine the white sugar, whole eggs and egg whites, salt, and both extracts. Whisk vigorously until well combined, 30 to 45 seconds; the mixture will be slightly frothy and the sugar will not be fully dissolved. Add the almond flour and whisk until incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, then sprinkle evenly with the turbinado sugar and chopped almonds. Bake until deeply browned and the crust feels firm when gently pressed, 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
Run a knife around the edges of the cake, then invert onto a plate. Remove the pan and parchment then re-invert the cake onto a serving plate. Let cool completely before serving.
Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.