Paella

A quintessentially Spanish recipe

image3 (2)There are few dishes that are so identifiable with a place as Paella is with Spain. One could hardly think of a sunny beach on the Spanish coast without a large pan of paella bubbling away over an open fire on the sand nearby. While the modern incarnation of Paella is most associated with the region of Valencia, its roots can be traced to Arab and Roman traditions.

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Paella can be found on countless family dinner tables across Spain for special occasions. Its most basic components are a short rounded grain rice called bomba , not unlike Arborio, and  saffron for its yellow color. The most common version is called Paella mixta and contains both seafood and chicken or rabbit, but all seafood makes it extra festive.

Cooking Paella is neither time consuming nor complicated, though it can be daunting to some. Whereas most people in America cook rice covered in a pot, Paella is made in a shallow pan (more akin to a skillet) and is covered for a few moments at most after pulling it off the heat. In fact, the name Paella refers to the pan it’s cooked in, so this process off cooking in a shallow uncovered pan is essential to the essence of the recipe. Also the liquid to-rice-ratio can vary a bit depending on the intensity of the heat source.  A good rule of thumb is twice liquid to rice, but like with risotto you should have a bit more than you should expect to use and keep it on a low simmer in case you need to use it.

The fumet or fish stock is the most important component to a flavorful paella. I save up shrimp shells (especially heads) and fish bones in the freezer until I have enough to make it. Just steer clear of salmon and fattier bluefish, but any whitefish bones or shellfish shells work great. Just throw them in a pot of salted water and simmer until the broth is properly infused. If you use your frozen stash of bones and shells there is no need to defrost it.

Paella Recipe

INGREDIENTS (for 6 people)image2

Rice (Bomba or Arborio), 3c

clams, ½ lb

mussels, ½ lb

shrimp, ½ lb

prawns, 4

ripe tomatoes, 2

green bell pepper, 1

garlic, 2 cloves

fresh flat leaf parsley,  ¼ cup

chicken or rabbit, 1lb

squid, ½ lb

small onion, 1

frozen peas, ¾ c

red peppers, 2

saffron, 10 strands

tumeric, 1 teaspoon

sweet paprika, 1 teaspoon

ground cloves, a pinch

salt,  to taste

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, ½ c

seafood stock, hot, 4c

 Steps

Clean and steam the seafood reserving the liquid to incorporate into your stock. Chop onions, garlic, and peppers. Peel and chop tomatoes.

Heat oil in the pan and brown the chicken. Add chopped squid and sauté a little. Then remove both from the pan. Add the onions, peppers, and garlic to the pan and sauté about 15 minutes. Incorporate the rice and sauté until the grains start to become translucent. Then add the spices to toast them briefly.

socarradoAdd tomatoes and add them and the peas to the pan. And then add in three cups of the hot fish stock. At this point most people prefer not to stir to allow the bottom to brown nicely. This part is called socarrado and is the most prized portion of the paella.

Cook on medium high for 10 minutes. If it is looking dry you can add a bit more warm liquid. Add back in the chicken and squid. Lower to medium and cook another 7-10 minutes. At the tail end, position the cooked seafood decoratively on top of the rice. Once cooked, remove from the heat and tent with foil, or cover with lid if you have one for your paella pan. Let set for 3-4 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Paella can have any mix of ingredients you can get a hold of or have on hand; don’t get hung up on these particular meats and seafood.

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What to Do With Four Days in London

Originally posted on We Study Abroad:

by TravellingGourmet,

a Conexus travel correspondent

The View of St. Paul's and the Thames from the Tate Modern The View of St. Paul’s and the Thames from the Tate Modern


A few months back a friend of mine called up to tell me we were going to London. Seeing as I’ve been an expat living in Europe for several years now, I’ve had many an opportunity to visit the British capital. I’ve always had the best of times, but, when she first told me, I was a bit disappointed. I’m an avid traveler, so returning to destinations can sometimes feel like a wasted opportunity to visit somewhere new and mysterious, full of exotic and novel experiences. But after such an incredible weekend, I can hardly think how I could have NOT wanted to go back to London.

This was my friend’s first trip there, so we had to hit all of the big sites, but also made time for new culinary experiences…

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Come To Sevilla!

Originally posted on We Study Abroad:

In southern Spain you will find the legendary and lovely city of Seville. It is the fourth largest city in the country and capital of Andalusia. According to mythology, Hercules founded Seville as he sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar to the Atlantic. During its 2000 year history, it has been home to the Romans, Vandals and Visigoths, and its 800 years of Moorish influence is very present in its unique multi-cultural architecture.

Seville (Sevilla in Spanish) located on the Guadalquivir River was awarded the royal monopoly as the European port city for all trade and goods coming from the New World.  In fact, at the Archivo de Indias (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) you will find a priceless collection of archives pertaining to the discovery of the Americas.

Seville is a vibrant and friendly city eager to share many of its cultural traditions including the famous birthplace of

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Talent for Travel:

 how to travel abroad for free

Often we find ourselves with the dilemma of wanting to travel but without enough of a budget to make it happen.  However, money doesn’t have to be an obstacle if you can be a little creative and happen to have a few talents you don’t mind showing off.   In my experience as a musician I offer you some tips on how to undertake your trip without spending a dime.

MF638U3720-2The first thing that you have to take into account is that on a vacation of this type you have to know how to improvise. Even if you choose a particular destination as your objective, you must keep in mind that circumstances can change at any time and maybe destiny will take you other places you hadn’t planned for but that are equally interesting.
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The fundamental objective is to earn enough money to cover your basic needs. It is recommended that you take nonperishable foods with you like canned goods or things that are vacuum packed. You should think about what destination might be good for demonstrating your abilities and be ideal for those passing by to be able to reward you for your efforts. The usual mistake is choosing a spot with a high volume of tourists. There is such an overcrowding in these areas that it’s unlikely for anyone to pause and pay you much notice. What’s more these spots will be so flooded with others like you that it’s difficult to stand out and call people’s attention.  You should look for a spot with foot traffic but relatively tranquil, where people have room to stop and fully appreciate your art. Sometimes it can pay to choose medium sized cities with less people who like you are looking to make money. They’re your biggest competition.

busking_saxophoneYou don’t always have to perform for money. On many occasions it’s important to do so for food. The best place for this is an open air market. There is always someone working hoping for you to change their daily routine, and that’s where you come in.  Dedicating a song to the workers at one of the stands usually translates to free lunch. The same is true for street vendors or sidewalk cafes.  Playing near these posts is great publicity for them and the owners will be more than happy to repay you with a meal.

When it comes to the performance you should transmit happiness and pay attention to people’s reactions. Small things like a gesture or a correctly timed smile can arouse compassion in the spectator that won’t hesitate to leave you a tip.

It’s important on a trip like this to rest well. There are lots of cheap places to find lodging. Either hostels or university residence halls that rent extra rooms can often be the cheapest places to spend the night. Plus places like these can be great for finding people to swap stories with and make friends for future adventures.

prague_musicianA way to travel the world at minimal cost, playing music or performing of any kind can be an enjoyable way to finance your travel dreams. Whether you use it to fund a whole trip or a just a weekend getaway while studying abroad, use your creativity and talents to make your way. Good luck adventurers!

Has this blog inspired you to travel abroad? Check out our web page to find the right travel or study abroad experience for you!

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Gumbo

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Between our Mardi Gras blog earlier this month and our resident musician’s blog on his experience in New Orleans from last week, I’m feeling inspired to make something Cajun. So today we are cooking up some Gumbo.

Cajun food is great for the cold winter days we’ve been having too. The mix of French technique with rustic traditions and locally available products fashioned this food into one of the most unique and identifiable in the United States. The tradition of making Gumbo dates back to the beginning of the 1800’s in New Orleans. The must haves for this dish are okra, meat and/or shellfish, and roux. Some might add filé powder (dried and ground sassafras leaves – adopted from the Choctaw traditions) to the list, but living in Spain I can’t get my hands on it so we made do without.997091_670439377570_5264889757987796219_n

The dish itself is a perfect incarnation of the melting pot that is New Orleans. It combines ingredients and techniques from all the nationalities that have colonized the area over the centuries: West African, French, Spanish, German, and Choctaw to name a few.

In my experience, stews always turn out better in the slow cooker, and this was no exception. The roux takes a little time and elbow grease, but once it’s done you can have it on hand and the rest was just throwing in the ingredients and waiting.

Has this blog inspired you to travel? Check out our web page to find the right travel or study abroad experience for you!

Slow Cooker Gumbo

(serves 6-8)

10411179_670439417490_4485544457572464867_n1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
2 onions
4 cloves of garlic
2 cups okra
3 celery ribs
Italian parsley
1 can crushed tomatoes
3 Tablespoons Cajun seasoning
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
3 chorizo links*
1lb monkfish tail**
4 Tablespoons brown roux (recipe follows)
8oz shrimp

*You could use Andouille, we just don’t have it in Spain where I live.
**Or other fish with a meaty texture

Chop veggies chicken and chorizo. Stew in a slow cooker on low 6 hours.
Add 4T brown roux. And shrimp (peeled and deveined). Simmer on high another 20min
Serve over long grain rice.

Brown Roux

Equal parts butter and flour vigorously stirred over medium heat until brown. Probably 15 minutes. Most recommend a 10173788_670437107120_2351037600899939043_nwooden spoon, but I found a whist helpful.

I usually make a ton and keep it in the fridge to throw in soups or thicken up meat juices from the slow cooker into a grave instantly.

by Katalina C. Thomas

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New Orleans

A musician’s take on the Big Easy

by Mariano Cobo Iturbe, Contributing Blogger and Resident Musician

It’s eight o’clock in the morning. The weather is a bit grey and gloomy. I’ve landed in New Orleans and I’m at the footstep of one of the city’s most emblematic neighborhoods: the French Quarter. I expect that before me lies what’s going to be an experience every musician and music aficionado must live.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs I start my journey I’m immediately captivated by the architecture of the place. The houses are old, made of Wood, each with their own long balcony.  It’s a unique sort of style I’ve never before encountered. After a brisk walk I find myself at one of the oldest cathedrals in the United States and standing before two musicians playing popular songs on brass instruments. When one of them breaks into song I almost thought I was listening to the great Louis Armstrong himself. Soon after he smiles at me to go take a picture with him, without hesitation I give him his well-deserved tip. I find him hugely talented, and I find it strange he is playing in the street.

I move on a few more blocks and hear the dizzying solo of a clarinet. When I find where it’s coming from I see a parking spot. Passers-by crowd near hypnotized by the music. Cars can barely squeeze by, but it’s no matter. Music is the heart and soul of this city, and the drivers know that.  I‘m struck by the raw talent of the family’s youngest member and the dexterity with which he plays the drums is incredible.

the french quarterI hop on the street car to go to go for lunch at the renowned Willie Mae’s Scotch House to try some of the traditional food from the area, and I’m blown away by the truly succulent red beans. I’m so marveled by the neighborhood that I think I should come back to keep enjoying atmosphere so unique to this world.

I decide to visit the famous piano bar at Pat O’Briens where two musicians on two huge pianos take turns performing any song the crowd requests. It’s amazing. As if they are human karaoke machines. They know everything. I can’t help but scribble “Piano Man” on a napkin and pass it to one of them. He plays it as the whole crowd sings along to the tune.

New Orleans agosto 2012It has been a magnificent experience. All I want to do is stick my head in each and every bar on the street where they’re playing any and every kind on music your heart could desire. As I come to an intersection the music melds and creates an atmosphere that is simultaneously disconcerting and spectacular. Never had I experienced anything quite like it.

I finish my visit with a feeling of desire to return, of wanting to share my experience, of wanting to transmit to my colleagues in the music world what I saw and express to them how lucky I feel to have experienced it.

translated by Katalina C. Thomas

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Filed under American Culture, Cajun, Creole, Jazz, Music, New Orleans

Mardi Gras:

get carried away by the celebration

If New Orleans is famous for one thing it would have to be its Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday) celebration. Yet most see it as a bacchanal celebration for raucous college students, while it is in fact so much more.

New Orleans agosto 2012Fat Tuesday celebrates the final send off for our excesses before the religious period of Lent, observed by Catholics. Since many people who celebrate it give up things like meat, fatty foods, or alcohol during the 40 days of lent, the time leading up to it is fraught with excess. Independent from its religious origins, Mardi Gras has risen to a level of popularity on both national and international levels, because, really, who doesn’t love a good party?

file0002136400336Carnival is celebrated in many ways and in many places, from dancing in the street in Rio de Janeiro to masquerade balls in Venice. In New Orleans, Mardi Gras is infamous for its debauchery and plastic beads, but the traditions surrounding it have far more breadth. Families wake up bright and early on parade days to claim their territory lining major thoroughfares like Canal Street and St. Charles Avenue. They will camp out from the wee hours of the morning to make sure they have the perfect spot, and even take decorated ladders to get a head up on the crowd for catching the beads, doubloons, feather boas, and other prizes thrown from the floats.

Mardi Gras: King Cake With Hurricane Drinks BehindThroughout the day, whole families stake out their spots sending members to bring back provisions from the drive-thru daiquiri places, spicy fried chicken joints, or even better to pick up a world famous King Cake. The whole day is a celebration culminating in the parade. The music from the marching bands pipes up, and the floats begin to roll by.  Everything is bathed in a purple, green, and gold aura; no one could resist being carried away by the atmosphere.

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