Salpicón: seafood salad
Salpicón is one of the best things of the summer. It´s more of a bar food, of the sort that nestles in chilled trays on the bar. If you´re lucky, it will have whatever caught the cook´s fancy that morning at the market. If not, it´ll have been made on Monday with the sweepings of the fridge, and will have languished ever since. Caveat emptor.
In theory, salpicón is a vinaigrette made with three parts olive oil to one of sherry vinegar, and peppers, onions and parsley, chopped very small. Maybe tomato, too, and probably chopped egg ( I told you it was everywhere).
In practice, it´s more of a salad. The chopped vegetables make a substantial base note for a star ingredient, whichever it may be. The most typical is a mixture of seafood, prawns, mussels, octopus. Lobster, maybe, at the top end of the scale, surimi at the bottom. With potatoes, it becomes ensalada campera, or papas aliñás, and is one of the best possible potato salads, I think.
Fish roe is also a favourite, or beans, or salt cod. The variations are almost endless. Just walk into a bar, ask what aliño they have, and have a tapa sent round with your beer. It´s wonderful, and unique in the Spanish canon in its overall healthiness and lack of pig-parts.
Mince two shallots, finely dice one big red pepper, chop a good fistful of parsley leaves. The tomatoes don´t have to be as finely diced. Mix these with the 3/1 olive oil and sherry vinegar , and leave to mingle. Yes, the tomato will make a lot of liquid, but don´t we all love our pot likker?
Make a couple of boiled eggs using the 12 minute method. Thanks to everyone who left it in my comments box. I am a born-again boiled egg lover.
The seafood can be whatever you have on hand. Leftover crab, maybe, or a can of good tuna or sardines, or around 250 gr. steamed prawns. Whatever suits you best. I also love it over beans. In fact, I made salpicón to trick out this recipe from Mark Bittman´s 101 from last week´s NYT.
4 Open a can of white beans and combine with olive oil, salt, small or chopped shrimp, minced garlic and thyme leaves in a pan. Cook, stirring, until the shrimp are done; garnish with more olive oil.
I found it a bit bland, but left to cool, and then mixed with the salpicón and a couple of tomatoes, it was beyond delicious.
The only important rule you should never forget is to mix it a few hours ahead, and leave it in the fridge, well covered, so that flavours have time to mingle. And eat it in the day. It´s meant to be super-fresh and crunchy.