Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind is a fun, suspensful and rollicking novel which at its heart is about the love of books and storytelling. The novel was originally written and Spanish and translated. I usually like to read novels in their original language, but this translation was great and felt really natural. The book takes place in Barcelona and tells the story of Daniel, a lonely son of a bookdealer, as his obsession with a mysterious novel takes him on a dark journey as he grows from boy into man. The Barcelona in the book is a moody, damaged place still unsure of its future after civil war and fascism. Food does have a place in the book, mainly as the subject of desire and enthusiasm of Daniel's strange and amusing friend - Fermin. Fermin provides the heart of the book as well as its comic relief. He has a big appetite and often requires Daniel to stop on their adventures for a bite to eat. They seem to eat a lot of spanish ham sandwiches, but that seemed to boring for the blog (and I doubt I could get my hands on real spanish ham). So I went with a traditional spanish tapas, codfish fritters, made with salt cod. These were easy, though you must plan ahead since the cod must be soaked for several days before cooking.
The Shadow of the Wind started a little slow, then picked up quickly about half way through. The book tells the story of Daniel, whose father owns a rare bookshop in Barcelona. Daniel's mother died and this loss casts a shadow over his and his fathers life. The book starts in 1945, at the end of WWII, when Daniel is a pre-teen and his father takes him too The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, an secret vault where out of print books are kept and watched over. Daniel is allowed to pick one book to take home and fate draws him to "The Shadow of the Wind" by Julian Carax, an unknown author. When Daniel takes the book home and reads it he is captivated by the book and is compelled to find out more about Carax and why there are so few copies of his book still in existence. Shortly after he acquires the book Daniel is accosted by a man who offers to pay Daniel for the book so he can destroy it. It is this encounter that cements Daniel's obsession with Carax and unraveling the mystery of his life. The book takes us along on Daniel's journey, as he grows from boy to man and reveals the many negative consequences of Daniel's search for the truth. We meet many characters along the way - almost all with double lives of some sort. And eventually Daniel's story - as he falls in love and creates major drama in his own life - echoes the story of Julian Carax's adolescence and eventual exile to France. Both Daniel's story and Julian's story are compelling melodramas. This was an old fashioned suspenseful and romantic book, which really transported me to another time and place. It was maybe a little hammy at times in its style, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
Codfish Croquettas with Pimenton Aioli
(Fritters adapted from David Leite, Leite's Culinaria)
Anything fried is good, and these potato and codfish balls were delish. But what really took it to an insane level was the garlicky aioli, which I spiked with a little smoked paprika.
10 ounces salt cod
1 small onion peeled and quarteted
1 bay leaf
1 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs
vegetable oil for frying
Aioli 3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
Directions, for croquettas: Rinse the salt cod well under cold water, then put in a bowl and cover with two inches of water. Cover tightly and put in fridge. Soak cod for 12 - 48 hours, changing the water every 12 hours. I soaked it for 36 hours.
When the cod has been soaked, transfer it to a medium saucepan, add the onion and the bay leave, cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, till the cod flakes easily with a fork. With a slotted spoon, remove the cod to a plate and set aside to cool.
In the same pot, add the potato and cook till tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes and toss the bay leaf. Mash the potatoes and onions. Meanwhile, put the cooled codfish into a food processor and pulse until shredded.
In a bowl, mix the potatoes, cod, salt and pepper, garlic and parsley. To make batter, bring the water and oil to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and stir vigorously with wooden spoon. It will be lumpy. Cook stirring for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and continue to stir to cool the batter down.
Add the eggs one at a time, stirring thoroughly each time. Add the cod mixture and stir to mix completely.
Heat 3 inches of oil in high sided pan till 350 f. Add heaping spoonfuls of cod to the oil. Cook until browned on each side, approximately 3-5 minutes total I would say. Drain on paper towels or brown paper bag.
For aioli: Pulse garlic in food processor till finely chopped. Add the lemon juice, egg yolk and salt and pulse till combined. Add the oil in a steady stream till combined and smooth, add the paprika.