Ensalada ilustrada or Ensalada mixta

I was crunching through menus at Restaurante Asador San Quintín in Logroño and decided to detour into understanding why a salad might be enlightened (a literal translation of ilustrada). ensalada itself is easy to remember as it actually is what its cognate implies. But ilustrada, as the past participle (normally ilustrado but ensalada is feminine so requires -a ending) of the verb ilustrar, mostly means illustrated but has a special context of ‘a follower of the Enlightenment’ and thus ‘a person who is learned and educated’. I wonder if eating this salad endows one with enlightenment.

This salad is common enough that it appears on a list of salads and has its own webpage in the Spanish Wikipedia. There it is described as

es una ensalada mixta de verduras muy típica de la cocina aragonesa

Many images can be found with a Google search and there is even a video of making it on YouTube (not very helpful to me as it is entirely in rapidfire Spanish where I hardly get any word). Searches for ‘receta ensalada aragonesa‘ gets similar but not identical recipes. Of course, though, recipes are likely to vary (consider Caesar salad in English).

But ensalada mixta is often used on menus and appears to be more generic than any specific recipe.  mixta does have the obvious meaning of ‘mixed’. From past research many mixta salads are quite simple and plain but some of the receta for ensalada mixta are almost identical to some from ensalada ilustrada so it’s tough to distinguish them. Most, but not all ensalada ilustrada recipes include asparagus (espárragos) which can appear in other salads but then usually under another name. mixta recipes seem to include more vegetables (often cucumbers (pepino)) whereas the emphasis in ilustrada seems to be tuna (aka bonito). In short I’d guess mixta is the equivalent of ‘house salad’ in the USA and so it’s whatever the restaurant wants to use.

But whatever ilustrada is there was some fun in figuring out recetas as these use terms you wouldn’t ordinarily see on menus but are amusing to try to figure out.

1 puñado de yemas de espárragos 1 handful of asparagus yolks

I remembered yemas (yolks) from previous posts usually in the context of huevo (egg) so this was a bit mysterious. An alternate meaning for yema can be ‘Sprout of a plant from which branches, leaves and flowers develop’. In fact, one translation of ‘bud’ is yema. On other menus cogollo is used to reference the inner portion of a head of lettuce so yema seems to have the same meaning (the video I mentioned made this clear even though I couldn’t understand what was being said).

1 escarola limpia 1 clean escarole

limpia (limpio when modifying lechuga) is better translated as ‘cleansed’, again something the video makes clear, i.e. careful washing of both the lettuce and escarole. A good example of how not to guess this is a cognate for ‘limp’. And I’d certainly hope I get clean ingredients in my food.

Filetes de anchoa en aceite Campos Anchovy fillets in oil Fields
1 frasco de bonito del norte Campos 1 jar of bonito of the north Fields

Campos threw me for a while. It does translate to ‘fields’ as Google did and so I thought somehow this might imply something about the source (is it modifying aceite or anchoa? If anchoa (anchovy) then it might make sense as modifier of bonito as well). Searching for Campos mostly reveals a town in Spain but nowhere near the sea and thus no obvious connection. However searching for ‘aceite campos’ did pop up some online shopping sites and so, this is just a food brand.

1 Bolsa Tierna. 1 Tender Bag

This one really ran me around in circles until I lucked out and saw one of the small images on the search results page and then zoomed in. In this case it really was a bag (plastic) with Tierna as the label and it was clearly the prepared greens we see in supermarkets in USA. I also ‘tender’ is used in the same context as ‘spring’ or ‘young’ since it’s not a term I would expect to apply directly to lettuce, or certainly to a bag.

1 ud Tomate raff. 1 Toma raff.

Two things threw me on this. What is a ud? I’ve seen this on menus and eventually concluded it is merely the abbreviation of unidad (unit). It’s not clear why I need to be told 1 unit of tomato rather than just one tomato, however. raff  (Raf) turns out is a particularly variety of tomato as described in this Wikipedia page.

70gr Bonito en aceite. 70gr Pretty in oil.

I’ve seen this enough times in other samples to know that bonito (a type of tuna) confuses Google but interestingly it got it right in the example I showed discussing what Campos means. ‘pretty’ is a reasonable, but wrong translation. Often another fish, dorado, ends up as ‘golden’ which is actually a kind of truth since the fish got its name due to its color.

150 gr. de queso en taquitos 150 gr. of cheese in taquitos (taco is ‘Small piece, thick and dice-shaped, in which a food is cut’)

And this took some work and I can’t confirm my “guess”. taquito is not a word in any dictionary. Searches reveal it to be a diminutive of taco (the food item, or even something you can buy in freezer section of a USA grocery store) and nothing else. But this made me curious what taco means in Spanish and way down in the list of meanings at Oxford is this (indicated used in Spain this way):

Trozo pequeño, grueso y en forma de dado en que está cortado un alimento. Small piece, thick and dice-shaped, in which a food is cut.

So I’m going with the idea that taquito is derived from taco and so it means really really small pieces. It’s hard to spot the queso in the picture and I couldn’t find any other source so this is just a guess. BUT it’s clearly not taquito one would find in Mexico or USA.

But this one continues to baffle me ( though got it while writing post):

1 sopera de mostaza 1 mustard tureen

I can’t find much else other than ‘tureen’ as a definition. I thought maybe this was a type of mustard (mostaza makes sense as ‘mustard’ based on the instructions of the recipe) but it also should be a unit of measure (to fit the pattern of other ingredients).  I had seen sopera together with cucharada which literally means tablespoon so the hint that sopera might also mean spoon didn’t quite fit. But alas, Spanish language Wikepedia comes to the rescue again since it includes both words together in this article in the sentence:

Su medida corresponde aproximadamente al volumen contenido en una cuchara sopera Its measurement corresponds approximately to the volume contained in a soup spoon

So this is a unit of measure, approximately a tablespoon.

So digging through recipes for items I find on menus is another source for my corpus but I have to be really careful not to create misleading extractions.




Challenging menu to decode

While I’m continuing to work on the GallinaBlanca diccionario (almost done) I’m getting close to the next town on the Camino so I decided to try to work on another menu from a Logroño restaurant. It’s an interesting website as there are actually three different restaurants, with some common connection:  KABANOVA, PASIÓN POR TI, and LETRAS DE LAUREL. In addition to menus (unfortunately in PDF’s so Google Translate doesn’t work) there are numerous photos of their Especialidades (Specialties), some of which are fairly mystifying exactly what the item is.

I’ve decoded most of the three menus from Kabanova – MENÚ GASTRONÓMICO (Gourmet Menu, an 11 dish tasting menu), MENÚ PASIÓN (???, Pasión is literally passion, but really the name of the common grupo that runs these), and NUESTRO MENÚ DEL MEDIODÍA (Our midday Menu). It’s this midday menu that I’ll discuss in this post. I’ve mentioned menu del Dia before; it’s an economical way to order several courses from a limited menu. While it most often is referred to as  it is often most likely to only be offered at lunchtime (really around 14:30) and on weekdays only, so calling it mediodía actually makes a lot of sense.

Menú para 1 persona DE LUNES A VIERNES Menu for 1 person from Monday to Friday

The menu basically has these five parts:

APERITIVO de la casa. Aperitif of the House
POSTRES incluye un postre casero DESSERTS include a homemade desert
Incluye 1/3 botella Tinto Reciente DOC Rioja, agua mineral y ración de pan Includes 1/3 fresh bottle of wine DOC Rioja, mineral water and bread ration

Many restaurants will have Entrantes (instead of the Apertivo) on their menu del Dia, but judging from the pictures and other information this establishment is putting its bar forward rather than some small plate.

The first item under PRIMEROS had some fun translation to do:

Menestra fresca de verduritas de Calahorra con su velouté, crispy de alcachofa y polvo de jamón Fresh stew of Calahorra vegetables with its velouté, crispy artichoke and ham powder

I’ve mentioned that literal translation won’t work to decode many items on menus in Spain so we see a few examples of that here: 1) Calahorra doesn’t have an English translation because it’s actually the name of the second largest city in La Rioja which has as its major activity the growing and distribution of prized vegetables so using this term is emphasizing the quality and freshness of the verduritas (vegetables) used; note that  is a diminutive one of the three standard dictionary term verdura; 2) velouté doesn’t translate to English because it’s actually a French cooking term (one of the five “mother” sauces); 3) crispy is interesting since it’s already an English word and not Spanish, I guess they thought this sounded appealing, and, 4) polvo de jamón (ham powder) actually does seem to be what its literal translation implies. I found a number of receta on the Net for this and it’s just ground-up ham after drying in an oven that is used like a seasoning from a shaker. Menestra fresca itself has numerous recipes but basically it’s a stew of multiple vegetables (you can find lots of images of it on the Net).

Another item is interesting:

Ensalada de la Ribera con rulo de queso cabra. Riverside salad with goat cheese curler

Yes, de la Ribera translates to riverside which doesn’t tell you anything.  However, this link gives you a good picture and explanation of this common salad in Basque areas. The lettuce, which looks like romaine, is not and actually is a specialty in this part of Spain, often called COGOLLOS DE TUDELA (buds (really cores) of Tudela (which is a municipality of Navarre). It has is connected to de la Ribera because it is grown surroundings of the Ebro river banks.

This is a curious item:

Nuestro plato de cuchara del día Our dish of spoon of the day

A dish of spoon, sounds odd. Actually I’ve encountered this labeling before and it basically means a dish that would be eaten with a spoon, like a soup but possibly something else than sopa (soup) and so therefore labeled more generally than sopa. IOW, you have no idea, from the menu, what this will be. Since this would be one of the three choices under PRIMEROS you’d really have to discuss this item with your server or just opt for one of the other two choices or take your chances.

So, IOW, to understand and decide which of the three PRIMEROS you’d order requires knowing a lot more about food in Spain than your literal translation dictionary is going to tell you. And again, for me, the challenge is how any app for a smartphone could explain all this (or how the search would work because the exact wording would vary from menu to menu even for the same items).

I’ll wrap up with just a couple more interesting items (and this menu is this restaurant’s shortest one so lots to decode here, as you might not want just the limited choices of menu del Dia.

Bacalao confitado en aceite Arbequina sobre cama de pisto. Cod confit in Arbequina oil on ratatouille bed

Arbequina is another word that has no translation to English. That’s because it is a particular cultivar of olive, that is, you just have to know what it is.

Carrillera de ibérico 36H con manzana, zurracapote y su crujiente. Iberian cheek 36H with apple, mulled and crispy

mulled is an interesting translation of zurracapote which is actually a wine drink (similar to the more familiar Sangria). And, no clue what the 36H means?

Secreto ibérico a la brasa con salsa Teriyaki y piña caramelizada Grilled Iberian secret with Teriyaki sauce and caramelized pineapple

‘secret’ is the literal translation of secreto but what is it – sounds close to what might be called “mystery meat” here. But in fact it is a very expensive ($51/lb) cut (usually from pig and while different at different butchers usually is from the shoulder) that is similar to skirt steak. And I’ve already mentioned you would know that ibérico (Iberian) is the very prized “black” pig. Most likely, given everything else about this restaurant it probably is the de bellota type (essentially free-range and the most expensive pork) but  ibérico alone doesn’t imply that, so again you might want to ask.

There is a lot more to the menu for this restaurant and even more for other two associated restaurants so I recommend this site (scroll down enough to see the images) as one to consider.  Maybe you can figure out what Vieira gallega con sus rabas de bogavante is or GinTonic riojano is or especially oído cocina is (all have pictures in the  Especialidades. And I’m still trying to decide what I think is a lingote de cordero (either ingot or slug of lamb) – is this a cut of the lamb or a quantity indication or a preparation? I couldn’t find that and the photo doesn’t make it clear either.

BTW: This website also has a blog and this post really boosts Logroño as a foodie stop, especially (as I’ve seen mentioned elsewhere) “both in the mythical Laurel Street”. And, interestingly, while backtracking to include this in my post I discovered another blog post which tries to explain oído cocina.

P words and pepper

What is pepper in Spain, or generally in Spanish?

Well, first what is pepper in English in the U.S.? Think about it, not so simple. Salt and pepper – small peppercorns (usually black but can be white, green or pink) already ground or for foodies freshly ground. What about those big green, yellow, orange, red and even purple fleshy things, sometimes used for stuffing, sometimes extras for salad? And what about the wild number of “hot” peppers, some of which are actually well identified with the U.S. (say Hatch) or the much larger group from Latin America, although mostly from Mexico? And then as frequently used in Italian cooking (or sprinkled on pizza) what are peperoncino (though usually the seeds, not the pepper itself). And then that confusing different names whether dried or fresh, e.g. poblano vs ancho.

Pepper is not so simple in any language. The biologists will label most instances of “pepper” as Capsicum but the most common (ordinary black pepper in a shaker) is Piperaceae family. If ordinary black pepper is ground peppercorns what then is paprika? And you know that stuff they stuff some green olive, pimento, what’s that?

So in Spain we have these three key P words: PIMENTÓNPIMIENTA and PIMIENTO. While “hot” peppers are not as popular in Spain as Mexico (or now the U.S.) there are a few to mention and all of these are PIMIENTO: pimiento by itself generally refers to the standard bell pepper (regardless of color) it may also refer to these peppers:  piquillo (mild, generally equivalent to roasted red bell peppers but unique to Spain), padrón  (fairly mild, served natural or cured), piparras, guindilla (sometimes translated as synonymous with chili (and we’ll skip the chili/chile debate)), ñoras, and others that are less common.  This are basically members of Capsicum though rarely as spicy as most Capsicum  in Latin America.

Pepper, as in peppercorns, is pimienta (and unrelated, despite similarity in spelling, to pimento) . The color, if mentioned at all will be a qualifying of this term, pimienta blanca. It is somewhat less used than in the U.S. but is generally available.

So that leaves pimentón. This is almost always paprika, the ground powder from Capsicum annuum. There are various types: dulce (sweet), picante (spicy, though not much compared to Mexican sense of “spicy”) and ahumdo (smoked). Given that paprika from Spain is often found in U.S. stores it should be remembered this powder is more strongly connected with Hungary and its etymology stems from Serbo-Croatian so it originated outside Spain but now is quite common in cuisine in Spain.

Peppers, especially piquillo and guindilla are often available in tapas so you’ll probably just see these names but it’s tough to guess what is meant if you just just see pimiento listed on menu your guess is as good as mine as to what it may mean.

An interesting menu

I’ve mentioned that my original concept for this reboot of my project to build best translation dictionary for food in Spain requires obtaining a (large) corpus of corresponding Spanish to English words or phrases or other combinations. This time I’d collect this myself (instead of mining other people’s glossaries) directly from a (hopefully) authentic source, that is actual menus of restaurants in Spain. Almost all that I’ve found and processed thus far are only in Spanish so I’m dependent on Google Translate and spanishdict.com to give me a machine-style translation (often amusing). But a human translated menu would be preferable since it might deal with some of the more subtle and/or complicated issues of translation, but also potentially handle some of the more colloquial use of words and phrases.

So, as I mentioned in my latest milestone on my virtual trek on the Camino de Santiago I’d reached the city of Logroño, thus having entered La Rioja and exiting Navarra. Logroño is large enough to have a lot of restaurants with websites and online menus so I have collected a large list of URLs to investigate (both from looking at POI on Google Maps and from various lists compiled by travel or review sites).

So after the brief adventure of looking at McDonalds (was just curious how the Spain version varies from U.S., but also what nomenclature they’d use (mostly their proprietary names largely derived from English)) I decided to promise another and happened to choose (more or less randomly) Cachetero. Based on its prices this seems to be a fairly upscale restaurant and it appears on several of the top N lists for Logroño and it looks nice (lots of photos on Google Maps for it as a POI) but a virtual trek doesn’t give me anything to actually make my own comments on their food.

This is a good one for you, Dear Reader, to examine. First it has pictures for almost every dish on the menu (the menus are found on a pulldown on the tab (along the top of home page) labeled carta (in Spanish) and ‘letter’ (in strange Google Translate).  On the menu pulldown the most interesting items are:


And there is another pulldown on the top right side of the page that allows you to select language, including English.

Now I’ve extracted all the Spanish for all sections of the menu and then matched that with the English translation provided by the website itself. The translation is definitely not one of the machine translators I’ve been using and appears that it could be human. But there is no explanation so I can decisively conclude it is human translation but generally the translation reads a little smoother and less literal than most machine translations. Of course, just because it’s human (if it is) doesn’t really mean it’s any better (or even as good) as the machine translation.

For instance this sentence

The asparagus of the Ebro Valley has become over the years a food for exquisite palates.

is translated as

Asparagus Ebro valley has become over the years into a food palates.

Even with my limited knowledge of Spanish that’s a clumsy translation. First as a human translation (but perhaps something only a first-language English speaker would do as Spanish puts qualifying bits after (rather than before) I’d say “Ebro valley asparagus” rather than “Asparagus Ebro valley” (a clumsy noun phrase). BTW: Ebro is the second largest river on the Iberian peninsula and Logroño is situated on it.  And I think you can see that in alimento para paladares exquisitos something has gotten lost in translation to just ‘food palates’. That cognate exquisitos is what you’d expect so that part should be ‘exquisite palates’. para is a simple preposition which in this case I believe would translate as ‘for’, so I’d say a better translation is ‘food for exquisite paletes’. And one more reversal of the phrase order I think this is better (and the same meaning)

Over the years Ebro valley asparagus has transformed food for exquisite palates.

Dear Reader who is more fluent in Spanish please add comments how you’d do this translation. My only point in this digression is attempting to do the Turing test – is it human or machine that is doing this (and in between a human with ESL and not that fluent in English).

spanishdict.com has translated it thusly:

The asparagus of the Ebro Valley has become over the years a food for exquisite palates

I didn’t see this until I made my attempt – I think theirs reads even better.

And Google Translate does thusly:

The asparagus of the Ebro Valley has become over the years a food for exquisite palates.

Identical it seems so I suspect both of these are rule-based combined with literal even though Google says all it’s translation is learning-based AI.

In terms of the dish itself this is one case I’ll publish their image since I have given the restaurant its credit:

Ignoring the phallic nature of these stalks of asparagus note that this is common “delicacy” in this part of Spain as you can see described in this post. You can even buy it in the U.S. here (among various places).

I’m analyzing more of the translations to attempt to get some better idea (for instance, huerta is used a lot and gets translated as ‘orchard’ in one description and ‘garden’ in another; possibly ‘kitchen garden’ or ‘truck garden’ is closer as this restaurants prides itself on its ingredients, especially vegetables so I’d guess this is a lot like the “local” or “farm-to-table” movement in U.S.)

But meanwhile, Dear Reader – take a look at the food, play with the translations for yourselves.