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Luis Foncillas

Nacido en Pamplona-Iruña, resido en Nueva York desde 1994. He tenido varios cargos en la Euskal Etxea de Nueva York entre otros el de Presidente entre los años 2003 y 2005. Desde 2001 soy el corresponsal de Radio Euskadi Estados Unidos.



The beauty of Bacalao

In the hands of a master, salt-dried codfish sings

Posted on Thu, Mar. 06, 2008


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Sinfonía (Basque), 4825 SW Eighth St., Coral Gables: Lunch and dinner; dinner entrees $13.50-$33; wine and beer only; free parking; 305-445-1103.

• Coimbra

(Portuguese), 4239 W. Flagler St., Miami: Lunch and dinner; dinner entrees $14.95-$38.95; wine and beer only; street parking; 305-446-3633.

• Old Lisbon

(Portuguese), 1698 SW 22nd St., Miami: Lunch and dinner; dinner entrees $14.95-$39.95; wine and beer only; free parking; 305-854-0039.

Like many Cuban Americans, I grew up eating bacalao a la vizcaina (codfish Basque style), rehydrated slabs of dried codfish cooked in a typical tomato, onion and pepper sauce (sofrito). Not very inspiring, really.

That desiccated fish from the North Atlantic became a staple on a Caribbean island is an anomaly of history -- a gift of immigrants from Spain's Basque region. And unless one's ancestors were among them, we Cubans generally are not masters of cod.

Bland in its fresh state, cod benefits from salt-drying. The process concentrates the flavor, and the reconstituted fish, if treated properly, has wonderful taste and texture.

It was not until I visited Spain that I experienced the full glory of salt cod, particularly in a sublime Basque preparation called bacalao al pil pil: The fish, soft and pillowy, swims in a bed of creamy, golden sauce.

Later, when I dared to try cooking it, I discovered there is no cream in the sauce. It is, instead, an emulsion of olive oil

and the juices emanating from the fish as it cooks, ever so slowly, in a pan that is shaken by hand for 20 minutes or more. (The name comes from the Basque pilpiliar, ''to shake.'') In my hands, alas, the emulsion curdled and the dish was a disaster.

When a new Basque restaurant, Sinfonía, announced the pil pil dish was on the menu, I rushed there not only to eat it but to learn the secrets of making it from chef Jaime Pérez, 72, who was born in a town near Bilbao.

Pérez begins with salt cod loin from Norway (''The best comes from Scandinavia,'' he says, echoing age-old wisdom), and soaks it for 36 to 48 hours, changing the water frequently.

He cooks garlic cloves slowly in extra-virgin olive oil to flavor it, then discards the garlic. He pours the oil into a clay pot and heats it on the stove. He puts the cod in the oil, and for half an hour moves the pot up and down while the fish releases its juices.

If the sauce is too thick, he adds a few drops of water. Finally, he removes the pot from the fire, but keeps shaking it while the fish and the sauce finish cooking.

''Clay takes a long time to heat, but also a long time to cool down,'' Pérez explains.

His pil pil turns out beautifully, as does his bacalao a la vizcaina. The latter is quite different from what is served at local Cuban restaurants, although, like the Cubans, Pérez uses tomatoes in his sauce rather than the traditional pimientos choriceros, a mild Spanish chile he says he cannot get here.

The Basques mastered salt-cod cookery because they dominated the cod trade from the 11th to the 16th century -- an epic story Mark Kurlansky tells in his award-winning book, Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World

(Walker, 1997). For a wealth of salt-cod recipes, however, no one can beat their chief competitors on the Grand Banks,

the Portuguese.

The menus at Old Lisbon on Coral Way and the newer Coimbra on West Flagler Street are full of cod dishes. Coimbra's chef-owner, Fernando Santos, offers such classics as reconstituted loin of cod, grilled and served with a sauce of oil, parsley and garlic -- a dish of austere simplicity. Other cod dishes revel in excess: potatoes, egg, cream sauces, mayonnaise, the works.

Santos, too, sings the praises of Norwegian cod, although he complains about the prices. Canadian cod is an alternative. (Overfished to near-collapse, cod is relatively scare and commensurately expensive today.)

''You can take advantage of every part of the cod,'' says Santos. ''The cheeks, the tongue, the liver.'' Bone-in cod is tastier than the deboned loins, he says, but only hard-core cod fans, usually Portuguese or Brazilian, insist on it and call ahead to have it made.

Coimbra also serves bacalhau à Brás, a Portuguese comfort food that I've had almost every time I've dined with Brazilians. It's nothing but shredded cod with fine strips of onion and fried, shoestring-cut potatoes, all scrambled with egg. It's a dish that can evoke home even in someone like me, who never had it at home.

There is one dish at which all salt-cod eating nationalities excel, and that is fritters: Cuban frituras de bacalao, Portuguese bolinhos de bacalhau, croquetas de bacalao -- the latter good not only at a Basque emporium like Sinfonía but at every Spanish restaurant in town. Everybody gets it right, even Yankees, whose fish cakes are made with cod.

And, having learned some of chef Perez's secrets, I'm ready to tackle bacalao al pil pil again in my own kitchen.

Any time now.


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From: Los Angeles Times

70 Years of 'Shock and Awe'

Mark Kurlansky

The 1937 air raid on the Basque city of Guernica ushered in the modern concept of total war.

April 26, 2007

SEVENTY YEARS AGO, on April 26, 1937, at 4:40 in the afternoon when the stone-walled, medieval Basque town of Guernica was packed with peasants, shoppers and refugees for its Monday afternoon market along the riverfront, a church bell rang out. The townspeople had heard the warning before. It meant that enemy planes were approaching.

Since ancient times, Basques had gathered in this town under an oak tree to reaffirm their laws. Even today, the elected head of the Basque government travels to Guernica to take his oath of office under an oak tree, "humble before God, standing on Basque soil, in remembrance of Basque ancestors, under the tree of Guernica?."

This tree, a few thousand residents, the people who had come to the market and thousands of refugees from other parts of the Basque provinces who had fled the ongoing Spanish Civil War were the only targets. Oddly, the oak tree survived.

Because Guernica had no air defenses, dozens of planes from the German and Italian air forces, including the newest experimental warplanes, were free to come in low in daylight, dropping with great accuracy an unusual payload of incendiary and splinter bombs chosen by the Germans for maximum destruction of buildings. People who fled were chased down by planes with heavy-caliber machine guns. The planes came in so low that there are still eyewitnesses who remember seeing the pilots and who note that they looked like Germans.

Three hours later, the planes were gone, the historic town had been reduced to burning rubble and the Basque government estimated that 1,645 civilians were dead out of a population of 7,000. It's hard to know just how accurate that number is. The only ones who had a chance to accurately count the dead were the rebel troops of Francisco Franco ? on whose behalf the German and Italian planes had swept in in the first place. They at first denied that the attack had taken place; later, they admitted to only 200 deaths. The records of what they actually found have never been released. But given the intensity of the attack, reports of survivors and the number of missing relatives, the Basque government figure has been recognized as at least being closer to the truth.


Two days after the attack, London Times correspondent George Steer's eyewitness account was published in the London Times and the New York Times, and the world responded with outrage at this new type of warfare ? randomly attacking civilians from the air on a large scale. It was widely seen as a crime that should never be allowed to happen again.

It was not the first time civilians had been bombed from the air; not even the first time in the Spanish Civil War. Gen. Emilio Mola of Franco's pro-fascist rebel forces had vowed to destroy the Basque province of Viscaya for its fierce opposition to the insurgency. "Starting with the industries of war," he had said. But instead he started with the rural town of Durango, a town of ancient churches, rambling cobblestone streets and no industries of war. Next was Guernica.

Durango had passed with little notice, but Guernica did not. Pablo Picasso, who had been commissioned by the Spanish government to paint a mural for the Spanish pavilion at the 1937 Paris World's Fair, chose Guernica as his subject, and his stark depiction of mayhem and destruction permanently fixed this image of war in Western culture. To many previously apolitical Americans and Britons, it was the bombing of Guernica that convinced them of the brutality of fascism.

Historians argue whether the phrase "weapons of mass destruction" was first used about Guernica or Hiroshima. Steer wrote in the Times: "In the form of its execution and the scale of its destruction ? the raid ? is unparalleled in military history." But 70 years after Guernica ? after the bombings of Coventry, London, Hamburg, Dresden, Berlin, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Hanoi, Hue, Beirut and Baghdad ? it has become clear that modern war is fought from the air and that the greatest number of casualties are civilians.

Guernica was destroyed with 1937 state-of-the-art weaponry, the latest in German and Italian attack aircraft. But, of course, those weapons are primitive compared to what was unleashed on Baghdad for "shock and awe" at the start of the Iraq war. Shock and awe had also been the intention of the fascists in Spain. But such attacks on civilians today are met not so much with the outrage of 1937 but with casual television viewing.

On this, the 70th anniversary of the destruction of the little Basque village of Guernica, it would be good to contemplate the direction the world is going in and whether we want to continue or alter the course.

*By Mark Kurlansky, MARK KURLANSKY often writes on Basque history and is the author, among many other books, of "The Basque History of the World." His most recent book is "Nonviolence: Twenty-five lessons from the Histor

El muñeco de Mikel Urmeneta clausura la "Cumbre Mundial de Infografía-Malofiej 2007"

31/03/2007 - 19:17


El muñeco de Mikel Urmeneta clausura la

El responsable del Departamento de Ideas de Kukuxumusu, Mikel Urmeneta, no clausuró la "Cumbre Mundial de Infografía-Malofiej 2007", tal y como rezaba el programa facilitado por la Universidad de Navarra. Un muñeco –idéntico al creador de Kukuxumusu- ocupó su lugar y fue, ante un centenar de personas, el encargado de desgranar algunas de las ideas que acompañan a los dibujos de la marca y de cerrar esta cita que desde hace quince años reúne a significativos nombres del mundo de la infografía y el diseño.

Mikel Urmeneta llegó plegado en una maleta y entregado por un repartidor de correo urgente. Así accedió al edificio de Ciencias Sociales de la Universidad de Navarra, donde, de esta forma tan poco habitual, comenzó la conferencia que clausuraba la decimoquinta edición de la "Cumbre Mundial de Infografía-Malofiej 2007", organizada por la propia Universidad y la Society For News Design.

El público, conformado por profesionales del mundo del diseño y los medios de comunicación, recibió agradecido la imaginativa apuesta de Urmeneta, que expuso sus argumentos a través de una grabación y con la compañía del responsable de Comunicación y Nuevas Tecnologías de la empresa Ramón Arellano. Bajo el título "Ventajas de la información plegable", Urmeneta fue desvelando algunos detalles de los dibujos más conocidos de Kukuxumusu y mostrando cómo, a través de ellos, la marca ha conseguido crear un universo particular.

Urmeneta comparó la infografía, "que intenta despejar dudas", con las camisetas y dibujos de Kukuxumusu, "que intentan crearlas". El muñeco, acompañado por la voz de Urmeneta enviada desde Nueva York, añadió que su marca disfruta comercializando mensajes ambiguos, confusos, contradictorios y con múltiples lecturas, para que cada individuo interprete a su manera lo que ve. Estas reflexiones fueron acompañadas con algunos de los dibujos más reconocibles de la firma.

Urmeneta utilizó la presencia del muñeco para volver a ratificar la validez del título de su conferencia, ya que, según expuso, la principal ventaja de la información plegable es que le hubiera permitido hacerse presente en la Universidad de Navarra sin, en realidad, estar físicamente allí.

De esta forma quedó clausurada la cumbre, en la que, además del muñeco de Urmeneta, han participado importantes referentes de mundo del diseño o la infografía como Javier Zarracina, director de gráficos de "The Boston Globe", Matt Ericsson, director adjunto de gráficos en "The New York Times", o Alejandro Tumas, director de infografía del diario argentino "Clarín".

Corto de Borja Cobega nominado para el Osca


Interesting Article that includes a short Video


Great article on one or two of our passions, drinkig sidra and eating