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World Cup Match Day 2: Spain

The first day of World Cup action is in the books, and what a game it was! It had all the makings of a Spanish soap opera—overacting, comic relief, horrendous personal decisions (looking at your outfit, Pitbull)—the works. It was 90 minutes of Brazil-on-Croatia action more mesmerizing than a kitten trapped in a yarn ball factory.

I kan haz all the string?! Photo: Getty Images

And I'm not one to toot my own horn, but...

Pictured: Karma. I'm due, y'all.

To recap, Cooking Light is batting 1.000 in World Cup predictions. Eat your heart out, Biff. I digress. I'm here to gloat and talk food and soccer, and I'm all out of gloat. It's the tournament's second day, so let's get down to brass tacks.

Match to Watch: Netherlands vs. Spain 

The defending World Cup champions, La Furia Roja (The Red Fury) start this Cup the same way they ended 2010: facing the Netherlands. This is the tournament's first true heavyweight bout, and it should live up to the billing. Look for clinical passing from Spain, beautiful buildup from Clockwork Orange, and a hotly contested game. Neither team will want to drop this one. I don't think Spain, ranked number one in the world, defends their title, but I do think they duplicate their success from last year's final and win today. My Pick: Spain 1, Netherlands 0

Player to Watch: Andres Iniesta

Spain's national hero, Iniesta, scored the goal that clinched the country's first ever World Cup crown. Depending on who you ask, he's called El Cerebro (The Brain) because of his other-wordly intelligence on the field, or El Ilusionista (The Illusionist) for his ability to play any position and appear out of nowhere to make phenomenal plays. If Spain wins today, expect to see Iniesta heavily involved in the offensive buildup.

Match Day Dish: Paella with Poblanos, Corn, and Clams (Spain)

When I think Spanish cuisine, this mouth-watering rice dish comes to mind every time. Originating around Valencia, Spain, paella is  prepared with any number of proteins—mussels, shrimp, chicken, calamari—and vegetables, but it's always delectable. This variation takes about an hour and a half to prepare, so be sure and have a pitcher of sangria on standby. Enjoy the second day of the World Cup and this wonderful dish! Cheers.

Paella with Poblanos, Corn, and Clams

Hands-on Time: 35 min. Total Time: 1 hr. 40 min.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 poblano chiles, seeded and chopped
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 3/4 cup uncooked short-grain brown rice
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 2 pounds littleneck clams
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 8 lemon wedges
1. Preheat oven to 450°. 2. Heat oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, poblanos, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper; sauté 3 minutes. Add rice and saffron. Cook 2 minutes; stir constantly. Add 2 cups water, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and red pepper; bring to a boil. 3. Bake at 450° for 50 minutes or until rice is done. Stir in corn and tomatoes. Nestle clams into rice mixture. Bake at 450° for 12 minutes or until shells open, and discard unopened shells. 4. Return the pan to medium-high heat, and cook without stirring 10 minutes or until liquid evaporates and rice browns. (It should smell toasty but not burned.) Top with parsley; serve with lemon wedges.