Category Archives: books

LAS TAPAS tortilla de patata

We  just finished reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón for our book club.  If you haven’t read it yet, you are in for a real treat.  I periodically forced myself to put it down, so that it wouldn’t end too quickly.  It’s that good. Ruiz Zafón has artfully woven together a story of suspense, romance, and fantasy that reads like poetry. Oh…and it is set in Barcelona, my favorite city on the planet.  So, it’s no coincidence that I had a mad craving for Spanish tapas while reading this little gem.  As it was my turn to host, I had a good excuse to make a few of my favorite things…

Las flores

El Menú
Almendras  Marcona Almonds
Aceitunas   Jumbo Queen Olives from Andalucia
Pisto Manchego  Roasted Vegetable Purée
Champiñones al Ajillo  Mushrooms sautéed in garlic, olive oil, & dry sherry
Ensalada de Espinacas y Garbanzos  Spinach and Chickpea Salad
Albondigas  Spanish Meatballs in Saffron Sauce
Queso   Assorted Spanish Cheeses (see below for list)
Tortilla de Patata Potato Omelet (recipe below)

Pisto Manchego

Los Quesos de España

Los Quesos
Queso Mahón Cow’s Milk Cheese, Mild
Queso Manchego  Sheep’s Milk Cheese, Sharp
Queso Azul de Valdeon Tangy Blue Cheese
Ibérico Curado Cured Sheep & Goat’s Milk Cheese, Sharp

Tortilla de Patata

 Tortilla de Patata Potato Omelet
Of all the tapas, this is the one that transports me right back to my dining room in Sevilla.  In Spain, the word tortilla refers to an egg omelet, and they are consumed as midday or evening meals.   The pros cook their tortillas on the stove top (if you’ve spent a summer in Spain, without A/C, you know why), but I’ve had mixed success with this.  I follow the Test Kitchen method of starting it on the stove and finishing in the oven.

8 Eggs
2 Russet Potatoes (small), Peeled
1 Yellow Onion
1/3 Cup Olive Oil
Salt
Flat Leaf Parsley

Using the smallest slicing disk, thinly slice the potatoes and onion in the food processor.  Heat oil in a 10 inch oven proof skillet (no bigger!!!), and sauté the potatoes and onions for ten minutes, until soft, salting throughout.  Beat eggs with one teaspoon of salt, and pour into skillet.  Allow to set around the edges of the pan for about two minutes.  Transfer pan into 425 degree oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the sides puff up, and the egg is done when cut into the middle.  Transfer back to the stove, over medium high heat, and cook until a golden brown crust has formed–use a spatula to peek.  Let it rest for a few minutes, then use a spatula to loosen the tortilla around the edges.  To unmold the tortilla, invert a plate over the pan, then grip both firmly, and flip the omelet on to the plate, browned side up.  Finish with a sprinkle of coarse salt and chopped parsley.  Serve at room temperature.

Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without a little vino….

Los Vinos de España

Most of the wines pictured above were less than $20!  Here are some of my favorites:

Vino Tinto  Red Wine
Ergo Tempranillo Rioja
Marqués de Riscal Rioja
Sexto red blend

Vino Blanco White Wine
Albariño
Martinsancho Rueda Verdejo
Cava Spanish Sparkling Wine

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THINGS I LIKE: atk slow cooker revolution

Without a doubt, my mother is reading this post with a smug grin on her face.  Let me back up– as a teenager, I harbored inexplicable disdain for anything prepared in a slow cooker.  When the “crock pot” came out of the cupboard, it was usually accompanied by many groans and eye rolling on my part (next time you see Lin-Babes, make sure to ask her about what a cute teenager I was).  Then I grew up.  And got a job.  And so….my love affair with the slow cooker begins.

I’ve mentioned this book in my WFDW posts, and I’ll say it again:  it is an excellent source for anyone who works all day and wants dinner DONE when (s)he gets home.  Brought to us by the cooks at America’s Test Kitchen, it is loaded with fool proof recipes.  Of course, in typical Test Kitchen style, they are not all simple “throw it in the cooker” recipes.  Therefore, I sometimes do the prep work the night before.  The pages have “Easy Prep” tabs to indicate meals that can be thrown together the morning of.  So far, our top five favorites (in no particular order) are:

1.  Loaded Baked Potato Soup (p. 30)   Tips:  I used the full 8 ounces of cheese (weigh it, don’t measure it) and I mashed more than 2 cups of potatoes to achieve desired consistency.  This prep takes longer than others, so do it the night before–or make it on a day that you’re not working.  It’s an artery clogger–but so worth it!

2.  Japanese Pork and Ramen Soup (p. 23) — Easy prep for a weeknight!

3.  Tortilla Soup  (p. 11)  — I did the prep the night before.  The recipe calls for ladling the soup over tortilla chips, but this resulted in soggy chips.  I would put the chips on top next time.

4.  Everyday Shredded Chicken Tacos (p. 202) — Easy prep for a weeknight.

5.   Ground Turkey and Chipotle Tacos (p. 212) –Easy prep, good for a crowd.

I’m still making my way through the book, so this list barely scratches the surface!  Next up:  Short Ribs and Red Wine Sauce (p. 170),  North Carolina Pulled Pork (p. 145)  and Chocolate Pudding Cake (p. 293)–that’s right, there’s a dessert section.  If you have the book, I’d love to hear your favorites!

*Update:  Some of you have expressed apprehension about this book after reading negative Amazon reviews.  My two cents:  do not expect a cookbook from ATK that requires zero prep on your part.  Personally, I save the dishes that require more prep for the weekends, when I have more time.  The second thing to consider is that ATK is very scientific.  If you want the recipe to be PERFECT, then follow their recipes to a “T”.  But it’s not always necessary to do so.  I do not always precook things before putting them in the cooker and I’ve left the chicken recipes in for longer than the recommended 4-6 hours….and it turns out fine.  I’ve used it as a guide and I’ve been very pleased with it.  

Tortilla Soup, page 11

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SOUTHWESTERN SALAD w/ a side of book club

This is a salad that I brought to book club a few months ago, and have neglected to post.  Oops.

It’s great served with tortilla soup or corn chowder.  If it’s a work night,  shred up a rotisserie chicken and make it a meal.

SOUTHWESTERN SALAD
serves 4 (as a side)
2 cups green lettuce, roughly chopped
2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 cup corn
1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 green onion, sliced thin
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 oz crumbled goat cheese OR cotija cheese
*more options: shredded jicama, tortilla strips, diced avocado

SOUTHWESTERN DRESSING
makes about 3/4 cup
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, seeds removed
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
the juice of 1/2 lime
pinch of salt
Process ingredients in food processor or blender until smooth.  (I use the chopper attachment on  my Cuisinart Smart Stick for this).

GOOD READS:
Some of our favorite book club selections (in no particular order) have included:
1.  The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
2.  Cutting For Stone, by Abraham Verghese (I struggled through the middle of this book, but powered through)
3.  Shanghai Girls, by Lisa See (of the three in the series, I preferred Snow Flower and the Secret Fan)
4.  The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson (I loved all three)
5.  Sarah’s Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay

Next week, we are discussing My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor.  If you have the time, watch her video on TED–it’s fascinating!  Not sure what’s next up, but I’m dying to read Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.  Had your nose buried in a good book lately?  Send me your recommendations!

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