The other night I was craving Spanish food. There’s no shortage of tapas restaurants in NYC but I didn’t want restaurant-style tapas, I wanted good homemade Spanish staples like my host mother made when I lived in Spain for a month in college.
You can’t really say you “studied abroad” if it was only for 4 weeks, can you?
Probably not. Whatever, even if it was more like an extended vacation it was still one of the best months of my life. I was living in Cadiz, a tiny city in the Southwest corner of Spain in Andalucia. Cadiz is almost an island – it’s connected to the mainland by a highway. Shaped like a spoon, the Old City fills up the curved part, all arrow roads and cobble stone streets and hidden courtyards.
There were 10 of us studying through our college, taking classes at the University of Cadiz and living across the Old City with host families who were paid to put up with us. 3 home-cooked meals a day was part of the deal.
At first I wished I could go out to restaurants instead of eating at home. Now those meals are some of my best memories – the croquetas my “madre” took from the freezer and fried in a deep fryer on the kitchen counter (what? you don’t have one of those?), this stew with ham and peas that was somehow completely delicious, served with an entire baguette for dipping, and the oily spaghetti and chorizo she would serve me and her 10-year-old for dinner, since no one else in the family ate at night.
Of course, there were a lot of fantastic things I ate at restaurants. I had salmorejo for the first time at a modern tapas place called La Gorda Te Da De Comer – it literally means “the fat woman feeds you.” Salmorejo is like a creamier gazpacho. The secret is bread, ripped up and puréed into the mixture – I know, it sounds disgusting. I was freaked out too when I looked up the ingredients but then I remembered how delicious it is and got over it.
Most of the time when I’m nostalgic for Spain I go to Tia Pol – you can get delicious pan con tomate and tortilla there for half the effort, along with sangria that reminds me exactly of one we had in a little restaurant in the cliffs near Arcos De La Frontera.
But every once in a while, it’s fun to make them myself.
Pan con tomate
(Adapted from Saveur)
1 clove garlic, cut in half
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large, very ripe tomato
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Cut the baguette in half and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes until toasted and golden brown. Meanwhile, cut tomato in half and grate into a bowl over the large holes of a box grater, throwing away the skin.
Rub each half with garlic and drizzle with oil. Spoon the tomato mixture on top and sprinkle with salt.
(Adapted from Antonia’s Salmorejo Recipe)
4 large very ripe tomates
1-2 cups torn baguette, from 1 baguette
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic
Splash of sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
Pinch of salt
Sliced serrano ham or prosciutto
First, scald the tomatoes – this was new to me but is pretty cool. Bring a large salted pot of water to boil. Cut a small cross in the bottom of each tomato. Once the water is boiling, add the tomatoes for 30-60 seconds. Remove and place in a bowl filled with ice and cold water. The skin will peel right off the tomatoes – I was skeptical but it actually works beautifully!
Core the tomatoes and add them to your blender, blending at high speed for about 30 seconds or until broken down.
Then, take 1-2 cups of bread guts, depending on how thick you want your soup to be, and add to the blender. Let soak for about 5 minutes. Add splash of vinegar, salt and garlic and blend until the soup is an even texture and the bread is completely incorporated.
Next, either pour the oil into the hole in the lid of the blender while the blender is running or add little by little until incorporated. Adjust vinegar and salt to taste.
Serve in bowls topped with sliced ham.
Tortilla española with chorizo
(Adapted from Martha Stewart)
Serves 8 ( or 3? Clearly we are fat)
Disclaimer: I have never once successfully flipped a tortilla out of the pan so I’m adjusting this recipe based on what I think will work better. Feel free to go by the original, linked below.
1/2 cup olive oil, plus extra for skillet
1 1/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 3 large), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/4 medium onion, diced, about 1/4 cup
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
6 ounces dried chorizo, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
6 large eggs
Heat oil in a heavy 8-inch skillet over medium-low heat. The size of the skillet is key here as mine was too small and the potato-egg mixture didn’t fit.
Add potatoes and onion and season with salt. Cover and cook, stirring often, until potatoes are tender, about 12 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes and onion to a bowl. Add chorizo to skillet, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Transfer chorizo and pan drippings to potato-onion mixture. Reserve skillet.
Beat eggs in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper.
Coat the skillet with more oil if needed – and seriously, err on the side of more oil. Your heart may not thank you but your perfectly turned out tortilla will. If you’d rather not use more oil, use Pam or other cooking spray to make sure the pan is thoroughly greased.
Heat skillet over medium heat. Pour in potato-chorizo mixture. Then, pour the egg mixture over top until almost completely covered but not submerged. Don’t worry if you have left over egg, it’s just meant to hold the potatoes together.
Cook, running a flexible spatula around the edges occasionally, until edges set and center is slightly runny, about 6 to 8 minutes.
Now comes the hard part. Place a plat upside down over skillet and invert tortilla onto a plate. (Heh, sound so easy right?) Slide tortilla, cooked side up, back into skillet. Cook over low heat until completely set in the center, 3 to 6 minutes.
Transfer to a serving plate, let cool slightly and cut in wedges.
Spanish-style toast with tomato: http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Spanish-Style-Toast-with-Tomato
Antonia’s salmorejo recipe: http://spanishsabores.com/2011/09/22/antonias-salmorejo-recipe/
Tortilla espanola with chorizo: http://www.marthastewart.com/356379/tortilla-espanola-chorizo