I’m totally crazy. I decided to cook an enormous Spanish feast today. Damn, that was good. But damn, estoy cansada!
Everything was delicious. The bacon-wrapped-stuffed-dates were particularly yummy and quite easy to make. I’ve always wanted to make tortilla española, and while it was a ton of work (and A LOT of olive oil), it tasted great. Maybe not as great as the first one I ever ate, which was at a bus station in Madrid about ten years ago, but pretty darn tasty for my first effort. The spinach and chickpeas didn’t take too much effort and tasted very good; we ate it on a piece of toast. The gazpacho was refreshing and fairly easy to throw together. A nice glass of Tempranillo tied it all together. No need to go out for tapas… we can stay in! (Actually, I don’t plan to whip up four dishes like that again any time soon. Mark my words!)
Classic Andalusian Gazpacho (from Epicurious)
yield: Makes 4 servings
active time: 30 minutes
total time: 3 1/2 hours
- 1 (2-inch-long) piece baguette, crust discarded
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar (preferably “reserva”), or to taste
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
- 2 1/2 lb ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered
- 1/2 cup mild extra-virgin olive oil (preferably Andalusian hojiblanca)
- Garnish: finely chopped red and green bell peppers
Soak bread in 1/2 cup water 1 minute, then squeeze dry, discarding soaking water.
Mash garlic to a paste with salt using a mortar and pestle (or mince and mash with a large knife). Blend garlic paste, bread, 2 tablespoons vinegar, sugar, cumin, and half of tomatoes in a food processor until tomatoes are very finely chopped. Add remaining tomatoes with motor running and, when very finely chopped, gradually add oil in a slow stream, blending until as smooth as possible, about 1 minute.
Force soup through a sieve into a bowl, pressing firmly on solids. Discard solids.
Transfer to a glass container and chill, covered, until cold, about 3 hours. Season with salt and vinegar before serving.
Cooks’ note: Gazpacho can be chilled up to 2 days.
Manchego-Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon (recipe for Parmesan-Stuffed Dates) (from Epicurious)
yield: Makes 6 hors d’oeuvre servings
active time: 15 min
total time: 25 min
- 18 (1- by 1/4-inch) sticks Parmigiano-Reggiano (from a 1/2-lb piece) — I used Manchego
- 18 pitted dates (preferably Medjool)
- 6 bacon slices, cut crosswise into thirds
- Special equipment: 18 wooden picks
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.
Stuff 1 piece of cheese into each date, then wrap 1 piece of bacon around each date, securing it with a pick. Arrange dates 1 inch apart in a shallow baking pan.
Bake 5 minutes, then turn dates over with tongs and bake until bacon is crisp, 5 to 6 minutes more. Drain on a paper bag or parchment. Serve immediately.
Espinacas con Garbanzos [Spinach and Chickpeas] (from Smitten Kitchen)
Adapted from Moro: The Cookbook and Lobstersquad
One of the reason I blended recipes was because I wanted the approachability of Ximena’s version but also some of the extras in Moro’s — the vinegar, paprika and the fried bread, mashed to a paste. Except, in hindsight, I think I’d also enjoy this recipe without the bread. It would be a bit thinner and saucier and possibly harder to slop onto a piece of toast, but also a bit lighter — in weight, not just calories. If you’re bread-averse or think you’d enjoy it without the crumbs in the sauce, give it a spin and let us know how it goes.
Tomato sauce, by the way, is emphatically not traditional in this dish but after making Ximena’s version with it — she says “you don’t have to use tomato in this recipe, but it’s so much better with it” — I can’t have it any other way.
Last note: This recipe is flexible. If you end up with a little less spinach or a little more sauce, or if you want it with a little less this or a little more that, so be it. Enjoy it. Have fun with it.
1/2 pound (230 grams) dried chickpeas, cooked until soft and tender* or two 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound (450 grams) spinach, washed
A hefty 1-inch slice from a country loaf or about 2 slices from sandwich loaf bread (2.5 ounces or 75 grams), crusts removed and cut inset small cubes
1/2 cup (4 ounces) tomato sauce (I used canned stuff I keep around) — I ended up using 8 oz.
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika**
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon juice, to taste
Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add half the olive oil. When it is hot, add the spinach with a pinch of salt (in batches, if necessary) and stir well. Remove when the leaves are just tender, drain in a colander and set aside.
Heat 2 more tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry the bread for about 5 minutes or until golden brown all over, then the remaining tablespoon of oil and the garlic, cumin and pepper. Cook for 1 minute more or until the garlic is nutty brown.
Transfer to a food processor, blender or mortar and pestle along with the vinegar, and mash to a paste. Return the mixture to the pan and add the drained chickpeas and tomato sauce. Stir until the chickpeas have absorbed the flavors and are hot. Season with salt and pepper.
If the consistency is a little thick, add some water. Add the spinach and cook until it is hot. Check for seasoning and serve with paprika on top, or on fried bread toasts (as the Spanish do).
* I make all of my dried beans in the slow-cooker these days. They are perfect every time, and the flavor of fresh beans — even the sad-looking ones from grocery store bins I used — is incomparable. No presoaking, just cover them 2 to 3 inches of water and cook them 3 hours on high. (I have learned that cooking time can vary widely in slow-cookers so allot more time than you might need. I often make mine in the day or days before and let them cool in their cooking water, which is then by then very flavorful.)
** This might be my favorite ingredient on earth — it’s amazing on eggs and potatoes, too. If you can’t find it locally, Amazon and Penzeys are among a bunch of places that sell it online.
Potato Tortilla [Tortilla de Patatas] (from Smitten Kitchen)
Adapted* from The New Spanish Table
Serves 6 to 8 as a tapa, 4 as a light main dish.
3 medium-sized Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and quartered lengthwise
Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1 1/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, quartered and thinly sliced
6 large, very fresh eggs, preferably organic
2 tablespoons chicken stock or broth
1. Using a food processor fitted with the slicing blade, slice the potato quarters thinly crosswise, then pat thoroughly dry with paper towels. Alternately, you can use a mandoline set to 1/8-inch thick. The original recipe then says to rub the potato slices with salt, but for the life of me I could not fathom why I should bother with such a tedious step (I had hundreds of small slices), and simply seasoned the potatoes after I cooked them.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until very hot, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the potatoes in even layers. Cook, stirring occasionally, to prevent the potatoes from sticking and browning, until they are half-cooked, about 7 minutes. Stir in the onion, reduce the heat to low, and cook the potatoes until all of them are soft, about 15 minutes more. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes and onion to a colander set over a bowl and let them drain thoroughly. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the cooking oil and strain the rest for another use. Season the potatoes with salt.
3. Place the eggs, chicken stock, and a couple of pinches of salt in a large mixing bowl and beat until just scrambled. Gently stir in the potato mixture. Mash and stir the egg mixture gently with a fork to crush the potatoes just a little and mix them up well with the eggs. Let stand for about 10 minutes.
4. Heat 5 teaspoons of the reserved olive oil in a heavy 8-inch skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat until it is just beginning to smoke. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and flatten the potatoes with a spatula until the top is fairly even. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, moving and shaking the skillet, running a thin spatula around the edge and sliding it into the middle so that some of the egg runs under for about one minute, then let it cook undisturbed until the top is a little wet but not liquid, 6 to 8 minutes. Run the thin spatula under the tortilla to make sure that no part of the bottom is stuck to the skillet. Top the skillet with a rimless plate slightly larger than the skillet and, using oven mitts, quickly invert the tortilla onto the plate. If the skillet looks dry, add a little more olive oil. Carefully slide the tortilla back into the skillet, uncooked side down. Shake the skillet to straighten the tortilla and push the edges in with the spatula. Reduce the heat to very low and cook the tortilla until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry, 3 to 4 minutes. Invert the tortilla again, as before, to cook on the first side for another minute.
5. Invert the tortilla onto a serving plate and pat the top with a paper towel to get rid of excess oil. Let it cool a little, then cut the tortilla into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature. To serve as a tapa, cut the tortilla into squares and serve with toothpicks.
* Even though I am indeed in love with this cookbook, I had to make a few adjustments to the recipe in places where it confounded me: I clarified the thickness of the potato slices, limited the egg-pushing step to one minute (it led to the slightly busted appearance of mine, and made little sense) and cooled the potatoes a bit more than suggested, for fear of cooking the eggs in the bowl, not the pan.