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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Spanish Tortilla

Not long ago, I saw a reference to a "Spanish tortilla," something very different from the tortillas we associate with Mexican dishes. While in Barcelona Spain recently,  I had an opportunity to try some "authentic" tapas, including the "Spanish tortillas" I had heard about.

As with almost all the tapas we tried, these were delicious, so I came home ready to do more research into making my own. Following is what I found to be a real favorite for our family, something that would make a great brunch dish or even a light supper. Because of the typical Spanish custom of serving this at room temperature, it could even be a good potluck dish--though I would not want to leave it at room temperature for an hour or so.

This version is larger than the tortillas served as tapas. Those were more individually sized, and some had a layer of sliced tomatoes under this potato egg dish. This one would be best served as narrow wedges, something like you might serve a quiche. There is just a small challenge in getting the finished dish out of the pan in one piece, but using enough oil in a well-seasoned cast iron skillet made the job pretty easy.

This is good just as is, but either a little salsa or pesto (like this one: can also be a good accompaniment.

Spanish Tortilla

11 oz potatoes, thinly sliced (2 medium), app 2 c when sliced
4 oz chopped onion (1 c)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ t salt (will probably want more)
black pepper to taste
¾ c olive oil
3 eggs

1.  Add all the oil to a skillet and begin to warm over medium heat. Add potatoes, onions, and garlic and season with salt and pepper. The oil should almost cover the potatoes. Cook slowly until the potatoes are just tender, probably about 12 to 15 minutes, stirring gently a few times. Remove from heat and put in a colander to drain until just warm. (Save oil for re-use.) 
2.  Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a large bowl until the mixture is uniform in color. Stir the just warm potatoes into the eggs. Heat the oven to 375 degrees in preparation for the final step.
3.  Add just enough of the reserved oil to be sure skillet is just covered with a sheen of oil. (You don't want a lot, but you also want to be able to turn the tortilla out of the pan in one piece!) Heat the pan to medium high.
4.  Pour the potato mixture into the pan and spread out evenly. Cook for about 5 minutes, using a spatula around the edges to occasionally loosen the eggs from the pan. 

5.  When the edges begin to look set and cooked but the center is still liquid, place the skillet in the pre-heated oven and allow to cook another 8 to 10 minutes, until the center is fully set.

6.  Remove from oven and turn onto a plate, using a spatula as needed to gently loosen the tortilla from the pan in one piece. May be served hot or, apparently typical in Spain, at room temperature. 

Note that the reserved oil amounted to a full half cup, so the total used in this recipe was "only" a quarter cup. The oil that remained was nicely flavored with the onion and garlic, so it will be useful for sauteeing vegetables, etc.

Update on June 22, 2015:

I can't resist adding this link with more info on Spanish tortillas:

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Cilantro and Spinach Pesto

(From the archives--originally posted May 17, 2015)

Last week there were still some great specials on really beautiful bunches of cilantro, so I picked up some extra. Now, how to use all of it?

Of course there is Amy's great Tortilla Soup (found here:, and refried beans are always improved by cilantro. For now, I wanted to try a pesto using cilantro, something I had heard of but had never attempted.

I keep fresh spinach in my refrigerator as much as possible, so pairing spinach and cilantro seemed a good place to start. I ended up with the following adaptation of several different recipes I reviewed, and it proved to be a real winner.

When cilantro and/or spinach are on special, this can also be a fairly frugal recipe, especially since a typical pesto serving is quite small...and the nutrient load here is really, really good. Spinach, cilantro, almonds, olive oil; all top dogs in any list of healthy foods.

Now that you have made pesto, what are you going to do with it? I served it with a Spanish omelet, a great combination--here's my take on that:

This pesto would also make a good topping for crostini or many kinds of crackers. Its brilliant green color would make a good contrast to a black olive tapenade or various white or cream colored spreads or dips. Many people enjoy pesto as a topping for pasta, and that would be a good use too. And some lightly braised or steamed fish would be great with a bit of pesto to zip up the flavor.

What about mixing a little of this with the yolks of boiled eggs to make special deviled eggs? (Green eggs without ham?)

Wherever you may have used traditional pesto would be a good place to try this one too. Lots of ways to use this, so go ahead and make a sample batch the next time you have some good cilantro and spinach available.

Cilantro and Spinach Pesto

3/4 c slivered almonds (see NOTE)
1 c tightly packed cilantro--use both leaves and stems, chopping it coarsely
1/2 c tightly packed spinach leaves
1/3 to 1/2 c grated parmesan cheese, depending on your preference
4 garlic cloves, coarsely sliced
1/4 c lemon juice (the bottled kind like ReaLemon is fine for this recipe)
salt--start with about 1/4 t and then adjust to taste
black pepper to taste
olive oil

1.  Pulse the almonds lightly in a processor bowl until coarsely chopped.
NOTE:  You may substitute whole almonds with skins still on, but you will need to chop the nuts more thoroughly, and there will be flecks of the brown skin through the pesto. Not unattractive, just different.
2.  Add the cilantro, spinach, garlic, parmesan, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to the almonds. Pulse until the mixture is coarsely chopped.

3.  Gradually drizzle olive oil on to the chopped mixture, processing until the mixture is smooth and a soft paste. Taste for seasonings and adjust.

Makes about 1 1/2 to 2 cups.

This may be served immediately or refrigerated for several days.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Rhubarb Coffeecake (made with mayonnaise)

Here in the upper Midwest, we are seeing more and more poultry farms hit with a dangerous avian flu virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of chickens and turkeys, and there are predictions of sharply higher egg prices coming, so it seemed like a good time to try substituting mayonnaise in one more recipe. Since the rhubarb is ready for harvesting, this coffeecake seemed the perfect recipe for an experiment.

I try to use mayonnaise only where other, stronger flavored ingredients will predominate, and I kept butter in the topping for its distinctive flavor. The texture of this cake is lovely, a little dense but very moist. While the ingredients list may look a little long, this is extremely easy to put together. As I have noted in earlier rhubarb recipes, my plants have little red in them, so you may end up with a much more colorful cake than mine.

Crumb-topped Rhubarb Coffeecake with Mayonnaise

Rhubarb Mixture
2 c (8 oz) diced rhubarb
1/4 c sugar
2 t cornstarch
1/2 t ginger
1/2 t cinnamon

Cake Batter
1/2 c mayonnaise
1/2 c sugar
1 t vanilla
1/2 c plain non-fat yogurt
1 c whole wheat flour
1 c enriched flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
3/4 t baking soda

1/4 c butter, melted
1/2 c brown sugar
3/4 c flour
2 t cinnamon
1 t ginger

1.   Toss together the rhubarb, quarter cup sugar, cornstarch, ginger, and cinnamon until well mixed. Set aside while making the batter.
2.  Cream together the mayonnaise, sugar,  yogurt, and vanilla.
3.  Stir in the prepared rhubarb, blending well.
3.  Sift the flour and baking powder and soda together and fold into the rhubarb mixture. Stir just until evenly blended; do not overmix.

4.  Generously oil a 7 X 11 inch pan. Pour in the batter and spread evenly.
5.  With a fork, mix the butter, brown sugar, and spices until well blended. Add the flour and continue to mix just until large crumbs form. Using your fingers, distribute the crumbs evenly over the top, pressing them into the batter just slightly.
6.  Bake at 350 (325 for a glass pan) for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.


If you really, really like the crumb topping, spread the batter in a 9 X 12 pan and double the topping amount. This is likely to be done in 22 to 25 minutes.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Cranberry Streusel Coffeecake--made with mayonnaise

Yes, it's time for another recipe using mayonnaise in place of oil and eggs. Now that picnic season is upon us, the stores are featuring specials on mayonnaise, so it's a good time to pick up a jar just for baking, even if you never use it for anything else.

This recipe is adapted from one that I first made while still in high school, so you know it is very old. Using mayo instead of butter in the batter and omitting the egg resulted in cutting the overall cost of the coffeecake almost in half. I haven't been brave enough to use mayonnaise in the crumb topping--I think the flavor of the mayo might be a little too strong to use there--so there is still some butter included.

It is nice to have a recipe like this on those days when you have run out of eggs and still want to stir up a homemade bread for a special weekend breakfast or for when friends come over for coffee. It goes together quickly and could be a good one to make with kids who are just starting to want to help in the kitchen. The cake is quite dense, not too rich, and could be appropriate for vegans with the variation noted below.

If you've consulted my blog before (and I do hope you visit often!), you will notice that I have used dried milk powder, a staple in my kitchen. Why? There are several reasons.
  • If you read the instructions on the dried milk package, you will find that one third cup of the powder is the equivalent of a cup of milk, yet this recipe only needs one half cup of liquid. By using the powder, I can add extra protein and calcium.
  • If I were to heat the milk with the cranberries, there is very likely going to be a"boil over" in the microwave, and I really like to avoid that kind of mess.
If you don't have dried milk, you can either use just water (slightly less full flavored) or use milk and take your chances on the heating. OR, you could just skip the cranberry soak. However, this step softens the cranberries and helps make sure they stay well-mixed in the final batter.

Cranberry Streusel Coffeecake
½ c mayonnaise
½ c brown sugar
1/3 c nonfat dried milk powder
½ c water
½ c dried cranberries
1 t vanilla
2 c flour
2 t baking powder
½ t soda
½ t cinnamon
¼ t nutmeg

Crumb topping
¼ c butter, melted
½ c sugar
¼ c flour
½ c oatmeal
1 t cinnamon

1.  Heat cranberries in water in microwave for 1 to 2 minutes and set aside to cool.
2.  Combine mayo, brown sugar, milk powder, cranberries and water. Beat well.
3.  Sift the dry ingredients together and fold into the mayonnaise mixture. Stir just until evenly blended.
4.  Spread the batter into a well-oiled 8 inch square pan.
5.  Combine all crumb topping ingredients and spread over batter.
6.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

  • Replace the cranberries with raisins (a mix of golden and regular raisins would be nice), dried cherries, or even chopped dried apricots.
  • Add 1/3 to 1/2 c chopped pecans or walnuts to the crumb topping.
  • For a Vegan Coffeecake, omit the dried milk, use vegan mayonnaise, and a non-dairy margarine in place of the butter.