Spanish Tortilla with Prosciutto

I have two reference points for Spanish cooking. One is Claudia Roden, an author with a wide range of cookbooks touching much of the Mediterranean. She is also the author of Food of Spain, a magnificent compendium with 609 pages and dozens of superb recipes and associated commentary. The other is Penelope Casas, the author of seven cookbooks on the cuisine of Spain (and I have six of them, all well-used).

Tonight I was in the mood for a traditional Spanish Tortilla, but I also was looking to add some excellent prosciutto from Eataly Boston into the dish, so with a little research into Penelope’s Foods and Wines of Spain (where I usually go for the recipe), I found exactly what I needed.

I made two small changes to the recipe: (1) using prosciutto slices for the cured ham, and (2) finishing the tortilla in the oven, under a hot broiler, so I didn’t have to risk flipping it while the egg on top was still liquid.

All I needed to add was a small salad with Bibb lettuce, Castelfranco, and vinaigrette (plus a few raw green beans, the last from our garden on the deck), and a small Imam (eggplant dish) leftover from dinner at a Greek restaurant last night. For wine accompaniment, a bottle of Abadiá da Cova, from the Caino grape was a perfect choice.

It turns out that broiling the top of the tortilla and flipping it after it was done allowed me to turn it over safely on the serving plate, The dramatic effect of the crisped prosciutto which became the top was secured by this approach. It was a totally successful meal, definitely worth repeating.

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Homemade Fettuccine with Oyster Mushrooms and Pancetta

Once again, I enjoyed a meal featuring homemade pasta and marvelous, fresh oyster mushrooms. I was feeling a bit bereft during August because my source for top-notch mushrooms was on vacation. Elizabeth Almeida, the entrepreneur and founder of Fat Moon Farm in Westford, MA, had explained to me that oyster mushrooms like it cool, so they don’t do well during our hot Augusts, which is why she and her family take vacation then. They take a hiatus in the mushroom growing activities, so I had to wait another month to repeat the success I had in June, using my newly-discovered technique for sautéeing them first in a broth with butter, before adding them to pasta.

Yesterday I went to the farm to pick up two 1-lb. bags of perfect mushrooms they prepared for me. I was very eager to make my pasta, and then to create a new recipe that would highlight the main ingredients. I saved the second package to make a risotto in a few nights hence.

We had a new chunk of pancetta in the refrigerator, so I sliced some of that, chopped the pieces coarsely, and proceeded with the mushroom preparation. Here, again, is the simple recipe for that process:

A pound of oyster mushrooms is a lot of mushrooms, so after tearing them into smaller pieces, I took out a large sautéuse, added a pint of vegetable stock plus 3 Tbs. of sweet butter, brought it to a boil, and cooked it on high heat until much of the liquid was gone. I took out a few tablespoons of the buttery liquid to add to the sauce, before all the moisture evaporated from the pan. Next, I continued to sauté the mushrooms — which now were glistening with butter in the pan — until they were lights browned and tasty.

In the meantime I had sautéed the pancetta with a little olive oil until it was crispy, and I set it aside to reheat and add to the top of the pasta. I made a small side dish with zucchini and corn off-the-cob from end-of-the-season Harper’s Farm Butter and Sugar corn. As you know, fresh pasta cooks in just a few minutes, so I added the fettuccine to the sautéeing mushrooms, and cooked them together for a few minutes. An open bottle of a Rhône-style white wine from Sans Liege completed the table. We each had a full serving and ate it all.

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The Bounty of Late August…

One of the great joys of late August in New England in the rich bounty of ripe vegetables and fruits at their peak conditions. If there is a tagline to this post, it would say, “how you cook it makes all the difference.”

I have two examples from tonight’s dinner. My wife wanted miso soup and sushi from our local Asian restaurant — and I was in the mood for cooking — so we agreed amicably to have two different dinners. I picked up her order at the restaurant and delivered it with some beer from the package store, so she was happy. I had a taste of the sushi, and my own bottle of beer, while I sat with her at an early supper.

Now, back to the main event. I had two perfect vegetables that were looking for the right recipe. One was a small, firm, glossy eggplant; the other was a container of baby Brussels Sprouts. In my experience there are many people who are not crazy about either of these. I believe I could convert a good many of these folks to enthusiastic fans with these two dishes:

  • Eggplant Confit
  • Roasted Baby Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Whole Grain Mustard

 

The Eggplant Confit recipe was new to me this week. I got it from the Food52 website. I found it to be clear, straightforward, accurate, and delicious.

It gave me a chance to use all my favorite ingredients: salted Sicilian anchovies, crisp garlic, lemon thyme from our herb garden, and lots of Portuguese olive oil.

When the dish was finished and at room temperature, I marveled at the silky texture and rich flavor.

By contrast, the other recipe was one I had played with off and on over the last 8-10 years. The origin of this dish was a dinner we had in Portmouth, NH, at the restaurant Cava. A couple of months later, when our son was home and cooking dinner for our friends and us, he made a spectacular version of it, just from our oral description of it.

The trigger for me this week was a container of baby Brussels Sprouts I saw at Westward Orchards (a farm 1/2 mile away) when I stopped yesterday to get more peaches for the cobbler my wife wanted to make for our family dinner.

All I had to do was to preheat the oven to 500° F., dice some pancetta from a frozen log of it in the freezer, drizzle on some oil (I had plenty in the baking dish from the eggplant confit), and watch it carefully so it didn’t burn in the hot oven.

In addition I needed to put make the sauce, which is what brings all the flavors together in an exciting way. The only two ingredients for that are a good, whole-grain Dijon mustard, and a couple of tablespoons of sour cream. Mix them together, smear across the plate, and place the roasted sprouts and pancetta on top.

They complemented the soft, delicate texture and flavor of the eggplant and its tasty partner, the anchovy.

Normally, I would have obsessed about which wine to serve with this combo. However, as an appetizer I had blistered several Padron Peppers from our garden. Most were mild, but one was real hot. Fortunately, I had decided to save some of my Jamaican Red Stripe beer to drink with it. That also went well with the main course and the beer mustard dressing.

Finally, I also had an open bottle of a 2007 Black Slate, a Spanish wine favorite of Grenache and Carignan grapes. Very good as well.

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Tartine Einkorn Bread

I’ve been happily making my standard sourdough breads every three or four weeks for much of this year, so I recently decided to explore some new breads. Chad Robertson’s Tartine Book No. 3 has been on my shelf for some time now. It intimidated me — new recipes, new techniques, strange flours and other ingredients — so I avoided it until now. The motivation was the desire to cook with Einkorn again, an ancient grain which I found enjoyable years ago when I experimented with it.

After reading a few chapters meticulously, I was ready to try his Einkorn bread. Fortunately, I still had some sprouted Einkorn berries, so I could mill the 300 gm. of flour needed. I had to read carefully to understand that I also needed 400 gm. of “Medium Strong” wheat flour (which translates to high protein bread flour), 300 gm. of “High Extraction” wheat flour (explained below), 70 gm. of wheat germ, and coarse bran to coat the loaves so they don’t stick while resting in their baskets.

A year ago, during the early days of the pandemic, stores had run out of all-purpose and regular bread flour (remember?). I used to buy it from King Arthur Flour, but they were out, too, so I purchased a set of flour sifters, with the idea that I could mill flour from my whole wheat berries in my stock, and then sift out some of the bran, to get something a little more like bread flour. A set of three different diameter stainless steel sifting tools cost me only $18.58, so it was not a challenging purchase.

As it turned out, the sifters were not in stock either, and it took several months for them to arrive. By that time bread flour was becoming available, so the sifters stayed on my shelf until now. That’s where “High Extraction” comes in….so for the Einkorn bread, I milled my remaining portion of Breadtopia’s Heirloom Turkey Red Wheat Berries (a hard winter wheat variety). I then took that flour and sifted it all, saving the bran that was removed to use to coat the formed bread loaves, and using what came through the sifter for my 300 gm. of “High Extraction” wheat flour.

A package of Bob’s Red Mill wheat germ completed the necessary supply items, and I was ready to bake. Most of the methodology for this was the same as the Tartine bread approach I’ve used for years. Two aspects were different and needed to be noted. The hydration was higher for this bread (85% vs. the 76% I was used to), and his instructions maintained a higher heat longer when baking the breads.

Here are the results:

Einkorn bread
Grilled octopus and Einkorn bread for lunch
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Clams and Linguine

I had a hankering for clams this weekend, so I bought a pound of Littlenecks (along with other seafood) on Saturday at New Deal Fish Market in Cambridge. As always, the quality was excellent.

So Sunday’s lunch was relatively simple: clams and linguine, with a Spanish Verdejo for crisp, refreshing accompaniment.

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Georgian Wine with a Cabbage and Onion Torta

We had a large head of cabbage taking up a lot of space in the refrigerator for more than a week, so I was motivated to find a way to use it soon. Barbara’s go-to dish for cabbage is cole slaw, but that was not going to use very much, so more intensive research was necessary.

Fortunately, I found a Melissa Clark recipe online in the NY Times Cooking section that intrigued me: Cabbage and Onion Torta. We had all the ingredients, and Melissa had made a very good video, so we settled on that. My wife’s dough handling skills made it clear that this was for her to cook.

Here is the link for the video:

the ingredients list

Here’s what ours looked like:

The wine is another story. I had recently bought a bottle of Georgian white wine, Rkasiteli grapes. This one, however, was an amber wine, much richer than others I had enjoyed, because it was fermented on the skins — as described on the back label. “Bouquet of wild flowers with notes of dried apple and apricots” was completely accurate. We both loved the wine, and it complemented the dish.

If you’re astute, you may notice the blurry image of an animal outside, in the photo with the wine glass. It was one of the wild turkeys who explore our property regularly, so I took a snapshot through the kitchen window, so you could see him better.

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Express Post: Baked Leftover Vegetables with Montasio Cheese

I had some leftover vegetables from a rice dish made a few days earlier, so I combined them with sourdough croutons and grated Montasio cheese to make a crispy baked vegetable dish. Again, the wine was a rosé from Puglia.

baked vegetables with Montasio cheese

An interesting side dish for this meal was a few pieces of a Jerusalem flatbread/cracker made from Einkorn flour, made more interesting with the flavors of Worcestershire sauce, sesame seeds and Syrian Za’atar.

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Farro and Vegetables

I think Farro is a superb grain. Substantive, flavorful, just chewy enough, and it goes with almost everything. Last week I cooked some with a mess of vegetables for dinner, and it was great. Here is my list of ingredients:

  • onion
  • leek
  • scallions
  • zucchini (one green, 1/2 of a yellow one)
  • small eggplant
  • beefsteak tomato
  • dried porcini
  • Shiitakes
  • radishes
  • endive
  • 1 quart broth
  • Maras pepper

I soaked the Farro first for ~45 minutes, then drained it. The vegetables were sautéed in sequence and reserved, and the Porcinis were rehydrated (saving the soaking water) and then cooked with the Shiitakes.

After adding 3-4 Tbs. of olive oil to my widest sauteuse, I cooked the Farro for about 5 minutes, to crisp up the grains. At this point I started to add broth (liquid from the chickpeas I had cooked a few days earlier), 1-2 cups at a time — almost like making risotto. After about 10 minutes, I added the onions/leek/scallions, and continued cooking. Next, it was time to add the sautéed mushrooms, along with the Porcini soaking liquid. Some Turkish Maras pepper was sprinkled in to add some warmth and spice to the dish.

This slow sauté continued — adding the remaining vegetables and more broth — for about 45 minutes in total. You can test taste the Farro as you go along, so you know when it is tender enough for your tastes.

Barbara doesn’t like Farro (too chewy), so I saved some of all the vegetables and served them to her with a quinoa/brown rice mixture, heated in a microwave.

As a side dish, I braised chopped fennel, celery stalks (cut 2-3 inches long), chopped tomato, and pitted/chopped Kalamata olives in another sauté pan. The results:

Farro and vegetables
braised celery, fennel, and tomato

The wine was probably an Italian rosé, from Negroamaro grapes.

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Eye Candy, Food and Wine Department

These are some of my favorite photos from July’s food and wine adventures.

Wine and Small Plates with Friends

the Main Event
what’s to eat…
broiled zucchini and plum tomato and Feta cheese
Impossible Burger Meatballs
grilled eggplant with herb and Portuguese vinegar
My sourdough bread, Grilled with Oyster mushrooms and Manchego Cheese (OK, they’re a bit burned on the edges…)

Snapshots

Appetizer — mushrooms with garlic, parsley and chili pepper
excellent white wine from Campania
Oyster Mushrooms and one Chestnut
Bruschetta with Spicy Tuna Paté and Cucumbers, side order of sautéed veggies
Portuguese Spicy Tuna Paté from Portugalia
orange-fleshed honeydew melon
our cherry tomatoes, grown in pot on our deck
view on the top of my espresso machine
cucumber, tomato, radish, black olive chopped salad

 

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Grilled Octopus for Lunch, Briam for Dinner

This is another post in an abbreviated form, so you can gain the essence of the experience quickly and extract what is useful to you.

Lunch was Grilled Octopus, combined with white beans, red onion, rouille, and flying fish roe (Tobiko in Japanese), flavored with Wasabi (spicy horseradish used with sushi).

For the octopus salad I chose a Ligurian white wine that went nicely.

As I often do, my larger meal — dinner — is vegetarian or vegan, following a lunch that might feature animal protein in moderate quantities. Briam is a Greek baked vegetable dish I make often, with whatever veggies are available/are most appealing.

An easy way to make the meal complete is to open a package of “Seeds of Change” organic Quinoa and Brown Rice, to serve with the veggies. This package takes 90 seconds in the microwave, it tastes good, and it’s healthy — a hard-to-beat combination. It’s a study in contrasts that I will happily spend three days preparing my octopus dish or several hours making my fresh pasta, and on the other hand I’m totally fine with a package from BJs Wholesale Club that cooks in a minute and a half.

A good, young Greek wine was a delicious match for the Briam.

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