Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Classic Tortilla Espanola for a not-so-El Clasico

Like a lot of things in life, the excitement and anticipation that preceded the four “El Clasico” soccer games between Barcelona and Real Madrid that were scheduled over a three week period gave way to… exasperated resignation, I guess. Maybe it’s my fault as a fan for expecting a glorious soccer display between two of the most talented teams in the word, and not realizing that a grudge match in which a battle of will was more important than the on-field product, was inevitable. As they say, familiarity breeds contempt, and the matches were less about a display of skill and more about, well, contempt.
And so I settled into my couch on Wednesday to watch the first leg of Barcelona and Real Madrid’s match up in the UEFA Cup semifinals with high hopes for a match that finally carried importance between the two rivals. Their second match of the season ended in a chippy draw that didn’t have too much significance outside of pride, since Barcelona pretty much locked the La Liga title, and their third meeting in the Copa del Rey final saw Real Madrid finally overcome a Barcelona side that was just indifferent enough to start their backup goalkeeper. That didn’t stop Real Madrid players and fans from celebrating for all it’s worth. But Wednesday's UEFA semifinal was the most meaningful since their first meeting in January, a 5-0 destruction of Real Madrid that was simply breathtaking. Even my brother, who’s not much of a soccer fan and was forced to watch with me, was amazed by the display of soccer beauty. “That is one of the best teams I’ve ever seen in any sport” he said of Barcelona.
So yes, I was excited for Wednesday's match as it would guarantee the full motivation of both Barcelona and Real Madrid (despite some injuries that removed some stars like Iniesta and Ricardo Carvalho from the equation). I hoped that maybe Barcelona would forge another piece of artwork to their already exhalted reputation (though I won’t call them the greatest team of all time as some have said). Or I was hoping that maybe Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho, aka the “Special One”, who enhanced his already inflated reputation/ego by stopping Barcelona last year in the UEFA Championship with Inter Milan, can once again prove wily enough to solve this year’s Blaugrana with the ingenuity and overwhelming talent of the Galacticos at his disposal.
Instead, we got a rather dull display in the first half where Real Madrid predictably let Barcelona keep the ball and do as they pleased in the back half of the field. Barcelona never really mounted a great attack outside of a couple of shots, both out of taxing patience and because Real Madrid’s five defenders did a great job choking off attacks. So what excitement that actually happened came in the second half in the form of a high-leg tackle by Pepe which led to a red card, Mourinho being escorted to the stands after a vigorous protest, and finally, toward the end, a pair of goals by Lionel Messi. I guess you can count the protests and conspiracy theories from Real Madrid afterward as excitement too (complete with an opinion from no less than MLS hopeful Chad Ochocinco). Outside of the second goal, none of it was exactly artful. But this match was fitting in a rivalry that was mostly about Real Madrid’s willingness to slow the game to a crawl, Barcelona responding to that strategy by um, whining, flopping galore, and even more whining after matches from both sides. I blocked out 3 hours in the middle of the day and even preparied a Spanish-style meal to watch yesterday’s game. I probably won’t be as excited for the last “El Clasico” of the year. Although the probable match up between Barcelona and Manchester United in the UEFA Cup Finals should be EPIC.
But yes, I went through the trouble of making a Tortilla Espanola to get myself in the spirit of Spanish soccer and “El Clasico.” The soccer might not have been that great, but the food was tasty, at least.
I should note that the Fissler 12" non-stick Protect frypan will make a HUGE tortilla, since most recipes are for a 9" pan. The quantities in this recipe are larger to reflect the larger size. The only trick is finding a dinner plate large enough to easily invert a 12" tortilla.
Tortilla Espanola
8 large eggs
4-5 russet potatoes
1 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
2-3 cups of olive oil
white pepper
3 sprigs thyme
1. Peel potatoes, cut in half lengthwise, and cut into 1/8” thick slices and dice onions into medium-sized chunks. Combine the two and salt for seasoning.
2. Heat about a cup of olive oil and garlic on medium-high. When the heat is hot enough for a piece of potato to sizzle in the oil, add potatoes and onions. There should be just enough oil to cover most of the vegetables. Be sure to adjust the flame so the potatoes don’t brown. Cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and reserve.
3. Crack the eggs into a large bowl and add salt, pepper and thyme. Whisk to combine.
4. Fold the potato-and-onion mixture into the eggs.
5. Heat the Fissler 12" non-stick pan with a few tablespoons of olive oil, just enough to coat the surface, over medium heat.
6. Pour the egg-and-potato mixture into the pan and level out with a spatula.
7. When the edges start to set, run a spatula around so some of the uncooked egg gets released to the side.
8. When the tortilla is set at the edges, shake the pan to make sure it’s loose and not sticking to the pan.
9. Get a dinner plate and place over the tortilla (use an oven mitt as the plate will be hot). Flip the pan upside-down so the plate is now on the bottom and the tortilla rests on it, and quickly slide the inverted tortilla back in the pan.
10. Cook until the tortilla is cooked through, about 3 more minutes.
I also tried Ferran Adria’s short-cut version of the tortilla, where potato chips are substituted for actual potatoes. It cuts the cooking time to just 15-20 minutes. since you don’t have to peel and cook potatoes. This does leads to a spongier and thinner tortilla, but it’s tasty in its own way and infinitely more convenient to prepare. Just crush 5-6 oz. of potato chips and soak in the egg mixture for about 5 minutes before adding other ingredients (I added piquillo peppers and ham). Then you cook it like a normal tortilla.

This is a traditional Spanish side salad that pairs well with the tortilla.
Membrillo salad
6 oz. arugula
marcona almonds
manchego cheese
1 tbsp. membrillo, or quince paste
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
olive oil
white pepper
1. Soften the quince paste in the microwave for 30 seconds.
2. Combine vinegar, salt and pepper with quince paste.
3. Slowly whisk in olive oil until you get a dressing. It should take about 2 parts olive oil to 1 part fig paste. Season to taste.
4. Pour just enough dressing over the arugula and almonds to coat, and toss with tongs.
5. Shave cheese over the salad.
Leftover tortillas are often used for bocadillos, or simple, yet very traditional Spanish sandwiches. It consists of little more than bread, tomato water, olive oil and whatever you fill the sandwich with.
1 Spanish bread or baguette
leftover tortilla Espanola
1 tomato
1 clove garlic, sliced in half
olive oil
1. Slice the bread length-wise. Toast the bread, cut-side exposed to the heat, in an oven or over a grill for a few minutes.
2. Use the cut side of the garlic to rub all over the toasted side of the bread.
3. Slice tomatoes. You can either rub the tomato on the bread and just use the water, which is traditional, but I like the actual tomato slices in the sandwich.
4. Cut and arrange tortillas on the bottom half of the bread. Drizzle with olive oil. Top with tomatoes, if you want, and the top half of the bread.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

Whole Wheat Matzoh Balls in the Pressure Cooker

Matzoh balls take at least half an hour to cook, but you can reduce the cooking time by more than half in a pressure cooker. I used Streit's Whole Wheat Matzo Ball Mix to make the job even faster. Matzo balls in chicken soup are, of course, a special Passover holiday dish (April 18th and 19th this year) but they are delicious year 'round. Just follow the directions on the box of matzo ball mix and cook for twelve minutes instead of 30. The lower picture shows them just after dropping in to the boiling chicken broth in the Fissler Blue Point Pressure Pan. After this picture was taken I put the pressure lid on, allowed the pressure to rise, lowered the heat and waited 12 minutes. Then I released the pressure and opened the lid. The upper picture shows the finished matzo balls.A sprinkling of chopped fresh dill makes a nice finishing touch in the bowl.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Win a Fissler Magic Smooth-edge Can Opener with Cooking Light!

You'll never go back to your old can opener after trying the Fissler Magic Smooth-edge Can Opener. It cuts the top off of a can around the outside without leaving a sharp (and dangerous) edge, and the lid can then be reused in case you don't finish the contents of the can. Win one by entering the Cooking Light Spring Home & Gift Guide Sweepstakes

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Giant Squash and the Perfection Knife

I met my match in the form of a 3-pound spaghetti squash.

You see, I’ve been exceedingly creative in the time since I moved into a temporary apartment in Washington, DC. I’ve been repurposing everything, adapting the Goodbye Detergent! Original Spaghetti Scrub into a mushroom brush, using my Hurom Slow Juicer box as a printer stand and converting a display cabinet into my pantry, among many other imaginative solutions.

But my resourcefulness couldn’t conquer this beastly squash. More specifically, there was nothing in my kitchen that could cut it – literally and figuratively. Most of my premium kitchen gadgets are packed away in storage or on a “to buy” list as housewarming gifts to self once I’m settled for the long term. Premium knives fall into this category, so I’ve been scraping by (eek, bad pun) with less-than-stellar cutting tools. They could barely scratch the surface of this tough-as-nails squash. There was only one thing left to do: call in the heavy artillery. Fissler knives to the rescue!

Like a kid on Christmas morning, I joyfully unpacked a shipment of Fissler knives and prepared to accomplish the mission. The squash was a worthy opponent, but the Perfection Chef’s Knife flexed its macho muscle and powered through the squash.

The dirty work done, I proceeded to cook the squash in the Fissler Blue Point Pressure Cooker and had a hearty side dish for several days.

Needless to say, the moral of the story is that sometimes there is simply no substitute for the proper equipment. Quality really does make a difference.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hip Modernist Soft, Medium and Hard "Boiled" Eggs in the Blue Point pressure cooker...

If you like boiled eggs but always wind up with a mess when you try to peel them, the pressure cooker may be the answer. Our friend Laura at Hip Pressure Cooking just posted directions for cooking soft, medium and hard boiled eggs that peel easily, and she did it with the help of her son, in a Fissler Blue Point. Yes, it's so easy, even a child can do it (with parental guidance)! And with Easter coming up soon, kids will love having a batch of these eggs to decorate.