by Simone & Inés Ortega
In the culinary world, Spain is the new France. The contemporary cuisine of the Iberian Peninsula is now recognized for creativity and innovation on par with the food of its gastronomically advanced neighbor. Spanish tapas and wine bars have colonized every major American city, and Spanish chefs like Ferran Adria of El Bulli have achieved worldwide recognition. So it makes sense that Spanish recipes and techniques would eventually make their way into the kitchens of American home chefs. For the uninitiated, 1080 Recipes, Spain’s equivalent of Joy of Cooking translated into English for the first time, provides an excellent introduction to mastering Spanish fare. First published in 1972, the book has been a bestseller in Spain for over 30 years; in this edition, original author Simone Ortega has teamed with her daughter Inés to update the recipes for contemporary tastes and lifestyles. Cheerful illustrations in bright primary colors by Spanish designer Javier Mariscal accompany the recipes, which cover just about every dish from all of Spain’s diverse regions.
Though very few notes are given about which dishes hail from which part of Spain, a clear picture emerges of how multiple Mediterranean cultures contributed to Spain’s eclectic cuisine. The Moors brought seasonings, spices, and the unique combination of meat and fruit, as evidenced in such specialties as roast chicken with grapefruit, pork loin with apples, or lamb with quinces. The Greeks shared olives and olive oil, which feature prominently in recipes for rabbit cooked with olives and almonds or gazpacho with olive-coated goat cheese. Pasta makes an appearance in recipes like macaroni with chorizo and tomato, while France’s influence is plain in a version of beef bourguignonne. But at the book’s heart are quintessentially Spanish dishes including paella, tortilla española (Spanish potato omelet), calamari, and tapas like fried date and bacon rolls. Desserts such as fig compote with red wine and spices and marzipan cake rely on regional fruits and nuts. With Ortega’s painstakingly clear explanations and, at the end, a collection of menus from celebrated Spanish chefs, you have the most competent tour guides for your Spanish adventure. Buen provecho!
Spanish Potato Omelet
Tortilla de Patatas a la Española
2 1¼ cups sunflower oil
2 1¼ pounds potatoes, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Heat the sunflower oil in a skillet. Add the potato slices and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned. Season with salt, remove from skillet, and drain well. Beat the eggs vigorously with a pinch of salt in a large bowl for 1 minute. Add the potato slices and stir with a fork. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Pour in the egg mixture and cook, gently shaking the skillet occasionally, until the underside is set and lightly browned. Invert the omelet onto the pan lid or a plate, then gently slide it back into the skillet, cooked side up. Cook, gently shaking the skillet occasionally, until the underside is set and golden brown. Serve immediately.
Reviewed by Rachel Levin
(Updated: 10/28/08 SB)