39. Ricotta Pancakes

I have been thinking about my friend A lately. She’s works for the church I attended while I was in Spain. Spain is not a very church-going country (a lot of Catholic masses in Madrid are mostly grandparents and small children), but in the middle of Madrid there was a church called Oasis, which means the same thing in Spanish and English. People from all different branches of Christianity came together to think and pray and read together, and challenge each other’s assumptions about spirituality. I loved every minute of it, and have been seeking that kind of community since I got back from Spain. A was integral: she led the Bible study I attended, and she took girls like me under her wing as we got used to living in a new place. She knew about loneliness in a foreign land, and she wasn’t afraid to be real about both joys and hardships.

A had me and another girl over for pumpkin pancakes one morning that I remember vividly – her apartment has come to represent home for me in Spain, since it was a constant and I lived in 3 different places during my years there. Settling into a comfortable chair with a plate of pancakes and looking out the window and watching life flood by in Malasaña (her neighborhood) is still one of the things I miss the most. Both A and I have moved since then, but one of the great qualities of food that I appreciate is that specific recipes anchor me to a place and a time that I won’t get to revisit.

I had a container of ricotta in my fridge last week, probably meant for a lasagna but I happened to see The Kitchn’s post about Ricotta Pancakes

and I was so excited by the idea that I just had to do it. The process works pretty much like they say in the recipe, and I got to use the stand mixer to make real STIFF PEAK EGG WHITES and it was so easy. That’s a very long sentence but it accurately expresses how happy this stand mixer makes me about cooking and baking.

Husband and his friend D gobbled these pancakes happily with a strawberry reduction since we were out of syrup. While a lot of work (definitely not instant Bisquick kind of time frame) they were totally worth it on a lazy Sunday morning. A would have had trouble with them – she’s lactose-intolerant and vegan – but I am sure we could devise a work-around to fill her tummy too. We always managed when we lived in Spain. 🙂

27. L’s Spanish Omelette (Tortilla Española)

tortillaIn preparing for a dinner party (which has yet to happen; rescheduling was necessary), I made dinner for Husband as a chance to try a difficult trick. Any dinner that requires two frying pans used in tandem merits a trial run, I thought.

I was using a recipe-by-memory that I learned from my friend L. L and I met in college but became close while we were living abroad in Spain. She and I encouraged each other to go jogging more, to eat more chocolate, and to cry when things were difficult and lonely and new. I woke up next to her whenever the long metro ride back to my own apartment or to hers was too long after a late night talking and laughing. My last night in Spain, I slept in her apartment because I couldn’t handle thinking of heading back to the States where she wouldn’t be there. I have not had a closer friend since, to be honest, and while my new life is full of interesting and exciting elements of work and marriage, I miss her desperately.

We attempted all kinds of dishes, but because she was dating a Spaniard, she had access to some little-known secrets of Spanish cooking via his mother and grandmother that I could never have managed on my own. Tortilla, like pretty much all Spanish foods, doesn’t rely on fussy spices or exotic ingredients for its wonderful flavor; it’s just heat, quality eggs, chopped onions and potatoes, and as much olive oil as you want. The hardest part is keeping the tortilla from sticking to the pan and then also making sure that it flips well into the second pan. I do it over the sink, and don’t sweat it if things look a little messy afterwards.

I have eaten slices of firm-on-the-outside, soft-and-liquidy-on-the-inside tortilla in cafes all over Spain, but one evening with L we managed to make one turn out perfectly and we proudly served it to a friend who was visiting town and to my roommate. We were so proud, there in our little 5th-story living room, and I felt echoes of it as I flipped a tortilla in our kitchen. “What’s that?” Husband asked. I got to tell him a bit about Spain; he’s still learning about me and about my life there. Husband has never been out of the country (which I’m trying to remedy, but it may take some time) and when we were just friends I think he was in awe of the adventure that Spain was for me. Now, I think, he sees the ordinary-ness of it too: just a slice of thick, eggy goodness with enough olive oil to make you drool.

I used 6 eggs, one small onion, three small potatoes, and 3/4 cup olive oil, and it was a little too potato-ey in the pan I was using. My biggest advice is to slice the potatoes thin-thin and to cook them on their own for quite a while before you put the eggs in; while this may not be traditional, by cooking them through before I added the eggs I got the onion flavor deep in the potatoes and ensured against any crunchy starchy spots. If you’ve made tortilla, feel free to use the comments to share your tricks and tips. Never mind me while I scarf down some more.

Food Memory: Cafe Cortado

foodmemory2

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, I drank a cafe cortado made with almond milk and was grateful that little bits of my Spain experience were still possible in my journey in the States. Cafe cortado is simple despite the fancy-sounding name – it’s a shot of espresso with just a little bit of foamed milk, which means its smaller than a cappuccino but less harsh than taking a shot of espresso alone. Cortados on break from teaching in Spain were a quick pick-me-up – I don’t make espresso at home but small coffees still make me smile.

39. Ricotta Pancakes

I have been thinking about my friend A lately. She’s works for the church I attended while I was in Spain. Spain is not a very church-going country (a lot of Catholic masses in Madrid are mostly grandparents and small children), but in the middle of Madrid there was a church called Oasis, which means the same thing in Spanish and English. People from all different branches of Christianity came together to think and pray and read together, and challenge each other’s assumptions about spirituality. I loved every minute of it, and have been seeking that kind of community since I got back from Spain. A was integral: she led the Bible study I attended, and she took girls like me under her wing as we got used to living in a new place. She knew about loneliness in a foreign land, and she wasn’t afraid to be real about both joys and hardships.

A had me and another girl over for pumpkin pancakes one morning that I remember vividly – her apartment has come to represent home for me in Spain, since it was a constant and I lived in 3 different places during my years there. Settling into a comfortable chair with a plate of pancakes and looking out the window and watching life flood by in Malasaña (her neighborhood) is still one of the things I miss the most. Both A and I have moved since then, but one of the great qualities of food that I appreciate is that specific recipes anchor me to a place and a time that I won’t get to revisit.

I had a container of ricotta in my fridge last week, probably meant for a lasagna but I happened to see The Kitchn’s post about Ricotta Pancakes

and I was so excited by the idea that I just had to do it. The process works pretty much like they say in the recipe, and I got to use the stand mixer to make real STIFF PEAK EGG WHITES and it was so easy. That’s a very long sentence but it accurately expresses how happy this stand mixer makes me about cooking and baking.

Husband and his friend D gobbled these pancakes happily with a strawberry reduction since we were out of syrup. While a lot of work (definitely not instant Bisquick kind of time frame) they were totally worth it on a lazy Sunday morning. A would have had trouble with them – she’s lactose-intolerant and vegan – but I am sure we could devise a work-around to fill her tummy too. We always managed when we lived in Spain. 🙂

27. L’s Spanish Omelette (Tortilla Española)

tortillaIn preparing for a dinner party (which has yet to happen; rescheduling was necessary), I made dinner for Husband as a chance to try a difficult trick. Any dinner that requires two frying pans used in tandem merits a trial run, I thought.

I was using a recipe-by-memory that I learned from my friend L. L and I met in college but became close while we were living abroad in Spain. She and I encouraged each other to go jogging more, to eat more chocolate, and to cry when things were difficult and lonely and new. I woke up next to her whenever the long metro ride back to my own apartment or to hers was too long after a late night talking and laughing. My last night in Spain, I slept in her apartment because I couldn’t handle thinking of heading back to the States where she wouldn’t be there. I have not had a closer friend since, to be honest, and while my new life is full of interesting and exciting elements of work and marriage, I miss her desperately.

We attempted all kinds of dishes, but because she was dating a Spaniard, she had access to some little-known secrets of Spanish cooking via his mother and grandmother that I could never have managed on my own. Tortilla, like pretty much all Spanish foods, doesn’t rely on fussy spices or exotic ingredients for its wonderful flavor; it’s just heat, quality eggs, chopped onions and potatoes, and as much olive oil as you want. The hardest part is keeping the tortilla from sticking to the pan and then also making sure that it flips well into the second pan. I do it over the sink, and don’t sweat it if things look a little messy afterwards.

I have eaten slices of firm-on-the-outside, soft-and-liquidy-on-the-inside tortilla in cafes all over Spain, but one evening with L we managed to make one turn out perfectly and we proudly served it to a friend who was visiting town and to my roommate. We were so proud, there in our little 5th-story living room, and I felt echoes of it as I flipped a tortilla in our kitchen. “What’s that?” Husband asked. I got to tell him a bit about Spain; he’s still learning about me and about my life there. Husband has never been out of the country (which I’m trying to remedy, but it may take some time) and when we were just friends I think he was in awe of the adventure that Spain was for me. Now, I think, he sees the ordinary-ness of it too: just a slice of thick, eggy goodness with enough olive oil to make you drool.

I used 6 eggs, one small onion, three small potatoes, and 3/4 cup olive oil, and it was a little too potato-ey in the pan I was using. My biggest advice is to slice the potatoes thin-thin and to cook them on their own for quite a while before you put the eggs in; while this may not be traditional, by cooking them through before I added the eggs I got the onion flavor deep in the potatoes and ensured against any crunchy starchy spots. If you’ve made tortilla, feel free to use the comments to share your tricks and tips. Never mind me while I scarf down some more.

Dinner Party 2 and Daydreaming of Spain

tomaca

It doesn’t come up as often now, but when I first moved back to the United States after living in Spain, I think I annoyed the people around me with how much I talked about it. Just like that friend you have who lived in Colorado or the Finger Lakes or some other ridiculously spectacular place, I felt myself saying “oh that reminds me of…” all the time and connecting back to a place that, for all the memories, was now very far away.

Lately, I’ve been daydreaming specifically about the flavors of spain: the combination, for instance, of crusty bread toasted and layered with olive oil, crushed tomatoes, and just the lightest sprinkling of salt. I’ve been daydreaming of the overwhelming freshness and cheapness of veggies and fruits, of sangria made from overnight-soaking sliced fruits in red wine, of slices of spanish omelette with firm egg on the outside and a gooey wad of potato and oil in the center, nearly liquid. When I look at my fridge in the United States, so many of these flavors are still possible, still right there: I eat eggs and potatoes in so many forms here. However, there is something about the combinations, about eating them under a beating mediterranean sun by a plaza in Cadiz, or of leaning back in the metal-framed chairs that most terrace restaurants had, and just oozing into my meal. I don’t think I’ve been relaxed since I’ve moved back, not really, and it has been years.

So the second dinner party (coming up soon!) carries a tapas theme – I will tell my invitees to bring any food that would be reasonably easy to cut down to tiny portions, but it was my chance to try some of my favorite flavor combinations again, to make a true Spanish tapas feast. It looks like turn-out will be low (I am friends with lots of teachers, and they travel elsewhere on spring break), but so many of the best times in Spain were with only a few others, sharing many foods that came in portions. This style of eating, dubbed “para picar” in Spanish, or “to nibble,” instead of ordering an individual meal for each person you order many different things and everyone tries a bit of each. It is pretty much the definition of a potluck, even if it is more common as a snack-type meal in Spain, and I’m pretty excited to see what tapas-like foods my friends bring.

I will be making (unless my ambition outpaces my ability/time), tomato toasts and spanish omelette, as well as a simple chicken and veggie paella (not traditional; more like a paella-flavoring chicken and rice dish); I’m also going to attempt a fried eggplant with honey and goat cheese that was hands-down my favorite tapa in Madrid, but I have never tried it before. When I write about these recipes, they will be connected to people I shared them with (S, and L, and A, and E are sure to make appearances) not with the people who gave me the recipes, but in my effort to look further and farther with this project, I think this will still be in the spirit of how food and cooking connect people.