Baked Spanish Tortilla, an experiment

I was given a bunch of fresh squash and zucchini the other day. Living in an apartment, it’s very nice knowing people who have gardens and small appetites. Lucky me!

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For a long time, I always made basically the same thing with squash and zucchini–a delicious stewed concoction with tomatoes that could go well with pasta or in lasagna–but this time I wanted to do something different. I’d also been craving a quiche or something eggy, so one fateful night, I decided to embark on a Spanish tortilla. The first night I had a Spanish tortilla was very eventful for me. It was the first night I found out that beer could taste good and it was my first college party, so this dish has an interesting place in my brain/heart.

Before I’d only had it with onion, potato, and egg, but I thought the squash and zucchini double whammy would work out well. I recently bought pounds and pounds of potatoes and have a ridiculous amount of good olive oil (thanks mom!), so I went to town.

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Since I don’t have a very good skillet for a traditional Spanish tortilla, I decided to try baking it, which thankfully, turned out very well.

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Baked Spanish Tortilla!

Garlic, Salt, Pepper
3-4 medium golden potatoes
4-5 squash and/or zucchini
I think I used around 8 eggs?
And probably about 1/4 cup olive oil (that’s why it’s important to have one that you think tastes good)

1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Slice the garlic (of course), potatoes, zucchini, and squash (and onion if you remember) into thin slices of equal thickness. Mine were about 1/4 inch.
3. Oil the bottom of a 9 x 13 and begin layering the potatoes and squash/zuchs, starting with potatoes on bottom. Add a little Salt/Pepper/Garlic/Olive oil at each layer.
4. Crack some eggs into a separate bowl and whisk, then pour over pan. You want it to fill to only about half full. I started with only a few but kept adding more until it reached the level. (My pan isn’t 9 x 13, it’s something weird like 10 3/8 x 14 1/4, so I needed about 8 eggs, but you might need a different amount)
5. Cover pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes.
6. Check on it–test fluffiness of eggs. It might need 15 more minutes without the foil.

Avocado Ice Cream

I’d been wanting to make this for so long, and one glorious day, avocados were on sale.

 

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And with Texas summer, ice cream couldn’t be denied. So I finally tried it out. There are a couple variations out there, so it took me a while to decide how to go for it. In the end, something close to plain avocado won out. I figured, it’d be the best way to help me experiment more, since that way, I’d end up leaving an open door for more ice cream. There should definitely be more ice cream this summer. I need to make that ice cream maker sing!

The ingredients were pretty basic:

3 large Avocados
1.5 cup Milk
.5 cup Sugar
1 cup Cream
1-2 Juiced Limes

Since I don’t have a blender or food processor, I relied on a potato masher to “purée” the avocados. Despite a few small chunks, I was happy with the results.

 

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I was a little nervous about mixing the lime and the dairy, but incorporating the lime in thoroughly before adding the milk avoided any issues. A pretty heavy duty whisk will help with the mixing, if you get tired of using the potato masher. Stir it all up, chill according to your ice cream maker’s instructions (about 4 hours), then mix!

 

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This one’s pretty basic, in that you can swap things our pretty easily from this recipe and make something very different. I’ve got a couple more ideas this summer that’ll be even more interesting.

 

Avocado Ice Cream:

1. Mush avocados in a big enough bowl to hold all the ingredients.

2. Squeeze 2lbs lime juice into the avocados.

3.  Mix thoroughly!

4. Add milk, sugar and cream.

5. Mix even more!

6. Chill for 4 hours

7. Make with your ice cream maker.

Kale Pasta

On a quest to find cheap and healthy food, I ransacked the HEB and came away with a 98 cent bush of kale about 3 times the size of my head. It was a great find, but since leafy greens don’t do so well in my fridge, I knew I’d have to eat them fast. I did some experimenting, and this was one of my favorite recipes that came of it.

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I sorted the prep vegetables according to how cooked I wanted them to be.

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First, I sauteed the onion in olive oil, over medium heat until they started getting translucent. After that, I tossed in the rest, sauteing for a few minutes before adding the sauce. Together, I let it simmer on med-low for about 30 minutes (feel free to do it as long as you’re willing, just make sure it doesn’t dry out).

 

While that was going, I made bacon sprinkles. If you want to keep this recipe Vegan, skip that. It’s totally option and I did it on a whim, anyway, so not much will be lost if you skip it. Only bacon, which you don’t really care about anyway.

 

Bacon sprinkles are just tiny strips of bacon fried until they’re crispy. I’ve used them in a handful of dishes so far and I’ve found them to be a nice way to add a little bit of salty/crunchy to your food. Since they keep well, you can even cook up half a pack or so and just keep them in the fridge for whenever you need some on your pasta, fried rice, or grits.

 

As the pasta was nearing completion, I tossed the kale into the sauce. I waited till the end because I wanted it to still be crisp and fresh tasting. The diversity of texture alone is worth it, and if you’re down for an experiment, I recommend just adding some fresh. Also, if you’re a cheesy kind of person, I’d recommend a hard Spanish cheese for this. I tried it with some idiazabal and it worked really well.

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Here’s my attempt at a printer friendly recipe card:

Kale Pasta

Bacon sprinkles and cheese (optional)

1 med white onion

1 jalapeno

1 red bell pepper

4 cloves garlic (I eat it in everything, you might not want as much)

24 oz pasta sauce

whatever spices you like in pasta sauce: salt/pepper/garlic/oregano/etc

3 giant kale leaves

noodles

1. Make bacon sprinkles. Drain and set aside.

1 if you don’t want meat. Chop veggies, keep onion separate.

2. Warm a sauce pot with olive oil to medium. Saute onions for about 5 minutes.

3. Add jalapeno, bell pepper, and garlic and saute for about a minute.

4. Add sauce and stir. Lower the temperature to med-low, but keep an eye on it just in case.

5. Start boiling pasta water (waiting to do it until now is a great way to time the sauce and also gives you time to clean up some if you don’t want to save it all till you’re done) and cook the pasta as per the recommended instructions.

6. With about a minute left on the pasta, add the kale to the sauce.

7. Everything’s all a flurry now! Strain the pasta! Add a little olive oil so it doesn’t stick! Stir the sauce some more!

8. Serve. Top with bacon sprinkles and/or delicious Spanish cheese, as you desire.

Grandma’s Cornbread

This is a recipe I’ve been in love with for years and last night was the first time I made it. It came out so good! The recipe is simple enough, but I think there’s a key secret ingredient I’m not going to reveal at this point, but I’ll let you get close.

The secret’s which corn meal. Here’s a picture:

Good luck! They don’t even sell it around here; last time I visited, Grandma made me take a package back with me so I could make it right.

What you need is:
2 cups white, stone ground corn meal
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbs butter
A cast iron skillet

Start by heating the oven to 400 degrees and putting the butter in the skillet.

When the oven’s warmed up, put it in and let the butter melt until browned.

While that’s going, mix everything else together in a bowl.

It’s a very no-nonsense recipe and it comes together so effortlessly that you’ll want to make it every night. In fact, the only thing stopping me today is my lack of buttermilk and the extreme (ahem, 50 degrees) cold outside preventing my trek to the store.

Once the butter’s browned, remove the pan and pour in the mix, then bake for 20 minutes.

A Tale of Two Icings

I’ve made butter cream multiple times in the past, but I’ve never been quite satisfied. (Except when I make it at work, which is extremely rare and lucky…) So I hesitated to use it on my precious, precious Halloween cupcakes. Consequently I decided to try to make two types and see which one I liked.

I made a small batch of royal icing, at the recommendation of a coworker, and it turned out amazing. And this time my butter cream came out really well too, so I feel I know what I’m doing now.

But since these are for a special occasion, I didn’t think any normal tasting icing would do, so I made them cinnamon flavored with the addition of a few drops of cinnamon oil.

For the Royal Icing I used:
1 large egg white
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
~2 cups powdered sugar (sifted)
4 drops cinnamon oil

I had trouble using my stand mixer for this because it was such a small amount, so you may have to either do this by hand or use a hand mixer. Start by beating the egg white and lemon juice until combined.

Add the cinnamon oil then the sugar one half cup at a time and mix. How much sugar you ultimately use depends on how thick or runny you want it, so make sure you have a test surface. Wax paper works well, or even spare cupcakes. I had plenty of those since this whole endeavor was an experiment. Originally I was only going to use a total of 1 1/2 cups of sugar, but that was way too runny for what I wanted. I was looking for something thick that wouldn’t run off the edges too much and got pretty much what I wanted.

One thing that’s nice about royal icing is how pretty it looks. It stays very smooth and as it is exposed to air, it hardens slightly and makes a sort of glossy shell. It is perfect for pouring over something to make an immaculate cover, or for creating a clean look (as long as it’s not too runny). One danger though is that what you don’t use must be handled carefully if you don’t want it to try up and become useless. I put my extra in a bowl in the fridge with cling wrap directly on top, eliminating any air from touching the surface. That’s how you store it, but ideally you’d use all of it instantly.

Next was the batch of butter cream. For this I only used:
1/2 stick of butter (room temperature, or close to it)
quite a bit of POWDERED sugar
7 drops cinnamon oil

I put the emphasis there because I think that is where I went wrong in so many of my previously failed attempts. Also, I guess because of butters overwhelmingly delicious taste, more cinnamon oil was necessary for this icing, which was a bit disappointing.

I started by whisking the butter to a creamy consistency, dropped in the cinnamon oil, then added the sugar little by little (about 1-2 tbs at a time) until I had achieved optimal consistency and taste. It is integral to perform the finger-lick test periodically to ensure maximum scrumptious-ness.

What’s nice about when you have the right ingredients, there isn’t an exact stopping point; there is a wide range of how thick it can be and all of which work for cupcakes. Butter cream’s also pretty easy to spread, but it comes off looking a lot more informal, unless you take a lot of time making it look nice.

After tasting both of the end results, multiple times, I decided that for this event royal icing would suit the cupcakes best, with the butter cream saved for writing and decorating.

Honey Cupcakes

So this year some friends and I are throwing an awesome Halloween party and we kind of want to go over the top. We’re going to decorate her backyard with all sorts of props, have neat little party favors, and of course, incredible cupcakes. The party’s Alice in Wonderland themed, so a lot of the decorations and of course, food, are ridiculous and non-nonsensical. So I tried to come up with flavors that not everyone would have tried before.

The first batch of cupcakes I made were honey flavored. The cake came out very moist and fluffy, but not overly sweet. And super amazing.

What I used is:
3/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup cake flour (sifted)
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup milk (I used whole)

Depending on how fast you work, you may want to preheat the oven to 350 now.

Start by creaming the butter and sugar.

Creaming the butter calls for the beater attachment to your mixer and mixing on the lowest speed until no clumps remain. Once that’s done, mix on medium for about ten minutes, while scraping the sides for batter periodically to ensure it blends well. Blend until fluffy, then add the honey.

Then beat until light and fluffy. This shouldn’t take more than a minute or so.

Next add the vanilla and eggs, then beat well to combine. After that, pour in half the flour as well as the baking soda and salt, then mix. You should be careful not to over-mix here, because overworking the flour can make cakes, breads, and biscuits (i.e. anything with flour) come out tough.

Add the milk, mix it in, then add the rest of the flour and mix until smooth. For this batch I tried to fill the cupcake containers to about 1/2 or 3/4 full, but some of them overflowed, so I’m going to try 1/2 full next time.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes then check on them. The toothpick test is one of my favorite done-ness indicators.

As for icing, I tried out two different types, butter cream and royal. But not just your ordinary icing–recipes coming soon!

Spanish Tortilla

From one country to another, a single word can mean very different things. Tortilla is a good example of that. In Mexico and Central America, a tortilla is made of flour or corn and houses delicious, delicious tacos. In Spain it is more like an omelet. Also very good.

I had this dish for the first time at a friend’s pot luck and really liked it. In fact everyone did–it was one of the first dishes to vanish. So I decided to try to make my own.

What you need is:
2-3 baking potatoes
1-2 yellow onion
garlic
8 eggs
olive oil
paprika
salt and pepper

One of the key things here is to slice your potato consistently.

If the slices aren’t the same, they won’t cook the same and you’ll end up with some overdone, some raw, and a couple perfect ones. If you have a mandolin, now would be the time to use it, but if you don’t, a good knife will get the job done just fine.

You need to cook these in a good amount of olive oil, so coat the bottom of the pan then let it warm on medium. Once the pan’s ready, cook the potatoes until soft and delicious.

While the potatoes were cooking, I sliced the onions. After taking out the potatoes, I tossed the onions in the pan with some garlic, salt and pepper then let them cook until soft.

In the meantime, whisk together the eggs in a bowl on the side.

Once the onions are done, toss the potatoes back in and mix together. Next, pour on the eggs and let cook on a med to med-low heat for a few minutes.

Once the bottom’s cooked comes the challenge of flipping it. It helps to have two people, but it is possible on your own. There is a technique to it, which helps a lot. For this you’ll need a flat plate that fits perfectly within the pan or is slightly larger. Put that plate upside-down over the pan, then holding the plate, flip the pan over. This is kind of hard because of the awkward weight distribution, but not impossible. Once that’s done, put it back in the pan, raw side down, to finish cooking.

After a few minutes, take it out the same way you flipped it, and voila!, delicious Spanish food.

Ceviche is actually pretty easy

Not only that but it’s also quite tasty.

Basically ceviche is cured seafood. Shrimp, in this case, but many different types of whitefish are also used. It’s something to be played with, but there are some basic ingredients:
Seafood (1 lb shrimp)
Peppers (1 poblano)
Onion (1/2 yellow onion)
Tomato (1)
Citrus (combination of lemon and lime juice)

It’s definitely a patient food, especially when you use shrimp, so expect to spend a lot of time waiting. We let it sit for about an hour, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start with the first step.

First, cut up your veggies. Smaller parts will distribute flavor better, but you can be as coarse as you want. It’s optional to cut up the shrimp, but I did in hopes of it being done sooner.

Next mix it all together nicely and cover with lemon and/or lime juice (some people throw in other flavors like orange or pineapple, which are good for taste, but aren’t as acidic as lemon or lime, so they shouldn’t be the majority). Add a little salt too, just because a little salt is almost always a good idea. Then here comes the tough part: let it sit for an hour in the fridge. You can stir every once in a while as you like (I definitely did–I hate waiting), but it’s not necessary. When the shrimp have become opaque and pinkish (when they look cooked), they’re done.

To help kill the time, I decided to make my own tortilla chips. I’ve fried tortillas before, which makes a good, hearty, crunchy chip, but this time I decided to try baking.

They came out thick and still kind of bready, but they served their purpose. They are very simple and easy to play with. I went with the basics and just brushed on some olive oil, salt, and pepper. To cook them, I heated the oven to 375 and flipped them often. When they first came in the oven, I flipped them after 30 seconds, to make sure they didn’t stick, them let them cook on each side, 5 min at a time, until they were the consistency I wanted. It’s kind of an involved process, so it really helped pass the time.

English Toffee

This is something new and festive my sister, mom and I tried over the holidays and it came out great. Plus it was a lot easier than it seemed.

We got the recipe from Martha Stewart’s website.

You start by buttering a baking pan. We didn’t have the same size that the site recommends, so we divided it up into three smaller pans.

The point of putting it into a big pan is so that it’s not thick, so multiple smaller pans work too. And also, don’t worry about the parchment paper–wax paper works just fine.

You will need a candy thermometer for this, but they don’t run too expensive. And considering how easy it is to make this stuff, you’ll probably use it often, so don’t worry about wasting your money.

Next, you need to melt the butter in a nonstick sauce pan. Simple enough. Then once it’s melted, remove from heat and add sugar, corn syrup, and water.

That’s how it looks at first, but as you cook it, it’s texture and color will change.

Soon it will become bubbly/foamy. You’ll need to make sure to stir it here because the bottom will be a lot denser than the top.

And at around 250 degrees, it will suddenly get darker. That part scared us because we weren’t expecting it, but it was fine.

We cooked it on a medium heat but turned it up part way through because it seemed to stop getting warmer during the last bit.

Once it’s reached 300 degrees, stir in the almonds and pour it into the prepared pans and let it sit. Once it’s cool enough to touch and still slightly malleable, put it onto the wax or parchment paper. While it’s finishing it’s cool-off, melt the chocolate.

Before you pour on the chocolate, make sure to wipe off the excess butter. The leftover butter on top will stop the chocolate from sticking.

Once the chocolate’s on, top with almonds. Martha Stewart’s recipe doesn’t say this, but we melted half the chocolate at a time. That way we could coat one side, let it dry while melting the rest of the chocolate, then flip and coat the other side with chocolate.

But to let it set all the way, leave it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

Once it’s hard, break it into pieces and enjoy!

Quiche

The basic quiche is an awesome thing to know how to make. You can do anything with it. Literally. Sausage, bacon, spinach, feta, tomatoes, broccoli, grilled chicken, cheese, anything.

Here’s what you need for the basic quiche base: eggs, heavy whipping cream, and flour.

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Depending on the size of you’re pan, you’ll need a different amount of filling, but for a 10 inch (estimate) round pan, I used 3 eggs, about a cup and a 1/4 of cream, and 2 tbsp flour. Combine the three in a bowl and whisk. The more air you incorporate into the mix, the fluffier you’re quiche will end up.

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Another basic is the crust. I didn’t make mine, I just used some of my leftover fillo dough. I cut it in half because it was easier to cover the whole pan with.

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Because fillo dough is so fragile and thin, it took many layers. Between each layer, spread a little butter, using either a food brush or a paper towel. You don’t need a whole lot, it just helps the end result stick together better when you’re cutting and eating it later.

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As you’re putting the layers down, make sure to push them against the edges of the pan. Otherwise, when you pour in the filling, it might tear and undo everything you just prepped. Also, make sure to cover the edges of the pan up to the top because the quiche will rise in the oven. Don’t worry too much about overlap; it is very hard to avoid, but it is a good idea to cut it off before you bake it.

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I cut it a little to close on the left, but you get the idea.

Now that you know the basics, here’s what I did. The one I made today closely resembled a quiche Lorraine. To the basic egg, cream mix I added bacon (cooked) and emmenthaler (shredded). At this point you would add any seasonings you feel like, but personally and uncharacteristically I didn’t here. I figured that the bacon would bring a good salty taste while the cheese would bring a slight sweetness.

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I mixed them in with the egg-cream-flour mixture, but there are other ways of doing this. Other recipes I know of recommend putting the cheese directly on the crust, then pouring on the egg-cream, then topping it off with the meat. This would ensure equal cheesiness all over, along the bottom of the crust, but one thing that really appeals to me in a quiche is the uncertainty of the next bite. If everything is mixed together, there isn’t 100% uniformity and therefore every bite is different.

Next put it in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake. At 40 minutes I checked on mine. It looked really weird because of how much and how unevenly it had risen, but it smelled really good. I did the toothpick test and it needed another 5 minutes. Once it was done I let it sit about 5 minutes before cutting, and I used a spatula to cut it because the pan was nonstick.

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The crust was really fragile and kind of a mess. But if you start the cutting from the middle of the quiche, it’s not too hard to deal with.

UPDATE:
I tried this out with a few new ingredients this time:
The basic eggs and cream plus sundried tomatoes, spinach, garlic, cheese, sliced cooked bacon.

And I’ve gotten to the point with quiches that I can just eyeball it. So I didn’t measure anything. Don’t worry, you can too, they’re very forgiving.