Monday, July 4, 2011

The Mainstays of Summer

   Summertime and the living should be as easy as you can make it. All the more time to spend out in the garden. Who wants to slave away for hours in the kitchen on a hot day?  Me neither.
   By mainstays, I mean dead-simple, tasty dishes that get along comfortably with others, or exist happily on their own. Like the best kind of people, in fact.
   Stop reading here if I've written about the tortilla before. My mind is foggy partly because of the gorgeous 27 degree heat out there and partly due to the glass of chilled muscadet I'm rapidly downing.
   When I say "tortilla," don't even think of the Mexican variety. This is the Spanish version, more of a hefty fat omelette like the one I first tasted getting off a train in Barcelona, starving, and finding tortilla served in a split baguette (or whatever the Spanish is for baguette). Crusty bread full of golden-y goodness. I've made tortilla so often now that I can do it from memory. It's definitely not fancy but it has two enormous things in its favour:
  Firstly, you don't need to make a special trip to the shops. You've almost certainly got all the ingredients on hand (which makes it useful when aperos turn into supper, or someone shows up unexpectedly).
  Secondly, it's good straight from the pan, at room temperature, or the next day. Even, as we discovered this lunchtime, sliced and jammed in a split baguette along with grainy mustard, ham, lettuce and tomato.
   You start by slicing one pound of potatoes about 1 cm thick (and I know I'm mixing weights and measures. Sooooorry). Boil them for five minutes and drain.
    During that five minutes, gently soften a sliced onion and several cloves of sliced garlic in a quarter cup of olive oil, in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat.
    Add your potatoes, as well as a generous handful of chopped parsley. Press everything down with a spatula.
    Finally add six eggs beaten together with a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of pepper.
    Cover the pan, turn the heat to medium-low and let the tortilla cook for 20 minutes.
    Serve it in wedges with salads and bread, or cut in cubes, a tooth-pick in each, for an apero snack. This is the tortilla at its most basic. Little cubes of ham or chorizo, chopped green onion, snippets of sun-dried tomato, feel free to improvise.
    I love my tortillas. One of those around and pulling drinks, supper or a light dinner together takes minutes. (Real minutes too, not the TV food show ten-minions-have-been-chopping-away-for-half-an-hour-kind-of-"quick-dish"). As you can see from the photo below, it's not really a "wow" visual moment although it does have an honest, rustic look that I rather like.

    On to the next mainstay.
    You can buy black, pungent tapenade everywhere in France but personally I find it far more satisfying to go through all the little plastic containers in the fridge containing a dozen olives each, and the one with the few remaining anchovies in it, and make something that--like the tortilla--equals more than the sum of its parts.
    Recipes are everywhere. Just Google. But basically olives, anchovies (or not, if you're vegetarian), capers, garlic and olive oil get whizzed together in a food processor, and that's it.  One night recently, we'd run out of fresh bread and the boulangerie was inexplicably shut, so I sliced stale baguette, brushed it lightly with olive oil, toasted it under the grill, turned it, added more olive oil and repeated the process. Then I spread the wee toasts with tapenade. Delish. We had it with grilled something or other.
All the tapenade ingredients together at last. 

    Third and last mainstay. Well, last one for today.  For this, you just have to have ripe tomatoes, fresh basil and a fresh mozzarella around. Slice tomatoes and cheese, arrange in a pretty circle, one red, one white, one red, one white, drizzle with olive oil, and tear up basil leaves to sprinkle over the top.
    Bon appétit. And do let me know if you'd like me to blog more ways to make your summer eating easy.


Floss said...

Lovely - we already make the tortilla (the boys came home from school dinners and asked for it!) and I shall note your other recipes. One of my goodies from last year was a tomato tart with puff pastry spread with pesto and red and yellow cherry tomatoes baked on the top. This year's goodie (so far) is a marinaded courgette salad - all chosen to use up the garden surpluses as they arrive!

Fat Dormouse said...

Marinaded courgettes - with lemon juice and olive oil - added to zested lemon and feta cheese. Yummy!

I'm not a great omellette fan but Mr FatFormouse likes a tortilla-type creation.

Oh, and do you know the easy recipe: Slice a red, a green and a yellow pepper. Slowly cook with an onion, garlic and some tomatoes. Until squishy. Put in an oven proof dish, crack 4 eggs into hollows made in the pepper mixture and bake in a moderate oven until the eggs are set. Serve wth salad and bread... Mmmmmmmmm!