spanish food

Tortilla Española, sometimes called Tortilla de Patatas, is a Spanish omelette unrelated to the corn and wheat tortillas found in Mexico and neighboring countries (in Spanish, the word tortilla means “small torte/cake”). It is often served cold as a tapa, or warm as part of a meal.

References to the Spanish tortilla didn’t surface until the early 19th century, as a quick meal (for soldiers, as legend has it) using readily-available ingredients of eggs and potatoes, and sometimes onion. Common add-ins for Spanish tortillas include chorizo sausage, mushrooms, bell peppers, peas, and eggplant; the name of the dish will often change depending on which ingredients are added to the mix.

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Paella is one of my favorite dishes to prepare at home – like fried rice or risotto, it’s an excellent way to clean out the vegetable bin. Moreover, it’s one of my favorite examples how the judicious use of white rice can in fact be very health-promoting; while rice gets a bum rap for being fairly devoid of nutrients, I think it’s just fine in the context of the broth, seafood, and vegetables used in this recipe.

This dish was a standout recipe in my first cookbook, The Ancestral Table, and here’s what I wrote about it:

Paella is a dish from Valencia, along Spain’s eastern coast. Rice was a product of Moorish influence and was a staple in Spain by the 15th century. Paella developed over the years as people began to add combinations of meats and vegetables. While water vole was one of the first meats used in paella, today’s Valencian paella includes rabbit, chicken, snails, and beans; seafood paella is equally popular and is considered a traditional dish along the Valencian coast.

Using an appropriate type of rice is important, as many varieties were specially bred to absorb liquid without losing texture. Calasparra and bomba rices are preferred and are available from gourmet food suppliers and online. Arborio, a common risotto rice, fares pretty well. In a pinch, plain calrose rice will get the job done. Paella is best made over an open flame and is traditionally prepared outdoors.

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