Sprained Sangria

This one’s for the cocktail column!

And it’s called “Sprained Sangria” because I only noticed my wrist was sprained after I finished.

It was a sunny, beautiful July 4th morning in Corvallis, Oregon.  Paul and I were out biking, and though I’ve ridden one particular road many times on a road bike, I had yet to explore the beauties of the trails on a mountain bike. Though I dislike (greatly) the downhill, I still wanted to give it a shot.  Downhill could be a better opponent than a speeding car afterall.  My first tumble came at a slow speed.  In fact, I was attempting to stop and stop I did.  I just couldn’t get my feet out of the pedals in time.  With this small war wound, I insisted that we carry on.  We rode through campus and then up into the hills, lots and lots of uphill, huffing and puffing to get to Dimple Hill.  Indeed, there was vista and I felt fit and ready to declare an affinity or at least a small liking to mountain biking.

Then we had to go downhill.  The gears were very low to assist the uphill climb, so it was counter-productive and horrible for balance on the downhill.  Add that to my fear of high speed descents and a few huge tree roots — then came my second fall.  No worries.  I protected Paul’s bike using my body to break the fall.  In many different ways I felt I had impaled something.  With that grunt and cry, Paul decided we begin mountain bike hiking (his preferred form of “hiking”).   Once the trails were “done” – we were passed several times, naturally, and we’d trekked over a stream or two (this is NOT as treacherous as I like to make it sound), I decided I could handle the double track descent.  There were fewer limbs and roots to contend with.  The speed was picking up, so I started applying the brakes, trying the “feathering” technique Paul counseled.  Something happened.  I flew head first over the handle bars.  I got some “air” and apparently appeared as if I were diving into a swimming pool.  It was probably quite miraculous that I was able to ride home.  I refused to discuss it, trying to contain my shock and my pride after the bucking mountain bike.  Aside from the shock, really, I was fine.  “Fine” – a loaded term.  We made it home with me little miss cranky pants.  We even headed to the store later (on bikes!) to pick up the goods for a afternoon BBQ.  No problem!

And so, pretending the accident never happened, I set to course chopping and prepping for the menu.  We had a chard potato salad (with tangy lemon tahini dressing borrowed from Sara’s kale & potato salad recipe).  Paul was grilling chicken (for the guests) and tofu (for me!), and I was set to make the sangria and then a peach and blueberry crisp.  After I had finished it all, and sat to sip my sangria, I realized I had actually sprained my wrist.  Mildly.

Sprained Sangria

  • 1 bottle Cabernet-Sauvignon
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lime
  • Splash of orange juice
  • 2 shots of Orange Liquor
  • 1 cup of blueberries
  • ½ cup of crushed pineapple with juice
  • Ginger ale

Pour wine in pitcher and then cut the citrus into wedges, squeezing the juice into the pitcher.  Cut the wedges into more bite size pieces and add to the mix.  Splash in the OJ and the 2 shots of liquor.  Add the berries and pineapple and give a hearty stir.  Refrigerate as long as you can before ladling 1 cup (or so) into a pint glass over ice.  Top off with ginger ale.

The Sangria

The Sprain

Spanish Omelette (Tortilla Española)

I know that the world hardly needs another recipe for Spanish Omelet, or if we want to be authentic about it, tortilla española.  (Sorry, I was a Spanish major, I can’t help myself).

Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Omelet) (2 of 3)

It’s always surprising to me how much I love this simple dish–just eggs, potatoes, olive oil, with some onions to add some extra sweetness and complexity.  But like so many classics, it is one of those cases where the whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts.  I make it so often that the word “tortilla” immediately brings this egg and potato cake to mind, rather than the Mexican version that is more like a crepe.

OK, so I love it–but back to the point, why another post?  Because over time I’ve figured a few tricks that might not be totally authentic, but certainly make things a lot easier for me.  Maybe they will for you too.

The standard technique requires you to flip the partly-cooked tortilla over onto a plate, and slide it back into the pan to cook the other side.  I’m always taken aback by this step.  Think about it:  one side of your tortilla searingly hot, the other runny with uncooked eggs.  Maneuvering a heavy, even hotter pan over a large platter.  Maybe I lack a certain grace and dexterity, but this often ends poorly for me, and even when I’ve pulled it off, the stress of the lead-up did not make for a relaxing kitchen experience.

And then, I really really hate thinly slicing that many potatoes.  They slip, they stick to the knife, they are hard to get evenly cut, and there’s a lot of them.  And then you have to do the same with the onion.

If you’re with me on either or both of these obstacles, keep reading.

Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Omelet) (1 of 3)

To avoid, quite literally, egg on my face,  I run the tortilla under the broiler rather than attempt feats of flipping.  I treat it like the frittata that it essentially is.  This works like a charm to finish off the tortilla, but with one caveat–it works really quickly as well.  You’ll have to keep a close eye so as not to overcook your tortilla at the home stretch.  It takes a few minutes at most, so your time hovering by the oven will be brief.

As for that chopping–I’ve found a mandoline to be essential.  If you’re adept with the knife, you can skip this, but I love the quick work it makes of things.  I am fully willing to admit that I spent a long time being terrified of a mandoline.  Given how liable I am to slice my fingers when merely peeling potatoes, I shudder to think…but my mother-in-law gave me a cut-resistant glove along with a mandoline and this was just the armor I needed.  Perhaps its more psychological than anything else, but that glove has me reaching for the mandoline without trepidation, able to take full advantage of the speed it offers while preserving my fingertips–and making tortilla more often than ever before.


Finally, unlike most members of the omelet family, tortilla is best enjoyed at room temperature.  If you allow it to cool before slicing, it firms up nicely and each savory triangle releases from the skillet that much more easily.  Enjoy as is, or even on a baguette for a delicious sandwich.

Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Omelet) (3 of 3)

Tortilla Española (Spanish Omelet)

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 6-8 eggs
  • kosher salt to taste
Peel the potatoes, slice as thinly as possible and halve or quarter the slices (depending on the size of the potato).  Do the same with your onion.  I find it easiest to halve the root, then slice thinly, then halve the resulting slices.
Heat the oil in a 10-12 inch heavy skillet (I prefer cast iron).  Drop a slice of potato into the oil.  When bubbles form at the edges, the oil is ready.  Add the potatoes and onions all at once, and cook over low heat, stirring frequently.  You are more poaching the potatoes in the oil rather than frying them, which is why you want to cook over a low, gentle heat.  This also minimizes sticking, (though I admit I always have some potatoes that cling to the pan).  Stir frequently to bring the cooked potatoes up from the bottom and turn the uncooked potatoes into the oil, ensuring that everything cooks evenly.  The potatoes will go from opaque to hinting at a shimmering translucence.
When the potatoes are cooked, drain them over a deep plate–you’ll be reserving the oil.  As they cool, crack your eggs into a large bowl and beat them lightly.  Pour a few tablespoons of the reserved oil back into the pan and heat.  When the oil is hot, dump the potatoes into the eggs, turn them to coat, and pour into the pan.  Pat the mixture out evenly over the surface of the skillet.
Place a rack at the top level of your oven and heat the broiler.
Cook gently until the tortilla firms up around the edges, then slide under the broiler.  Depending on how long your broiler has been preheating, this could take just two minutes or up to 5 minutes.  Check after two minutes and every minute thereafter.
Remove, allow to cool to room temparature in the skillet, slice and serve.
Note you can reserve the extra oil in the refrigerator for other uses, though I admit I’m not very good about re-using it, despite best intentions.  The prolific use of olive oil makes this dish a bit of a luxury, but I still find it worth it.

Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Omelet) (1 of 1)-2


Chorizo al Vino Tinto (Chorizo in Red Wine)

I can’t help but be excited every time I see Miriam publish a new recipe in her series on tapas over on Honest Cooking. As a Spanish major in college I spent a year studying abroad in Madrid, there’s a flash of recognition as I read each post. And an impetus to try my own hand at it. No sooner had she published her post on Chorizo a la sidra was it on my “to-do” list. (Admittedly, that to-do list is pretty long, but this one did manage to jump the queue). Perhaps I was a little too swept over by nostalgia when I read the recipe as I failed to buy the sidra. I know something always gets left off the shopping list by accident, but when there are only three ingredients making up the entire recipe, it’s a little silly.

But perhaps my experience in Spain was of some use here, as a I had some vague sense that it would be perfectly alright to make it with wine (and — what’s that in my fridge? An unfinished bottle of red?)

I changed up Miriam’s method a bit too, taking a cue from a tourism site (not that there was any need to, but just because this seemed even easier than her own very simple technique): rather than making my chorizo over the stove, I baked it in a broth of red wine and fresh herbs from our garden. (I’m not going to insist you only use fresh herbs, I am sure dried herbs would work just as well here as they can easily release into the heat of the wine).

What’s nice about this recipe (aside of being quick and simple to prepare) is that it softens up what is otherwise a rather tough cured sausage, all while infusing it with a new set of flavors. At the same time, the chorizo renders its own meaty taste into the wine-herb soup, creating a broth that is ideal for dipping toasted slices of good bread. While I didn’t do so, it wouldn’t hurt to reduce the liquid into a thicker sauce over the stove after the chorizo is done.  Either way, it’s an elegant, but easy, appetizer.

Because this is so quick and easy to prepare and because the ingredients are good keepers, you can enjoy this any time, at a moment’s notice.  Well, as long as you remember to put those recipes on your shopping list.

Chorizo al Vino Tinto (Chorizo in Red Wine)
  • 8 ounces (225g) Spanish (not Mexican) chorizo.
  • a generous half cup (120mL) dry red wine
  • Several sprigs of fresh herbs (I used parsley, oregano, and thyme) or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed with the side of you knife
  • Crusty artisan-style bread for serving.

  1. Preheat the oven to 425F (220C).  Slice the sausages into ½ inch (1.25cm) thick slices and do your best to arrange in a single layer in an oven-safe dish.  Pour the wine over the sausage and add the garlic and herbs.  Bake for 10-15 minutes.    Reduce the sauce if you like, and serve with bread for dipping.

Note that you’ll want to use Spanish rather than Mexican-style chorizo for this recipe.

Viudo (Widowed Potatoes)

 I love things that I can make out of the pantry.  Certain foods stay delicious when canned–canned tomatoes, packed when fresh, are far superior to mid-winter specimens.  Canned sardines are a peculiar taste of mine, perhaps, that I can only trace back to pregnancy (the are so good packed in mustard!).  Things like onions, potatoes and garlic don’t keep quite as long as industrially prepared cans of food, but sure can be kept on hand rather easily.

No wonder the recipe for Viudo (widowed potatoes) that I saw in last week’s Washington Post was a must try.  Widowed perhaps as they don’t have red meat but rather dried or canned fish.  Ransacking the pantry for what keeps the longest?  Who knows. 

By the way, I know I am risking you turning away in horror at my showcasing of this next ingredient.  But keep reading!  It’s good!



Easy to make on a weeknight as well.  The longest task is peeling and chopping all those potatoes.  I am not particularly fast at it and eventually they always start jumping out of my hand.  I remember being in the Czech Republic, where you could tell people made potatoes all the time as they didn’t use some sissy vegetable peeler but a knife.  I can’t say I mastered it.  I pressed onwards and of course dropped each peeled potato in cold water to rinse out the extra starch.  Probably not so necessary in this recipe, and I did not do so when the potatoes were all chopped up but rather added them directly to the pot.  In contrast, in a gratin with nicely scalloped potatoes you’d want to rinse them all again so they don’t stick together but rather delicately separate from each other under your fork.  (This bit of knowledge from the big JC–by which I mean Julia Child of course!)

I made some modifications to this recipe.  First, I never have green bell peppers at hand.  I hate cooked bell peppers.  I love spicy peppers, I like paprika, but there’s something about bell peppers I can’t stand.  I also only used half a head of garlic–I would have loved to use a whole head of roasted garlic, but I wanted this to be a meal I can make when I get home from work–requiring roast garlic adds a whole hour to the process.  If I thought about it the day before I could certainly prepare some.  But I want this to be true to the rummaging in the pantry spirit, which certainly means no planning ahead!

 The only “exotic” ingredient I had, not perhaps so typical to the American pantry, was Pimenton de la Vera–Spanish smoked paprika.  (I think you could always use Hungarian paprika).  This was the first time I had used it and once the spice hit the warm pot, a very familiar scent suddenly hit me–funny how an aroma can immediately make you recall a study abroad year in Spain 10 (um, make that 11!) years ago.  Funny also how a particular smell can really define a cuisine–an aroma that seems to be in every meal in Spain, at least as my memory has it now. 

Pimenton de la Vera

Pimenton de la Vera


Adding it all in

Adding it all in


You do have to wait while all these ingredients cook together, but there’s little work involved so you can get to doing all those other things you have to get around to when you get home.  Once the potatoes are cooked, you stir in the sardines, heat through, serve and eat.  As you might expect, this is not a glamorous dish.  It’s a humble, fill you up type of dish.  But it is rather satisfying.

giving a nice stir

giving a nice stir

The final touch

The final touch

And I must note–little E loved it.  I can’t predict anything with him.  Won’t touch strawberries or cantaloupe, but practically jumps out of his high chair in excitement when he sees this coming.  Who knows.

Viudo (Widowed Potatoes)

{my version, but adapted from The Washington Post, June 3, 2009}


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice (1 cup)
  • 1 can of canned diced tomatoes, plus their juices
  • 3 pounds russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 7 cups)
  • 1/2 head of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups water
  • 8 ounces oil- or water-packed sardines, draine

Heat the oil in a medium Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the d onion; cook, stirring often, for about 7 minutes, until softened.  Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more, just until the garlic begins to color.

Add the tomatoes with their juices, the potatoes, bay leaf, salt, smoked paprika, black pepper to taste and water. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring just to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook, stirring once or twice, for 45 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Depending on which potatoes are used, the mixture may have thickened slightly.

Add the drained sardines and stir until heated through. Divide among individual wide shallow bowls and serve warm.

Note:  original recipe here, which itself was adapted from “My Kitchen in Spain: 225 Authentic Regional Recipes,” by Janet Mendel (HarperCollins, 2002).

What to do with canned artichokes–experimenting with frittata

I love artichokes, but despite the assurances from tv chefs and cookbooks that “it’s easy to prepare an artichoke once you have some practice” I’m still not there.  I have several jars of marinated artichokes and several cans of artichokes as well, but aside of putting these in salads or an antipasti plate, what can you do?  I’m not sure how to use them instead of fresh artichokes.  But I figured I could give a frittata a try.  I generally look up recipes rather than experimenting too much but I figured this was sufficiently low stakes to try my hand at making something up.  And it worked out pretty well–nothing to write up in Gourmet perhaps, but good enough for me!

I used a can of artichokes (there were about six hearts in there) and drained them.  I sauteed some garlic in olive oil and then added the artichokes.  I had sliced them in half and then broke them up more in the pan as they were so soft.  There was still a lot of water in the artichokes when I added them to the pan so I let that cook away.  I also added a tablespoon of dried tarragon.  I looked in Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone for herb suggestions–for each vegetable Deborah Madison lists herbs and spices for which it has an ”affinity”, and I settled on the quantity by guesstimating based on the amount that was called for in other recipes with a similar amount of artichokes.  It seemed to be just right (and was fun to use tarragon which I don’t get to do so often!)  I added salt (a half teaspoon) and pepper and then 5 beaten eggs.  When the eggs set I put it in a 350 oven for 4-5 minutes and it was ready! 

Frittatas and tortillas españolas are basically the same thing, just Italian vs. Spanish.  I’ve tried tortilla española before but always had trouble near the end where you are to slide the (hot) tortilla onto a plate, then flip it over back into the skillet.  Between worrying about dropping the plate or tortilla and burning myself I’ve never made tortillas as much as I would have liked to–I think having a tortilla always ready to go in the fridge for a lunch or light dinner would be ideal.  I sort of vaguely knew frittatas were finished off in the oven but had never really made it before, and now I realize this method could help me overcome my fear of making tortilla!  (Of course, there’s a million other opinions on how to make tortilla española so there’s still plenty to figure out in that regard).

Next time I think I should use more eggs, and also add the salt and pepper to the eggs–it seemed like the salt didn’t really get distributed around the pan–some bites were quite salty and others more bland, so that may require some tinkering.  It also wasn’t as filling as I had hoped (hence the lack of pictures), but considering it took about 10 minutes, I’m not complaining.  While it would take more time, I could try adding potatoes next time to make it more filling, borrowing from, what else, tortilla española!

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