Sunday, February 27, 2011

Silk and Lace: Meyer Lemon and Basil Crème Fraiche Panna Cotta with Blackberry Puree and Italian Florentine Lace Cookies

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

Panna cotta ("cooked cream") is a silken, eggless, Italian custard, made by simmering cream, milk and sugar, mixing with gelatin, and then allowing the custard to chill until set. It is an easy-to-make dessert, often complemented by perfectly ripe berries. Some versions incorporate yogurt, creme fraiche, mascarpone cheese, spices, or other infused flavors into the custard. You can make the panna cotta in individual ramekins and unmold them just before serving, in individual decorative dishes and serve in those, or in a large gratin dish and spoon it out at the table family-style.

Meyer Lemon and Basil Crème Fraiche Panna Cotta
with Blackberry Puree

As I typically do with the Daring Bakers' and Daring Cooks' challenges, I reviewed the challenge recipe provided, and then spent far too much time reading every other similar recipe I could find, from my cookbook collection and online, before proceeding with the challenge. However, it's very educational and I enjoy reading about the history of the dish and variations that have developed. I often reach for The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs when I want to be a little more daring and experimental with flavor combinations.

I've made a few different versions of panna cotta in the past. The recipe I chose to adapt for this Daring Bakers' challenge is very similar to the recommended recipe by Giada De Laurentiis, but it also incorporates crème fraiche to balance the sweetness of the fresh fruit with some tang. I also wanted to use a few of the beautiful Meyer lemons sitting on my counter, so I added lemon zest to the custard. I went a bit further by infusing fresh basil into the custard. Finally, I prepared a fresh blackberry puree, with a squeeze of lemon juice, to spoon over the top of the chilled dessert. The flavors meld beautifully together, especially the hint of basil, and this was a refreshing dessert after my French Fridays with Dorie Red Wine and Port Braised Short Ribs.

Meyer Lemon and Basil Crème Fraiche Panna Cotta with Blackberry Puree
Adapted from Crème Fraiche Panna Cotta with Strawberries, Susan Goin's 


1/2 cup cold whole milk
Two 1/4-ounce packages unflavored powdered gelatin
3 cups heavy whipping cream
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves, coarsely chopped, plus a few whole basil leaves for garnish
Zest of one Meyer lemon, plus additional zest for garnish if desired
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons crème fraiche
Vegetable oil, if using molds

For blackberry puree

2 pints fresh blackberries, with 1/2 pint whole berries reserved for garnish
1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon to toss with reserved fresh berries
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice


Place the milk in a large bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over it and stir to combine. Let stand while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

If you plan on pouring the panna cotta into molds and inverting onto a plate once chilled, lightly oil your ramekins or molds with vegetable oil.

Pour whipping cream, sugar, and chopped basil into a heavy medium saucepan and stir over medium heat just until the cream starts to boil. Turn off the heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Pour mixture into blender and carefully blend to help infuse the basil. You can also use a hand-held immersion blender and blend right in the saucepan.

Slowly whisk the infused cream into the gelatin, and then whisk in the crème fraiche.  

Strain the mixture, stir the lemon zest, and pour it into prepared ramekins, molds, or glasses.

Chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, and up to two days if well-covered and chilled.

To prepare the blackberry puree: Put the 1-1/2 pints blackberries in a small saucepan with the sugar, water, and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer over low heat and continue simmering, stirring occasionally, for about 5-10 minutes. Puree blackberries in the blender and strain through a fine mesh sieve.

Cover and set aside if using within a few hours, or refrigerate. Use at room temperature.

Serving Panna Cotta:

About 10 minutes before serving, toss the whole berries in a little sugar, to taste.

If using molds, smear or puddle some of the blackberry puree on the plate, invert the panna cotta onto the puree, and garnish with fresh berries, lemon zest, and a few fresh basil leaves. If serving in a ramekin or glass, spoon some puree over the top of the panna cotta and garnish with fresh berries, basil and zest.


After reviewing and comparing several Florentine Cookie recipes to the Nestle recipe, I preferred those that used ground almonds instead of quick-cooking oats.

Italian Florentine Lace Cookies

Italian Florentine Lace Cookies

1/2 cup ground almonds (about 2 ounces)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup firmly-packed light Muscovado sugar (India Tree Light Muscovado Sugar, 1 Pound (Pack of 4)), or substitute light brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3-4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Position two oven racks in the middle and upper third of oven. Line three baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper.

In a medium saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and corn syrup. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium-high and continue stirring until the mixture just starts to boil. Immediately remove pan from the heat, and add flour, salt, ground almonds and vanilla extract. Stir batter until all ingredients are incorporated.

Using a teaspoon, drop batter by rounded teaspoons onto prepared baking sheets, spacing cookies 3 inches apart  (6 cookies per sheet). It's important to drop the batter onto the baking sheets while it is still warm, so it doesn't harden too much. It will be sticky. The cookies do spread quite a bit (about 4 inches in diameter), so it's important to leave enough space between the cookies. I only used two baking sheets and some of my cookies baked into each other.

Bake cookies 8 to 10 minutes (rotating sheets half way through) until cookies have spread, and are thin and golden brown.

While cookies are baking, prepare wire cooling racks by covering with a sheet of plastic wrap. When cookies are done baking, remove baking sheets from oven and allow cookies to remain on baking sheets for a few minutes until they are firm enough to transfer. Gently transfer cookies with a rubber or offset spatula to plastic wrap covered cooling racks and allow to cool completely.

Put the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with about an inch of water to a very low simmer; set the bowl over, but not touching, the water. Stir the chocolate occasionally until melted and smooth. Drizzle over cooled cookies and set aside at room temperature until chocolate is set.

Immediately store cookies, carefully, separated by squares of parchment paper or waxed paper, in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.

Thank you, Mallory, for your Creamy, Dreamy, Crunchy, Sweet February Challenge!  The Panna Cotta was a classic challenge, allowing the Daring Bakers to showcase their creativity with amazing flavor variations and plating. Although I was vaguely familiar with Florentine cookies, I welcomed the opportunity to make them for the first time, and absolutely adored the elegant and lacy look, light and crispy texture, and lovely taste.

For the complete challenge recipes, please visit The Daring Kitchen Recipe Archive, and take a browse-through the Daring Bakers' Blogroll to see what some of the other members created this month.

Friday, February 25, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie - Red Wine and Port Braised Short Ribs

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe is the ultimate, cozy French supper for a group of friends.

You'll want a group of friends around your farmhouse table because the recipe calls for nine pounds of short ribs, an entire bottle of flavorful, fruity California Syrah, and a half bottle of Tawny Port. The ribs are seared, and layered snugly in your largest Dutch oven atop a sauteed, aromatic bed of carrots, onions, celery, garlic and ginger. In goes the wine, port, beef stock, and a bouquet garni of parsley, celery leaves, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, and star anise. After three hours of slow-braising, the tantalizingly tender ribs are lifted from their luscious sauce while the sauce is strained and reduced. An added bonus to the finished ribs is the gremolata of chopped Italian parsley, finely grated tangerine or orange peel, and minced garlic.

We served our short ribs on a mound of creamy Celery Root and Potato Puree, accompanied by steamed baby carrots, and roasted kale. Dessert was this month's Daring Baker's Challenge, Meyer Lemon and Basil Panna Cotta with Blackberry Puree, and Italian Florentine Lace Cookies.

Although French Fridays with Dorie members are prohibited from posting the recipe in their blog posts, I did find a slightly adapted version of the recipe published by the Bon Appetit, here.

Newf Notes:

In San Diego, short ribs will set you back a little over $5/lb.  In other words, making the entire recipe with 9 pounds of ribs, wine, and port, can get expensive - you should invite only your closest friends and family...kidding. It's not that bad when you consider the recipe feeds 6-8 people and short ribs at a gourmet restaurant are $20-$30.  However, the recipe can easily be halved, as it was in Bon Appetit's version.

Dorie suggests broiling the short ribs first, but I seared the ribs (in batches) in the dutch oven I used for the braising, and sauteed the vegetables in all that goodness left from the searing. I forgot to buy ginger, but the star anise added nice flavor. There is so much braising liquid at the end, so I chose to transfer about half to another pan and reduced that down for the sauce. The gremolata is a must.

These short ribs are hearty, comforting, and layered with magnificent flavor. I highly recommend preparing the entire batch and rounding up your friends.


Friday, February 18, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie: Pancetta Green Beans

I was wondering how Pancetta Green Beans, this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe, made its way into Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours, but now I know there is Italian pancetta and ventrèche, French-style pancetta. Like bacon, ventrèche is made with pork belly and cured rather than smoked. It is meatier than bacon, and can be sliced thin, seared, and used in salads or canapés, or used to wrap lean meats for flavor and moistness.

Dorie adds crispy pancetta to green beans for "a speck of saltiness, another texture, and elements of elegance and surprise." Although not specifically called for, I used haricots verts, French for "green beans," a longer, thinner type of green bean than the typical, American green bean.

Although this is a very simple side dish to prepare, it is essential to blanch the green beans in heavily salted, boiling water until they are cooked through. The green beans are then plunged into an ice bath to stop the cooking, until thoroughly chilled, which results in vividly-colored, perfectly seasoned green beans.

I consulted Thomas Keller, chef extraordinaire, on this issue. Tom's "big-pot blanching" calls for a hefty one cup of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, 3lb per gallon of water. "You need to have enough water so that it doesn't lose its boil when you add the vegetables...the faster a vegetable is cooked, the greener it becomes." The quantity of salt seasons the vegetables and "prevents the color from leaching into the water."

Keller's Ad Hoc at Home not only has incredible recipes, but also includes words of wisdom, or lightbulb moments, on becoming a better cook...Great product + great execution = great cooking.

To drain the green beans after blanching, set them on a cooling rack lined with paper towels, over a baking sheet, so the beans don't sit in the excess water.

Coarsely chop the pancetta, sauté until frizzled and crisp, and drain on paper towels.

A few minutes before you are ready to serve, return the green beans and pancetta to the pan, stir over medium heat until heated through, season with a fresh grind of pepper, and drizzle with a little olive or walnut oil.

Our pancetta green beans paired beautifully with fresh, local halibut seasoned with a light Cajun spice rub.

There are many variations on this side dish, and I've included a few links to some that look especially good...

Green Beans with Pancetta and Mint  (Saveur)
Sauteed Green Beans with Pancetta and Mushrooms (Tyler Florence)
Green Beans with Sage and Pancetta (Bon Appetit)
Green Beans with Pancetta, Garlic and Herbs (Fine Cooking)
Green Beans with Pancetta and Pine Nuts (Williams Sonoma)
Spaghetti with Pancetta, Green Beans and Basil (Martha Stewart)

Finally, since I've got you here, you must try these Brussels sprouts. I ordered them as a side dish with my $60 steak, at Michael Mina's Stripsteak, Las Vegas (Best. Steak. Ever. I'd much rather spend money on food than gambling in Vegas). When I returned home, I made them for John, who hated Brussels sprouts, and we're both hooked. You could easily substitute pancetta for the bacon.

Glazed Brussels Sprouts
Slightly adapted from Michael Mina
4 servings

4 slices bacon (or pancetta), cut into small dice
1 pound young Brussels sprouts, tough or torn outer leaves discarded
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into small dice
About 6 dried juniper berries (Juniper Berries Whole), crushed and finely chopped

Separate the Brussels sprouts into individual leaves, by trimming the bottom and tearing off leaves. Keep trimming a little off the bottom to release the leaves and discard the inner core.

Saute the bacon over medium-high heat in a medium saute pan, stirring occasionally, for about 5-7 minutes, until it is slightly crisp but still meaty-chewy in the center.

Add the leaves to the skillet, tossing gently to combine. Cook for a few minutes, until they are slightly wilted; do not overcook. Add the butter and stir until melted, then add the diced apple and juniper berries. Toss gently until the ingredients are evenly coated. Serve immediately.

Now, go eat your greenies!

French Fridays with Dorie is a online group of home chefs, dedicated to Dorie Greenspan's latest book, Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.  Dorie says this book is about one of her great loves, France and its food, and is filled with stories of French life and "recipes for the elbows-on-the-table food" that she and her friends prepare in France today. The cookbook was a gift to myself for Christmas, and I've been on a French diet ever since!

French Fridays with Dorie rules do prohibit posting the actual recipe in our blog posts, to encourage purchase of the cookbook. However, this is truly a beautiful cookbook, full of incredible French dishes. Some recipes appear very simple, and some appear challenging, but all are approachable for the average home cook.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Buckwheat Flour is not my Friend: Cold Soba Noodle Salad with Tempura, for the Daring Cooks' Challenge

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. We were given free rein in this challenge, and only required to prepare vegetable or seafood tempura and a cold Asian noodle salad, respecting Japanese cuisine by keeping our food, clean, fresh and simple. If we chose to be especially daring, we could make our own soba noodles.

I was somewhat daring. I made my own soba noodles, but took the easy way out with a recipe using my food processor and Kitchen Aid pasta attachments. At least I thought I was taking the easy way out. I came close to running back to the store for packaged soba noodles after I inserted the first piece of dough into the pasta roller and it crumbled to pieces. I took a deep breath, kneaded the firm, troublesome buckwheat dough back together, rolled it out a little with the rolling pin, and reinserted it through the roller. With fraying threads of patience, and a Sunday mimosa within reach, I was able to produce a pile of authentic-looking soba noodles.  Sort of.

Here's a wonderful article, with photos, about a private lesson at the Soba Academy in Tokyo making Japanese buckwheat noodles from scratch. Now that's daring!

For our cold soba noodle salad, I used a recipe from Nigella Fresh: Delicious Flavors on Your Plate All Year Round, but wish I had seen this one, from Tyler Florence. Now I'm tempted to go buy those store-bought (I emphasize store-bought) soba noodles and try Tyler's recipe, with another idea I have for tempura...

Alton Brown's tempura batter recipe intrigued me (using cake flour, rice flour, vodka and seltzer), but I didn't have any seltzer water. I used beer in its place. Beer mixed with vodka - why not? And it worked beautifully. Keeping it simple, I used tiger shrimp and green beans.

Recreating an appetizer from The Brigantine, I also tempura-ed a small piece of sushi-grade ahi, wrapped in nori. A nice bottle of cold sake completed our dinner.

John styled the shrimp for me. Corny but sweet...

I think he may have been trying to make up for his delinquent sous chef duties earlier in the afternoon, when I was covering the kitchen in buckwheat flour...

At least my dog kept my feet warm in the kitchen...

I love the two men in my life...XXXOOO
Happy Valentine's Day


Please visit The Daring Kitchen recipe archive for the complete challenge recipe, and The Daring Cooks' blogroll, for links to all our daring chefs' blogs.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

PASTA POST! Playing with a New Kitchen Treasure

Last October, I started a feature on the blog called PASTA POST, and had every intention of sharing some of the many pastas I've bookmarked in various food magazines and Italian cookbooks.

Since that first post, I've fallen flat on my face. It seems we've become lazy, especially during the work week, tending to gravitate to the bar at Il Fornaio for a plate of Chef Marco's pasta. When we do make pasta at home, John routinely requests his beloved Ultimate Spaghetti Carbonara.

I rarely make homemade pasta, despite owning all the pasta attachments for our Kitchen Aid. There's really no excuse, especially now, since I have fallen in love with a beautiful artisanal pasta tool.

My quest for one of these tools began when I saw Fine Cooking's video series on handmade pastas (Fine Cooking Culinary School:  Handmade Pastas). One of the videos demonstrated how to make Corzetti pasta, with Pine Nut-Butter Sauce.

Corzetti are coin-shaped pasta dating back to the days of the Genovese Republic, when they were embossed with the family crest and served at festive meals.  I intently watched the Fine Cooking couple roll out the pasta and use a small round cookie cutter to stamp out the coins, about the size of silver dollars. In Liguria, they explained, there are special stamps used to imprint elaborate designs into the coins, but it is hard to find them in the states.

Plain, cookie-cutter pasta didn't excite me; I wanted one of those corzetti stamps so I could make the real thing. In less than five minutes on the internet, I was on Terry Mirri's web site, Fatto in America - Artisanal Pasta Tools.

Terry's vision is to "provide and encourage home chefs to explore food preparation with his unique line of handcrafted tools, rarely seen by the American consumer." Keeping with the Italian tradition of individuality, Terry started with the Corzetti Stamp, and has now expanded into polenta boards, cavarola boards, and garganelli-gnocchi boards.

I contacted Terry, told him about There's a Newf in My Soup, and asked if he would send me a Corzetti Stamp to try and feature on my blog. Terry graciously allowed me to chose from three design sets: Classic, Piccolini, or Michelangelo. I was also able to personalize my stamp with my choice of wood and imprint designs.

Just in time for Christmas, a package arrived in the mail with my gorgeous Michelangelo Corzetti Stamp, made of walnut, with the grape cluster design on one side and olive branch on the other.

Thrilled with my new treasure, I e-mailed Terry for sauce recommendations once I mastered the art of corzetti pasta-making. I asked him about Fine Cooking's brown butter and pine nut sauce. He agreed it was close to the classic, but encouraged me to try something different.

Terry shared his preference for making the dough with a ratio of one cup buckwheat flour to three cups all-purpose flour, with eggs and olive oil. He said "those buckwheat coins are big and beautiful, and you must find a sauce equal to its status." For the sauce, he "ruthlessly" sautes shredded cabbage, mushrooms, onions, garlic, and sage in olive oil and butter. He likes to add anchovies and capers to most of his sauces, but "not so much that you can taste either."  And black pepper, "with a large crack, big and plentiful." Terry apologized for his lack of specificity..."I was raised in a very Italian house and a piece of paper with instructions was Benedict Arnold territory. You could never be part of the kitchen intelligentsia with little pages flipping all over."

I tried the buckwheat pasta first, but rolled it too thin and was unable to achieve a clear imprint of the design. That's okay, it was a good test run. I tried again, this time making a basic egg pasta dough.

After making the dough, and allowing it to rest, I divided it into pieces and rolled each piece through the pasta roller, until I reached the next to last thinnest setting. I then cut the coins using the other side of the wheat design piece, and then pressed each coin between the two imprinted sides of the tool. A pound of pasta dough yielded approximately 50 coins.

For this batch of corzetti, I strayed just a little from Fine Cooking's recipe and made a brown butter and red walnut sauce with fried sage leaves, finished with some cracked pepper and a healthy grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano. The beautiful red walnuts are offered by Terra Bella Ranch, and available for the next few months from Little Italy's Farmers' Market.

Now that I've got this down, I'm ready to take another crack at the buckwheat pasta with Terry's sauce. Please take the time to visit two other blogs featuring Terry's cavarola board and corzetti stamp.


Terry Mirri lives in Sonoma, California where he creates his hand crafted artisanal pasta tools. This interest stems from his Italian heritage as well as his longstanding love of Italian cooking and entertaining friends with multi course dining extravaganzas.

Although Terry grew up in an Italian American household, his travels to Italy further exposed him to techniques and tools of making a wide variety of hand made pastas. It is this craft he has personally mastered and hopes to share with others.  His passion for his parent’s food centric culture and the hospitality and warmth it engenders led him to this pursuit.

Although Terry has been retired for several years, he developed an interest in woodworking. After learning and practicing this craft, he tried his hand at reproducing and creating antique style pasta tools. His natural talent as a craftsman is reflected in the beauty and art of the wooden tools he produces.  Fatto in America - Artisanal Pasta Tools.


Friday, February 11, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie: Orange-Almond Tart

Fat chance I was going to sit out on this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, a classic French tart with a twist. If you're strolling down the streets of Paris, you're likely to see this Orange-Almond Tart displayed in the window of Patisserie Gérard Mulot.

 Photo:  Orange-Almond Tart,  from
Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours

If you’ve visited There's a Newf in My Soup lately, you know I am cooking my way through Dorie’s beautiful cookbook, Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. Although FFwD members are not required to participate every week, I’ve found it impossible to resist any of the recipes thus far.

This tart is composed of a delicate, buttery, pâte sablée crust and a silky, luscious, almond cream filling. The surprise twist is the use of oranges, a fruit you don’t typically associate with a baked tart.

I added a few twists of my own, by adapting the 9" tart into pretty, four-inch tartlets. I also used a combination of blood and navel oranges, and arranged them in an overlapping rosette pattern. The crimson oranges provided a little burst of color and sweetness. Dorie recommends leaving a little more space between the orange supremes so the almond cream can puff up around the fruit, but mine managed to do its thing.

To achieve the most flavor and texture from the fruit, the cut supremes are dried for at least an hour, preferably several hours, between triple layers of paper towels.

The tart shell is made using the recipe for Sweet Tart Dough. The dough comes together quickly in the food processor by pulsing all-purpose flour, confectioners' sugar, salt, unsalted butter, and an egg yolk. Just when you're tempted to add a few teaspoons of ice water, it instantly clumps together and is ready to be dumped out, lightly kneaded, and refrigerated. The tart shell is partially baked and cooled prior to filling with almond cream and fruit, and then the tart is baked again.

Almond cream is a pastry chef's building block for baked fruit tarts. I was surprised to learn it is customary to add a splash of dark rum. No turned up nose in this to my expensive bottle of Armagnac, is a bottle of Myer's Dark Rum. The almond cream is also prepared with ease in the food processor, with butter, sugar, almond flour, all-purpose flour, cornstarch, an egg, and dark rum. It can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to three days.

Granted, there are a few steps involved in creating this tart, or tartlets - cutting and drying the orange supremes; preparing, rolling and partially baking the tart shell; preparing the almond cream; assembling the tart; and baking. However, preparation can be spread out over two days and you will be rewarded with a refreshing, light and magnificent dessert, without a flight to Paris. Bonne idées include variations with poached pears or sugar plums.

You don't need to get as carried away with the design, but I find myself easily entertained at times.

Just before serving, you have several options...dusting with confectioners' sugar, brushing an apple jelly glaze over the top, and/or adding a dollop of whipped cream. I went with confectioners' sugar and a dark rum spiked whipped cream.

The tartlets made their way down the street to Kai and Hill's for Super Bowl Sunday. Thank goodness they were light, and not too sweet, after filling up on John's spicy Red Beef and Black Bean Chili and Kai's succulent ribs.

"And every day when I've been good, I get an orange after food." - Robert Louis Stevenson


Friday, February 4, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie: Basque Potato Tortilla

I accompanied French Fridays with Dorie this week for a spontaneous excursion to the Basque region of France, for a taste of the popular Basque Potato Tortilla. This is also one of the most common tapas throughout Spain, and is simply an egg omelet with fried potatoes. Some versions include onions, and Dorie provides several bonne idees, or good ideas, to spruce it up with diced ham, minced fresh herbs, spinach, and/or mushrooms.

I prepared the basic version, which is scantily clad in a few crushed cloves of garlic, a fragrant sprig of rosemary, and a pinch of piment d' Espelette (Basque red chile pepper), but I regret to say it still needed a few more layers.  Flavorful pieces of Spanish chorizo come to mind.  I used Yukon Gold potatoes, as recommended, but I sliced rather than cubed them.

Preparation involves slowly cooking the potatoes and onions in shimmering olive oil until they are golden and soft, but not browned. The potatoes and onions are taken out of the pan, and the pan is wiped clean (very important to prevent stickage), before another quick pour of olive oil goes in the pan to heat. When the oil is hot, the potatoes, onions and whisked eggs go in and are momentarily left undisturbed. The tortilla is then covered and cooked slowly, as it soaks up and gently molds the egg and potatoes into one. Every now and then, a silicone spatula slips in for a run around the inside edges of the pan and underneath the tortilla. Once the top is almost set, the pan in placed under the broiler to finish it off. The tortilla is easily lifted out of the pan and transferred to a serving platter, where it is allowed to cool to room temperature before cutting and serving.

The tortilla can be served at room temperature or cold. Apparently, when hot, it crumbles badly having not fully set, and the flavors are muted. I patiently waited as directed and served ours at room temperature, but we all thought it would taste better warm. I reheated a slice the next day for lunch and confirmed that suspicion.

We enjoyed this for dinner, with a citrusy, nutty, Portuguese-inspired salad, but the tortilla is often served as tapas, cut up into bite-sized cubes and each piece pierced with a toothpick.

You can find David Leite's Orange Salad with Pine Nuts in The New Portuguese Table: Exciting Flavors from Europe's Western Coast, one of my prized cookbook finds in the past year.  David's Pine Nut and Orange Cookies are also amazing!

If you like Basque and Spanish tapas, you may also be marginally entertained by two culinary-themed picnics we hosted last summer during our Coronado Summer Concerts in the Park season: Basque Country and Spanish Tapas.