A revival, with a promise. (Recipe – Torta Española.)

Yes, my dears, I know it’s been a while. Almost three months, in fact. And I have no excuse for my absence – a lack of Internet (old news), but more relevant, a lack of motivation and inspiration. Even beyond that, a feeling of not quite right – maybe I shouldn’t blog, I don’t belong, my blog is useless and the name is all wrong and it doesn’t even match my URL. (that really does bother me more often than not, but it’s my fault.) so I’ve been thinking this thing over in my absence: to be or not to be? Despite the trials of keeping up, I didn’t take long to decide to be. Especially given that my last post was the 100th post on boonie foodie (huzzah!).

Being, of course, requires more organization and discipline and I have considered that as well. And I want to address other areas of my life besides just food, too – other areas that are related to food – or rather, food is related to those areas, like the garden I hope to grow in the backyard, the farmer’s market in town and the eggs I buy from a county local; or the quiet decision to live more sustainably and what that really means for me and mine. The real meaning of words and using them to their best. And of course, bettering my photography skills to something besides “i takez pix.” (Maybe I’ll even build that DIY lightbox that’s floated through almost all blogs, one day.) The point of this creation is not only to share myself with the rest of the world, but to better myself in the process – as it was, I was just writing and posting to post, following an arbitrary internal desire to follow a schedule that never really manifested.

My first desire is to set up a more dependable schedule – one day, food; one day, gardening and green, maybe two; and hopefully Menu Plan Monday. It depends on how much I can find to say. Hopefully my schedule is finally nailed down enough that I can schedule posts on Saturday for the following week. I’ll be working on a buffer in the next two weeks so I can actually get this in effect. In the meantime, I intend to clean up the blog overall: visual design, tags, language – all but the content and the photos. (The really poor posts I can use later for slow-thought days – remake and retry.)

In honor of this revival, here is the first recipe I’ve been inspired to put up in quite some time. It’s not new to many, and it’s not fancy; what it “is,” is filling, cheap and lovely in its own homely way. Many people have made it and loved it; I am now one of those fortunate folks. Torta Española or torta de patatas (or tortilla de papas, or a combination of these as your preference or region dictates) is nothing more than a layer of oh-so-thin potato and onion slices lightly browned, then covered with egg and cooked as an omelet. Simple to make and as versatile as you like it, my only recommendation is that you make it in batches that are manageable enough to flip, or beware that yours may end up as ugly as mine.

Oh, and add cheese.

Torta Española

serves 2-4

ingredients:
1 medium waxy potato, thinly sliced
1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp unsalted butter
salt and pepper
5 eggs
2 tbsp water
2-3 oz cheese

directions:
Slice the potatoes and onions as thin as possible, using a mandoline if available. Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; when the foam subsides, add the potatoes and onions and season generously with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Stir to coat, then let brown as a single layer for 2-4 minutes on each “side.”

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the water and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper. Shake the skillet to settle the potatoe-onion mixture into an even, flat layer. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and turn the pan to distribute the egg evenly. With one hand, stir the eggs in one direction while shaking the pan in the other. Do this until the eggs thicken a little, add cheese, then let cook until the eggs are browned on the bottom. Flip the omelet and let cook until the center is just set. Serve warm with ketchup.

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Pitas, bread and… pie?

I managed to spend the entirety of yesterday baking, from wheat bread to pitas. I should’ve known better than to open my mouth about how good I’d gotten with Jayne’s bread, because it definitely didn’t rise as much as it was supposed to. I’m sure that won’t take from the taste, but it’s a little disappointing when my bread doesn’t come out puffy. Still, on a positive note, less puffy bread is more space-efficient.

My pitas were, as I suspected, an experiment. The first four I baked definitely came out flat (though no less tasty). I remembered that I’d forgotten the ‘dash’ of baking powder, so I rolled it into the last four dough balls. Those pitas puffed a little more – about halfway, sort of – but not enough to cut in half and stuff. I’ll be researching for another experiment in puffy pitas in the days to come (this entry at Farmgirl Fare looks promising), but in the meantime, I’ll just eat my soft, non-risen flatbreads in various ways. They’re still tasty, even if they’re not risen. I don’t discriminate – I eat regardless of appropriate shape or size.

Now, as for the pie part of the entry, here it is: I am taking divine advice, straight from the Lord.

I mean it.

The Lord wants me to bake a pie. Who am I to deny that? Besides, it’s not like he wants an ark or a skyscraper or a pony from scratch. Just a pie.

I’ve been getting little nudges all day. First, I was greeted with Joy’s Buttermilk Pie, made thanks to Evan over at buttercakes (go visit!). This looked so much like cheesecake that I swore it was until I read the post. Not cheesecake – buttermilk pie. That somehow got me started on chess pie – and Lisa’s lemon version – which took me to transparent pie. Now, transparent pie is apparently only native to Kentucky (correct me if I’m wrong), which takes me down a whole ‘nother road, but that’s a secret plan of attack for the future. Right now, I’m only worried about the pie.

The transparent pie update will be forthcoming sometime later tonight, when I get back from karate and can justify eating a piece of it because of all the sweating I’ll have been doing for an hour. I hope you’re as excited as I am.

Icecream.

(And all things related. Whatever they may be.)

Who doesn’t like icecream? (I know several folks, actually.) I like icecream a lot. I don’t love it, or live off of it, like my dad, his wife and my little sister do. They go through a few cartons of Edy’s Double-Churn and Breyer’s Light every week. I don’t eat enough icecream to justify buying it in the grocery – if I do, I’ll only buy a little-bitty one so I don’t waste money. And I buy only certain kinds.

  • Mayfield, preferably in the old-fashioned box and never vanilla.
  • Blue Bunny, because it’s the icecream that Dad and I used to buy and he would throw such a fit over in the middle of the grocery. (It’s a comfort thing.)
  • Breyer’s Vanilla Bean. I love vanilla bean icecream.

It’s summertime – time for making icecream at home, like good hot weather-loving Southern folk ought to. And I’ve made a batch or two of my own, even without the icecream maker I’ve been promised, notably the green tea icecream a few posts down. But there are others I’ve seen, that I want to emulate or fiddle with, and if I don’t write them down, then I’ll forget to make them, and that would be a shame. So, forthwith:

Looking at the list now, that’s a whole lot of icecream and other frozen delights to be made. And tasted. And pondered. And I may not be able to make all of it before the icecream season’s over.

But that’s okay. I’ve got time. :)

His birthday supper.

(From here on, DB is dubbed 354. So may it be.)

354’s birthday was last Thursday; he turned 24. :) And while he usually has a family get-together, and he did have one, I got the actual birthday. So I felt that supper should be special, being as it was the actual birthday. It took me over a week to come up with the menu, partially from fretting over the meal itself and what I wanted to create, and partially because he’s kind of picky. I didn’t really want to do steak (even though I had a flank steak in the fridge, begging to be grilled), and he raised pigs with his granddaddy, so pork chops seemed like a reasonable choice. He’s going to Mexico on a mission trip next week while I’m home in KY, which reminded me of the two trips to Jamaica he’s made before, so a Carribean theme was in my head. I finally settled on a lime-and-cayenne sort of marinade and set my menu:

  • Thin-cut boneless loin chops, marinated in lime-cayenne and grilled
  • Grilled corn on the cob
  • Baked potatoes
  • Homemade white rolls
  • White chocolate creme brulee

Creme bruleeWhen I started, the dessert was the only thing I’d settled on beforehand, so when I finally had a menu I felt better. I threw the pork chops together the night before and let them settle in the fridge.

When I got home the night of, I let the dog out, changed clothes and went straight to cooking. The brulee was first, since I figured it would have time to set properly while I cooked and we ate. It ended up taking longer than I remembered, probably because I forgot to split the recipe. I ended up making four of them (which wasn’t a bad thing), which kind of threw me off because I don’t have multiple glass dishes for bain-maries. I ended up baking two of them in my usual 9″ square glass dish, and the other two in a 9″ non-stick loaf pan. I was hoping for the best with the loaf pan, because it was the only option I had. It worked, but I won’t be trying it again without having a knife at my throat. The brulees didn’t set as quickly as they were supposed to, but that might’ve also been because of my oven (which I am thrilled to no longer be using, the temperamental thing). In any case, by the time I got the brulees in the oven, it was probably too late to really start the bread, but being hardheaded, I did it anyway. I got it all mixed up and let it sit, covered, on the stovetop. I greased up my potatoes with olive oil, pierced the skins and threw them in the oven on the top rack to do their thing. I don’t like to waste foil or anything like that on veggies; I should’ve left it off the corn and done the same thing I’d done with the corn.

All said and done, I enjoyed cooking the supper for him. He was pleasantly surprised with the tang and heat of the pork chops, and he liked fixing his potato as he pleased. The potatoes were probably my second-rated pride of the supper, preceded only by the brulees. They were soft and fluffy after sitting in the oven for an hour or so, and perfect. I like hot fluffy potatoes.

Raw corn, white and yellow

Corn before being foil-wrapped and buttered. It was good-looking, for grocery corn.

Pork chops, pre-grilling.

Pork chops still sitting in olive oil-lime-cayenne-garlic marinade.

Creme brulee in the oven.

Creme brulee, in the oven and halfway through the baking process.

Finished plate.

A plated meal, ready to be consumed.

Tablescape.

The tablescape, waiting for us to sit down and eat. He brought flowers. They smelled delightful.

Finished creme brulee.

The finished brulee, before going into the fridge to set more completely. Man, they were tasty.

You can obviously serve these when the custard is still warm but we prefer the chill of the set custard and the warmth of the sugar topping. The best part is cracking the sugar top with a spoon after it’s set fully and still warm, then digging out a spoonful of that silky, not-too-sweet but utterly rich and sinful custard and letting it melt on your tongue. It is orgasmic.

Finally moved; want cookbooks.

That’s right, I finally got the apartment moved from one to another this weekend. I’m living in a sinkhole of cardboard boxes and chaos right now; I have a cleared bed, an organized bathroom, and that’s about it. Everything else is surrounded. It makes turning the TV on and changing channels rather difficult. The only part that I haven’t moved yet is the kitchen. All my food is still in the fridge, all my pots and pans are still in the cabinets (except for my large pan and a baking dish or two). And I have to get most of it out of the way and moved before Friday night, because I will be leaving to go home for a week at 0330 Saturday morning. (I’m so excited I’m like to jump out of my skin!) I never realized just how much stuff I had until I put it all in boxes. I’m still trying to figure out how to organize a 7.5’x2′ pantry

I meant to post about DB’s birthday dinner last week, and I have photos uploaded and ready, but I just haven’t had time. Seriously. Trying to get a living space where you can actually live in it is tough work! I’m going to try to post about the birthday dinner as the day goes on. The creme brulee was particularly spectacular… and I have the recipe to share. I tried making up the buttermilk loaf as dinner rolls, but it failed because of me. I couldn’t bake it that night because it was too late; the loaf ended up rising three times. DB’s mom actually baked it and said that it never rose and was hard as a rock! I don’t have pictures of my baking failure, but suffice to say that I will be more careful from now on about picking my bread-making times.

Since the fall of Tastespotting, I now look at FoodGawker more than once a day for my food porn fix. I was greeted this morning with marinated flank steak, mac n’ cheese, Hillary Clinton’s chocolate chip cookies and pho. The last entry, from Jaden, also showcases a cookbook, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. Now, if I had the cash and the patience, I would be like Heidi and have a bajillion cookbooks that would probably serve to make my little bookshelf look pretty. I only have a few as it is: my trusty BHG paperback, Barbara Tropp’s Modern Art of Chinese Cooking, Maryana Vollstedt’s Big Book of Easy Suppers, The South Beach Diet Cookbook, several pamphlets from the Beef Checkoff that include some super recipes and various other odds and ends from local papers and printouts that don’t exactly count as cookbooks. My ‘collection,’ as it were, is woefully inadequate. From now on, I’m requesting cash, vehicle upkeep and bookstore giftcards for birthdays and holidays. I have a running list of cookbooks in my head that should add themselves, however mysteriously, to my repertoire.

  • The Joy of Cooking – How could anyone survive without this classic turn-to cookbook? This was my mother’s staple in the kitchen and continues to be so. I learned to cook as a youngster with her old, well-kept version of Joy. I consider it a necessary staple of any cook’s kitchen, and in some ways, a coming of age. I will not buy Joy of Cooking because it is, to me, almost the culinary equivalent of my great-grandmother’s pearls: I am still waiting for my mother to give me one and say ‘here, honey, this is yours.’
  • Kentucky’s Best by Linda Allison-Lewis – My stepmother has a copy of this in her collection and I’ve used it with abandon. It ain’t my grandmother’s Bourbon County Ladies’ cookbook, but it’ll do. (I would really like to find that Bourbon County 4H cookbook, speaking of, but I have no idea who got it after she and Grandaddy died – or if it got thrown out.) This cookbook has old favorites (cheese balls, sausage balls, hot browns) and new wonderments (cheese-chutney pâtè? cashew-curry spread? None of these ever show up at my family’s Christmas table.) However, I will note that I do not use Linda’s recipe for beer cheese, though I can’t say that you shouldn’t. We just have our own family recipe and we like it that way.
  • Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes, and Honest Fried Chicken: The Heart and Soul of Southern Country Kitchens by Ronni Lundy – I’ve never used this one, but I like the way Ronni talks to her readers. It makes me feel at home. I figure her recipes can’t be too far off the mark.
  • The Blue Grass Cook Book by Minnie C. Fox – Never read this one either, but I’d like to.
  • How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman – I am more or less still a fledgling cook. I’d like to always be a fledgling cook, so that I can never learn enough. But that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t have accessible, informative how-to books on hand, does it? In fact, it requires it.
  • Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg – I’ve heard so many awesome things about this must-have book that I must have it. Especially now that I no longer fear bread-baking, but am well on my way to embracing it. Now, if I could just get another loaf pan…
  • Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments by David Lebovitz and Lara Hata – Again, another book that I’ve heard so darn much about that I crave it almost as much as I crave homemade ice cream. I love homemade ice cream! Especially vanilla ice cream made with Reyna vanilla… ooh-wee, that stuff is powerful.
  • Room For Dessert : 110 Recipes for Cakes, Custards, Souffles, Tarts, Pies, Cobblers, Sorbets, Sherbets, Ice Creams, Cookies, Candies, and Cordials by David Lebovitz – Another Lebovitz book that I need to own. It beckons me with its cakes, its custards (I love custards) and cobblers. I’m convinced that Lebovitz will not disappoint me.
  • The Best Of Cooking Light by Holley Contri Johnson – Despite all the artery-clogging, sinfully caloric recipes no doubt encased in the above cookbooks, I do often try to keep my cooking on the light and easy side. Cooking Light would be my anchor back to the mindful cooking that I should be doing (and away from that wicked and dastardly pair of Perfect Scoop and Room for Dessert…)


Of course, that is by no means a complete list, but it’s a good start, right? I’m open for suggestions, too, if anyone is willing to speak.

I’ll save the list of kitchen gadgets that I would love to see cluttering my counter for a later date.