Search This Blog

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Tapas Night!

One of my favorite restaurants in Chicago is the tapas bar Cafe Ba Ba Reeba. Delicious food, great sangria, and a fun atmosphere. A few years ago I received the Williams-Sonoma cookbook "Savoring Spain & Portugal." I recently decided to make two of my favorite tapas, Tortilla Espanola (potato and onion omelet) and Pa amb Tomaquet (tomato bread), which are both served with Spanish alioli. I have never fried food before, so this was a new experience. Not something I will do on a daily, or even weekly, basis, but I'm glad I tried it. This dinner was really wonderful - it actually tasted just like the restaurant! My only problem was that my pan was apparently too big because the omelet is very thin - it's actually supposed to be quite thick; didn't affect the taste, but my Venezuelan friend brought it to my attention when I shared the leftovers with some coworkers :) If it didn't take so darn long to make, I'd probably always make it at home. At Cafe Ba Ba Reeba, they sometimes serve the potato omelet cold, so we had the leftovers this way - yum! I think this could probably be adapted in a way that avoids frying the potatoes - perhaps baking up the potato slices in the oven . . . I'll have to work on that!

Tortilla Espanola (potato omelet)

Unlike most omelets, a tortilla espanola is served at room temperature. It is the classic tapa, prepared all over Spain, but reputed to be best in La Mancha, a forbidding land of parched earth and aging windmills.

1/2 cup plus 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick*
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
6 eggs, lightly beaten
2-4 ounces serrano ham, diced (optional) (did not use)
1 large red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and cut into strips (optional) (did not use)
chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

*I used russets; 2 lbs was 2 large potatoes and 1 very small

1. In a large frying pan over low heat, warm 1/2 cup olive oil. Add half of the potato slices and fry, turning occasionally, until tender but not browned, 15-20 minutes.** Transfer to a plate and season with salt and pepper. Repeat with the remaining potato slices. Leave the oil in the pan.

2. Meanwhile, in another frying pan over medium heat, warm the 2-3 tablespoons oil. Add the onions and fry until soft and golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool a bit.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until blended. Mix in the onions and the ham and roasted pepper, if using. Season with salt and pepper. Fold in the cooked potatoes.

4. Heat the oil remaining in the large pan over low heat and pour in the egg mixture. Cook until the bottom is set and golden, 8-10 minutes. Invert a plate on top of the pan, invert the pan and plate together, and lift off the pan.*** Slide the omelet back into the pan and return to low heat. Cook until the second side is set, about 4 minutes. Slide onto a plate, garnish with parsley, and cut into wedges. Serve with alioli for dipping.

Serves 4-6

**I did not need to cook the potatoes this long, and mine did get brown. I may have had the oil too hot. The end result was great, so I don't think it mattered.

***This is a bit tricky. I had to have Bob help me for this part. We did not have a plate big enough to do this safely, and I felt that the hot oil would just spill all over, so Bob gently but quickly turned the omelet over by tipping the frying pan over onto a jelly roll pan. The sides of the jelly roll prevented the oil from dripping off. I then slid the omelet back into the frying pan using a spatula to help guide the omelet over the side of the jelly roll pan. Maybe not the most efficient way, but it worked!

Source: Adapted from Savoring Spain & Portugal by Joyce Goldstein

Pa amb Tomaquet (grilled bread with tomato)

This classic Catalan tapa is the soulmate of the better-known Italian bruschetta. It is nothing more than good rustic bread that is grilled, rubbed with garlic, then rubbed with a ripe tomato half and drizzled with a fruity olive oil. The tomatoes can also be very, very finely chopped, almost to a puree, and rubbed into the bread. (This is how Cafe Babareeba does it actually). If you wish to add a small embellishment, top with a chopped anchovy or a paper-thin slice of serrano ham.

6 slices coarse country bread, each about 1/3-inch thick*
extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Spanish**
2 cloves garlic
2 very ripe tomatoes, halved***
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

*I used a loaf of Italian bread
**I used Italian EVOO
***I used 2 roma/plum tomatoes

1. Preheat a broiler (griller), or prepare a fire in a charcoal or gas grill.

2. Brush both sides of the bread lightly with oil. Place on a baking sheet and slip under the broiler, or place on the grill rack. Broil or grill, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, 4-6 minutes total.

3. Transfer the bread to a platter. Rub the hot bread on one side with the garlic cloves, and then squeeze the tomato halves as you rub them across the surface. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, with alioli for dipping.

Source: Adapted from Savoring Spain & Portugal by Joyce Goldstein

Spanish Alioli (garlic mayonnaise)

The recipe for alioli in the cookbook is from scratch - meaning you make the mayo with eggs and oil. I prefer not to serve dishes with raw eggs (mainly because Bob won't eat them!), so I tried looking up a few recipes online. Each had the basic idea - garlic, mayo, and lemon juice, but they each seemed overly complicated. So I just made up my own:

~1/2 cup mayonnaise (light or regular)
1 or 2 garlic cloves, grated
lemon juice to taste (~1/2 a lemon)

Measure mayonnaise into a small bowl. Grate garlic directly on top, and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Stir to combine. Taste to decide what component, if any, you need more of. Too garlicky - add more mayo; too bland - add another clove or partial clove of garlic, etc. I used 2 cloves of garlic for ~1/2 cup mayo and it was intense! I'd probably suggest just 1 or maybe 1 1/2. You can always put more in so use your judgement.


  1. Jotting down the name of this restaurant, since I'm going to Chicago this summer. Your version looks delicious!

  2. I miss Cafe Ba Ba Reeba. Both dishes look incredible! Is there a recipe for the potatoes with the spicy red sauce on top - those were my favorite!

  3. Yum! What a great way to recreate your favorite foods at home that you usually go out for. They both look so good.

  4. Love tapas night! SO fun!

  5. This looks delicious, wish I lived in Chicago for all their awesome food!

  6. Thanks everyone!

    Kerstin - there is a recipe for the spicy potatoes!! I will send it to you - I'm not sure when I'll get around to trying it!

  7. I would love the potato recipe too please


  © Blogger template Brownium by 2009

Back to TOP