OK, tuna burgers, veal burgers, chicken burgers, turkey burgers, duck burgers, seen 'm all here. Anything but beef burgers. But BUNNY burgers? Stop! Actually, you can get a pretty decent -- and really it is a beef burger -- at LaBurg in Sarria, with very nice french fries if you like the natural kind.
Snap, two days of fall, the air is crisp, put on a jacket. Some leaves are falling, barely enough to see, but the street cleaners are going to town anyway. Unsnap, the humidity is back, two more days of hard beating sun and smothering air. I love this little contraption. It's about the size of a baby elephant with a big trunk that gobbles up the leaves. Snap, the air clears, but the sky is dark. Rain, rain, rain. It makes me smile that no matter how high tech the machine, the street cleaner still has the best tool of all. Unsnap, the sun is back, this time without the bloody humidity. An old fashioned broom made out of switches. Snap.
A speedy visit to Girona dodging the rain big blob tour groups around every corner, but still so regal, elegant and gorgeous. Lovely shops and restaurants, a tidy preservation of ancient structures and narrow cobblestone streets, uninterrupted by contemporary mistakes.
Broad, elegant, the footpath winds around the posh penninsula of S'Agaro Vell. Start at the east end of the beach Sant Pol. Then for 30 minutes, a flat walk past many tiny inlets, at the foot of glorious mansions, the wind sometimes whipping, then suddenly quiet in a protected cove. Sant Pol has super fine sand perfect for sand castles. Sa Conca, a secluded curve with that turquoise, totally see-through water. A lovely treat -- lunch at beachside Sant Pol's Taverna de Mar, in big wicker chairs, with opened arched windows and the sea performing percussion (food pretty good, not great, but location is dreamy).
I absolutely would not have survived my first few trips to spain without the tortilla. I can't figure out what anythings says of the menu, but I know the tortilla, Spain's answer to the frittata, the omelette. Made in the flat shape of the pan, it comes in all different variations, different heights, different widths, but with the same basic ingredients -- eggs, potatoes and onions. It's on every tapas menu and at every sandwich shop and sometimes at the bread bakery too.
To live here means to be able to make this national dish.
I have been practicing the recipe that Esther game me, making it my own and now I can tell you how I make the perfect spanish tortilla. Perfect to me is the onion tasted diffused through the potatoes, a creamy texture, moist, no toasted exterior and a fairly thin profile, so that you can also use it in sandwiches.
Some important tips. I must be patient. There are much faster ways to make a tortilla, but the best tortilla cooks slowly and takes time. Use a non-stick pan (normally I abhor these, but I can't do it without one.) Use a pan that is light enough that I can twist it without effort, that way I can concentrate on keeping the tortilla off the floor.
What you need:
First, I mix the cut up potatoes and onions on the cutting board and then put them in a container. This is so that nothing is sticking together from the get go.
I heat the oil in the pan with medium high heat until it is very hot but not smoking or burning.
Next, I pour the potato and onion mix into the oil and stir it until there is oil on every piece. This should only take a few seconds, then I turn down the heat to low, stir in 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and cover the pan. I keep the top on for 15 minutes, removing it to stir every once and a while.
After 15 minutes, I take the top off and continue slow cooking and stirring every 5-10 minutes for another 20-30 minutes.
Now I eat one of the biggest pieces of potato. If it is cooked all the way through, I move on, if not, I go back to cooking and stirring until I eat one that is perfect. If my potatoes are falling apart, they are overdone, but will still work in the tortilla.
I turn off the heat, whisk the eggs and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt until my hurts (there should be lots and lots of froth). Since Francesco told me that eggs go crazy and taste bad if you move them in more than one direction, I only whisk going one way.
Now I pour every last bit of the cooked potatoes and onions into the whisked eggs and let them sit together for 10 minutes so that the egg starts to get into the other ingredients. I keep the pan off the heat but handy to use again -- it still has some of the yummy oniony oil residue.
After 10 minutes, I reheat the pan on medium heat until it is warm, then reduce it to low. Now I pour the egg mixture into the pan and make sure that the potatoes go all the way to the edge of the pan, sometimes I have to push them around a little. To get a perfectly flat tortilla in the end, I want to keep a small gentle hill of potatoes in the middle of the tortilla.
Now I let it cook on low until only the very, very top of the tortilla is still liquid, just barely. It usually takes 10 minutes or so.
OK, now it is time to flip. I put the top on the pan, flip it upside down (with the top on), hold the lid as flat as possible, then remove the pan and put it back on the stove. Now I should have a tortilla with the cooked side up and the runny side down on the lid of my pan. Sometimes the egg starts running down my arm and that is fine. Since the top is not hot, I can hold onto it, while I reset the tortilla in the middle of the top. Mine always slides to the side a little because I am not holding it perfectly horizontal.
Now, I carefully slide the tortilla off the lid and back into the pan with the runny side down. Once it is in the pan, I use the flat spoon to scootch the sides in toward the middle to form a more vertical profile to the edge of the tortilla (about a half to three quarter inch high sides). And at the same time I press down on the middle gently with a non-stick flipper to make sure the top of the tortilla returns to being flat. Sometimes after I flip it, it is wavy or caved in, this fixes it without ruining the texture.
After only a few minutes the bottom is cooked, and I take the whole thing out of the pan with the flipper and put it on a plate with the first cooked side up. Done!
This is the first summer I have worn a bikini in more than 12 years. It's not because I suddenly have the right figure for it, but because here the bikini is beach uniform no matter what size, shape or age you are. Yup, also plenty of other people on the beach in tankinis and one pieces -- they are usually announcing they are not from here. Then there are the ladies who let it all hang out -- no top at all -- they are also usually not from here. Putting yourself out there in a bikini, what basically is thick underwear, is scary at first, but freedom once you get used to it. Nobody is looking, it feels good not to care, so get your bikini on!
By Maia Pay Ozguc
Barcelona Impressions. Be curious. Be present. Be Barcelona!