A taste of Barcelona
It was our first trip to Barcelona and we arrived on a warm sunny day. We were excited to see our daughter Caitlin and her beau Charlie who are recent college graduates, and traveled with them for over two weeks. They had been in Italy and Spain for the previous two weeks, traveling in the southern cities of Rome and Pompeii, Madrid, Seville and Grenada, where it was stiflingly hot. They were happy to get away from the heat, and meet up with us to change up their trip. They were also happy to have someone else treating them to nicer meals after penny pinching most of the time.
We arrived a day later than scheduled, and they had already scoped out some eateries for us. We ate our first late lunch on La Rambla de Catalunya, our main drag in the modernista district of Exaimple. We ate outside in a caf along the boulevard where many cafs have outdoor seating. All the cafs are lined up on the wide, tree-covered walkway set in the middle of two traffic lanes on either side. It is a great place for people watching. We began our meal with Sangria and partook of the delicious tapas for which Spain is famous – tortilla España (see recipe below), fried fish, pimientos pedron (small green peppers), croquettes (ham), gambas (sautéed shrimp), baccala (salt-cod), and bocadillo de lomo (bread with ham). We immediately felt at home and our trip had begun.
Our first wanderings took us along Las Ramblas, a mile long boulevard that runs to the sea, and to La Boqueria and the Museu Picasso in Barri Gotic. This museum is housed in a row of beautiful, medieval stone mansions and the exhibits cover the period of time when Picasso went to school nearby, 1890-1904. There is also a room that skips to his mature cubist paintings from 1917. We loved the museum, but our fatigue had caught up with us. After almost falling asleep on the benches, we wandered back to our rooms for a siesta. It was the perfect solution after two days of travel and I am immensely grateful for the Spanish culture that encourages it! I love Spain! We awoke refreshed and ready for an evening adventure.
Our dinner that night was a Japanese restaurant (MuMui) that was quite good, and gave our two traveling companions a break from strictly Spanish fare. We then strolled down La Rambla Catalunya. We ended our evening with a tasty cava and potates bravas (fried potatoes served with a spicy tomato sauce and garlic mayonnaise) at Bodegueta, a little downstairs bistro. It was a perfect beginning to our initiation into Spanish culture and we had managed to stay up until midnight, an early night by any standard in Spain.
Tortilla de Patatas
This is a delicious Catalan specialty. Our cooking teacher was very specific and impressed upon us the quality of the ingredients and importance of maintaining the traditions of Catalan cooking.
10 oz. potatoes (about 2 large)
1 cup olive oil
Peel and rinse the potatoes. Dice them thinly, then generously salt the potatoes. Peel the onion and cut into half rings. Fry the salted potatoes in plenty of hot olive oil, then add the onions until they have both cooked well, approximately 20-30 minutes. Strain the potatoes and reserve the oil for next time. Beat the eggs well in a separate bowl and season with salt. Pour the drained potatoes and onion in the egg mixture and stir.
Pour the mixture into the heated frying pan and cook until the bottom starts to brown. Pat the edges down while it is cooking to keep the sides from sticking and slide the mixture around to even out the ingredients. Take a plate that is larger than the frying pan and gently flip the tortilla onto it. Reheat the pan again, and gently slide the tortilla back into the pan with the uncooked side down. Cook a few more minutes and serve with Jamon Iberico or Jamon Serrano or Pan Con Tomate (tomato bread).
Recipe by Cook & Taste, Traditional Local Cooking Workshops, Barcelona Spain. Paradis 3 Barcelona 34 933 021 320.
Modified by Tricia O’Brien.
Tricia O’Brien writes the Vegetable of the Month column for the Oak Hill Farm newsletter and lives in Glen Ellen. You can visit and follow her blog at www.cafetrix.blogspot.com.