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Spanish Tortilla: Small Bites For Small Hands — and Big ones, Too 

click to enlarge spanish tortilla - ASTRID HEDBOR LAGUE
  • Astrid Hedbor Lague
  • spanish tortilla

Don't assume your young children aren't going to like unusual spices and ingredients — you never know until you try. One of my son's first table foods was curried peas, and he gobbled them up!

Once a baby is ready to move beyond purées to table food — usually at around 8 to 12 months old — you can start introducing them to international flavors. Don't be afraid to experiment, though if you're not sure a certain food is safe, consult your doctor.

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Small, savory, bite-size dishes called tapas — served with drinks at tapas bars in Spain — are well-suited for young kids. My parents fell in love with tapas while traveling through Spain years ago. When they returned home, my dad tried to recreate the best Spanish dishes he ate, and the rest of our family members were the lucky taste testers.

One of the most popular tapas dishes is Spanish Tortilla. It isn't a standard Mexican-style tortilla, but rather a kind of frittata with potatoes and eggs. Different variations have onions, vegetables, ham — the dry-cured Serrano variety is especially fabulous — or a spicy sausage called chorizo.

I decided to make a Spanish Tortilla with potatoes, onions, red bell pepper and spinach. The potatoes, first cooked in olive oil, get almost creamy when mixed with the eggs, making for a wonderful texture.

Don't be put off by the large amount of olive oil in this recipe. The oil used to cook the vegetables will take on their flavor, and you can incorporate it in other recipes. I used my extra oil to brush on ciabatta bread rounds for crostini.

I cooked the vegetables in a heavy cast-iron pan, but I recommend a lighter pan for the tortilla because you need to be able to flip the tortilla from the pan onto a plate halfway through cooking.

This dish can be enjoyed warm or cold. Cut it into wedges or bite-size squares so it's easy for little fingers to grab.

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium russet potatoes (about 1 ½ pounds)
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • About 3 cups extra-virgin olive oil, for frying (Excess can be reserved for future use.)
  • 10 large eggs
  • 1 cup loosely packed raw spinach
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Directions:

  1. Prepare the vegetables first, up to two hours in advance. Peel and slice the potatoes into rounds about ⅛- to ¼-inch thick. Soak them in water for about 10 minutes, then drain and dry completely — a salad spinner works well if you have one. Thinly slice the onions into rounds as well. Deseed and finely chop the bell pepper.
  2. Pour the oil about one-inch deep into a large, heavy sauté pan and heat on medium to about 310 degrees, or until small bubbles form on a slice of onion when you submerge it in the oil. Add the onions to the pan and fry for about eight minutes, stirring occasionally, until just golden. Remove the onions from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels or a paper bag laid on a plate or baking sheet. Blot off excess oil with paper towels.
  3. Add about half of the potatoes to the hot oil and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The potatoes should be cooked through but should not be potato chips. If they start crisping up too much, your oil is likely too hot. Remove from the oil after about 10 minutes, drain excess oil as you did with the onions, then cook the second batch of potatoes. Drain excess oil and combine potatoes with the onions.
  4. Add the bell peppers to the oil over medium heat and cook for about two minutes until they are just softened. Combine peppers with the onions and potatoes.
  5. Allow the oil to cool, then transfer it to a bottle or jar to reuse when you are looking for a lightly flavored olive oil.
  6. In a large bowl, crack the eggs. Stir just enough to break the yolks, then add the vegetables, spinach and salt. Mix together to coat the vegetables with the egg, but do not scramble. The mixture will be a bit runny. Cover and set aside for 15 minutes so that the vegetables can soak up moisture from the eggs.
  7. Heat about two tablespoons of the reserved olive oil in a 10- to 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in the egg and vegetable mixture, making sure it is spread out evenly in the pan. Cook for about two minutes, then cover and reduce heat to medium for three to four minutes or until the egg mixture is mostly set.
  8. Run a rubber spatula around the edge of the pan to make sure it doesn't stick, then place a plate slightly larger than the pan over the top, press it down firmly, and carefully flip the pan upside down (some of the egg in the center might not be set yet, which is okay). Return the flipped tortilla to the pan so that the opposite side can cook. Turn the heat up again to medium-high and cook for two minutes, then cover and cook for about three to four minutes at medium heat. The tortilla is done when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Flip onto a serving plate, slice and enjoy warm or chilled.

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