In the Kitchen: Small Plates, Big World


By Joshua David Stein

In 1972, when Simone Ortega published 1080 Recetas de Cocina (or 1080 Recipes), little was known about Spanish cuisine outside the Iberian Peninsula. The best-selling book became Spain's Joy of Cooking (without it there would be no Ferran Adri' or Jos' Andr's, two of the world's most exciting chefs), and its long-overdue 2007 English translation drastically expanded the reach of the Spanish food empire, bringing refreshing gazpacho and flavorful paella recipes to the rest of the globe. More than 35 years later, Ortega, this time accompanied by her daughter In's, expands her impressive catalog with The Book of Tapas, a beautifully photographed introduction to the world of Spanish small plates that offers more than 250 simple and authentic recipes, from thick potato-filled tortilla (see recipe below) to melon balls with Serrano ham (pictured) to more adventurous modern dishes from guest chefs, like Andr's's watermelon with tomato and pistachio. For In's Ortega, tapas isn't just about the food: 'It's a free and easy style of eating,' she says, 'a way of enjoying life and friendship.' Sadly, Simone Ortega didn't live to see the volume published (she recently died at age 89). Still, this irresistible tapas tome is almost biblical in scope and as evangelical as 1080 Recetas was before it.

Four Delicious Tapas Recipes (taken from The Book of Tapas, Phaidon Press):

Spanish Tortilla

2 cups olive oil
2 1/4 pounds potatoes, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
8 eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
mayonnaise (optional)

Heat olive oil in an 11-inch skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Add potato slices and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned. Season with salt, remove from skillet, and drain well. Beat eggs with a pinch of salt in large bowl for one minute. Add potato slices and stir with fork. Heat two tablespoons olive oil in skillet over high heat. Tip in egg mixture and cook, gently shaking skillet occasionally, until the underside is set and lightly browned. Invert tortilla onto lid of pan or plate, then slide back into skillet, cooked side up. Cook, shaking skillet occasionally, until underside is set and golden brown. Serve immediately with mayonnaise (optional).