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 Spains Joy of Cooking (without it there would be no Ferran Adri or Jos Andrs, two of the worlds 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 Ins, 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 Andrss watermelon with tomato and pistachio. For Ins Ortega, tapas isnt just about the food: Its a free and easy style of eating, she says, a way of enjoying life and friendship. Sadly, Simone Ortega didnt 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):
2 cups olive oil
2 1/4 pounds potatoes, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
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).
Fried Green Asparagus with Garlic, Vinegar, and Paprika (Esprragos verdes rehogados con ajo, vinagre y pimentn)
-4 1/2 lb green asparagus, trimmed
-6 tablespoons olive oil
-3 slices bread, crusts removed
-2 cloves garlic
-1/2 teaspoon paprika
-3 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
-1 teaspoon chopped parsley
Cut the asparagus into 1 -inch lengths. Heat the oil in a skillet or frying pan. Add the bread and cook over medium heat, turning occasionally, for a few minutes, until golden brown on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the garlic to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, for a few minutes, until golden brown. Transfer the garlic to a mortar, add the fried bread and pound with a pestle.
Pour the oil from the skillet into a pan and heat it. Add the asparagus and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the paprika, then pour in 2 cups hot water. Return the pan to a medium heat, cover and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, for 15 minutes, or until the asparagus spears are just tender.
To finish, add the vinegar and a little of the asparagus cooking liquid to the mixture in the mortar and stir well, then stir into the pan containing the asparagus. Season with a little salt and cook for another 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve immediately.
Patatas Bravas (Patatas Bravas)
-12 small potatoes, unpeeled
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
-1 pinch hot paprika
-1 clove garlic, finely chopped
-1 teaspoon chili powder or Worcestershire sauce
Bring a large pan of salted water to boil. Add the potatoes and cook for 20-25 minutes, until tender but not falling apart. Drain and let cool, then peel and slice or dice. Transfer to a plate or tray. Mix together the oil, vinegar, paprika, garlic and the chili powder or Worcestershire sauce in a bowl. Pour the mixture over the potatoes and serve hot.
Stuffed Mushrooms (Champione rellenos)
-4 large Portobello mushrooms, wiped clean
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-2 shallots, chopped
-juice of 1/2 lemon, strained
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Separate the mushroom caps and stems, and chop the stems. Heat the oil in a small skillet or frying pan. Add the mushroom stems and shallots and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Season with salt, stir in a few drops of the lemon juice and cook for another 5-8 minutes. Put the mushroom caps on a baking sheet and divide the filling among them, then bake for 5 minutes. Increase the temperature to 425˚F and bake, sharking the tray occasionally, for another 5 minutes.