Category Archives: Comfort

Saving Dinner

Saving Dinner

Last night I had a dream. Not in the Martin Luther King, Jr. way, but in a cooking dinner way. Yes, I dream of cooking dinner. In that dream, I made a delicious, perfectly golden brown, intact tortilla española. This was a dream because I have never yet been able to make this dish. Why do I keep trying? I’ll tell you.

About nine years ago, my cousins and I went to Spain just for a fun backpacking trip. On the way from Zaragoza to Madrid, our bus stopped at a random rest area and we got “tortilla”. I had never been to Spain and had no idea what to expect. What I got was a delicious egg and potato frittata-type thing. From then on, whenever we got tapas (which was pretty much every meal because we were poor and you get tapas with beer at restaurants), we got the tortilla.

When I got back to the States, I tried to make the tortilla and failed miserably. It looked like a sad breakfast scramble. Later attempts have improved. I have not tried to make a tortilla in a couple of years. Since then, I have talked with several friends who studied in Spain and thought that I had the tips down. “Thought” is the key word. This evening, based upon my dream, I tried again to make a tortilla. It was a failure, but I saved dinner! And I’ll tell you how.

Both of these recipes are from my La cuisine Méditerranéenne that I got while I studied abroad. The Eggplant “Caviar” is like a baba ghanoush-bruschetta hybrid. I added a few things to the tortilla, which may or may not have been my downfall.

Tortilla Española Bake

4 servings


5 medium-ish waxy potatoes (I used Yukon gold)

5 eggs

1 medium yellow onion

More olive oil than you ever dreamed of using



1 cup Manchego cheese


2 Tb olive oil

1 Tb flour

2 cloves of garlic

½ tsp paprika

¼ tsp cumin

½ tsp salt

1 Tb parsley, finely chopped

1 cup of water

  • Chop the potatoes into roughly half-inch cubes and chop the onions into a medium dice. Meanwhile, heat about two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.
Lots of potatoes and onions

Lots of potatoes and onions

  • Once the olive oil is heated, toss in about a third of the potatoes, and stir to coat them with the olive oil. Add in a third of the onions, then some salt, then some more olive oil and stir. Repeat the process of potatoes, onions, salt, olive oil until all of the veggies are in the pan. Cook the potatoes until they are tender, but not brown.
More olive oil than you think you'll ever need. Well, not this much.

More olive oil than you think you’ll ever need. Well, not this much.

  • As the potatoes and onions are cooking, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs with a little milk, salt and pepper. Let them hang out while the potatoes are cooking.
  • When the potatoes are finished, let them cool for about 10 minutes. When they are cool, remove them with a slotted spoon and combine with the eggs. The slotted spoon will allow the olive oil to drain off. Once the potatoes and onions are mixed with the eggs, let them sit for about 10 minutes. A tip I learned from my friend who lived in Spain is to keep the oil for future tortillas. This sucker uses up so much oil that reusing it is key. After you have drained the oil, clean the pan and put it back on the heat.
  • Turn the burner up to a relatively high heat and pour in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Immediately pour in the eggs and potatoes and spread around the pan.
  • When everything is in the pan, turn the heat to medium. Use a thin spatula to loosen the mixture from the sides and bottom of the pan. Loosening the eggs and potatoes from the bottom is clutch for the next step.
  • After about 6-8 minutes and the eggs are beginning to look like they’re setting, take a plate that is larger than your pan. This is the part where I screwed up. Put the plate on top of the pan, then flip the tortilla onto the plate. If you’re like me and screw up this part, no worries! A screw-up can be defined as the tortilla sticking to the pan or falling apart upon the flip. Carry on to the next step. If you didn’t screw up (take some time to gloat), add more olive oil to the pan and slide the tortilla back into the pan so that the bottom is now the top. Cook for about 2-3 more minutes. You’ll have a delicious tortilla. Then, move on to the second to last step.
  • Preheat the oven to 350. Pour your sad mess of eggs, potatoes, and onions into a glass baking dish.
  • Grate about a ½-1 cup of Manchego cheese and throw it on top. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.
He looks like he is some sort of indentured servant, but I assure you, he was super excited about grating cheese. He was just against getting his picture taken.

He looks like he is some sort of indentured servant, but I assure you, he was super excited about grating cheese. He was just against getting his picture taken.

  • While the “tortilla” is cooking (or if you succeeded in making your tortilla, gloat), you can deglaze the pan and make a sauce/gravy in the process by adding (you guessed it!) more olive oil to the pan. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 30 seconds then add the garlic and the herbs. Pour in the water while whisking the sauce. Allow it to reduce for about 5 minutes over medium heat.
  • When the tortilla is finished, spoon some sauce over top and enjoy!

Eggplant “Caviar”

4-6 servings

1 medium-large eggplant

1 Tb sesame seeds

juice from one lemon

2 Tb olive oil

1 clove of garlic

6-8 slices of rustic bread, grilled or toasted

1 Tb of parsley

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the eggplant in half length-wise and place on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until the flesh begins to char.
  2. As the eggplant is cooking, toast the sesame seeds for about 3 minutes in a non-stick pan.
  3. After the eggplant has begun to char, remove from the oven and allow to cool enough to handle. Once it is cool, remove the flesh and squeeze out the juice.
  4. Place the eggplant in a food processor with the olive oil, sesame seeds, lemon, and garlic. Pulse until it is still slightly chunky.
  5. Put the “caviar” in a bowl, and stir in the parsley.
  6. Serve on the bread.
Tortilla espanola bake and eggplant caviar

Tortilla espanola bake and eggplant caviar


Vegetable Beef Stew


The past week has been a snowy, cold mess here in Maryland. Being from Chicago, I should be better at this kind of weather, but I’m not. Basically, all I want to do is sit around and drink hot chocolate while reading a book. That’s the good life, my friends. To further our winter ennui, Ben has been sick for the past week and a half. It’s very sad. However, yesterday was the first day he has felt more like himself, so we decided to venture out and play in the snow.

While in Colorado, Ben learned about snow. Here he has paused from his stomping around in circles saying, "snow".

While in Colorado, Ben learned about snow. Here he has paused from his stomping around in circles saying, “snow”.

In addition to enjoying the snow, we needed to replenish our groceries. I had it in my head that I wanted to make a ham sometime this weekend so that next weekend, when it gets cold again, I can make some split pea soup. Anyway, Ben and I took an epic trip to the grocery store. This trip wasn’t epic in the sense that it was far (1.2 miles) or that we spent a lot, but epic in that it took ffffffoooooorrrrreeeeevvvvvvvveeeeeeerrrrr. Our journey took so long that the poor kid ate all of his Cheerios and I had to be “that mom” who buys her kid food to eat in the store because he is too hungry. An hour and ten minutes and two boxes of raisins later, we left the store for the fixings for my mom’s Vegetable Beef Stew, which I have changed for my own purposes.

While he didn't fall asleep this time, sometimes Ben takes a little snooze in the grocery store.

While he didn’t fall asleep this time, sometimes Ben takes a little snooze in the grocery store.

This stew is the ultimate comfort food from my childhood. On cold or dreary days, it is the best at filling both your body and soul. This recipe also freezes really well, which can make it be a really easy dinner on a yucky night.

Vegetable Beef Stew

Hands on time, 30 minutes; Simmering time, 2 hours (minimum)

Makes about 8 servings for a main course, 12 for a side

2 lbs. stew beef (Pot roast works well. If you have pot roast, cut into 1″ cubes)

2 Tb olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 celery stalks, cut cross wise

4 14.5 oz cans or 2 29 oz cans of diced tomatoes, pureed

2 russet potatoes, cut in 1″ cubes

1/4 cabbage, finely sliced

4 cups frozen mixed vegetables

salt and pepper to taste

In a large, heavy bottomed pot (I used a Dutch oven), over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add in the onions and celery to soften. Once the celery and onions are tender, add in the beef, season with salt and pepper, and brown.

Brown the beef and season with salt and pepper.

Oh raw beef, you are so gross looking.

While the beef is browning, puree the tomatoes until they have a slightly chunky consistency. Add the tomatoes to the pot once the beef has browned.

Add in the cabbage

Add in the cabbage

After stirring in the tomatoes, add in the potatoes and cabbage. Adjust the seasonings. Bring the stew to a simmer and then reduce the heat. Let simmer uncovered for at least 1 hour. The longer you let it cook, the more the flavors will develop. if the liquid starts to look like it is reducing to much, cover the pot. An hour before serving, add in the frozen vegetables, cover, and let simmer for the remaining hour.


After letting the broth reduce, add in the vegetables about 1 hour before serving

Serve with some nice crusty rye bread or grilled cheese sandwiches and you’re good to go! Enjoy!

Finished product