Thursday, April 30, 2009
Basque Views with an Omelette~
My first trip to the Basque Country, or Euskadi, was in 1999 with my mother. I had heard about this majestic homeland since I was a child and given that both sides of my family originate from both the Spanish and French sides, it was inevitable that one day I would make the journey there and finally experience it's beauty for myself.
Up to that year, I had traveled quite a bit outside the U.S. but had not made it to Euskadi. It was the kind of journey that would serve as something of a baptism of sorts, so I wanted to share that experience with my mom. You see, she was the driving force behind all-things-Basque during my brother and my childhood. My mom was the brave explorer who in 1963 at the young age of 19, set out on the SS France with three of her Basque friends for Europe and the adventure of their lives. Having heard the details of that story a hundred times, I'm still discovering new pieces of that puzzle to this day. On the way to San Francisco recently, my mom shared another funny anecdote about the time she and her friends were living in the family's Baserri in Pamplona and how she dumped an entire vat of fresh olive oil onto the floor and all over their feet!
I never grow tired of the recounting of her youthful adventures - she truly was the pioneer of her generation of cousins in the Laca family. She was raised by not only her Basque parents, but also by her grandfather, "Chichie" who moved in with the family after his years of sheep herding in America. The essence of "Basque" was ingrained in my mother's soul from day one ~ and in turn, I can tell you that soulful gift is something that I too have always carried with me...to this very moment. My father, of course, is also a strong Basque man with many of the traditional cultural traits but he will also tell you that my mom, his wife, has given him the gift of connecting to his homeland, as well. She truly is the matriarch and soul-giver in our family.
There was a moment in 1999 that happened for me while I was sitting upon a park bench in our family's hometown of Lekeitio. My mom and I had strolled from our hotel down to the beach and up to the steps of this tiny, lush green park perched above the Lekeitio harbour, with a most amazing view of the ocean and the little island just off the shore. I believe it was during those moments of viewing the sea, sitting in silence and watching the Basque flag flying with it's green, red and white colors, waving high above the fishing boats, when I truly experienced my greatest "soul connection." Tears welled in my eyes and I knew then what it felt like to know your roots - to know from where you came...to know you were home.
I found a quote yesterday that truly inspired me to write this story down - it spoke to exactly how my heart and soul felt during that time in the park in Lekeitio.
"I was once more in my own place, an invader of what was already mine." M.F. Fisher
Along with the heart-felt moments and family connections rekindled on that trip, there was also great indulgence in native foods and amazing and traditional "tortilla" (or in English), omelettes!
Here's a recipe for a wonderful gluten-free tortilla/omelette with asparagus and potato that you won't want to deprive your taste buds of ~ Go native and use white asparagus instead!
3/4 lb. thin asparagus
3 to 4 Tbs. olive oil
2 large green onions, chopped
6 to 8 small red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into
slices 1/8 inch thick
1 tsp. salt, plus pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 Tbs. snipped fresh chives, plus chive blossoms
for garnish (optional)
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
About 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 bunch watercress, tough stems removed
Cut or snap off the tough ends from the asparagus and place the spears on a steamer rack over boiling water. Cover and steam until tender, about 2 minutes. Remove from the steamer and cut into 1-inch lengths. Set aside.
In a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat, warm 3 Tbs. olive oil. Add the green onions and sauté until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the potatoes, the
1 tsp. salt, tarragon and pepper and sauté until the potatoes glisten, about 3 minutes, adding the remaining 1 Tbs. oil if needed to prevent sticking. Cover and cook until the potatoes are nearly tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat to high and cook, stirring constantly, until the potatoes are browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the chives and asparagus and remove from the heat.
Preheat an oven to 375°F.
In a nonstick fry pan or ovenproof sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the eggs until blended. Stir in the pinch of salt and the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and season with pepper. Pour the eggs into the hot pan. Stir gently in the center and, using a fork or spatula, carefully lift the edges and gently push the eggs to one side of the pan, tilting the pan slightly to allow the uncooked eggs to flow underneath. Cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Spread the vegetables evenly over the eggs. Sprinkle the cheese on top. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the eggs are set and the cheese melts, about 15 minutes. The cooking time will depend on the size of the pan and whether the vegetables are still hot.
Remove from the oven and let stand for a few minutes, then cut into wedges and serve, garnished with watercress sprigs and chive blossoms. Serves 8 to 10.
Enjoy this delicious tortilla - you can eat this in the Basque country for breakfast, lunch or dinner (especially if you are a Celiac!) - so you're allowed to do the same, here in the States :)
There's great joy in the journey - and the most important things in life are laughing with the ones you love, seeking adventure and pushing yourself from your comfort zone. Allow each day's experiences to help you grow and stretch your limbs and your soul!