Several weeks ago, we joined our friends Gina and Raphael, along with Gina’s parents, Ricardo and Anna Maria, for an evening at Ann Arbor’s Performance Network. That night, Valeria “La Chispa” Montes and Company performed the music and dance of flamenco. La Chispa and Company are a local flamenco group based in Detroit and were in Ann Arbor for a one-night special performance. We felt really lucky to catch this group as flamenco is something both Pierre and I love. Sometimes, I walk around the house with my arms in the air while stomping my feet, saying “Eso!!!” Actually, we both do.
La Chispa truly rocks because she embodies all the things I love about artists and dancers — the fire within, the physical strength and balletic grace. She and her company of guitar players and guest dancers will be performing this summer in Detroit’s Concert of Colors on July 19 at 2pm. You won’t regret seeing them at this great event and, who knows, you might even spot in the audience a very small Asian chick struttin’ around with castanets.
Below are photos of La Chispa and Company taken by Pierre.
While watching their performance, I really felt transported to Spain, even if it were only a short while. Although I’ve never traveled to Andalucía or any part of Spain, I somehow felt a bit homesick for this part of the world I’ve only known through its food, music and dance. I was this close from booking the next flight to any city on the Iberian peninsula. Luckily, my good friend Carmen had gifted me some dried Chufa nuts (aka tigernuts) that she brought back from her last trip to her home country. I used them to make one of my favorite drinks – horchata.
In Spain, chufas are used to make a lovely and refreshing drink – Horchata de Chufas, a Valencian specialty. This nutty, milky drink is just what I needed. With this hot, humid spell we had, it was an even better treat. Horchata is also made all over Latin America with various ingredients like rice, almonds, sesame seeds, to name a few. Horchata made from chufas has this unmistakable earthy scent and nutty flavor that is very different than horchata made from other ingredients. If you travel to Spain, you can purchase them at candy shops that sell frutos secos. Here, in the States, one place I’ve found selling chufa nuts is La Tienda, where you can order them online. The recipe below is from their site.
HORCHATA DE CHUFAS – SPANISH TIGERNUT MILK
recipe from La Tienda
INGREDIENTS (approx. 1 liter)
- 250 grams chufa nuts (about 7 ounces)
- 1 quart (liter) of water
- one cinnamon stick (optional)
- 1 tsp grated lemon peel (optional)
- about 1 cup of sugar (try the recipe with less the first time – you can always add more!)
For one liter of Horchata, soak 250 grams of chufa nuts in water for 24 hours. In a blender, grind the nuts, water, cinnamon, sugar and lemon until you have an even, smooth mixture. Let it sit in water for a half an hour. Press and strain the paste to obtain horchata. Refrigerate for at least an hour – then finish it in the freezer for 20 minutes until slightly slushy (optional).
Another Spanish item that I’ve enjoyed at my friend Carmen’s home was Tortilla. Not the flat, round disks made from flour or corn but a thick potato and egg omelet. It really is amazing how a dish of three simple ingredients of potatoes, eggs and onions can be so good. Served with a plain green salad tossed with salt, olive oil and vinegar, it’s the perfect dinner. Cut into small wedges or squares, tortilla is great for parties or picnics too. The recipe I used is from Gourmet Traveller. You can get the recipe I used and watch a video on how to make Tortilla here.
recipe from GourmetTraveller
INGREDIENTS: (6 servings)
- 1/3 cup (80ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, sliced into thin rings
- 6 eggs
- 1 lb (½ kg) boiled potatoes, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 6 Piquillo peppers, drained
To make tortilla, heat 1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil in a 10-inch (25cm) non-stick frying pan over medium heat, add onion and sauté for 3-5 minutes or until softened. Using a slotted spoon transfer to a small bowl, leaving any residual oil in the frying pan.
Meanwhile, lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl and season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add potatoes, onions and paprika and combine well. Let mixture marinate for a couple of hours in the refrigerator, preferably overnight. Remove tortilla mixture from refrigerator 30 minutes before planning to cook it.
To make tortilla, heat the frying pan again, adding remaining 1 tbsp olive oil, over medium heat. When oil begins to smoke slightly, add tortilla mixture to pan, shaking pan vigorously so that egg mixture amalgamates in bottom of pan. Reduce heat and cook for 4-5 minutes or until mixture all but sets. Place a plate over the frying pan and carefully invert the frying pan so that tortilla is on plate uncooked side down. Return frying pan to heat, carefully slide tortilla back in and cook for a further 4-5 minutes until tortilla is firm to the touch.
Transfer to a serving plate and allow to cool before serving. Cut into wedges and serve with Piquillo peppers and alioli if desired.
June 11, 2008 at '8:26'
Both of these look great. I love tortilla espanola but I never, ever make it – if my husband saw that quantity of eggs going into anything but ice cream, he would lose his mind! Maybe I’ll sneak it one day when he’s not looking. And the horchata looks wonderful too!
June 11, 2008 at '10:48'
Haha! I can just picture you dancing around your house. I know where to take you next time you’re in town! There’s a dance studio/tapas bar where you can take lessons or dance salsa and flamenco on Fridays and Saturdays. I have no rhythm so I’ll just be munching away at the tapas bar and watch the two of you cut across the dance floor.
June 12, 2008 at '9:43'
Bravo Pierre! The photos are gorgeous1 The first one is my favorite. Happy to hear that you guys had a great time.
Tigernuts look like a variety of nuts we have in Algeria as well, but I’m not sure.
Everything looks fantastic, my dear Christine! And your plates are so cute. Love this style. They remind me of the one my grandma had. Where did you get them from?
June 13, 2008 at '7:34'
What a great post. We’re pretty much obsessed with Spain and all things Spain, so this was an enjoyable post for me. Tortilla Espanola is one of my favorites and, unfortunately, never tastes as good as when you’re in Spain. I use Penelope Casas recipe which is as authentic as I’ve tasted and really easy to do. This one looks delicious and thick – the way I like it! SUPER-thin cut potatoes really is the key!
June 13, 2008 at '8:36'
Hi Christine do you remember me? I live in Temecula CA?
I love your post, I love Tapas and Flamenco. Actually I am from the French Basque Country so San Sebastian famous for its Tapas and the best Chefs is only 40 minutes from my home land! By the way I tagged you…. you are the next!
June 13, 2008 at '10:53'
I know you enjoyed this so much and the photos are great.
I can’t even imagine what the milk is like but the potatoes I am familiar with and they look good to me.
June 13, 2008 at '21:36'
I also forgot to say, try salting and pan-frying the potatoes instead of boiling. I think there’s more flavor that way.
June 16, 2008 at '22:30'
FearlessKitchen – Oh, thanks. I know, the eggs seem a bit much, but then again, there are quite a few servings, so it’s not like you’re eating 6 eggs in one sitting 🙂
WC – Oh, I have a feeling we might have to drag you onto the dance floor. Maybe we could bribe you some sangria 🙂 And thanks for the tips on pan-frying the potatoes first. I’ll try that next time.
Warda – I know chufa nuts have their origins from Arab Moors – so I wonder if they are indeed the same ones you have in Algeria. I’d be interested in finding out the Algerian nut you’re thinking about. Yes, aren’t the plates cute? I purchased them at some marchés aux puces.
Shayne – Thanks! We’ll have to have horchata the next time we get together too.
June 18, 2008 at '5:11'
Oooh, wonderful captures! Kudos, Pierre 🙂 I’ve been terrible about catching up with blogs and commenting (and of course, I never manage to do the two at the same time). Now I know who has a chinois! I have to tell you that my sister gave me one yeeeeears ago without knowing what it was. Except she only gave me the hat and not the wooden crusher thingy (yeah, the technical term…) I eventually returned the hat to W-S so I could cash in for something else as I didn’t know what to do with the chinois. Now I can kick myself. Your tour of Spanish foods is mouth-watering – and I LOVE Gourmet Traveller!! My pal in Oz sent me one in the post a few months ago and I nearly cried over those gorgeous photos (of passion fruit desserts)!
June 21, 2008 at '19:23'
I’m thinking Ann Arbor is a place that I’d like to live! Your stories of all the great places, events and festivals that go on there are so tempting!
I love watching Flamenco! It’s so sensual, sexy, passionate and beautiful to watch. Spanish food is very new to me and your drink and dish are a great start!
Can we move in with you guys? I can just eat your salad all the time!
August 25, 2008 at '6:43'
The German language has a very nice word to describe that feeling that you have, the word “Fernweh”, sort of homesickness for far-off parts of the world 😉
Your horchata looks really delicious and the pictures are wonderful!
I just discover you and I’m wandering along these pages!
February 9, 2009 at '10:50'
I,m sorry for tell you that i ve not ever see a tortilla like this. It depends ons the Spain’s areas, ingredients could be differents and i´m sure your friend Carmen gave you the right recipe. Looking the result I think that your only problem is that you’ve not ever see making in live the preparation ¿potatoes cooked and not fried?). I bring you my help for next approximation to the wonderful spanish food. Regards.
March 24, 2009 at '12:59'
I read your blog all the time last year and then stopped, because I didn’t have any time to cook. Now I come back to find you’ve stopped blogging!
Any chance you’ll start again? Or did you just move your blog to another site?
February 3, 2010 at '12:32'
I love horchata….in Nigeria I made it ALL the time, but can’t find it in the Netherlands. I’ve found a good sub though – rice, flavoured with Tonka beans! Love your blog!!!!!
February 21, 2010 at '4:47'
hey there , thanks alot for that .. can u please put some videos for this 😉 and thanks again you have great post here