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Garlic (Recipe: oven-baked tortilla española) {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Adapted in part from the archives, with new photos, links, and a favorite tapas recipe.


Where will you be on July 24, 2009?

I'll be in Chicago with 1,000 bloggers at the BlogHer annual conference.

More than 100,000 people, perhaps including a blogger or two, will be in Gilroy, California, at the world's most famous garlic festival.

As interesting as it is, BlogHer's agenda can't compete with the Great Garlic Cook-off, the Miss Gilroy Garlic Festival parade, and hundreds of food vendors offering their specialties in honor of the "stinking rose".

Which, by the way, is not a rose at all; it's a lily.


Americans didn't really get garlic until fairly recently in our culinary history (the 1940s). Before then, garlic was associated in a derogatory way with the ethnic foods found in working-class immigrant neighborhoods; in diner slang, garlic was Bronx vanilla or Italian perfume. As our world view broadened, so did our palates.

More than 5000 years ago, long before America's culinary awakening, the people of ancient Egypt cultivated and venerated garlic, imbuing it with sacred qualities (garlic was found in King Tut's tomb) and consuming it to enhance strength and endurance. Migrating tribes and explorers carried garlic throughout Asia.

One of the world's heathiest foods, garlic has been proven to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. High in vitamins C and B6, selenium and manganese, garlic also is an anti-inflammatory, may help protect against several forms of cancer, and may be beneficial in weight control.

Above all, though, garlic tastes good. Really good.

Garlic is the master ingredient in master sauces like aioli, skordalia, rouille, and pesto. Without garlic, chicken with 40 cloves of garlic would be...well, just chicken. And garlic bread would be, you know, just bread.

The rule of thumb for cooking with garlic is that the finer the chop, the stronger the flavor. Whole cloves impart very mild flavor; sliced cloves have a bit stronger flavor; minced cloves or those put through a garlic press yield the most intense flavor.

You don't need anything but a broad, sharp knife to handle your garlic, though there are dozens of gizmos on the market for peeling and pressing, and even for removing the garlic smell from your hands (but why bother? The aroma of garlic is one of the most seductive in the kitchen).

To separate cloves, lay the head of garlic on its side. Place a large, broad-bladed knife on top of the bulb, and smash with your fist or the heel of your hand. Be firm and decisive, and the bulb will separate into cloves. Repeat the smashing action with individual cloves to remove the peel.

If I don't see you at BlogHer, I hope it's because you're in Gilroy, soaking up all of the excitement of the 31st annual garlic festival.


Oven-baked tortilla española

You can't have tapas, the wonderful Spanish bar snacks, without a real tortilla, which is a kind of frittata of eggs and potatoes. Making a traditional tortilla española on the stovetop can be a messy proposition, with olive oil spattering everywhere, so why not  bake it in the oven? As with most tapas dishes, this one wants to be made a bit ahead, with time to set. Serves 16 as part of a tapas meal, or 6 as a lunch or brunch main course.


6 oz red-skinned or Yukon gold potato, diced
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 scallions, white and green parts finely chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
5 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
6 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano or Spanish Rocal cheese, grated
3 Tbsp snipped fresh chives
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste


Preheat oven to 375°F.

Placed diced potatoes in a small sauce pan. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook for 5-7 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Drain and set aside to cool slightly.

Spray a casserole dish (approximately 7x10 inch) with olive oil or canola spray, and set aside.

Place the 4 Tbsp olive oil, garlic, scallions and bell peppers in a frying pan and cook over medium heat, stirring, for 5-6 minutes, or until the onions are softened but not browned. Let cool a bit, then stir in the cooked potato.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sour cream, cheese and chives together. Stir in the vegetable-potato mixture, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour the mixture into the baking dish and smooth the top. Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden brown, puffed, and set in the center. Remove from the oven and let cool and set. Run a spatula around the edge, then invert onto a cutting board, browned-side up. If the surface looks a little runny, place it under the broiler to dry out.

Let cool completely. Neaten the edges if necessary, then cut into one-inch squares. Serve on a platter with wooden toothpicks.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Chicken Marbella
Zucchini frittata
Asparagus frittata
Stir-fried garlic lettuce
Spicy garlic eggplant
Deviled eggs

Tortilla española, a favorite tapas dish baked in the oven, from The Perfect Pantry.

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Great garlic cook off? Wow...I hope they bring a lot of breath mints :) Garlic is great to cook with - I've never roasted it alone but it adds so much flavor to everything.

We had friends who identified ethnic cuisine wafting into the halls of their apartment building by what other ingredients were being cooked with the garlic. And what fat was in use.

Spanish is such an important language. By different estimates it is the fourth most spoken language (by number of speakers) in the world after Mandarin, Hindu and English. Here is a great web site - http://ElPlop.Com - that is a Spanish slang and idioms dictionary and is interactive in the sense that one can rate the definitions given and can add their own definitions.

I love the addition of peppers to this recipe, and the fact that it's an "all bake" recipe. I remember my visits to Gilroy (unfortunately not during the festival). The aroma of garlic is everywhere!

mmm, garlic! Your tortilla espangola looks much different than my recipe, and much BETTER!

For those that don't like the smell of garlic on your hands, rub them on something stainless steel while under running cold water.

OMG - I love this - your espangola looks fantastic!

Great info on garlic...I especially was interested to ready about the 'finer the chop...'. It was an aha moment for me. BTW, I've never seen sour cream in a tortilla recipe but I imagine it can only enhance an already great dish.

Oh that looks delicious! Have fun in Chicago :)

Lydia, that recipe sounds DELICIOUS! :)

I will be on the road headed for California. I'll miss my daughter's birthday, the fourth of July and my own Birthday all in one shot. Next year I'll probably hit the Garlic festival, I've never been.

On the way to Cali I'll get to sample some seriously great roadside dives on the way, which sound fun!

I've never made a Spanish tortilla, but you've just given me the inspiration to give it a go. Thanks as always, Lydia!

Yum - I have been looking for a recipe like this ever since I had Spanish Tortilla at a party. It seemed perfect to bring for lunch since it was so tasty cold! Thank you :)

now this is an appetizer, but if made in my house it would be a meal!
these seriously do look crazy good.

ahhh garlic ...how do I count the ways I love you!
Lydia, your garlic photo and the recipe are absolutely seductive.

I have been to the Gilroy garlic fest many times and oh have I enjoyed myself...it's awesome. But the food you have made here...OMG beautiful.

Garlic...luv..luv garlic!

I love garlic and I want cook it very well

What more could you want - a reason to eat garlic and reek for three days? Our farm will be there!

Wow! A garlic cook-off. I bet that is incredible.

When I was pregnant I couldn't stand garlic. It was several years before I could cook with it again. Great tip on the size/taste ratio!

Oh, this looks so good! I could make a whole meal from this!

I ♥ garlic!

WISH I was going to either!!!

Maris, I hope so, too! Though I imagine that if everyone is eating it, you wouldn't even notice the smell.

Mae, they must have lived in a very interesting neighborhood!

TW, we drove through Gilroy for the first time last summer, and I could absolutely smell the garlic in the air. Baking the tortilla eliminates the messy process of cooking the potatoes in a bath of olive oil on the stovetop.

Julia, thanks for the great tip!

Darius, Ben, Deena, Jann: Thanks. This is really good, and really easy. And it looks beautiful when it comes out of the oven.

Joan, the sour cream isn't really noticeable but does help to smooth out the texture a bit.

Jerry, enjoy your road trip, and next year, think about going in late July, when you can pass through Gilroy for the festival.

Anne, I actually think it tastes better cold, which makes this perfect for picnics.

Dawn, with a green salad and some crusty bread, this is a meal for us, too.

Carol, thanks. The garlic photo is from the archives, but I like it so much I wanted to use it again.

Noble Pig, I'm so jealous -- absolutely must get to the garlic festival one of these summers. And the Hatch Chile Festival is high on my to-do list, too.

Veron, Charles, Bridget: do you think there are people who don't love garlic? I can't imagine!

Angie, one of these years I'll get to Gilroy and visit your farm.

Pam, I'd love to see it!

Janel, it's a fun experiment to do -- process some garlic to different degrees, and you can taste the difference.

Jann, so could I, and we often do.

Yum! I love garlic. There is a town in Ontario, Perth, that has a garlic festival in September, but I have never been.

All praise the garlic (except Dracula)! I love a good torta...it's actually better the next day.

Oh the garlic festival. I haven't been since I was a kid. I used to get the garlic ice cream every year. I hated it each time, but I was absolutely convinced that THIS year... I would like it.

Natashya, I didn't know there was another garlic festival. I'd love to go!

Peter, if Dracula doesn't have a sense of humor, so be it. And you're right -- this tortilla definitely wants to be cold.

EB, what does garlic ice cream taste like? We had durian ice cream in Malaysia, and honestly, it was awful. I'm imagining that garlic ice cream might be the same.

I went to the Gilroy garlic festival about a decade ago. It wasn't quite that big, but still incredibly tasty!

Alisa, I have yet to get there, but it's high on my list!

When we were in Spain I had my first tortilla . . . it was heaven. We were at a tapas party in our friends house and his mother had made the tortilla. I was swooning, told him how I was going home and making this. He told me flat out: You can't. You can only really make the tortilla if you learn at your mother's knee. My tortilla is better than the first one I made but I've never gotten one as good as his mother's. But mine are now good enough that I'll keep making them.
I'll be wishing I was in Gilroy and Chicago.

There is some serious drooling going on here. I had Spanish tortilla only once, when I volunteered to teach English one of my students brought one to class. I've always meant to make one of my own, even bought an oven safe non-stick skillet, but, alas, never got around to it. Your post may be just the kick in the pants needed. One question though, are the potatoes peeled in this recipe?

Great recipe! I am featuring it on my Barcelona blog this Tuesday: http://inspireyourlifestyle.wordpress.com/

This looks incredible and I know it will taste great,can't wait to make this dish, see everyone in Gilroy

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