A couple of years ago I traveled to Barcelona and Madrid with my two best friends. As a major foodie, I planned all of our meals (let’s be real, I planned all of our everything… me? controlling?). But one of our best experiences was a random little cafe that we happened upon for lunch one day. They weren’t even serving lunch yet (it was only noon, after all) and the owner didn’t speak much English, but he ended up bringing us dish after dish of classic, no-frills Spanish cooking – pan con tomate, sliced cheeses, and tortilla. At the time, I knew that there was this thing called tortilla that bore no resemblance to the Mexican taco and burrito casings, but this was my first experience tasting it, and I was an immediate convert. It’s just potato, onion, egg, and cheese served room temperature – basically a frittata – but the flavors balance perfectly and it tastes like you could be sitting in any Spanish home kitchen, i.e. exactly as comforting as you’d hope. After deciding to recreate this experience using Food52 founder Amanda Hesser’s Spanish Tortilla recipe, I figured adding a bit of nutrients with a Spanish-inspired side salad would be a great opportunity to practice the lessons I learned in my Basic Vinaigrette post.
And yes, I topped that Spanish tortilla with a totally non-Spanish Sriracha mayo. #scandalous #sorrynotsorry
Check out my Basic Vinaigrette post for a more thorough guide to the different aspects and proportions of a vinaigrette that I considered when developing this recipe. Here, I’ll just briefly go into which ingredients I considered for the chopped salad.
I knew I wanted this salad to really drive home the idea that this was a Spanish meal, so naturally I Googled Spanish flavors. The top 10 include chorizo, paprika, green olives, sherry, garlic, anchovies, roasted red pepper, manchego cheese, lemon, saffron. I wanted this dish to remain vegetarian, so I nixed the chorizo (there’s already paprika anyway) and anchovies, and a vinaigrette seemed like a bit of a waste of saffron. Everything else made it in to either the salad or the dressing. Easy!
Spanish Chopped Salad
- 3 hearts romaine, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 12 oz (2) roasted red bell peppers, cut into strips
- 3 oz green olives, quartered (mine were red pepper marinated)
- shaved manchego cheese
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
- 0.5 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/8 tsp pepper
- 6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- In a screw top container (tupperware, Mason jar, old jelly jar), stir together all vinaigrette ingredients except the oil until fully combined.
- Lightly stir with a fork while streaming in the oil.
- Screw on the top and shake shake shake until you can’t see distinct layers of the oil and vinegar. It should be opaque and surprisingly thick.
- Dip in a leaf of lettuce to taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
- You can store this in the fridge and shake it up again to re-emulsify before serving. Note that the oil will likely solidify and need to be warmed before shaking (no preservatives here!). Also, the garlic will get more pungent as it sits, so remove before refrigerating if you’re worried.
- Toss romaine with dressing, top with peppers, olives and cheese.
The plus side is that I love Spanish flavors, and these olives and cheese really hit the spot. I probably should have chosen a different lettuce for this. I find Romaine very difficult to eat and it didn’t really add that much. Maybe frisee or baby kale in the future?
The vinaigrette was just ok. The lemon was surprisingly strong in the vinaigrette, while the sherry, garlic, and paprika flavors were more muted than I’d hoped (although they strengthened after a night in the fridge). A bit of added sugar would have rounded out the flavors.