Squid Ink: Toast on the Mediterranean
The end of summer is near, and 2012 is looming. Before the apocalypse arrives, let’s enjoy a decadent treat. The time of the “torrijas” has come.
My holidays, like many expats’, are not very exotic. They consist of going back home and enjoying (or suffering) familiar flavors, family, friends, sights, light. I’ve always thought the light in my home country, Spain, was something special.
At home this summer, I experienced an unusual convergence of friend and light.
My friend Mariluz (“light” in Spanish) called me and told me that she was going to take me to a new and special restaurant. Was it ever special. The restaurant was Lumine (“light” in Latin), in Tarragona on the Mediterranean. The chef there, Eduardo Cuesta, prepared an awesome menu. My only complaint was that I couldn’t stop eating. Foie gras with fig marmalade and walnuts, scallops cooked in champagne with vegetables, cod with cauliflower cream, steak with Yzaguirre cheese -- the meal was a celebration of the flavors of Southern Spain. But the dessert is what I want to talk about — chocolate-coconut torrijas, with rice-pudding ice cream.
It was a long, long time ago when I last had torrijas. I fell in love with the dish all over again at Lumine. Torrijas is peasant food, but is eaten by kings as well. It’s essentially French toast, but we prefer to think of it as a Spanish dish (they were first written about in the 15th century by the Spanish poet Juan del Encina, who said that it was an excellent food for new mamas).
Torrijas lends itself to experimentation. Add ingredients to suit your taste, such as cocoa (as Cuesta did), strawberries, or rum. The dish is sweet enough to make a rich dessert. Just be sure to make it before it’s too late.
12 slices of bread (use a baguette or another thick bread — sandwich bread is too thin)
1 liter of milk
125 grams white sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp. of vanilla extract
1 bay leaf
The Peel of one lemon and one orange
(Add liquor or liqueur if you like — rum or cointreau are nice)
Slowly heat the milk with the cloves, cinnamon, vanilla, the bay leaf and half of the peels. After heating for about ten minutes, let the milk cool. Prepare a syrup by diluting the honey with hot water, and adding the remaining orange and lemon peel and the liquor or liqueur.
Soak the bread in the strained milk. Whisk the eggs and then soak the bread in them. Fry the bread on medium heat in abundant olive oil (make sure your oil is hot before you add the bread).
When the bread has plenty of color, remove it from the skillet. Place it on paper to absorb extra oil. Serve it with the syrup mixture.