Sam’s Simple Spanish Picnic

empty camera 7-3-13 615As the summer weather and city-wide events have begun to take full effect in NYC (as well as in my current local of Barcelona, Spain!), the sun, music, outdoor film showings, and plush green grass are far too inviting to spend your evenings indoors. For that matter, summer is a time where it feels like a shame to pay restaurant prices for food and wine that you yourself can prepare and enjoy, picnic-style in the park.

Spanish food is rooted in tradition, and the rule (as in most food cultures from the numerous countries abutting the placid waters of the Mediterranean) is to keep it simple:

1) Charcutería

No picnic, or meal for that matter in Barcelona would be complete without some kind of charcutería. Jamón (salt cured and dried ham) is king, and is you want to taste something truly amazing shell out the money for Jamón Bellota (acorn-fed pigs)! Otherwise, cheaper jamón serrano will do! Also make sure to bring a fresh baguette (or two!)

2)  Wine

Summer picnics yearn for well-chilled white wine. Here in the region of Catalunya, Penedés is one of the most widely consumed and widely available white wines, and luckily for you, Penedés is often readily available in wine stores through the US as well!

3) Cheese

There are more cheeses in Spain than I care to list, but luckily for you, Manchego is surely the most well-know (and most widely available) Spanish cheese in the United States. It’s quite cheap here in Barcelona, but expect to pay what one might consider “gourmet grocer” prices in the US for a hunk of this firm, rich sheep’s milk cheese from the La Mancha region of Spain.

4) Veggies

A salad is always a safe bet. Grapes, arugula, goat cheese, and Marcona almonds with a sherry vinegar and olive oil dressing should hit the spot!


2 Tbsp sherry vinegar

4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/4 tsp fine sugar

1/2 tsp Spanish pimentón (paprika)

1/2 small shallot, minced

salt and fresh cracked pepper

-Mince the shallot and place in a stainless steel or glass mixing bowl.

-Add vinegar, paprika, a pinch of salt and a few twists of the pepper mill. Whisk to combine

-Slowly whisk the oil into the vinegar drop by drop to form and emulsion

-Bring the dressing to the picnic in a reused jar and dress right before serving to avoid soggy greens

5) Something Hearty

There are few things as ubiquitous to everyday Spanish food as the Tortilla Española. At it’s most basic, a Spanish tortilla is an egg and potato frittata. Served at room temperature in a wedge, cubed on a tooth pick, or balanced on a slice of bread (or even in a sandwich!), this is a staple snack here in Spain, and everyone make’s it best….

IMG_8024Tortilla Española

Serves 4-6

Tools: 10” non-stick pan. Rubber spatula


4-5 Medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced

1 cup small-diced Spanish Chorizo or Morcilla

3 Tbsp neutral oil (canola)

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp ground cumin

8 medium eggs, beaten with 1 tsp salt

salt and fresh pepper

-Heat the neutral in the non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add diced sausage and the ground cumin. Stir to “bloom” the spices and cook gently for 8 minutes, then turn the heat to high. Once the pan is hot, add the diced potato. Sauté until nearly soft (5-8 minutes)

-Season the beaten eggs with fresh ground pepper/1 tsp salt. Pour slowly into the pan but allow pan to cool off the heat for 15 seconds before adding eggs to avoid overly browning the tortilla).

-Set heat as low as possible, cover pan (lid or plate) and wait….

-Once edges start to set, gently pull the cooked egg away from the side of the pan to allow raw egg to flow in. Repeat until the tortilla is almost set.

-Now this is the tricky part! Make sure the tortilla is unstuck completely from the pan using your spatula gently, then place a plate upside over the saute pan. Holding the pan in one hand and pressing the plate down with the other, invert the two so that the tortilla ends up wet side-down on the plate.

-Next slide it back into the pan to cook the other side briefly (3-5 minutes). Finally, flip again onto a clean plate, allow to cool slightly, and cut into slices, cubes, or wedges! Drizzle with olive oil and enjoy! Serve room temperature at the picnic.  Keeps a day on the refrigerator.

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Author My First Apartment

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Sam is originally from Boston, MA. He studied ecology and Spanish language during his undergraduate degree at Hampshire College (Amherst, MA). He then went on to train as a chef at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (Hyde Park, NY) and earn an introductory certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers in San Francisco in 2013. He currently lives in Barcelona, Spain and works as a culinary tour operator, wine educator, and food/travel writer for several outlets including My First Apartment. You can check out his blog at Zucker and Spice Travel.

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