I tasted this marvelous tapa at Laredo, a new Madrid tapas bar recommended to me by someone we struck up a conversation with at another tapas bar and who insisted we had to go there. Since he was the owner of a well-known pastry shop, he called Laredo on the spot and secured a reservation for a hard-to-come-by table (the bar, of course, is open to all). There we also ordered baby rabbit chops—the tiniest chops I had ever seen, which, along with this vegetable medley served with a fried quail egg and a garnish of shoestring potatoes, are dishes that fill my dreams.
Quail eggs, the ideal size for tapas, are readily available at Asian markets, and your guests are sure to find their diminutive size charming. The pisto, as this vegetable mixture is called, includes ñora, a sweet dried red pepper that lends a very special flavor, so be sure to use it. And for a most attractive appearance dice rather than chop the vegetables, even though it involves a little more work. The vegetables can be cooked in advance, leaving just the eggs, which fry in seconds, for the last minute. If you choose to make the garnish of shoestring potatoes, a partial frying at a low temperature can be done in advance, and the final crisping at a higher temperature, when ready to serve.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, such as Vidalia or other sweet onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced Serrano ham or prosciutto, cut from a 1/8-inch-thick slice
- 1 red pepper (¾–1 pound), finely diced
- 1 green pepper (¾–1 pound), finely diced
- ½ small ñora or 1 New Mexico–style dried red pepper, cored and seeded
- 1 cup finely chopped tomato
- ½ cup finely diced zucchini
- 1 tablespoon dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon minced parsley
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- Freshly ground pepper
- Mild olive oil for frying
- 6–8 quail eggs
- Kosher or sea salt
- Fried shoestring potatoes or fresh or canned French fried onions for garnish
Heat the oil in a shallow sauté pan and slowly sauté the onion, garlic, and ham until the onion is softened. Add the red and green peppers and the ñora and continue cooking slowly until the peppers begin to soften. Stir in the tomato, zucchini, white wine, parsley, cumin, sugar, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer about 30 minutes, or until done to taste. Press the ñora with the back of a wooden spoon to extract its flavor, then discard the skin. [May be prepared ahead] Divide the pisto onto 6–8 small individual dishes and keep warm.
Pour the oil to a depth of ¼ inch in a small skillet and heat to the smoking point. Crack a quail egg or two with the edge of a sharp knife and place in the hot oil, using a spoon to pour a little oil over the egg so that it puffs and crisps. This will take less than a minute. Drain on paper towels and repeat for the remaining eggs. Place one egg over each dish of pisto, sprinkle with salt, and garnish the plate with the potatoes or onions. Serve right away.
Nutritional information is based on 8 servings.
Nutritional information is based on 1/4 teaspoon added salt per serving.
Nutrition information is based on using 8 Quail Eggs.
Nutritional information is based on using 2 tablespoons of mild oil to fry the quail eggs.
Nutritional information does not include garnish of fried shoestring potatoes or canned French fried onion rings.