When it's an omelet, of course! (Don't worry, this Dadaist answer will soon make sense).
A month ago, I promised an unusual Catalan recipe that features green garlic "later in the week." I made the dish, took pictures, ate it, and then plumb forgot about it.
My promise remained buried in my gray matter until an alert reader, Jesse, emailed me a few days ago. Jesse subscribes to the weekly CSA box (go Jesse!) from one of my favorite local farms, Full Belly, and was scheduled to receive a bunch of fresh green garlic on Tuesday. Jesse, hopefully you still have some of your stash remaining to use in this recipe!
During my trip to the Priorat wine region of Catalonia last summer, I sampled what was to me an unusual riff on the classic Spanish tortilla. In place of the traditional potatoes (and onions in some renditions), the cook had substituted local white beans, called mongetes, and green garlic. Tasted alongside the potato version, I actually preferred this tender, mildly garlicky tortilla.
Once I returned home, I flipped through old and new Spanish cookbooks and learned that the Spanish tortilla is just as versatile a platform for experimentation as the more familiar (to American cooks) frittata of Italy. The potato-based tortilla is the most famous and widely adored version, but there are countless others. What they all have in common is a relatively low proportion of eggs to filling.
Catalan cooks appear to be especially fond of tinkering with the classic potato version. In his book Catalan Cuisine, Colman Andrews wrote that he encountered a wide variety of fillings while in Catalonia, including "white beans, green beans, samfaina [similar to French ratatouille], artichokes, asparagus, garlic shoots [another word for green garlic], wild mushrooms, tuna, botifarra sausage, apples or pears, even fried zucchini flowers." The version I tasted, then, was not as shockingly original as I had assumed!
It's time I explain the seemingly absurd riddle of the title. It's quite simple, actually. In the Catalan language, the word for tortilla is truita, which means "trout." Although theories abound as to why a round omelet made of eggs and vegetables would be called a trout, nobody seems to know the true reason. To differentiate between a real trout and an omelet, Catalans call the fish a "trout of the river" (truita de riu). A few months back, when I made a delicious tortilla with potatoes, leeks, and smoked trout, I had unwittingly made perhaps the world's first truita de truita.
The following version is called a truita de mongetes i all tendre, meaning white bean and green garlic omelet. In its homeland, it would most likely be a served as a tapa, cut into small wedges or squares and served on toasted slices of baguette, perhaps with a smear of romesco sauce or a paper thin slice of jamón serrano. N and I enjoyed this truita one weekend for brunch. It would also makes a nice luncheon or early supper with a simple salad and a glass of sparkling Catalan Cava.
Catalan-style White Bean and Green Garlic Tortilla
Truita de Mongetes i All Tendre
One of the things I love most about shopping at markets in Spain is the cooked bean stand. In every market, there is at least one stand that sells all kinds of freshly cooked legumes, from lentils to garbanzos. You buy just the quantity needed to make that day's meal, and then the shopkeeper hands it to you in a little plastic bag, the contents often still warm from the fire. It's an invaluable convenience to the cook short on time. I'd love to see a stand like that at my local farmers market, but I fear the demand from American consumers wouldn't be as reliably strong as that of the bean-loving Spaniards.
The quality of dried legumes is generally much higher in Spain than here in the U.S. In fact, the most celebrated varieties, like the white beans from Santa Pau which grow in volcanic soil, have been awarded their own denominación de origen, on par with a fine wine. In lieu of these expensive Catalan jewels, use common American navy beans or other small white beans in this recipe. In the Bay Area (and on line), a good source for heirloom bean varieties is Rancho Gordo. Their marrow beans would be a worthy substitute for mongetes. For convenience, a good quality canned bean (if there is such a thing) will work in a pinch.
One last note. The quantity of olive oil called for in this recipe may sound high for one little omelet. You can get away with as little as 2 tablespoons, but for that authentic Catalan flavor, use all 4. Otherwise, the starchiness of the beans can be overwhelmingly monotonous.
serves 2 (or more as a tapa)
2 c cooked and drained small white beans (such as navy)
2-4 T extra virgin olive oil
¾ c green garlic, sliced into ½-inch (1 cm) thick pieces
black pepper, freshly ground
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
For this recipe, you need a deep non-stick skillet, ideally about 6 inches in diameter. If your pan is bigger, increase the ingredients proportionally. You also need a rimless plate that is slightly larger in diameter for when it's time to flip the truita.
Heat the 1-3 tablespoons (see note above) of the oil in your skillet over medium heat. Fry the slices of garlic for a minute or two until soft, but not brown. Add the beans and cook for another minute.
Pour the bean mixture into a bowl and combine with the eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Wipe out your pan.
Return the pan to the stove, over medium-low heat. Add 2 teaspoons of oil to the pan. When the oil is hot, pour in the egg mixture. Shake and move the pan continuously and slip a small heat-proof spatula under the eggs to make sure the truita is not sticking. Lower the heat, if necessary, to ensure that the bottom of the truita does not get too brown.
After just about a minute, maybe two, the omelet will have set on the bottom and the top side will remain somewhat liquidy and jiggly. At this point, you're ready to flip the truita.
I recommend wearing oven mitts the first time you attempt the flip, or vuelta in Spanish. Pick up the pan with one hand and hold the plate in the other. Slide the truita onto the plate, cooked side remaining down. Position the pan upside down over the plate so that, when you flip it, the uncooked side of the truita will now be against the bottom of the pan. Then, in one quick steady motion, turn the pan and plate together, so that the pan is now right side up. Use the spatula to tuck in the sides of the truita and make it look pretty.
Continue to cook it until it is done. Usually, I flip it 2 more times to alternate the cooking on both sides, but it's up to you. Like the Spaniards, I prefer my truita slightly underdone, because I am able to find good quality farm-fresh eggs. If you want to cook it all the way through, test it with a toothpick like you would a cake. When you insert it in the middle and it comes out clean, it's done. Unlike a French omelet, truites are best when they have a chance to cool slightly. They can even be made well in advance and served at room temperature.