I couldn’t be more excited for Big Brother. At the end of this month he’s headed off to Spain with Big Cousin to spend 3 whole weeks basking in the Spanish sun with his Abuela and Papa. It’s incredible to me how much he still remembers of his travels to Andalucia. The last time he visited, he was just shy of 4 years old. He was wide eyed and quick to move his head side to side as he observed every small detail from a culture so different than his own in the states. He shared with me once how he didn’t understand how everyone knew him. I was confused until he told me, “watch mama, everyone says hi to me as I walk by.” That lit up my heart since it is customary for everyone to greet you with a buenos dias, tarde or if they’re short on words a simple, buenas, does suffice. My sweet boy. I used to love watching his small body contrasted against an elaborate fountain of pure art spitting water 20 feet into the sky. With head staring straight up, soaking in the majestic power of such a sight, he’d whisper, “mama, why don’t they make these in Iowa?” I would stare into his sparkling blue eyes and whisper back, “because this is Spain.”
At four, he felt what I did at nine. A place so distant, so foreign, yet…home. This year as he travels back to Spain to discover more of its beauty, I can only imagine that he’ll come back even more in love with a country that is his as well.
One of my favorite meals that I fell in love with as a small girl of nine in Chipiona were tortillitas. I’d travel to the open air market with my Tita Rora and I’d usually make my rounds until I found the boquerones. Tiny, see through fish, jumping about in a million different directions. The fish monger would catch us a half pound or so and we’d take them, straight away, home and mix them in a batter, still alive, until they hit the frying pan where they’d become these delectible little fritters. Since we can’t find these small fish in the states, my mami taught me how to make them from shrimp. Still swoon worthy, they’ve become a favorite for my kids as well as Gabe.
They’re a great, quick, summertime meal that tastes especially savory when served with a bowl of cold gazpacho soup. As Big Brother heads off to Spain, I told him to keep his eyes peeled for the boquerones and ask his Abuela to make him some tortillitas. I’m sure they’ll hold a special place in his heart as they do for me.
Spanish tortillitas - Summer shrimp fritters from the South of Spain. These make a wonderful weekday meal that come together quickly that the entire family will enjoy.
- 16 large shrimp, de-skinned, de-veined, and then chopped into small pieces, about a scant cup (Reserve skins and if they have heads, reserve them as well)
- 1/2 cup onion, finely diced
- 1 garlic clove, pressed or finely minced
- 2 tbls parsley, finely diced
- pinch of saffron threads
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup shrimp broth (from reserved skins and heads)
- 1 tsp salt
- Dash of pepper
- In a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the skins and heads (if you had any) and enough water to cover. Just bring to a slow boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Once the shrimp broth is complete, remove the shrimp and heads (if you had any) and add the pinch of saffron threads to release its flavor and color. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Whisk in a half cup of the shrimp broth into the dry ingredients and mix into a batter. It should be about the consistency of a pancake batter - not too thick, not too thin. Add additional flour or broth as needed. Once the batter is to the right consistency, mix in the shrimp, onion, garlic, and parsley.
- In a skillet or cast iron pan, gradually bring a 1/2” of extra virgin olive oil or lard to medium heat.
- Using a large tablespoon, drop enough batter into the hot oil to make about a 2” diameter round. (using your spoon, spread the batter around just a bit to form a round circle)
- Working in batches, fry until cooked through on each side; about 1-2 minutes per side.
- Once cooked through, remove from the pan and place on a towel to soak up any oil that’s left lingering behind. While working in batches keep the cooked shrimp fritters warm in a 170F oven.
Sending my son abroad, is not easy for this mama. Tell me, do you have any words of encouragement for me? A story to share, a scripture to pass on. I know he’s safe, but wow, he’ll be so far away.