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.
These shrimp fritters from the south of Spain come together quickly, making them a perfect weekday summer meal 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)
- pinch of saffron threads
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup shrimp broth (from reserved skins and heads)
- 1/2 cup onion, finely diced
- 1 garlic clove, pressed or finely minced
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely diced
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the skins and heads (if you had any) from the shrimp and enough water to cover them by 1/2”. Gently bring the shrimp broth to a slow boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Once the broth is fragrant of shrimp, remove the skins and heads (if you had any) and add a pinch of saffron threads to release its delicate flavor and color. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. 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 heavy-bottomed skillet or cast iron pan, gently bring a 1/2” cup of extra virgin olive oil to a medium-low heat. Using a large spoon, drop enough batter into the heated oil to form a 2” diameter round. Working in batches, fry until each fritter is cooked through on each side; about 1-2 minutes per side.
- Once cooked through, remove the fritters from the pan and place on a towel lined plate to soak up any oil that’s left lingering behind. While working in batches keep the cooked shrimp fritters warm in a 170°F oven.