Eating with Doña Lita
Eating with Doña Lita
Eggs and shard stuffed potatoes
By Lita Ruiz
As I have written on
other occasions, I inherited my taste for cooking (no pun intended) from my
mother, who in turn learned with my maternal grandmother. In that manner I got
the several copybooks that first Grandmother and then Mom filled with recipes
brought from Spain, others picked up in Cuba and some others created by them. I
kept the tradition, but thanks to the computer I stored them in a more lasting
support, although I still treasure those copybooks written in my grandmother’s
schoolgirl large and round handwriting and my mother’s nervous and hurried
Nevertheless, I got
today’s recipe through my other grandmother, the paternal one, because it was
one of Father’s favorite dishes. Her mother, born in the Canary Islands like
him, used to prepare it when he was a boy. I learned it not only to please him,
but also because I found out it was delicious.
My father, like a good
Canary Islander was a true potato eater. No wonder, because as perhaps many
ignore the Canary Islands were the potato’s entry door to Europe, for it got
there from Peru –where the Incas had been growing it for 6,000 years–, in 1560.
Not until ten years later did the potato reached Seville, on the Spanish
mainland. From there it traveled all over the world and in less than 100 years
it was being cultivated in many European regions, went to India in 1610, to
China in 1700 and to Japan 60 years later. Yet, in spite of the importance
given by Americans to potatoes, it wasn’t introduced in North America until it
rebounded from Europe by way of Scottish and Irish immigrants in the early 18th
Strange as it may seem,
for almost two centuries after it reached Europe the potato was considered food
fit only for animals and peasants. Even so people were suspicious of it because
of its ties with other members of the belladonna family, many of which contain
atropine, a substance that popular belief associated to the of witches’ power to
Perhaps for that reason
the Church of Scotland considered for a time a forbidden crop, claiming that
human beings should not eat it because it wasn’t mentioned in the Bible.
Luckily for us reason
triumphed over superstition, something that unfortunately not always is the
case. Otherwise, I wouldn’t had been able to share this recipe with you, which
between us, and real or false witches notwithstanding, makes you want to fly.
A small bunch of chards
6 russet potatoes
1 large white onion
1 large green bell pepper
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup tomato pure
½ cup cooking sherry
2 tbsp vinegar
½ tsp ground oregano
½ tsp ground basil
½ tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp cayenne
Sat to taste
Peel potatoes and carve
out the flesh with a spoon leaving a shell to be stuffed later. Reserve shells
in a container with water and salt.
Dice potato flesh in
uniform pieces and fry in hot oil until golden brown. Drain in kitchen paper.
Wash chards and steam
until tender. Stand aside to cool. Cut in small pieces.
In a large frying pan
over medium heat pour two tablespoons of olive oil to make scrambled eggs.
Beat 5 eggs with salt to
taste. Add chards and fried potatoes. Cook the mixture until fluffy, not dry.
Drain the potato shells
and stuff with the scrambled eggs.
In a large deep pan over
high heat pour the rest of the oil. When oil is hot add onion and bell pepper
finely cut. Sautee until onion is translucent. Add spices, tomato purée,
vinegar and cooking sherry. Stir well for a minute or so. Reduce heat to very
low and place the potato stuffed shells in the sauce. Beat the remaining egg
and paint the surface of the stuffing in the shells. Add some water until sauce
covers half of the shells.
Cover the pan and cook
over very slow heat, until potato shells are done (about 40 minutes).
Uncover the pan and raise
heat to reduce sauce if necessary.
Serve with the sauce,
white rice and fried ripe plantains.
Enjoy your Egg and Chard
Lita Ruiz is a
nutritionist. For years she has practiced cooking as a hobby, as well as