Take Care of You: Holiday Leftover Spanish Tortilla

December 10th, 2011 | Nutrition and Health

It happens every year. Throughout this season, I’ll cater dozens of different dishes to friends’ holiday parties; inherit 17,000 calories worth of sparkly cookies; and manage a never-ending rotation of leftovers that, at any given date, are enjoying suspicious tenure on their life cycles. From November 15th to January 3rd, it feels like almost all of my free time is committed to some sort of cooking, eating or preparation for either of the aforementioned activities. And, aside from the fact that I’ll once again, narrowly avoid graduation to a full wardrobe of moo moos, my most dumbfounding realization will be this: on a quiet Wednesday evening sometime in December, I’ll go to the refrigerator and low and behold, there will not be one item I feel like eating! How is this possible, after 30+ days of grocery shopping, cooking, eating out, etc.? Perhaps I should clarify — at these times, it is not that I have absolutely nothing edible in my home; more so that I’m craving something I can’t find — a solo, nutritious, reprieve amidst a season of parties and face-stuffing.

It was only after years of facing this annual refrigerator crisis that a solution came forth:

It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving, 730pm. Feeling ravenous, exhausted but enterprising, I do a quick survey of the kitchen: “What do I have to work with?” A bunch of orphan herbs and vegetables are hanging out in the back of the drawers, no doubt the discards of random soup and lasagna recipes; there is also a small hunk of cheese. None of these things could imaginatively be described as “a meal.” But wait! After a desperate minute, I see a sliver of blue cardboard, peeking out like a heavenly gastronomical lifeboat, from behind a riveted foil ball and a faded carton of heavy cream. “EGGS!”

Delighted, I grab the near-full carton and continue my dig, pulling 2 lonely onions, a sweet potato and half-plucked bunches of parsley and scallions. Suddenly, I’ve changed from exhausted defeatist to giddy rescuer of forgotten produce!

Hooray! I am now ready to make Spanish Tortilla! Just to clarify, a Spanish Tortilla (not to be confused with a Mexican Tortilla, a floured wrap) is essentially a giant baked omelet. In the United States, people often refer to this type of dish as “a Frittata,” or it’s culinary relative, “the Quiche.”

The basis of a hearty tortilla is egg, potato, onion, cheese, spices and cooking oil. But, the best part is that surrounding these guidelines, there’s tremendous room for creativity and imagination. Basically, I like to think of tortilla as a home for any range of mismatched leftovers; a way to give stray items a new identity.

Working with this philosophy, I’ve written three different combinations for ingredients, all of which are equally delicious. So, do a survey of your refrigerator and see which items are in stock, then proceed accordingly. After all, there are plenty of OTHER nights for hurried grocery shopping and menu-laboring. Try to let tonight be as relaxing, healthy and simple as possible. Set aside your favorite movie, crank the volume on a beloved music playlist, put on your comfy slippers, drink wine out of a coffee mug, eat with your hands and lick your fingers. There are no etiquette rules when it comes to this yummy yellow collage. It’s meant to comfort your belly and recharge your heart. And, it’s just for you.

  Option 1 Ingredients Option 2 Ingredients Option 3 Ingredients
Eggs 10 large eggs 10 large eggs 10 large eggs
Potato 3 medium potatoes (about 2 cups) cut into ¾” cubes. Feel free to use whatever color you have laying around: yellow, red or purple 2 cups (about a pound) pumpkin or butternut squash, cut into ¾” cubes
  • 1.5 cups sweet potato, cut into ½” cubes
  • 1 small yellow potato, cut into ½” cubes


Onion 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • ½ cup scallions or leeks, finely sliced



  • 1 large red onion, finely sliced
  • ½ cup scallions or leeks, finely sliced
Meat or cheese ½ cup chorizo or spicy sausage, skinned and diced ¼ cup grated parmesan or parmigiano reggiano 1 cup feta, crumbled
Colorful Extras ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes or canned roasted peppers a 10oz bag of fresh spinach, blanched, pat dry and chopped (or use defrosted/drained spinach, if this is more budget friendly)
Fresh Herbs ¼ cup chopped parsley or cilantro ¼ cup oregano leaves a heaping teaspoon of either rosemary or sage
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic
  • 2 finely sliced red chiles
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper (to taste)



  • 1 clove of chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper (to taste)


  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • 1/8” tsp cayenne pepper


Vinegar 3 tbsp. cider vinegar N/A 3 tbsp. sherry vinegar or balsamic vinegar
Cooking Oil 1/2 cup olive oil 1/2 cup olive oil 1/2 cup olive oil
Nutritional Data: 456 calories per serving. 6 servings total. 354 calories per serving. 6 servings total. 424 calories per serving. 6 servings total.


Cooking Directions

1.  Complete all prep work: chop the potatoes, slice the onions and prepare any cheese, meat or additional veggies that you’ve selected.
2.  Preheat the oven to 400° F. Mix the potatoes with all spices and ¼ cup of the oil. Lay these in a shallow ovenproof dish and bake 20 minutes or until potatoes are done. (After the potatoes are done, keep the oven on at 400° so you can cook the egg later on.)
3.  Meanwhile, add 2 Tbsp. of the remaining oil to a large pan and adjust the burner to a medium heat level. Fry the sliced onions for 8-10 minutes or until they’re mostly softened.
4.  If you’re using vinegar (options 1 & 2), add the vinegar to the warm onions and stir until the vinegar evaporates. Then, turn off the heat.
5.  Crack all eggs into a large bowl, and whisk in your chosen onions, potatoes, cheese (or meat), colorful extras and fresh herbs, along with any oil that may be accumulated in their pans.
6.  Heat a large frying pan over medium heat, add the remaining olive oil, and when the pan begins to smoke (after about 30 seconds), add the egg mixture all at once. Over the next minute, shake the pan around over the heat to evenly distribute the runny-middle towards the outer edges of the pan.
7.  Transfer the pan to the heated oven and cook 8-10 minutes, or until the eggs appear set and the top is a bit browned.
8.  Let the tortilla cool for 5 minutes and then gently flip it onto a serving plate.
9.  Slice yourself a thick piece, and enjoy the tortilla with some salad greens. The remaining tortilla pieces can easily be wrapped up as lunch items, or kept in the refrigerator as a healthy late-night snack.

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