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Making a yummy Spanish tortilla without all the calories

Updated: 
July 5, 2017 - 8:24am

Growing up in the Southwest, a tortilla was a thin flatbread used to wrap around grilled meat and make tacos. I was in my 30s before I visited Barcelona, Spain, and was served a Spanish tortilla — a completely different dish — and I fell in love instantly.

A Spanish tortilla is something like an incredibly tasty frittata made from sliced potatoes, vegetables and usually a flavorful cured meat, like Spanish chorizo or sausage. The tortilla is served hot or cold, cut into wedges — small pieces for an appetizer, or larger ones for a main dish. It’s perfect at room temperature for picnics, warm for a lazy Sunday supper, or chilled in the fridge, for an easy-to-graze protein-filled snack.

I was surprised to discover how many calories were packed into one serving of this Spanish favorite. I decided to give it a little makeover by making three changes. First, given the current trendiness of trading out potatoes for cauliflower, I couldn’t help but wonder if this swap would hold up for my beloved Spanish tortilla.

The answer is yes. The trick is to cut the cauliflower head into thin planks (chunky florets that fall away can be used for another recipe.) Steam the planks in a covered shallow saute pan with a little bit of water just for a few minutes to tenderize, and the cauliflower planks can be layered into the tortilla just as you would use cooked potato slices.

The second change was in the egg batter itself: I used reduced fat milk instead of the full fat version (or cream, depending on the recipe), and removed yolks from half the eggs, leaving the tortilla decidedly yellow enough and eggy, not egg whitey.

Lastly, I used reduced fat soy chorizo, which gives a ton of flavor for a fraction of the fat and calories of the regular version. (It’s fresh chorizo, which is Mexican, not Spanish, but it works beautifully.) Surprisingly, you can buy this at many regular grocery stores, but if not, substitute reduced fat Italian sausage for a nice, if different, flavor.

The combination of shredded zucchini and onion, cooked until tender and sweet, made the body of the tortilla both tasty and nutritious. The result is an inexpensive, quick dish loaded with protein and veggies.

Lightened sweet zucchini and Chorizo Spanish tortilla

Servings: 8

Start to finish: 30 minutes

1 small head of cauliflower, cut into thin planks, about 1/4-inch each

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped, about 1 cup

2 medium zucchini, shredded with large holes on a box grater, about 3 cups

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 ounces soy chorizo, or reduced fat chorizo (or other reduced fat sausage)

2 eggs

2 egg whites

1/2 cup reduced fat milk

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper

Olive oil in a mister, or nonstick spray

Preheat the oven to 350 F. In an 8-inch nonstick saute pan, place the cauliflower planks and cover with 1/4 cup water and a pinch of salt. Place on medium high heat, cover and steam until the cauliflower is tender, about 6 minutes. Remove the cauliflower, blot dry, and set aside.

Wipe the pan dry and add the olive oil and onion and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the onions soften, about three minutes. Add the grated zucchini, and cook until tender, stirring often, about five minutes. Add the chorizo and smoked paprika, and cook another five minutes, stirring often, and then remove from heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, the egg whites and milk. Add the zucchini and chorizo mixture and stir. Add the cheese and stir.

Spray the pan with a little olive oil in a mister (or nonstick spray). Pour the egg mixture into the pan, and then layer in the cauliflower planks, gently pressing into the eggs. Bake until egg is completely set, about 15-18 minutes. Remove pan from oven and allow to cool for at least five minutes. Use a spatula to loosen the tortilla from the pan gently, and then carefully flip the whole tortilla onto a large plate or cutting board. Cut into wedges and serve. May be served warm or chilled.

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