Those of us who find ourselves stuck in Washington in August -- when the last thing you want to do is turn on the oven -- might take a culinary cue from the Spaniards.
Some of Spain's best known dishes, after all, are those that involve little or no cooking, or can be eaten cold.
Take the liquid salad known as gazpacho; most of us know it as tomato-red and chunky, but there also exist recipes for refreshing chilled white gazpachos, made with grapes and almonds and crustless white bread. Then there's the staple called chorizo, that garlicky, paprika-spiked sausage that is as likely to be eaten at room temperature as it is hot. And one of the most popular ways to eat shellfish in Spain involves boiling, then cooling, the likes of shrimp and mussels.
Not the least of these warm weather-friendly dishes is the tortilla espanåola, or Spanish omelet, a light meal of eggs, potatoes and onions. The best of these are quite thick, with soft, slightly runny centers and tender but not-quite-browned slices of potato.
Long a standard in the tapas bars of Spain, a Spanish omelet's advantages are many: While it can most certainly be eaten warm, it is even better at room temperature, after its simple flavors have had a chance to meld. Moreover, it's as good with coffee at breakfast as it is with sherry -- another Spanish tradition -- at dinner. Or it can take the form of a snack, a lunch, an appetizer.
Best of all, whoever does the dishes in your household will appreciate the Spanish omelet's finger food potential. Unlike its American counterpart, this classic egg dish, when cool, can be sliced into pie-shaped wedges and eaten out of hand.
Express Lane list: olive oil, potatoes, coarse salt, onion, eggs TORTILLA ESPANOLA (Potato Omelet) (4 to 6 servings)
1 cup olive oil, or a mixture of olive and salad oils
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/8-inch slices
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 large eggs
Heat oil in an 8- to 9-inch skillet and add potato slices one at a time to prevent sticking. Alternate potato layers with the onion slices and salt the layers lightly. Cook slowly, over medium heat, lifting and turning the potatoes occasionally, until they are tender but not brown. (The potatoes will remain separated, not in a "cake.")
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the eggs with a fork until they are slightly foamy. Salt to taste. Remove the potatoes from the skillet and drain them in a colander, reserving about 3 tablespoons of the oil. (The potatoes give the oil a delicious flavor, so reserve for future use.) Add the potatoes to the beaten eggs, pressing the potatoes down so that they are completely covered by the egg. Let the mixture sit 15 minutes.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the reserved oil in a large skillet until very hot (use the same skillet as long as nothing is stuck to the bottom). Add the potato-egg mixture, rapidly spreading the oil out in the skillet with the aid of a pancake turner. Lower the heat to medium high and shake the pan to prevent sticking. When the potatoes begin to brown underneath, invert a plate of the same size over the skillet. Flip the omelet onto the plate. Add an additional 1 tablespoon oil to the pan, then slide the omelet back into the skillet to brown the other side. (If your skillet is not hot enough, some of the omelet may stick to the pan. If this happens, scrape off the pieces and fit them into their places on the omelet. With subsequent flips, the pieces will mesh with the omelet.)
Lower the heat to medium. Flip the omelet 2 or 3 more times (this helps to give it a good shape), cooking briefly on each side. It should be slightly juicy within. Transfer to a platter and serve hot or at room temperature.
From "The Foods & Wines of Spain," by Penelope Casas (Knopf, 1982