the yuppie-favored practice of noshing one's way through the day without actually partaking of an entire meal -- has succeeded in popularizing any number of food trends, one of which centers on those little Spanish dishes known as tapas.
Tapas, Spain's answer to the appetizer, are small portions of food served in great variety at bars to be nibbled with drinks. And in Spain, the tasca, or tapas bar, is as much a way of life to the Spaniards as the cafe is to the French, or the pub is to the British. The fare can range anywhere from the simple (grilled chorizo) to the more exotic (angulas, or baby eels). Beans, soups, even main course offerings cut into bite-size portions, can qualify as tapas.
Even those of us who have the time for three square meals a day might enjoy the following Express Lane offering, from the recently released cookbook "Tapas," by Penelope Casas (Knopf, $12.95). All you'll need at home is a dash of salt before a trip through the express lane to make this authentic "little dish".
Express Lane list: olive oil, potatoes, eggs, onion, chorizo sausage, ham, peas, lima beans. POTATO, CHORIZO AND VEGETABLE OMELET (Tortilla torcal) (8 to 12 servings)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 medium potatoes, cut into cubes
Salt to taste
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 pound chorizo sausage, skinned and diced
1/4 cup (about 2 ounces) diced, cured ham
1/2 cup cooked peas
1/2 cup baby lima beans
Heat the oil in a skillet and fry the potatoes slowly until they are tender -- they should not color. (This can also be done in a deep fryer.) Beat the eggs lightly with salt. When the potatoes are done, drain, reserving about 4 tablespoons oil; add the potatoes to the eggs.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the reserved oil in the skillet and saute' the onion until it is wilted. Add the chorizo and ham and cook for several minutes, until the sausage begins to give off its oil. Stir in the peas and limas and cook 2 minutes more. Add this mixture to the eggs and let sit 5 minutes.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the reserved oil in a clean, 10-inch skillet until very hot. (It must be hot or the eggs will stick.) Add the potato and egg mixture, spreading it out rapidly in the skillet with the aid of a pancake turner. Lower the heat to medium high and shake the pan often to prevent sticking. When the eggs begin to brown underneath, invert a plate of the same size over the skillet and flip the omelet onto the plate. Add remaining oil to the pan, then slide the omelet back into the skillet to brown the other side.
Lower the heat to medium and flip the omelet 2 or 3 more times (this helps to give the omelet a good shape while it continues to cook), cooking briefly on each side. It should be juicy within. Transfer to a platter and cool, then cut in thin wedges or into 1 to 1 1/2-inch squares that can be picked up with toothpicks.
Variation: Other cooked vegetables, such as asparagus, green beans, green pepper, pimiento, or mushrooms, may be added to the omelet instead of or in addition to the peas and limas.