Magnificent Obsession (First of a series)

Ines Rosales Sevilla Orange Sweet olive Oil Tortas

Ines Rosales Seville Orange Sweet Olive Oil Tortas

She was sitting off in the corner, but the minute I walked in the joint, well, there she was. There was no mistaking: she wasn’t from here. Then she started calling my name, daring me to take her home.  So I did.

Apologies to fans of James M. Cain and film noir. Obviously in a blog called “Butter. Flour. Eggs.” I’m writing about food and should conduct myself as such. But I am trying to illustrate what happens to me when I trawl the aisles of the grocery store and see something new: it’s like an itch and I never seem to get by without scratching it.

So it was when I recently discovered Ines Rosales Sweet Olive Oil Tortas. I fought the itch for a while but then broke down and tried them.

On paper, we are an unlikely match, but here’s the lesson: sometimes food teaches you something about yourself.

You can see what they look like in the picture. They look like a tortilla or flatbread, but they’re not. They are toasty, hard, and crunchy like a cracker, but they’re not a cracker. They’re sweet, but not like a cookie.

They’re tortas, and I will just have to expand my food vocabulary to include this new (to me) category.

Why are we an unlikely match? Well the tortas have a pronounced anise flavor, and frankly, I sometimes find anise to be a bit cloying. Happily I discovered this is not anise flavor that runs around your mouth shouting, “LICORICE!” with every bite; this is anise used as an aromatic note, more like a perfume than a flavor.

The sweetness is in the form of a sprinkling of large-crystal sugar, some of which has relaxed into a glaze. All in all, an assortment of subtle flavors and textures that conspire to pull up a chair and enjoy a coffee with me.

Something that I never thought I’d like has become a new obsession, and while I enjoy munching on the tortas straight from their evocative wax paper (they are made and wrapped by hand,) part of the fun has been figuring out some simple but compelling pairings for my delicious new friends.

I started by finding out that they are from Andalusia, a part of Spain influenced by Muslim and Sephardic Jewish traditions. I would call that culturally diverse.

But in an attempt to stay with the Spanish theme, I thought I’d like to try them with some shavings of Iberian ham. Good luck finding it, and when you do, be prepared to pay anywhere from $50 to $95 per pound. (Let’s just say Iberian ham has a long back story which I will perhaps try to delve into in a future posting.)

Unable to find my second choice, Serrano Ham, I used a good prosciutto, going on the assumption that the torta could assume the role usually played by melon. While the torta is not as subtle as melon, the sweetness and anise perfume provide a pronounced counterpoint to the mellow saltiness of the prosciutto, while adding something to the mix that the melon can never bring: a hearty crunch.

A shaving of a sharp cheese would be a welcome, if somewhat conflicting, companion, and the tortas would be a welcome addition to any antipasto.

Recently I discovered two new varieties of the tortas, Seville orange, and Savory Rosemary and Thyme.

The Savory Rosemary and Thyme tortas are more familiar to all of us: no sugar, slightly salty, with the herbs adding an almost tart aftershock to the crunch. Perfect with a broth-based soup (mmmm…the cooler weather is on its way.)

The Seville orange tortas may be the best of all. They are not overtly orange flavored. Like the anise flavored torta, the flavor is more whispered than spoken. You’ll think these were made to be combined with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream. Let the ice cream warm to the point where it begins to slobber in self pity, but fear not: the torta will more than make up for the ice cream’s lack of backbone with a disciplined crackle. You’ll never look at one of those Coldstone Creamery sugar cone bowls the same way again. Eat this, and you’ve graduated to the grown-up’s table.

I’ve learned that’s where I belong now.

3 Responses to “Magnificent Obsession (First of a series)”

  • Blaise:

    We found Sra. Rosales’ tortas on special at Zabar’s and tried them a few months back. Delicious. Is eating the whole pack in one sitting acceptable?

  • admin:

    My Reply:
    Eating the whole package in one sitting is mandatory.

  • betsy:

    OMG!!!! Bought these at Nori’s Natural Foods Store in Saranac Lake, NY last week. THought they were quite expensive, but yes they beckoned me like a siren’s song to pony up the pennies and my daughter and I ate the entire pack while snuggling up and reading. After just one each, we decided that another one had to be sampled to see if it was as good as the first….and then another one and presto, just empty fragrant wrappers left. We felt quite smug in discovering a new treat which dances on the palate and tickles the taste buds and quite frankly leaves one obsessed to searching out where an entire case may be purchased! We tried the Seville Orange Tortas….mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm! Betsy

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