Wait and See

Posted September 7, 2017 – Narrated by Carmen

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Last month the Path of Totality swept across the Cherohalla Skyway and the quiet, remote village of Tellico Plains – just down the road from my sister’s house in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. So from the Shenendoah Valley we dropped in to meet Daddy, Deb and David and our niece Maria.

Unprecedented throngs of sky-gazers were expected to descend on the little village to witness the celestial event, so we just set up camp right there in the epicenter – a 20-acre field dedicated to scheduled events and festivities related to the eclipse.

Though the turnout was smaller than expected, the vibe was epic. Perfect strangers from around the globe gathering in an obscure field to witness a rare cosmic dance featuring the two rulers of planet earth … How often do you get to hang out with cool people and see a thing like that?!

Later in the early evening, we moved uphill for mountain breezes, some deep forest bathing in the Cherokee National Forest, Deb’s country cooking and a wonderful new mattress upgrade!

So fresh out of the wilderness after months of off-grid camping the comforts of home – simple things we once took for granted, such as mail delivery and human companionship – stirred up a longing to be someplace bright, urban and touristy … like Myrtle Beach! Yes! And, on the way, we’d stop in Asheville, North Carolina, to visit friends and maybe even throw a dinner party!

As I started going through recipes and thinking about cooking serious food, I realized our pantry was bare – so Deb took me out to her neat-o gettin’ places.

Then, off to Asheville we went, stocked with locally grown produce, hand milled flour, baked goods and dairy fresh cheese …

Obviously, we didn’t have a clue about Asheville …  The dog-friendly restaurants and cafes with biscuit benedicts …

and pubs and breweries.

With all that scenery …

and history…

and shopping …

our Smoky Mountain cornucopia …

would have to hold … and hold … and hold …

… until, at last, it rained. It was no ordinary rain. This rain was a renegade thunderstorm from Harvey. The downpour, certainly, would be no big deal for most Americans – but we still are, after all, San Diegans. It takes less rain than hurricane left-overs to keep us home.

Given notice to leave Friday morning (the next day) without Labor Day weekend reservations, we knew we’d probably end up dry camping since every private, state and national campground within a hundred miles was booked solid. Time to hunker down and get serious about the next few days on the road.

Jim lit up the grill

and prepared vegetables to use in omelets, soups, sandwiches, quesadilla and to garnish my tortilla …

Spanish Tortilla is what we eat instead of sandwiches. I could make these with my eyes closed.

It’s what I take to parties and pot-lucks. I don’t put meat in them, but many cooks do. We prefer it as a vegetarian main dish or side dish. We like it for breakfast, lunch, supper, and snacks. It lasts until someone says, “Hey! Who ate the last slice of tortilla?” then we make another one. It’s good hot, warm or cold. One tortilla is four hearty meals for two people and it holds up beautifully in the refrigerator for a week … if it lasts that long.

There are many methods to making tortilla. When we lived in a house I used an iron skillet but I’ve adapted to the lightweight and portable Magma Products, A10-363-2-IND, Gourmet "Nesting" 7-Piece Stainless Steel Induction Cookware Set with Ceramica Non-Stick that many RV and yachting cooks use.

First, I boil three pounds of potatoes in briny water. Any potatoes will do, of course, but I’m partial to Trader Joe’s Organic Gold potatoes. Careful not to overcook, I take them out when a fork can penetrate without breaking them apart.

Now for the leeks. I prepare the leeks while the potatoes are boiling. Here, I used eight small leeks from the Farmer’s Market. Onions will do, but I prefer the flavor of leeks. Even Walmart sells leeks these days in bundles of 3-4 – the perfect amount to make a tortilla.

After the potatoes are drained, I let them cool and preheat my little Sharp Convection/Microwave Oven to 350 …

and prepare to cook the leeks. This dish takes a lot of olive oil! I cover the bottom of the skillet …

and fry the leeks, seasoning with salt and pepper as they cook – about ten minutes.

Once the leeks are done, I slice the potatoes just thick enough to keep them stable and not break apart …

… and combine the leeks and potato slices till all is evenly distributed.

Then, thickly oil the bottom of the pan with EVOO and butter around the sides …

… and whisk up a dozen fresh eggs with salt and pepper …

and a couple dashes of golden balsamic vinegar – about two teaspoons.

Eggs thoroughly whisked, I load the potatoes and leeks into the pan. Then pour the eggs so they are evenly distributed throughout the potatoes and around the sides.

Then press all nice and flat and even.

This is where I put something special in … fried green tomatoes or, maybe, eggplant. Today, it’s Jim’s seasoned grilled peppers.

Popped it in the preheated oven and baked it for about 30 minutes till the top looked right but the center was still too loose – I could tell when I put the handle on and gave it a little shake. So, I took the handle off, covered the tortilla with a piece of parchment paper and continued baking.

Then, about ten minutes later, I put the handle back on the pan and transferred the tortilla to the stove. It passed the jiggle test, so I let it sit there to cool.

About twenty minutes later, I loosened the sides with a wooden knife. Then, placing a platter over the top, gently turned it – flipping it over – out of the pan and onto the plate.

Some bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Sometimes that happens – no big deal.

I just scraped off the bits and pressed them back onto the bottom, covered it with with a paper plate (a silicone mat would work too) and flipped the whole tortilla over again …

… so the pretty veggies show on top. As it continued to cool, those loose bits incorporated into the tortilla like it never happened.

Have tortilla, will travel!

Where we’ll be next is anyone’s guess, including ours. Looks like Irma has eclipsed our plans. Will the Florida Keys even be an option for us this winter …? Nothing to do but wait and see and wonder who’ll get the last slice of tortilla?