Sunday, April 29, 2012

Coca and flan

coca cooked
The other night I made the parsley coca from Teresa Barrenechea's Cuisines of Spain. According to Barrenechea, cocas are "crusty, mainly square or rectangular flatbreads prized by everyone who lives on or visits the Balearics." They can come with a variety of toppings, including, but not limited to, tomatoes, peppers, and onions.

Here's what Colman Andrews writes about cocas (or, I should say, coques) in Catalan Cuisine: "The coca (plural coques) is more or less the Catalan pizza -- a flat pastry base for a wide variety of toppings (both sweet and savory), usually made of simple bread dough and usually in the shape of an elongated oval (except in the Balearics, where it is often round). The word itself apparently derives from the Latin coquere, to cook, and is used not only in Catalan but in the old Occitan tongue of neighboring Toulouse."

Here's my question about this particular parsley coca: Is it really supposed to support so much greenery? Barrenechea called for two bunches of parsley and when I looked at the bunches of parsley I'd bought, I immediately put one back in the refrigerator. I am guessing that a "bunch" of parsley isn't the same in Madrid as it is in Mill Valley because this was SO MUCH PARSLEY and I momentarily wondered if she'd meant to call for 2 sprigs of parsley. Eating this coca was like eating a pile of rough, dry, roasted leaves -- think kale chips -- mounded on a thin piece of crust.  Not disgusting, but not something you'd crave.
coca before cooking
Well, the topping wasn't craveable. The crust was. I had misgivings about the uncooked dough, which was grainy, fragile, greasy, and slippery, but it made a fantastic, rich, fatty bread -- half pie shell, half pizza crust. Interesting that the coca dough in Catalan Cuisine contains no oil or fat at all.
Moisturize while you bake.
I'm going to make another coca this week with (I hope) a more functional topping and will share the recipe.

That same night, coca night, I also made a Barrenechea endive salad that entails stuffing the stiff, pale leaves with blue cheese and yogurt, topping with toasted almonds, and serving with orange segments.
not sure this was how it was supposed to look
It was refreshing, but needed something drizzled on top. Not a lot of salads in the Spanish repertoire. Maybe not the region's forte.

For dessert after this so-so meal, I served a quivering golden ingot of flan.
beautiful, underappreciated
As flans go, this one was excellent -- satiny, sweet, not too eggy.

But no one likes flan in this household except for Owen and me and even we can't eat an entire flan on our own. The other two family members will not touch so much as spoonful and eventually I'm going to have to get rid of the flan, which is tragic because Natalie and the hens put so much work into producing the raw ingredients and I put so much work into extracting them and cooking them. I shouldn't have made flan, but it seemed like a requirement when trying out a Spanish cookbook.

My husband has called The Cuisines of Spain a "testing" cookbook, as in "testing our tolerance."


  1. Flan is one of my favorite things in the world. I could do some damage to that giant one.

  2. Yes, I might not have put that much parsley on the coca, but I have a near-pathological inability to follow a recipe. I am always missing something or substituting for some other reason. Unless it requires actual baking, I almost always add or subtract something.

  3. I love the different personalities in your family and how they come to play out in the foods you try to feed/serve them.

  4. I think I could eat that whole flan as well. Maybe I will make one for dessert . . .

  5. I wish I did not live on the other side of the country! I could eat that whole flan myself. Not something I usually make, either, as no one likes it but me. They love a pudding texture, but flan is something they describe as slimy. Men, what do they know?! I guess they know what they like.

  6. I'd eat that flan. Maybe you should call it "creme renversee" and they'd eat the heck out of it.

  7. the endives are also traditionally served with one anchovy filet on top; but not the dry ones cured in salt.


  8. I have a completely off topic Make vs. Buy question for you, if you don't mind:
    I scored some fancy lemon curd, Dickinson's brand, buy one get one free, at the grocery store recently, but should I make my own from scratch to put between the layers of a lemon-coconut cake I'm making for a party? I was excited to save a little time but now I'm having second thoughts because I hate to cheat that way. If it isn't good I'll kick myself!

  9. Fiona -- I would make the lemon curd and keep the Dickinson's for a back-up in case something goes wrong. Homemade lemon curd tastes so much better and it's not that hard to make and if you're doing a special dessert it's worth the extra effort.
    Good luck! Either way, it sounds like it's going to be a delicious cake.

  10. Your description of the parsley pizza is hysterical. I absolutly love your sense of humor. I'm totally into kale chips now and I'm the only one in the house who will eat them. One comment, check your teeth afterwards, dark green/black flecks interwoven on teeth are not as sexy as they sound.