Profile: Finance Consultant/Blogger Scheherezade Daftary & Spanish Tortilla
Scheherezade Daftary is a very good cook. Every Friday evening, a CSA box of seasonal produce gets delivered to her house in Silver Lake, California. Over the weekend, she turns the contents, fortified with pantry staples, into roughly five different recipes, each yielding four servings. Were she greedy (which she isn’t—her housemates get a bite, too), she’d end up with 20 meals to last her a whole week.
“I’m into eating in seasonal cycles,” she says. “I don’t shop in supermarkets that much—I’m more interested in sustainability and supporting local farms.” Plus, she enjoys being limited by what’s in the box and experimenting with recipes. The highlights of her cooking end up on her instructive blog, The Delightful Table.
Scheherezade was raised in a small town in Louisiana, in a multiethnic home. Right from the start, she was exposed to the culinary worlds of Spain (mom, and maternal grandparents who lived down the street) and Iran (dad).
“I realized Mom was a great cook when I ate shitty dinners at friends’ houses,” she recalls. “She and my grandma always cooked [Spanish food] from scratch, and we never saw pre-packed meals.” Interestingly, Southern food wasn’t part of the menu, either. “I tried it first when I was older, at sleepover parties and occasionally in restaurants.”
Every summer, Scheherezade traveled to Spain to spend the break with her Persian grandmother, who’d settled in Madrid.
“She was an excellent cook, hostess and a social butterfly, regularly feeding 40 people without breaking a sweat,” says Scheherezade. Typically, her grandmother would serve khoresh, chicken curries, big pieces of roasted lamb, tadik, Spanish tortilla, ham, olives and wine from her farm, and charcuterie and cheese spreads. There was live music as well. “Over-the-top is the Persian way.”
Inspired by the talented female cooks in her family, Scheherezade ventured into the kitchen when she was 8 years old. “I asked for an Easy-Bake Oven, but my mom encouraged me to use the real one,” she says. She successfully made chocolate-chip cookies, and they became her thing.
A few years later, she wanted to cook something more elaborate and found a recipe for Shrimp Newburg—creamy shrimp served on a puff pastry—in her mom’s Betty Crocker Cookbook. “It was a mess,” she laughs. “The sauce curdled, I was stressed, and everything took forever.” In the end, it yielded just two tiny portions for each person. “My mom made spaghetti and meatballs.”
Later, during a college year abroad in Salamanca, Spain, Scheherezade cooked from The Joy of Cooking, which her mom gave her as a going-away gift.
“Eating out was expensive, and I missed homemade food,” she remembers. “It made me appreciate my family, too, because they all cooked from scratch, and I realized how hard it is.”
Age 38 — Hometown Slidell, Louisiana—but my family recently moved to New Orleans, so that’s where I go when I visit “home.” — Where do you live? Los Angeles, CA—Silver Lake neighborhood, to be exact. — Occupation I am a finance and accounting consultant by day and food blogger by night. — Signature dish I don’t like to cook the same thing twice, but my friends always request that I make Persian stew with rice and tadig or Spanish tortilla. So, maybe that qualifies those two dishes as signature by popular vote. — Who taught you how to cook? I learned to cook by watching my mother, grandmothers and other family members, reading cookbooks, and lots of hilarious trial and error. My mom’s side of the family is Spanish, and my dad is Iranian; so, there were always big family meals on both sides, with lots of amazing home-cooked food. I always took it for granted that I would learn to cook—otherwise, how would I eat?! — Favorite kitchen tool I have so many; how do I choose?! I would have to say it’s my beautiful, blue 9-quart Le Creuset Dutch oven. I cook almost everything in there. Second is a good, sharp knife. I’m lucky, in that I have a few to choose from, but my fave is the Shun chef’s knife my brother got me for my birthday. It is currently in desperate need of sharpening. — Always in your pantry I have a very well-stocked pantry at all times. I honestly think that this is a cornerstone of being a very good cook. I always have a few different kinds of rice (brown, basmati, wild, arborio), quinoa (white and red), dried beans (black, red, white, garbanzo, lentils, split peas, etc.), different kinds of flour (all-purpose, corn, chickpea, cake flour, rice flour), lots of vinegars (red wine, white wine, champagne, sherry, balsamic, rice, homemade apple cider, and more), and lots of nuts for veganizing recipes or just to add texture and heartiness to salads and soups (almonds, raw peanuts, raw cashews, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts). — Go-to snack I’m not a big snacker, but if there’s mint-chocolate-chip ice cream in the freezer, I’ll eat it. — Favorite cuisine I don’t really have one favorite. I’m so used to rotating between various cuisines in one week, that only picking one sounds like torture. — Do you diet? I don’t diet. I do the opposite: I go through periods of overindulgence. But I always come back to my norm, which is clean, healthy eating. — Food addictions French fries. I could eat them every day, but I don’t, ‘cause that would be boring. — Food allergies None! I feel so lucky that I don’t. I love to discover the world through food, so I thank my lucky stars that I can eat anything and everything. — Food fad pet peeve These Blue Apron meal delivery things. So wasteful with all that disposable packaging! But I have found some of the recipes they post online to be pretty good. — Who’s your sous chef? I have two full-time sous chefs: Tippy and Major, our dogs. They hover around the kitchen, helping out in any way they can, which is mostly just eating fallen scraps off the floor. I am in the process of filming a web series about eating and cooking sustainably, and my friend Paige is my co-host and sous chef. Having a buddy is great—especially since my arm is in a cast right now. — Drinking while cooking? I’m not drinking for 100 days, but normally I pour a glass of wine and think about drinking it while I cook. I don’t actually get around to drinking it until I’m done cooking, though—too busy! — What’s for dinner tonight? King cake and maybe some leftover tortilla. I am doing a lot of cooking for our shoot tomorrow, but I can’t eat it yet! — Do you ever cry over spilled milk? Occasionally, but not for long. — Best meal you ever had My mom’s meatloaf with whipped potatoes. I’ve eaten at some really amazing, world-class, Michelin-rated places, but nothing compares to my mom’s meatloaf. It’s the only recipe of hers I don’t know how to make myself. It tastes like home, like my childhood, like love—and nothing can compare to that. — Contact thedelightfultable.com
Here, the word tortilla doesn’t reference the thin flatbread, but a classic Spanish recipe—a thick omelette, simply made by sautéing potatoes and onions in a good amount of olive oil until they brown and caramelize, and then binding them with whipped eggs. The result is a remarkably flavorful, salty-sweet tapas dish that’s best eaten at room temperature, sliced into wedges or bite-size squares.
Scheherezade grew up eating it at home, and one time in high school, she decided to bring it for a “dishes of the world” assignment. However, she forgot until about 3am on the day of her presentation, when she sneaked into the kitchen and attempted to make it.
“It was a disaster,” she laughs. “I didn’t want to wake up my mom, so I tried on my own and burnt it.” In the morning, after having to explain why the kitchen stunk, her mom made a flawless tortilla and saved the day.
Scheherezade has since perfected her tortilla, and now it is one of her most-requested signature dishes. “The recipe is great, because it can be scaled to make a very large tortilla or very small tortilla,” she says. “The basic rule of thumb is: one russet potato per egg.”
- Serves 4–6
- 6 medium russet potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise, sliced thinly
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled, diced
- 2 teaspoons salt, divided
- ¾ cup olive oil
- 6 eggs
- Place the potatoes and onion in a medium bowl, add 1 teaspoon salt, and toss.
- Heat the olive oil in an 8–10-inch non-stick sauté pan over medium heat. Add the potatoes and onion, and cook—stirring, turning and lifting occasionally—until caramelized and browned in places, about 15–20 minutes.
- With a slotted spoon, transfer the mixture into a bowl, and let cool for 10 minutes. Reserve the oil from the pan.
- Beat the eggs and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl, and gently mix with the potatoes and onions.
- Add 3 tablespoons of the reserved oil to the same sauté pan, coat the sides, and heat over medium heat. Add the mixture and spread it evenly. Lower the heat to medium-low, and cook until small air holes start to form with steam coming out, and the sides start to crisp, about 6–8 minutes.
- Loosen the tortilla by sliding a spatula around the edges and underneath. Place a large plate over the pan and quickly flip it over, so the tortilla falls onto the plate. Use two kitchen towels or oven mitts so you don’t burn yourself.
- Add 2 tablespoons of the reserved oil to the pan, and slide the tortilla carefully back in, uncooked-side down. Cook for an additional 3 minutes over medium-low heat. Remove to a plate and let cool slightly. Slice into wedges or smaller, single-bite pieces, and serve.
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