- Virginia Johnson
You and your out-of-town guests have survived a blistering day of fun in the Virginia sunshine. Now comes the gracious hour to unwind in the shade. Something icy or relaxing to drink is certainly called for. And, as the conversation continues, your guests realize they are just a little bit hungry. Although it's too soon for dinner plans, this late afternoon sojourn is a perfect time for tapas. The light and delightful nibbles from Spain are memorable way to treat your guests—and yourself.
Think small. Think savory. Think tapas. Tapas (pronounced TAH-pas) are appetizers—long enjoyed in Spain and now around the world. The little snacks are traditionally served alongside of drinks, as a hearty appetizer before a meal. They may be hot or cold. Preparation may be lengthy or quick. A tapa may be as simple as a small dish of marinated olives or as complex as empanadas de espinacas (spinach pastries).
The wide variety to be found in tapas represents Spain's geography and blend of cultures. The Roman Empire gave them olives. The Moors brought tangy fruits and spices. With the discovery of the New World came tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and more. Seafood lovers will find that many of their favorite delicacies can be found in tapa form.
Ingredients can be truly exotic (quail eggs or baby octopus) or just give an exotic flavor to favorites such as potato salad, chicken salad, and spicy hardboiled eggs.
Restaurants specializing in tapas encourage you to order several dishes to make a meal. Tapas restaurants can be found in the more metropolitan areas of the United States.
An Easy Tapas Recipe to Try:
Crema de Cabrales
(Blue Cheese, Apple, and Walnut Spread)
Cabrales, the assertive blue cheese of Asturias, is a classic tapa, especially when accompanied by Asturian hard apple cider. This tapa combines the cheese with apples, walnuts, and raisins and is excellent spread on crackers.
Makes enough for 16 canapes.
2 teaspoons raisins
1 tablespoon medium-sweet sherry (oloroso)
¼ pound Cabrales or other blue cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped apple
1 tablespoon finely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon chopped pine nuts
¾ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/8 teaspoon dried
Soak the raisins in the sherry for 20 minutes. Drain the raisins and reserve the sherry.
In a bowl, mash together the cheese, cream, and reserved sherry until smooth. Stir in the raisins, apple, walnuts, pine nuts, and thyme. Serve at room temperature.
¡Delicioso! The Regional Cooking of Spain by Penelope Casas
Publisher's Weekly judged this one to be "superbly organized and definitive..." It devotes an entire chapter to tapas.
Tapas by Richard Tapper
Recipes include step-by-step instructions and photos. Suitable for beginning and advanced cooks. Part of the Essential Kitchen series.
Spain: Tapas Party from Bon Appétit magazine
"Our menu features the breadth of Spanish cuisine - from the exotic spices of the region of Andalusia in the south to the bright flavors of Catalonia in the north - with great Spanish wines to match."
Recipes for accompanying drinks and empanadas as well as tapas featuring cheese, tortillas and omelets, fruits and vegetables, meats, and seafood.
Tapas: The Simple, Tiny Treasures of Spain
Whole Foods Market Online gives a little history and suggestions for a simple but gracious tapas spread.
Cooking Light magazine gives a healthy take on the tapas cuisine, adding in recipes from throughout the Mediterranean region.