Tapas: The Simple Tiny Treasures Of Spain

The Origins Of Tapas:
Tapas originated in Andalucia Spain and are now used as a less serious meal in bars.
It also gives family and friends (amigos) a great excuse to sit and chat in the late afternoon following a refreshing nap or siesta.

Tapa is the Spanish word for Lid , in the past every glass of sherry bought in a local bar would come covered by a slice of bread topped with ham, cheese or fried black pudding to keep out the flies.

As clever mixmasters discovered that the salty ham spurred beverage sales, the delicious tradition of tapas was born.

Tapas are an integral part of the Spanish lifestyle served in bars and cafes throughout the country. They are a variety of little, often free, snacks like olives, almonds and cubes of sheep's milk cheese generally consumed while standing up in neighborhood bars with a glass of beer, wine, or sherry.

Visiting a tapas bar is both a social opportunity and a way to relieve hunger between meals.

In Spain, the day's largest meal is lunch, and since dinner is routinely eaten late, tapas bars are generally very busy just after the workday.

Today, the concept has evolved to include little dishes of hot, cold and marinated foods, perfect in Spanish culture for appetizers or a diverse dinner buffet full of flavor and variety.

Tapas Today:
Over time, tapas has come to encompass everything from simple Marinated Olives, slices of Serrano Ham, and cubes of Artisan Manchego Cheese to small portions of traditional hot dishes, such as Paella and Salt Cod Croquettas.

It is not uncommon now to make a whole meal of these savory small bites.
Tortilla patata is a classic simple dish of potatoes cooked with egg and onion in olive oil.
Its only resemblance to the tortilla we know is its round shape.
Patatas Brava are crisp fried potatoes topped with a spicy tomato sauce.
Fried potatoes are also often served with a garlicky aioli for dipping.
Tinned anchovies, tuna and shellfish can be served simply as they are or are used in preparations.

Sauted shrimp or mushrooms with olive oil and lots of garlic are common.

In some tapas bars, everything is served on toasted bread.
In others, everything is served pincho or on a toothpick and the empty toothpicks are used to tally the billsimilar to dim sum.

The assertive salty flavors of most tapas make them ideal paired with almost any wine, beer, sherry, or cider for festive sipping and supping.

Entertaining With Tapas:
From handcrafted olive oils, to pungent cheeses and premium canned tunas , the culinary offerings of Spain are as rich and varied as their peoplefrom the tough hearty countrymen of Extremadura to the trendsetting urban dwellers in Catalonia's Barcelona.
Exploring the savory flavors of Spain is an adventure like none other.
To get you started, you can use the following to spice-up your next gathering.

Set Out In Little Bowls Or Cazuelas:
Marinated Olives
Almonds (simply salted, luscious Marcona, or tamari-roasted)
Shrimp Or Mushrooms In Oil & Garlic
Spread toasted bread with a dollop of Roasted Garlic Aioli & Top With:
Grilled or marinated anchovies or sardines Piquillo Peppers
Serrano Ham and Manchego Cheese
Marinated Tomatoes With Garlic

Skewer On Toothpicks:
Anchovies wrapped around Piquillo Peppers
Stuffed Olives (stuffed with Chiles, Almonds, Goat Cheese or Sun Dried Tomatoes)
Cubes of Manchego or Urgelia Cheese
Fried or Roasted Cubed Potatoes with Aioli for dipping
Chunks of Spicy Chorizo Sausage with Aioli for dipping
To serve, set the various appetizers around the area of your gathering to encourage mingling.
Highlight the food stations with colorful votive candles.
And, don't forget to provide lots of cocktail napkins and small "discard" bowls for shrimp tails, olive pits and toothpicks.

Drink Ideas:
Serve plenty of water, sparkling and plain, since tapas can be salty
Spanish Cava (Spanish bubbly), such as Sumarroca Brut Riserva
Spanish Ros
Red or White Rioja
Red or White Sangria
Beer such as Negro Modello, Estrella Galicia (a Spanish tradition) or your favorite Sherry
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In Spain people walk to a tapas bar, have a small plate or bite of something,
chat, and then move on to the next place.

These recipes are typical of what you would find in a tapas bar in Spain, where the bar top is lined with small plates of succulent bites.

At home, set up a buffet with a variety of small dishes, some as simple as olives or nuts.
Invite your friends, put on some Spanish music, pour the wine and nibble away. It's a delightful way to unwind at the end of the day and share some of the world's best food.
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Here are some ideas to help recreate this relaxing experience
in your own home or under the sun and stars on your terrace.

Albondigas 1 - (Pork Meatballs)

(Makes: 20 Bite-Size Meatballs)

1/2 pound ground pork
1 egg
1 clove garlic, minced
2 TB finely chopped onion
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
canola or sunflower oil for frying
flour for dusting

1 TB Nuez de Prado olive oi1
1 garlic clove, minced
2 TB each chopped onion and piquillo pepper
3/4 cup chicken stock

Combine ground pork, egg, garlic, onion, breadcrumbs and spices.
Form into teaspoon size balls (you should have about 20).
Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in a heavy skillet.
When hot but not smoking, dust meatballs with flour and brown evenly on all sides.
Remove, drain and set aside. In another pan, heat olive and saut garlic, onion and peppers.
Add chicken stock and cook 10 minutes. Puree sauce and return to pan.
Add meatballs to sauce and cook for 10 minutes, turning often until sauce thickens and meatballs are cooked through.
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Albondigas 2 - (Meatballs In Garlic-Tomato Sauce)

This delicious recipe is perfect for a tapas party and fairly easy to make.
It is especially good the next day so you can make it in advance!

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes

1 large onion, chopped fine
1 large green bell pepper, chopped fine
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds ground beef (not lean)
1/2 pound ground pork (not lean)
2/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (33 1/2-ounce) can whole tomatoes, including juice
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled

In a 9-inch heavy well-seasoned skillet (preferably cast-iron) cook onion and bell pepper in 2 tablespoons oil over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened. Cool mixture. In a large bowl combine well onion mixture, ground meat, bread crumbs, salt, nutmeg, and parsley.

Form level tablespoons of mixture into balls (about 90). In skillet heat 1 tablespoon oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and brown meatballs in batches (about 16 at a time), shaking skillet frequently so that meatballs maintain their shape and adding remaining 3 tablespoons oil as necessary. Transfer meatballs with a slotted spoon as browned to a bowl.

In a heavy kettle (at least 6 quarts) cook garlic in oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add tomatoes with juice and oregano and simmer, breaking up tomatoes. Add meatballs and simmer, covered, gently stirring occasionally, 25 minutes, or until meatballs are tender and sauce is thickened slightly. Transfer meatballs with slotted spoon to heated serving dish. If sauce seems thin, boil gently, stirring frequently, until thickened to desired consistency. Season sauce with salt and pepper and spoon over meatballs. Meatballs and sauce may be made 2 days ahead. Let it cool uncovered and chill covered. reheat meatballs before serving.
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Almejas en Salsa Verde - (Clams in Green Sauce)

1 dozen small clams
12 tablespoon Nuez de Prado Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper or red pepper flakes

Rinse clams well to remove any sand or dirt.
In a medium pan, heat olive oil and saut garlic until light brown (do not burn). Add parsley, stir and season with pepper.
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Canap de Atun - (Bonito Tuna Tapa)

(Makes: 68 Canaps)

1 jar (7.76 oz) Ortiz Tuna with oil
1 TB sherry vinegar
1 TB capers
2 tsp minced red onion
1 TB chopped Call Vall piquillo pepper
salt and pepper to taste
sliced baguette (toasted, if desired)

In a small bowl, mix together tuna (leave some large chunks), vinegar, capers, onion and peppers.
Season and let marinate for several hours or overnight. Serve atop pieces of bread (or salad greens.)
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Eggs Stuffed With Anchovies & Tuna

(Makes: 10 Eggs)

5 large hard-boiled eggs
3 tablespoons Homemade Mayonnaise, or prepared mayonnaise
1 (3-ounce) can albacore tuna packed in oil, drained and flaked
5 anchovy fillets, chopped

1. Peel eggs, and slice in half lengthwise.
Carefully remove yolks, and transfer to a small bowl.

2. Add mayonnaise, tuna, and anchovies to bowl with egg yolks; mash with a fork until mixture is well blended and almost smooth.
(If desired, you can omit anchovies from the stuffing mixture and chop them for garnish on top of the stuffed eggs.)
Spoon mixture into egg whites. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
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Endive With Cabrales

(Makes: 6 Servings)

2 tablespoons sliced almonds
2 ounces Cabrales cheese, crumbled
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
6 leaves Belgian endive
1 orange, peeled and separated into wedges
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

1. Cook almonds in a small skillet over medium heat, shaking pan to ensure even cooking, until golden brown and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl, and set aside.

2. Combine cheese and yogurt in a small bowl. Spoon a small amount of cheese mixture onto each endive leaf.
Arrange on a plate, and place a piece of orange on top of cheese.
Sprinkle with toasted almonds and parsley.
Serve immediately.
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Fried Squid

(Makes: 4 Servings)

Sea Salt
115g/4 oz prepared squid, cut into rings
lemon wedges, to serve
30 ml/2 tablespoon seasoned flour
1 egg
30ml/ 2 tablespoon milk
olive oil, for frying

1.-Throw the squid rings in the seasoned flour in a bowl.
Whisk the egg and milk together in a superficial bowl.
Heat the oil in a heavy-based frying pan.

2- Tip out the floured squid rings one at a time into the egg mixture, shaking off any excess liquid.
Put in to the hot oil, in batches if necessary, and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden.

3- Bleed dry the fried squid on kitchen paper, then sprinkle with salt.
Move to a small warm plate and serve with the lemon wedges.
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Garbanzos y Chorizo - (Chick Peas & Sausage)

(Makes: 4-6 Appetizer Portions)

2 TB Nuez de Prado olive oil
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 glass jar Whole Foods Garbanzo Beans, drained
1/2 lb sliced spicy chorizo
Salt and pepper

In a large saut pan, heat olive oil and saut onion until golden.
Add sliced chorizo and cook briefly, stirring to get the flavor from the chorizo.
Add the beans and cook another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
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Garlic Shrimp

These are super easy to make and also great for an entree served over some rice.
Make sure you have a good loaf of bread to sop up all the sauce. Yum!

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Makes: 26 to 32 Shrimp

1/3 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound unshelled shrimp
(26 to 32 shrimp per pound)
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/4 cup medium-dry sherry
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
Fresh lemon juice, to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large heavy skillet set over moderately high heat, heat the oil until it is hot, add the garlic and cook, stirring, until it is pale golden. Add the red pepper flakes and the shrimp and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute, or until the shrimp are pink and just firm to the touch. Sprinkle with shrimp with the paprika and cook the mixture, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the Sherry, boil the mixture for 30 seconds, and sprinkle with parsley. Season the mixture with the lemon juice and salt and pepper, to taste, and transfer it to a serving bowl.

The shrimp may be made up to 1 day in advance and kept covered tightly and chilled. Serve the shrimp at room temperature.

Wine Suggestions:
Dry Manzanilla; Jerez Region Spanish Cava (Sparkling Wine) Montecillo Winery Rioja
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Ham & Cheese Toast

(Makes: 4 Servings)

1 small French stick, sliced into 12 rounds
50g/2 oz/ cup grated cheese, such as Manchego or Cheddar
1 large garlic glove, peeled 3 slices of salt-cured ham (prosciutto), quartered Coarse black pepper 1-Toast the bread under a hot grill until both sides are golden brown. Cut the garlic glove in half and rub the cut surfaces over one side of each piece of toast. 2- Put the ham on top of the garlic-flavoured toast. Wrinkle the ham so that it fits loosely on the toast round. 3- Top each toast with grated cheese, then sprinkle with the pepper. Get back to the grill and cook for about 1-2 minutes until the cheese is melt. Serve hot.
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King Prawns In Sherry

(Makes: 4 Servings)

12 raw king prawns peeled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Few drops of Tabasco sauce
30 ml/ 2 tablespoon olive oil
30 ml/ 2 tablespoon sherry

1- Make a superficial cut down the back of each prawn, then pull out and discard the dark intestinal tract.

2- Heat the oil in a frying pan and stir fry the prawns for 2-3 minutes until pink.
Tip out the sherry and season with Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper. Tip into a dish and serve immediately.
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Potato Saffron Omelet

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Makes: 8 to 10 Servings

2 large onions, chopped finely
5 tablespoons olive oil
3 baking potatoes, like russets
(about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1/4 cup chicken broth
6 large eggs
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallion greens
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a 12-inch non-stick skillet cook onions in 2 tablespoons oil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer onions to a bowl and cool.

While onions are cooking, peel potatoes and cut into 1/4-inch cubes. In a saucepan of boiling salted water cook potatoes until almost tender, about 8 minutes, and drain well in a colander. Cool potatoes and add to onions. Onion and potato mixture may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.

Crumble saffron threads into a small metal bowl. In a small saucepan heat broth until hot and pour over saffron. Let mixture stand until saffron is softened, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl whisk together eggs, scallion greens, saffron mixture, and salt and pepper to taste and stir in onion and potato mixture. In skillet set over moderately high heat, heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil until hot but not smoking and add egg mixture, spreading potatoes evenly. Reduce heat to moderate and cook omelet, stirring occasionally, until eggs just begin to set, about 1 minute. Shift skillet so that 1/4 of omelet is directly over center of burner and cook 1 minute. Shift skillet 3 more times, cooking remaining fourths in same manner. Center skillet and cook omelet over low heat until almost set, about 4 minutes more.

Slide omelet, bottom side down, onto baking sheet and invert omelet back into skillet.
Cook other side of omelet until golden, about 4 minutes.
Slide omelet onto a platter and cool to room temperature.

Omelet may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.
Bring omelet to room temperature before serving.

Cut omelet into wedges.

Wine Suggestions:
Dry Manzanilla; Jerez Region Spanish Cava (Sparkling Wine) Montecillo Winery Rioja
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Pork Cracklings

(Makes: 4 Servings)

Sea Salt
115g/4 oz Pork Rind
Vegetable Oil, for frying

1.- With a sharp knife, cut the pork rind into strips about 1 cm/ in wide and 2.5 cm / 1 in long.

2.- Tip out vegetable oil to a depth of 2.5cm/1 in into a deep heavy-based frying pan.
Heat the oil until a cube of bread browns in 1 minute.
Cook the strips of rind in the oil for 1-2 minutes, until puffed up and golden.
Bleed dry on kitchen paper and sprinkle with paprika and salt to taste.
Serve hot or cold. It can be stored in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.
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Pulpo a la Vinagreta - (Marinated Octopus Salad)

(Makes: 46 Appetizer Portions)

1 lb frozen precooked small octopus or seafood medley
1/2 cup Nuez de Prado olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 TB each chopped onion, green bell pepper and piquillo pepper
Chopped parsley, salt and pepper

Boil octopus or seafood medley for 5 minutes. Remove drain and place in a medium bowl.
Add remaining ingredients and marinate for several hours or overnight.
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Salted Almonds

(Makes: 2-4 Servings)

2.5ml/ teaspoon coarse sea salt
15 ml/ 1 tablespoon egg white, lightly beaten
115/ 4 oz/ 1 cup whole almonds in their skins

1.- Preheatt the oven to 180C/350F.
Extend the almonds on a baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes,
until nutty and golden.

2.- Combine the egg white and salt, include the almonds and shake well to coat.

3.- Tip out on to the baking sheet, give a shake to take apart the nuts,
then put them back to the oven for 5 minutes, until they have dried.
Leave until cold, then store in an airtight container until ready to serve.
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Sizzling Garlic Shrimp

(Makes: 4 Servings)

If you dont have a flame-proof crock,
cook shrimp all at once in a heavy cast-iron skillet.

1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons hot red-pepper flakes
2 teaspoons salt
48 medium shrimp, peeled
Flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1. Divide oil, garlic, red-pepper flakes, and salt evenly among 4 earthenware or ceramic flame-proof crocks.
2. One at a time or all at once, heat crocks over high heat until oil sizzles,
1 to 1 1/2 minutes.
Add 12 shrimp to each crock, and cook just until pink, about 2 minutes.
Immediately remove crocks from heat, sprinkle shrimp with parsley,
and serve them still sizzling.
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