“Let’s have a dinner party with our closest friends” is an anticipatory event, which conjures a feeling of happiness and festivity. We often forget the amount of work involved in preparing the house and a meal to satisfy everyone’s diverse cravings. As it usually happens, we are busily attending to final meal preparations when our guests arrive. The laughter and chattering of animated conversation seem far away to eager hosts; yet, there is one word that can help change the context of “dinner” while still providing a unique experience for all — Tapas. (You may even be able to toss the apron, too!)
What Are Tapas?
Deriving from Spain, tapas reflect the Spanish approach to life combining good food with the need to socialize. It is unfair to label tapas as a snack since the ingredients can include practically anything served on skewers, canapés or small plates; however, rich flavoring is a requirement. Most tapas include paprika, parsley, garlic and olive oil.
If we consider our own dining out experiences, we often delight in the sampling of two or three appetizers. Eager to try a variety of tastes, we discover our hunger is no longer enticed by the arrival of the main meal. With tapas, the festivity is included in what could be well described as a feast with just a few portions.
Rich flavor and texture combining a taste of heat and coolness have the ability to make each bit memorable. The process to make tapas does not involve complication or great skill. Some recipes, in fact, involve just a few ingredients. The beauty of small portions is in the presentation. Consider the options of a plate versus a canapé or skewer, for instance. Guests will enjoy the “plating” and believe you have spent hours preparing.
A few examples of tapas:
- Patatas Bravas: This dish is called “potato in a fierce sauce.” After slicing potatoes and sprinkling lightly with smoked paprika, add the mixture to heated olive oil in cast iron. Allow the potatoes to “heat and cook” rather than focusing on turning. The second preparation is an aioli sauce which combines mayonnaise, half a tomato, sautéed garlic and onions, a splash of cherry vinegar and an optional sprinkle of hot sauce. (Consider using an immersion blender or food processor.) In serving, dribble the sauce and a sprinkle of chopped parsley over the potatoes.
- Saffron-Breaded Eggplant in Yogurt Sauce: Begin by soaking the slices of eggplant in whole milk. To enhance a batter intended for frying, combine “chickpea flour” (also termed garbanzo bean flour) with all purpose flour, egg, yeast and water mixture, and saffron steeped in water. Allow to sit for 45 minutes before breading and frying in olive oil. The beauty of simple recipes is the dipping sauce will take a few minutes to prepare and cannot be eliminated. Add lemon zest and garlic [zest], and chopped mint to yogurt; stir together. (Guests will want access to the dipping sauce to flavor the eggplant; therefore, consider having small bowls on hand.)
- Smoky Herbed Shrimp: Once the shrimp are cooked, season with salt and pepper and stir in smoked paprika and sherry vinegar before serving with a sprinkle of parsley. (Simple yet delicious!)
- Spanish Meatballs: One ingredient that is commonly used in Spanish meals is paprika. For Spanish meatballs, one recipe includes adding chopped onions, cumin, paprika, breadcrumbs, eggs, parsley, salt and pepper to ground meat. Traditionally, the sauce includes four ingredients — garlic, tomatoes, olive oil and oregano. (Consider using a crock pot recipe to ease your time in the kitchen.)
From “avocado and tuna” to “sweet corn fritters with sour cream,” a diverse selection of tapas recipes are available online, and often includes a video to demonstrate the step-by-step instructions. Hosting a tapas party will allow you to leave the kitchen and spend time with the very individuals you wanted to enjoy. (Ah! Lastly, do not forget to pair your menu with sangria.) Cheers!