A Tapas Table

I love tapas. Lots of little plates of endless variety – crunchy, smooth, salty, sweet. And the sangria! Tapas is a meal that’s a lot of fun; it’s really conducive to trying new things, great conversation, and sharing.

I’m also a bit of a homebody during the colder months, so while going out for tapas is always worth it in terms of the fun factor, when the wind chill is high and the temperature is low, a cozy night in usually wins out (especially when it gets dark at four o‘clock). But never fear – tapas are super easy to do at home.

One of my husband’s and I favorite tapas are bacon wrapped dates and it really couldn’t be but simpler – you need some pitted dates and slices of bacon. We like to make a dozen because they’re that good, but if you’re doing a lot of different tapas for one meal, six is probably sufficient for two people. So for six, you need six dates and three slices of bacon, cut in half. Wrap a half slice of bacon around one date, secure it with a toothpick and put on a baking sheet. Bake them for 10-15 minutes at 350 until the bacon is cooked and crispy. These are best eaten warm.

And whenever having tapas, I always have mixed olives on the table as well as Serrano ham (very thinly sliced) and tomato bread. Tomato bread is divine in it’s simplicity, but I have to be honest – it’s a bit tricky to pull off in the winter if you’re using tomatoes of dubious quality. It’s at it’s best at the height of summer when tomatoes are at their peak, but if you grow tomatoes yourself through the colder months or know someone who does you might be alright. All disclaimers aside, tomato bread is easy. For two, lightly toast two slices of white bread and cut into fourths. Take one medium-sized fresh tomato, peel it (this is easiest to do if you blanch it for about 30 seconds in boiling water) and then grate it finely using a box or plane grater (do NOT put it in a blender or food processor – you want a bit of texture). Drizzle the tomato with just a touch of olive oil and season generously with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. It’s a tiny bit of work, but it’s so worth it.

Our other “standby” tapas are garlic shrimp, meatballs in tomato sauce, and stuffed mushrooms. They are equally as simple as the recipes above, but for a little guidance, I’ve adapted my recipes from a wonderful little book called “Tapas: Delicious Little Dishes from Spain” which was published back in 2007 by Ryland, Peters & Small. It’s one of those little “gift books” which I don’t usually go in for, but it’s really spot on and has some great recipes. So it is actually worth searching out. My versions (halved to serve two people, with a few adjustments for personal taste) are as follows.

Garlic Shrimp

12 large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined, tail on

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, crushed

2-3 small dried chilis (or a pinch of red pepper flakes)

2 small bay leaves

1 tablespoon lemon

Sea salt

1.) Preheat an oven-proof serving bowl in a 200 degree oven.

2.) Heat the oil in a frying pan. Salt the shrimp while the pan is heating up.

3.) Add the garlic and chilies and cook until the garlic is golden brown.

4.) Add the bay leaves and shrimp and cook for a few minutes until the shrimp is pink, firmed up and slightly curled.

5.) Put the shrimp in the preheated serving bowl, sprinkle with lemon juice and serve while hot.

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

For the Meatballs:

¼ pound ground pork

¼ pound ground beef

½ cup fine breadcrumbs

1 egg

1 teaspoon onion powder

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon cloves

Salt and pepper

For the Sauce:

1 small can diced tomatoes

1 cup white wine

1 teaspoon paprika

1 bay leaf

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, diced

1.) Mix all of the meatball ingredients together and form into one inch meatballs. Space the meatballs about an inch apart on a baking sheet, and bake at 425 degrees for 30-40 minutes until done.

2.) During the last ten minutes of the meatball’s cooking time, saute the garlic in the olive oil. Add the red pepper flakes, paprika and bay leaf, and cook for one minute until the spices become aromatic.

3.) Add the tomatoes and simmer for a few minutes, then add the wine and simmer for a few minutes more.

4.) Add the cooked meatballs to the sauce and serve warm.

Stuffed Mushrooms

6-8 medium mushrooms

2 tablespoons fine breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion

1 finely chopped garlic clove

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon canned chopped pimiento

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1.) Saute the onion, garlic, and pimiento in the olive oil until the onion is just translucent.

2.) While the onion is cooling, destem the mushrooms and place them tops down (gills facing up) on a baking sheet.

3.) When the onion is cool enough to handle, mix in the breadcrumbs, parsley, salt and pepper to taste.

4.) Put a dollop of the filing on each mushroom cap and bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes.

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3 thoughts on “A Tapas Table

  1. Have you ever tried marinating your dates pre-bacon wrapping? I like it when the dates are marinated in a red wine reduction for a couple hours, then bake them. delicious!

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